Santa V God

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by Tao_Equus, May 10, 2008.

  1. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    I'll be speaking at length to this with my fifteen year olds and report back to you. My son's response in first grade when the older kids said Santa didn't exist was, "I can prove there is a Santa Claus, there is no way my dad would buy all those gifts, are you kiddin?" As reported by the teacher and verified by my son to us.

    Like I said, we all still believe. They were more than happy to stand downtown last December ringing the bell for the Salvation Army wearing a red and white hat. He was more than happy to dress up has Santa and hand out pinewood derby car kits to Cub Scouts, all those kids knew it was John, just as John knew it was me. They differentiate between a red suit and the spirit of giving....if we just give them a chance.
     
  2. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    Well, I'm a general theist who agrees that the existence of God is theoretically disprovable. Now, does that make me really an atheist instead of a theist even though I emphatically believe myself a theist? Aren't you yourself flirting with a certain degree of condescension here when you imply that someone is ultimately different from what s/he claims to be?

    Respectfully,

    Operacast
     
  3. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Namaste Operacast,

    Your viewpoint is intriguing, I currently see a difference with what I said and your 'theoretical' (potential?) proof there is no G!d vs. proof. How could one be a theist if G!d were able to be disproved in their mind? I need help on that one, I can't wrap my mind around it. Not intending any condescending tone.
     
  4. Dondi

    Dondi Active Member

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    During this conversation, all I could of was this Calvin and Hobbes strip that went down like this:

    Calvin: This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn't make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery? If the guy exists, why doesn't he ever show himself and prove it? And if he doesn't exist, what's the meaning of all this?

    Hobbes: I dunno ... isn't this a religious holiday?

    Calvin: Yeah, but actually, I've got the same questions about God.
     
  5. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Namaste Dondi,

    What is the classic answer to this?

    Something about the faith, about belief, about personal growth. That if someone does something for you (proof positive) then you don't achieve anything yourself from the experience...
     
  6. Dondi

    Dondi Active Member

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    What is the veil behind Santa Claus? Your parents, of course. When you found out such was the case, were you upset? Perhaps you were initially disappointed. But then you only really shifted your list from Santa to them, so you didn't really lose out, did you? You might have even looked past their playful deceit and come to appreciate that they are the source, a much closer source than you thought.

    Maybe God is playing Santa also?
     
  7. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    Actually, I don't really know of anyone else who arrived at belief the way I did. It's possible a few others have, but I don't know of any offhand, personally. This is a rather extensive account, and I hope it doesn't derail this thread. But you've asked an honest question and it deserves an honest answer.

    I began as an agnostic and a compulsive reader. There were times in my life I almost never had a book out of my hand. I'd read anything/everything. Simply in devouring whatever literature, fiction, poetry, drama, history, philosophy, etc., I could, I became interested -- strictly as a hobby -- in political/social/cultural history through the ages. I also became an admirer of Stephen Jay Gould and extremely curious about the social/cultural implications of evolution for our own species. Not so much the cultural impact of the idea of evolution but the mechanics of evolution itself as it had evidently impacted on our own species across the eons. Again and again, it seemed to me that the kinds of crisis pressures that Gould writes about, involving the mechanics of quick, discrete changes in various species rather than the (up-to-then) traditional "gradualism" model scientifically understood and accepted in the wake of writings by Darwin and Wallace, could be seen in humanity's cultural history alongside its biological history. Isn't it artificial and misleading to separate cultural trends from biological instinct? We're all still animals, after all.

    Socialization seems the key to what has made homo sapiens survive so long, IMO. And socialization depends on ever more intricate social/cultural structures that help knit the human community together: first villages, then towns, then counties, then states, then countries, then alliances -- until one has the virtual global village we have today. The glue that keeps any social harmony/socialization in play in the midst of such huge structures is some modicum of consideration for the "other" -- seeing oneself in the "other" -- affirming codependent responsibility for each other. Empathy, in other words. After all, the smaller -- psychologically -- the global village is, the more the sufferings of others will eventually impact on oneself. This means that any cultural breakthrough that more greatly sensitizes everyone's consciousness of the call to empathy for/with all others constitutes likewise a step forward in our behavioral evolution, similar to the crisis pressures that are outlined in Gould that precipitate discrete changes in a number of various other species.

    So I became fascinated with any historic breakthroughs throughout human history that helped spark discrete and increased awareness of and consciousness for the human claims of individuals outside oneself. These seemed part and parcel of our natural evolution and might even indicate something intrinsic in nature itself. Imagine my frustration when I ascertained that no great breakthroughs in human/cultural ethics/empathy seemed tied to any innovating agnostics or atheists. Sure, there were plenty of courageous and generous social reformers who were both throughout history. But in their ethics, powerful and altruistic as they sometimes were, they never applied an original ethical insight, instead applying -- with fervor, yes -- culturally familiar, if neglected, insights from previous "ethicists".

