Philosophers can look back on a monumental body of work discussing, commenting, proving and disproving the existence of a Great Maker in the Sky (hereafter GMitS*, pronounced: Gee-mits). Philosophers have, throughout the epochs, produced various treatises discussing what a GMitS might be - body, spirit or thought or maybe a mouse? Where the GMitS came from - did the GMitS have parents? Etc.
Most of these discussions are in form of commentaries on other philosophers. It is genuinely hard to have new and inventive ideas on the topic since it’s such a mainstay of the philosophical stage. Something akin to the Cats on Broadway.
I won’t go through the various interpretations and concepts for a GMitS since that is not what this essay is about. The takeaway is simply that the concept of a GMitS is and has been a hot topic amongst philosophers over millennia and for millennia to come.
From the title, you might guess where I’m going with this.
Santa Claus seems to be just as mystical as any GMitS. Santa Claus seems to be just as important - how else would billions of children get their presents on Christmas day?
Yet Santa Claus is a very special myth. Most children soon learn that Santa Claus doesn’t exist and that the myth is, plain and simple, a lie. The Santa Claus myth then becomes a rite-of-passage ritual, with children being initiated into adulthood using the Santa Claus myth.
So the myth becomes a societal introduction into the “real” world: you are now leaving the childhood sector and entering the adulthood sector, don’t collect two-hundred dollars, don’t pass Go.
But who is Santa Claus? Who is the guy with the long grey beard and the red bathrobe? And why for philosophers is this myth not as important as the GMitS myth?
Unfortunately Aristotle died too early to give his opinion on Santa Claus. Since quite a bit of philosophy is based on Aristotle’s works, this would have been helpful to kick-off a debate amongst philosophers.
We are told that the Santa Claus myth is based on early Christian traditions of giving children presents at Christmas time. So Santa Claus is not a pagan! Or is he? Santa Claus doesn’t seem to profess to have a particular religion inclination and other than that he comes at Christmas - which might simply be a coincident. Does Santa Claus believe in a GMitS myth? We don’t know.
Santa Claus possesses an infinitely sized sack of presents, we are told. A bunch elves (we are never told how many elves Santa has but there are nine reindeers) spend most of the year creating (and I assume ordering) presents for billions of children. I don’t want to get into the numbers but let me remind the reader that there are only 365 days in a year. Efficient production of presents is definitely Santas thing. Not to mention his ability to hide his present-producing elves from view for the entire year.
Then there is Santas ability to appear at the same time around the world delivering billions of presents (having wrapped them first). In addition, Santa respects time zones, Climbs down billions of chimneys - I won’t go into where he climbs down if there isn’t a chimney and never ages. Santa has been old and grey for years, he’s still fit enough to do all this in one day, every single year.
Hence, most parents come to the conclusion that this incredible manager-of-elves multi-talented grey-bearded red-bathroom-wearing never-ageing Santa simply can’t exist. Parallel, these parents, believe that a GMitS created the Universe in seven days, even taking a break on the seventh day.
So why is the GMitS myth more relevant than the Santa Claus myth?
Why doesn’t the GMitS myth also become a part of the rite-of-passage from childhood to adulthood? Why isn’t the GMitS myth also used as a “welcome to the cold hard world where there is no God and no Santa Claus”?
Then there would be less fundamentalists convinced that there is some GMitS whose only reason for existing is to look after us however the GMitS doesn’t seem to be able to really getting that happening, so then we need to discuss why the GMitS doesn’t make this place a paradise. Or perhaps this is a paradise and we don’t get it - oh, how wise the GMitS really is!
Either way, we as a species, it seems, have an easier time burying a dude-who-brings-us-presents-and-says-ho-ho-ho myth than the dude-in-the-sky-who-apparently-looks-after-us-but-still-causes-misery-to-happen-probably-to-teach-us-a-lesson myth.
Perhaps we are all just sad-ists.
*= GMitS is preferable to “God” since what I’m talking about is the societal myth of God and not a specific God. I’m not referring to the Moslem God nor the Jewish God nor the Christian God nor the Gods of the Inuit. None of those Gods interest me, it is the concept of “God” that is of interest to me.