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Childish things

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. - 1 Corinthians 13:11
A few months ago, I wrote a post drawing an analogy between belief in god and belief in Santa Claus.   I would like to continue that discussion and build upon what I said in that previous post.

In the previous post, I mostly focused on the parallels between belief in either entity.  That is, I mentioned how the concept of "nice" children get toys and "naughty" children get lumps of coal is analogous to "righteous" people going to heaven and "evil" people going to hell in the next life.  In this post, I think I shall focus more on the differences.

In fact, I mean to make the case that any of the silly fables that we tell our children is far more likely and believable than the story of the Christian god (and most gods, but I don't know too much about other gods, so I'll stick to the Christian one).  We'll start with Santa Claus.

In order to believe in Santa, one would have to accept a few ridiculous claims--such that reindeer can not only fly, but pull a heavy sleigh laden with a man and billions of toys.  There are many other nonsensical claims involved in the story of Santa, but we'll stick with the toy delivery, since it is (in my mind) the most preposterous.  Having a family full of engineers, I got an email for Christmas a couple years ago from a brother-in-law where someone actually calculated how fast Santa would have to travel in order to deliver presents just to the Christian children in the world all in one night.  He would actually have to travel so fast that he would literally burn up, because of the drag force that velocity would create.  So, to work around this, you would need to somehow allow Santa to defy the laws of physics.  He would either have to have a way to slow down time or negate the drag which would cause him to disintegrate.

Okay, so pick whichever explanation you like best for how Santa can deliver all these presents all in one night (technically he has maybe 36 hours or so to deliver toys, because of time zones).  I'll pick the slowing down time option, since that seems the simplest to me.  So, to believe in Santa, you need to believe that he has some way of bending time.  This is, of course, a ridiculous notion.  But, now contrast that with the notion of god.  The Christian god is capable of telepathic communication with billions (if not an infinite number) of people all at the same time.  He can hear and understand the words of the prayers of all of his believers.  Not only that, but he is capable of taking action based on the words of these prayers--changing weather, making a certain football team win, comforting people who are depressed, healing people who are ill, etc.  This is a far more incredible claim than that Santa can fly around the world and deliver toys to all the children in one night.

Now, take the Tooth Fairy.  The Tooth Fairy simply goes around replacing teeth with coins, when found under a child's pillow.  This is far more believable than the Santa story, since there are a much smaller number of children at tooth-losing age than there are at Christmas present age, and the fairy has the entire year to spread out the work of paying for lost teeth, whereas Santa is required to do all of his work in one night.  And yet, no adult (that can be considered sane) truly believes in the Tooth Fairy.  Contrast this with god.  First of all, the Tooth Fairy gives money to children (and is therefore generous), whereas god asks for money from his followers (and is therefore selfish).  But, it is far more believable that someone will come and change your son's molar into a quarter than it is that paying money to your bishop will affect your welfare in any way at all.  The claim that paying 10% of your income to your church will make you more financially stable or that it will bring upon you blessings that god would not give you otherwise is completely absurd and is easily seen to be a scam.  It's a far more obvious explanation that your church leaders simply want money from you (who doesn't want money) and are willing to ask for it in the name of god.

How about the Easter Bunny?  To believe in the Easter Bunny, you simply have to believe that there's a rabbit that goes around all over the world hiding eggs and candy for children to find.  Certainly, that is an absurd thought--which is why no one takes the Easter Bunny seriously.  But, is it any less credible than the teaching that god goes out of his way to put people into your path as part of an intricate and eternal plan?  That he hides all along your life situations and people who will maximize your opportunity to be happy, to learn what you need to learn, and to return to live with him in the next life?  Clearly this teaching is far more ridiculous.  That is, if you can believe that everything in your life happens for a reason and that god is controlling all of these encounters and situations, then it should be very easy for you to believe that there is a rabbit who hides eggs once a year for children to find.

Next, I think it would be good to talk about simple superstitions.  I can't say how many people I've seen actually knock on wood when they wish to avoid ill fortune or get some good fortune.  I've done it myself on a number of occasions.  I doubt very much that anyone is ever serious when doing so (I know that I'm not).  That is to say, most people I thought would admit that the idea that knocking on a piece of a dead tree will somehow bring good luck is a silly belief.  But, is it any more absurd than the belief that saying the words "please bless that it will rain" will actually have an effect on the weather?  Is the idea that breaking a mirror brings 7 years bad luck really any more preposterous than believing that all of existence and life and everything poofed into being because one being said that he wanted it to be so?

As ridiculous and naive as the concepts of Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and other fables and superstitions are, belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing being who is personally concerned with the goings-on of each individual's personal life leaves them all in the dust.  It is so much more fantastical, so much more unrealistic, requires so much more suspension of reality, as to render it hopelessly false.

And so, I say, just as I have cast aside my childish beliefs in the mythical creatures and fairies that I was told stories about as a child, I have also cast aside the childish notion that there is a god.  Be reasonable.  Think about what it is that you actually believe (or claim to believe) and consider whether to do so is truly a rational course to take.  Are the things you believe in really all that more reasonable than the fairy tales that we easily dismiss off-hand?

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