    Such was not always the case with similarly countercultural "ethics reformers" among the believers. Some of those would instead introduce radically new ideas compelling their brethren to reconceive from scratch what the obligations of being a thriving and decent and caring human being really were. This is no random pattern, it seems. It reappears throughout the written record, and one must suppose it typifies much of unwritten human history before that as well.

    Even more culturally uncanny is the fact that these radically countercultural reformers frequently buck the prevailing conception of deity of the time as well, so they're not accidental theists out of any "follow-the-leader" psychology of the time. Instead, being as countercultural in their brand of theism as in their ethics, they risk their own necks intimating a gut understanding of a deity radically different from -- and frequently more tolerant than -- the one their contemporary peers imagine. Such breakthroughs are thus coming from innovators who are dual innovators, innovators both in their countercultural brand of theism and in their countercultural brand of social ethics. The impression left is of an entire -- and altogether new -- outlook covering both areas and informed by one and the same revelation.

    As an erstwhile agnostic, it was disappointing to me to find that the most genuine innovative skeptics who were culturally/socially broadminded and caring were either innovators, for their time, in their individual way of nonbelief, or innovators, for their time, in their individual way of empathic social ethics. Never innovators in both. In fact, the earliest known skeptical philosophy of all is a pure and unequivocal atheism first found in ancient India ca. 600 B.C.E.: Lokayata. Lokayata, frustratingly, is indeed a socially and culturally innovative "ethical" philosophy as well as the first known innovative philosophy of total unbelief; but "ethically", it's a philosophy calling on each individual to look out only for oneself and pro-actively ignore one's neighbor!

    Taking stock of all these patterns, I've provisionally concluded that a visceral awareness of deity may be key to the essential evolutionary social/cultural breakthroughs that continually help us to continue to thrive together as a species who must look out for each other and not just oneself if we are to survive in the long term at all. The closer we look out for each other, the more we progress and thrive. The more we neglect such ethical demands, the more we may put all of ourselves at peril throughout the globe.

    The human equivalent of the crisis pressures Gould outlines that precipitate discrete steps forward for a species may be the countercultural insights of the Buddhas, the Christs, etc., who have turned whole cultures around time after time throughout time. If so, personal countercultural insights into deity may be inseparable from human evolution, no matter the occasional risk of personal suffering to the individual who is actually courageous and altruistic enough to introduce such new ideas to her/his peers in the first place. This makes all the more horrible and inexcusable the behavior of some later followers who will sometimes pervert such enlightened teachings into a stick used for assaulting their "enemies". At the same time, the initial and consistent cultural success of the original innovators in "mainstreaming" their broadminded ethical innovations would seem to suggest the distinct probability that some form of deity, at least, is perfectly real.

    This is a long way to get to your question, yes. But the answer to your question is that if there were to be found, at any point either in the ancient past or in the present or in the future, an entirely countercultural figure who would introduce from scratch a radical unprecedented form of atheism within an entirely pious and isolated community, like, say, within a hitherto theocratic culture on an isolated island out in the Pacific, and who did so in the same breath with an equally radical and unimaginable kind of altruistic ethics of a sort none of us can yet conceive of, and if that brand of combined atheism and radical altruism took root throughout that isolated community with total success and was entirely "mainstreamed" as a result, then I would see reason to suppose that a visceral engagement with deity is not essential to our successful social/cultural development after all. Hence, the supposition that some form of deity is probably real as well could also be scrapped. But after a lifetime of reading, I've yet to find such an innovator. If I do, I'd accept a return to my previous skepticism. But there doesn't seem to be any such figure (so far:).

    Cheers,

    Operacast
     
  8. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Namaste Operacast,

    er, WOW!

    Now Tao will have to be the final say in this regard but imho your post in no way was a tangent to this thread (or what I'm considering to be a sister thread which is simultaneosly being run on the adjacent track) but actually provides some insight that I could never do as I don't have the research that you do.

    So if I may summarize with my own brand of interpretation please provide your comments on it.

    a. you are a believer
    b. you see the possibility of what you believe in being mythological
    c. it doesn't matter to you because you see any number of benefits over time from this mythological belief.

    ie the ends in this case justify the means.

    Which is entirely opposite of the problems with belief positted in this and its sister thread.

    yes, no, maybe so?
     
  9. Tao_Equus

    Tao_Equus Interfaith Forums

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    Hi Operacast and thanks for an interesting post.

