When I was 11 years old, I still “believed” in Santa Claus. Sure, I heard rumors that he didn’t exist and it was just my parents buying the toys. But there was a lot of evidence in my favor!
For one thing, he always came after my family and I went to midnight mass. When I left the house, there were no presents. But sure enough, when I returned, BOOM! The presents were in the house. My parents were with me the whole entire time. How could they have put the presents there?
Another piece of evidence was that the gift wrapping was totally different from the ones my family used for everyone else. It was Santa Claus themed. Why would my family purchase an entire roll of gift wrap just for one present? That would be wasteful.
Another piece of evidence was that the card that came with the present had someone else’s handwriting. It was all fancy as if it was written by someone who was magical.
Another piece of evidence was fact that the presents were never things that I specifically asked for. Rather it was always something I enjoyed far more than I had hoped. I would tell my parents over and over again what I wanted for Christmas. Never got it. I always ended up getting something better. It felt like Magic! Santa Claus had to be real.
On top of that, all my friends were getting presents from Santa Claus. What more evidence would you want!!
By the time I was approaching 11, I began wondering if Santa Claus was actually real. But there was a problem. If I believed, I would get a present. If I didn’t, there would be no present. What incentive did I have to not believe? I had my suspicions, but I was not particularly motivated to find out the truth.
One day, on my 12th Christmas, Santa Claus didn’t come. It did not come as a shock and I did not confront my parents about it. I just didn’t get a present from Santa Claus that year. That’s when I knew what I always knew. I wasn’t disappointed per se. The magic was lost. But I still remember the feeling of getting something beyond what you ever knew existed.
What’s the difference between my childhood belief in Santa Claus and my adult belief in God? Aren’t I just believing in God to get the “presents”? William James in “The Varieties of Religious Experience” would say yes…And it’s okay.
But, as usual, there’s more to discuss…next time.