How a “New Atheist” might edit the response to Virginia O’Hanlon given by New York Sun editor Francis P. Church in 1897.
(Let’s face it, would any of you be surprised to see this?)
We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. Actually, your friends have managed to rise above the fantasy world adults have created for them. You should learn from them. They’re wise beyond their years. They do not believe except they see. As they rightfully should. Demand proof, kids! They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. Little minds? The New York Sun is stifling their mental growth! All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge. This is absurd. Our minds are so much greater than we give them credit for… While we don’t know everything, we have the capacity to know so much more! Curiosity and knowledge of what is and isn’t there are what allow us to understand the world more precisely.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And an Easter Bunny! And a Tooth Fairy. And an eighth Harry Potter book. And nine circles of Hell. No wonder this paper went out of business… He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Of course love and generosity and devotion exist. I could explain to you the evolutionary benefits of those qualities and the chemical changes in our body when we have feelings like love, but your “little mind” may not be able to comprehend that… Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be no different. Because there isn’t one. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. We could use less of your kind, actually. Let’s have more people like your friends. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. Great poetry, romance, music, and literature would all exist with or without belief in the supernatural. We have so much to be thankful for in this life that to belittle our unique place in this universe by giving credit to make-believe people is insulting. Childlike faith may be cute, but it’s embarrassing when that faith carries over into adulthood. We should stop it before it starts. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. In fact, sense and sight give us plenty to enjoy in this world. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. Finally! We get something sensible! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? That Santa most likely does not exist. Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Ahh… the Weapons of Mass Destruction argument. If you can’t find them, then there’s no reason to believe they aren’t there. If you show me fairies are there, I’ll listen to you. We should not believe what we can’t scientifically test or observe. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. Certainly not when you think there are answers for everything you don’t know about.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside (a wonderful idea), but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Again with the love and poetry! Those things merely describe what we wish to see. Not what is actually there. The Scientific Method, however, does push aside that curtain and explains so much of what we do not yet know. It’s the best hope to find out everything else, too. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. Only the idea. Not anything real and tangible. (Same goes for God, by the way). A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now (Can you do the math, Virginia? That’s 100,000 years), he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
[tags]New Atheists, Virginia O’Hanlon, New York Sun, Francis P. Church, Santa Claus, Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus, Christian, atheism[/tags]