Is faith in God like believing in Santa?
Find out why it's actually nothing like that!
“I used to believe in God. But like my belief in Santa Claus, I gave it up as I grew older and learned the truth.”
Have you ever heard a claim like this? In my interactions with skeptics and atheists, I have heard this said many times.
Essentially, the idea is that mature people grow out of their childish belief in Santa (even though their well-meaning parents told them Santa was real), because they grow up and learn better. In the same way, mature people naturally grow out of their belief in God.
Positive Evidence for God
There are two big reasons why belief in God and belief in Santa Claus are completely unlike each other. First, there is positive evidence for God and there is no positive evidence for Santa Claus. We all know Santa was invented, and we can trace back the story historically.
In contrast to Santa, there is powerful evidence that God is real, which has convinced some of the leading thinkers in the world from disciplines as diverse as law, science, education, history, journalism, and the arts. Quite obviously, there is no Santa equivalent of the cosmological, teleological, ontological, axiological, and other arguments for the existence of God.
This point alone should be enough to end the comparisons.
Grown-Up Belief in God
But there is another critical point that puts the “nail in the coffin.” It is true that children often believe in Santa, but when they grow up, come to realize that he is merely imaginary. Whether sad at the loss of belief, or proud that they are growing up, kids naturally find Santa fanciful as they age.
Yet, I have not heard of someone who grew up believing in Santa, who abandoned that belief, and then came back to that belief in adulthood. Have you? Of course not. Why? Because it neverhappens–ever. Unless they are suffering from a mental handicap, people do not come to believe in Santa later in life.
But this happens all the time with God. Mortimer Adler, editor of the 54-volume set Great Books of the Western World, was an agnostic early in life but was received into the Catholic Church at 96. Atheist philosopher Antony Flew became a theist because of the scientific evidence that emerged during his life. My friend and co-author J. Warner Wallace, successful cold-case detective, came to believe in God in his 30s after carefully examining the Gospel of Mark.
Some people grow out of both their belief in God and their belief in Santa. But while many come back to their belief in God, none ever come back to their belief in Santa.
Santa may have some strange God-like qualities (knowing who is naughty and nice), but we all know he’s a myth that kids eventually reject as fanciful.
The same cannot be said for God. Let’s stop the comparisons.
Written by Sean McDowell from Biola University. Find out more about Biola today.