By allowing our children to participate in the Santa myth and find their own way out of it through skeptical inquiry, we give them a priceless opportunity to see a mass cultural illusion first from the inside, then from the outside. A very casual line of post-Santa questioning can lead kids to recognize how completely we all can snow ourselves if the enticements are attractive enough. Such a lesson, viewed from the top of the hill after exiting a belief system under their own power, can gird kids against the best efforts of the evangelists â€“ and far better than secondhand knowledge could ever hope to do.
My daughter is eight years old and has plied me with numerous questions about Santa, which I’ve handled much as Dale has handled his children’s questions. She hasn’t brought it up in a couple months (oddly enough), but I’m pretty sure she’s very close to the point where she’s going to determine that Santa is fictional. I’m also pretty sure that she’ll handle it just the way Dale’s son handled it.
We’ve had discussions about God, religion, and what other people believe. She knows I’m an atheist, but also knows that many people believe many different things and that she’s allowed to make up her own mind. She’s been to a Christian pre-school and has been to a church “music camp” for the past two years in the summer, so she’s been exposed to religion and Jesus and God. When my wife asked her if she believed in God, her response was that she was too young to know one way or the other. I thought that was an exceptionally reasonable answer for an 8-year-old.
Now we’ll see how the Santa thing plays out.