I've been going back and forth in email with a guy I got into a debate with on Twitter. We've kept it really friendly, which is nice. He is, certainly, intelligent... just so far down the rabbit hole I'm sure neither of us is making progress with the other.
We got into a short debate on Twitter again, and apparently I left the impression I thought there was a possibility Santa exists (I meant that "God" is as likely to exist as Santa, which is NOT likely). He seemed really concerned and, I suspect, also thought this was the perfect moment to point out how illogical my thinking is. I sort of can't believe this is the conclusion he jumped to, but maybe it's like hitting "Share" on Facebook before we read the whole article or verify its truth. Like, my mom seems to really love when anything negative is posted about Obama, and it never seems too crazy or unlikely. Obama called Putin a jack ass? Well of course he did. Now, let me immediately repost so I can revel in his failure.
I digress. Here is our brief exchange, although I'm sure he'll have a deflating come back (deflating because he won't acknowledge that he reasoned away the existence of his own god without realizing it).
I wanted to ask you something about a tweet that I saw you post the other day. You said that you believed it was more likely that Santa Claus exists than God—especially since Santa Claus was a real person.
I’m trying to understand what you mean by that. I understand that you believe that it’s likely that St. Nicholas existed because we have some historical record of him as a person in history. No problem there. But what about the magical character? Are you saying that the existence of a super old, immortal grandpa (or at least immortal in a way that’s different than us), with a group of elves, who spend their days making toys at the north pole and deliver them to kids all in one night with the help of magical flying reindeer etc etc, is more likely than the existence of God?
That’s how I read your tweet: "@--- I totally disagree. I think there is more reason to believe Santa exists than a god. For one, he actually DID exist at one point. on 1/17/14 11:26 am”
If I am mistaken, then I beg your pardon.
If I read it correctly, we may have struck oil in the sense of a logical dilemma.
Not to belabor the point, but think about it… We have radar that can track flying objects on Xmas Eve (No Santa). We can travel to the North Pole or look at it from satellites (No Santa). Elves have never been verified as real. Immortal people don’t exist. Reindeer have never been witnessed as flying. The list of course goes on and on. The claims for the existence of Santa Claus (in the magical sense, not the historical sense) can be verified as false by empirical methods. There is zero chance of a magical Santa Claus.
So your statement boggles my mind a little because it sounds like you said that you would be more likely to believe in a magical creature that can fly than believe in the possibility that God exists. Certainly that cannot be consistent with your belief system of no miracles or supernatural phenomena (this is correct that you don’t believe in miracles yes?).
If you grant magic you have to grant miracles. And if you grant miracles then we actually have more forensic data for the resurrection than we do for Santa.
All of this sounds funny to me. I cannot believe that you really mean that there aren’t as many reasons to believe in God, as there is a magical Santa Claus. I think that the issue is underlying. It’s interesting to me that the implications of the existence of Santa are easier to stomach than the existence of God. The authority that God has if He is indeed real impacts our lives and our eternity in a tremendous way. Santa, not so much. If both Santa and God are real, we can ignore Santa and get on with our lives as if he never existed. Santa existing makes no difference unless we are Santa fans. We can’t do that with God. Whether we are fans of God or not, we end up eternally affected by the truth of his existence. If we disbelieve, we are separated from God for an unending period of time in a place usually called Hades or Hell.
I believe that it’s THIS distinction that separates people (perhaps like yourself) from the knowledge of God. They have no problem accepting the possibility of a magical grandpa flying around on a reindeer pulled sleigh. But to believe that there is a God who judges me and my family and my friends is a personal matter and a much different story. They think, "How is this fair? To be judged for something that I didn’t ask for and don’t need and don’t want…?" The injustice of the sound of such a truth (if it were true) is enough push some away.
Have no fear, I do not actually believe it is possible Santa exists in the magical sense. He is a character who existed long ago and whose legend is loosely based on his life.
