I am the host of Speak Atheist, http://speakatheist.com and we are planning on doing a show next week on Santa Claus and wether or not atheists should tell their children that there is one. This also hits home with me in my personal life because my wife and I have a baby on the way and all we talk about is how to raise our coming child.
I am curious how everyone feels about this. The way I see it, it could be good or bad depending on how you approach it.
I can see that it would be bad to teach your children to buy into fairytales that are simply not true. I am sure the brain is developing neuro pathways as a child and that this belief could cause to predispose the child into believing in other fairytales (God) when they become an adult. Also, knowing that your parents lied to you could be a problem, even though I have nothing but fond memories of Santa and never felt betrayed by this deception.
However, I can see this being good as well. Perhaps if the approach was taken to teach the child about the story of Santa Claus and then, when they question it, use it as an opportunity to help them logically reason whether or not Santa Claus actually exists. I could also see this behavior helping children develop a healthy level of skepticism to other claims. I mean, are flying reindeer really harder to believe than a talking snake? Also, I love every memory I have of Santa Claus. Even after I knew he didn't exist, I enjoyed pretending that he did. There is a part of me that looks forward to sharing this with my child.
What do you guys think?
As for the NASA thing you referred to...Bwahahaha!!!'
It sounds like the idea I saw in a cartoon book once, where a sailboat was propelled by a large fan at the stern pointed at the sail.
Why are you taking your current knowledge of the universe, as limited as it is, and projecting limits onto the technologies of our future? We've only had the computer for a few measly decades.
I bet a little project in Switzerland was thought impossible even by the smartest in the world 100 years ago :)
I take what I know now. If you know the future, good for you. Maybe you'll also discover that God exists.
I think the difference here is between pure dishonesty versus a desire to foster open-mindedness. With Santa the parent knows the lie of Santa will be acknowledged as such when the child gets older; and it is not a contested issue or ongoing debate into adulthood. If a public debate will continue into adulthood for your child then yes, you are obligated to be open-minded with them about it. But to support a contention you and everyone in the world acknowledges to be a lie is just dishonest.
The real basis for being open-minded is intellectual humility; the acknowledgement that while something may be your opinion, it is not universally accepted as true. That is something you are obligated to be open-minded with your child about, not overt lies acknowledged to be so by everyone, including yourself.
So, to tell you child one thing at one age and another at another age is dishonest. It is a disrespectful betrayal and not an issue of being open-minded, imo
Let children think on their own. Don't inculcate them with your ideas. Simply live your life and let them choose whether to follow or not. Your job as a parent isn't to give them the right ideas but only to give them the tools to think on their own.
Same here - exactly - kk
We never celebrated Christmas and my earliest memory of Santa was my moma telling me it was a silly fable. I'm glad she told me that because it was honest, fostered loyalty and treated me like an intelligent, mature, thinking individual instead of some immature half-citizen of lesser status who is not worthy of honesty and respect. I told my son and daughter the same thing, and my son is only 5. I told him when he was like, 4. That's how it worked for me, anyway.
I like the idea of using Santa and such as some early lessons in skepticism. If I just tell the child that Santa is not real despite what all his friends say, then I am merely teaching him to accept authority as truth. If the child instead is given helpful hints and taught to experiment or think it through, then perhaps she will learn to question extraordinary claims. Maybe I'll tell him, "I don't know let's leave cookies out," and then when we wake up there's a bite out of the cookies but dad has chocolate on his mouth. I think whatever I do it will still be fun and exciting.
I also really enjoyed the myths of holidays as a child. I had an imaginary friend when I was small, and I believed in magic, and monsters, and all gift-giving holiday-related figures. I believed in these things longer than my friends. I had a lot of fun, and I don't know that I'm worse for it. These things did not prevent me from later finding a passion for science and psychology, which eventually gave me the tools to question the myths of religion.
I found out there was no Santa by the age of six or seven. Also realized you got more stuff if you still believed, so I played the game right to the bitter end. Also figured out there was no god by age twelve. Here, again, life was much easier if you played the game. At age sixty, I came out of the closet with my atheism and also being 70 lbs overweight, having a lustrous mane of snow-white hair and a full beard, I started being Santa every Christmas. Nothing commercial, all Salvation Army, nursing homes, etc. And if you think there is no consequence in the pretense of the jolly old elf dressed in red, go to Los Palomas, Mexico and give a seven year old boy his first ever orange.
I have no opinion about what others should do, but I don’t want any child of mine thinking about me what I did about my parents - first at about age 7, when I thought they were kind of dumb believing in something so obviously preposterous; then about a year later when it dawned on me that they were liars. Whether or not their lies were benign was a moot point for me; everything my parents ever told me after that I weighed with some measure of doubt. At some point, every child should become aware that most adults lie. But I want my child to think that I, not most adults, am the one to be trusted and emulated.
Being a kid is tough enough without forcing them to be outsiders. That sort of thing is very hard to handle for a kid. Celebrate Christmas like believer families but keep it as a secular thing not requiring a religious belief system.