10A108 Seasonal Myths by Jim Davies, 12/21/2010    

Santa Claus is saddling up, ready for his long annual ride. Or is he? How do we know?

So many people speak of Santa, so many songs have been sung about him, and so many dress up like him, that he must be real. Mustn't he? Then there's the strong logic that so impresses the mind of a six year old who first dares to Question Authority: "If there is no Santa Claus, who put those boxes under the tree?"

A year later and a year older, that child will be brave enough to answer "YOU did!" but at that moment of first doubt, it's a scary step to take, to accuse one's trusted parent of... coloring the truth, particularly as those boxes are waiting to be opened, and who knows, if one were to voice such dreadful heresy a silence might fall upon the party, and the boxes bearing one's own name might disappear.

Highly similar is the moment of crisis when a person of any age first reaches the awful moment of decision regarding government. Is it really the utter swindle that radicals like this author allege? - surely not, for everyone who is anyone holds it in awe. Even the amusing and highly radical critic Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" once said, when asked why he had never sought to interview then-President G W Bush, "Because I have too much respect for the office."

Like many others he had no respect at all for the person, but so much for the institution of govenment - the office - that he would not trust himself not to ridicule both, were he to interview George W, live on camera.  From Stewart's desk to a child's desk in a government school, surrounded by portraits of all America's Presidents perhaps, it surely cannot be that government is all a myth? - yet that's precisely what it is.

Then there's another tale, current in this season, that the creator of a universe so vast that mankind can still not measure it, with so many billions of solar systems that we cannot yet count them, took the form of a human baby in a manger. That story is so blatantly mythical that it's amazing that so many otherwise quite rational people can seriously believe it to be true. Following Pierre-Simon LaPlace, Carl Sagan proposed that "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" and the evidence for this one is that after that baby had matured for three decades and died, he rose from the dead - a singularity that would rock the world. The evidence for that resurrection is however deeply flawed, and so I suggest that if one is rational in rejecting that G-Myth, one should be consistent in that rationality and reject religion also.

Christmas can still be fun and full of genial benevolence, but then its underlying myths will be recognized for what they are.

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