I do find your argument against Santa's existence pretty ironic, however. While I do not in any way believe Santa the Myth possibly, or even plausibly, exists... I do, indeed, believe the chances he exists are the same as the chances a god exists, and specifically the Hebrew god.
Here, let me change a few words in the argument you made:
But what about the [supernatural] character? Are you saying that the existence of a super old, immortal [god] (or at least immortal in a way that’s different than us), with a group of [angels], who spend their days [answering prayers] and deliver them to [adults instantly] with the help of [anointed disciples] etc etc, is more likely than the existence of [Santa]?
Not to belabor the point, but think about it… We have radar that can track flying objects [all the time] (No [God]). We can travel to [space / the heavens] or look at it from satellites (No [God]). [Angels] have never been verified as real. Immortal people don’t exist. [Prophets] have never been witnessed as flying**. The list of course goes on and on. The claims for the existence of [Jesus] (in the [supernatural] sense, not the historical sense) can be verified as false by empirical methods. There is zero chance of a [supernatural god].
**there are SUPPOSEDLY eye-witnesses (for angels, reindeer, UFOs, and Mohammad / Elijah ascending into the heavens), but eye-witness accounts are not remotely reliable
You've perfectly summed up all the reasons I think it is exceedingly unlikely there is a god. You don't need to convince me Santa isn't real. I never gave him much thought as a kid, and I asked my mom straight-up if he was real when I was six and she just said "no" and that was the end of that. Believing the likelihoods are about equal is not the same as saying I think the likelihood is high in either case.
Of course, I know you will point back to the Bible and insist it's all true and is evidence in itself. Well, only if you have faith. You cannot verify Jesus' miracles. You cannot produce those who were supposedly eye-witnesses. You cannot verify Mary's virginity. Not only that, but there is evidence the earth is 4.54 billion years old, not merely 10,000. I won't bother going into that because I feel certain you'll dismiss it. I'm not a geologist or archeologist and so I am not equipped to make a convincing argument in an email. The evidence against the Bible's take on creation is incredible and overwhelming. Perhaps there is a god (not likely), but the individuals who wrote the Bible knew very little about the universe they were making guesses about. It is quite clear, even in Genesis, that the mind(s) responsible were total products of the time and place they existed.
Confirmation bias is the reason you see your god's hand all over the cosmos.
The reason I do not believe there is a god is NOT because I think his judgements are unfair. That would be stupid. I don't believe or disbelieve things based on how convenient or "fair" I perceive them to be... otherwise I'd refuse to see a lot of ugly in this world. I think it's unfair weed is illegal, but that doesn't mean I refuse to believe or accept the government exists... nor does it mean I'm going to smoke pot just to spite the government. I do value my life and freedom. The difference is, I know the government exists; it is not a matter of faith.
I do refuse to live my life with "what if" scenarios dictating my decisions. There are lots of other gods and spirits and forces I may be pissing off, too. I cannot appease them all, for one. I also find it an epic waste of time to live in superstitious fear. I could very well be cursed with seven years of bad luck if I wander under a ladder, but I'm not going to go out of my way to avoid walking under a ladder. I make decisions based on real, time-tested cause and affect. I look at numbers and statistics and trends and decide if a particular action is likely to cause harm, now or in the long run. I base my beliefs on what is SHOWN to be real, on what is verifiable. Sure, I put my trust in things outside my control, but only because I know they have been tested. I know there is risk in everything, but the least risky things are the things that are regulated and checked over and over.
Believing Yahweh is real, and THE GOD, is actually not the least risky belief system to adopt. And, I'm not sure if you're aware, belief is not always a choice. You may dislike the Santa comparison, but I can no more decide to believe there's a god (whether to mitigate my chances of ending up in Hell or because the idea of eternal happiness is grand) than I can decide I believe Santa is real. I don't believe Santa is real. I don't believe there's a god. I don't find the "evidence" to be convincing.
I hope I've cleared a few of your concerns up.