    The one thing that jumps out at me in the post is you fail to address the causes of change in the socio/political community. As I see it there are only 3. 1.Internal dissatisfaction that leads to populist uprising or revolution. This one would be the most likely to produce a sustained paradigm shift if the revolution is successful. 2. Foreign invasion and the imposition of a new set of beliefs. Which usually produce an underground resistance to that aim. The 3rd and rarest is the imposition of a new set of beliefs such as those imposed by Constantine with the Christianity that was to become Catholicism or Vladimir with Russian Orthodoxy, (both replaced pagan Gods).

    The truth is that from pre-history to this day man has never had an atheist culture. There are very good reasons why. That all involve an ignorance of the real causes of natural phenomena and the imposition of structured or ritualised reinforcements of the power structures in every society. To say that God exists because atheism has never worked is a false premise. Atheism has of yet had no opportunity to exist as held belief structure. A combination of lack of education and a false education, which suited the establishment, has seen to that. In essence, to remove the vested interest and the power politics of historical changes in the analysis of belief changes is impossible. They are one and the same. To my mind yet further proof that God has nothing to do with it. At every juncture belief change has walked hand in hand with political change. They are two sides of the same coin.

    Tao
     
  10. Paladin

    Paladin Purchased Bewilderment

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    Operacast,

    A well thought out and articulate argument but I must disagree on several points since the main thrust would seem more an argumentum ad populum approach to belief in a deity.
    Sure the main cultural meme has been ripe for moving the locus of control outside the human race but that doesn't mean that ethical behavior arises only in response to that idea.
    If the main concern would be cooperation then we might be able to show how cooperation is inherently in the individuals best interest.
    I still hang on the the model Clare Graves lined out back in the 70's because it works so well in discussions leaning in this direction.
    It also seems that you would have us believe that the innovators like Buddha and Christ have had a hand in orchestrating the spread of their insights in the last few thousand years and while we know thats far fetched there are those who believe it to be so. The study of ethics didn't rise from religion as much as reason but the close knit relationship it has to morals leads me to believe they have evolved together.
    As the Human race evolves we may see changes in the predominating value meme promoting ethics, compassion, cooperation, without the baggage of religious trappings hung there by millions of those who have come after the innovators, those who have had the "peak experience" eventually eschewed by the followers ( as described by Maslow).
     
  11. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    You miss my point ... you can disprove the existence of Santa Claus, you cannot disprove the existence of God.

    Thomas
     
  12. Tao_Equus

    Tao_Equus Interfaith Forums

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    You could go around with the blind faith that the "essence or spirit" of Santa Clause makes us do the things that Santa clause is meant to do. Such blind faith would be no different to a belief in God. To be frank I find this argument that you cannot disprove God an extremely dishonest one. It is a fudge not a valid argument.

    Tao
     
  13. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Thank you, Operacast! While my own studies are not quite as in depth and focus primarily on neolithic pre-history, I have been thinking along similar lines for years.

    What I feel both Tao and Paladin are overlooking, is the practical application aspect. I disagree that early shamanic societies *did not know* what they were dealing with metaphysically. I would argue, using such evidence as communion with spirit, sky-walking, vision quest and other well known if less understood (to the scientific community) metaphysical practices.

    Whether Santa, G-d, or whatever graphic illustration of the underlying causality...it is merely a symbolic reference to give face to the faceless, form to the formless, and explanation to the unexplainable. Not that it isn't realized or actualized, but that there is no simple and straightforward illustration that completely illuminates the whole.

    How does one illustrate the concept of love? How *can* one illustrate the concept of love, and have that illustration be relevent across all cultures, time and place?
     
  14. Tao_Equus

    Tao_Equus Interfaith Forums

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    Juan,
    We have quite recently discussed the 'origins' of belief in supernatural deities on another thread. We agreed there that every ancient way of life was essentially shamanic and that they all used powerful hallucinogens in their rituals. This is the setting for the genesis of all religion. Now while I would state that such Shamans had a wonderful, rich and deep understanding about many aspects of their physical environment, (the where, the what and the when), they were ignorant of the facts of science as we are today. This is fundamental for the explanations they gave for the why and how are the metaphysics that gave rise to religion. We know their explanations for the why and how to be wrong so the whole root of religious belief is built on false reasoning. I know exactly what hallucinogens do and I am sorry but they are powerful and impressive but they are no gate to another realm. They get you high or terrify you, highten some senses, dim others, change your vision and your thought processes so you can see what is not there and imagine with great lucidity. But that is the effect of the drug not a proof of a spirit realm. And the similarity of experience in far flung corners with every other states this is an effect of the drug, (which was always the same alkaloid).
    Humans are naturally curious. We want to know why!! If we dont know why we will make a theory that best fits what we can observe. Our ancestors did not know what we know about the things that they used to explain their metaphysics. Yet we still hang on to their explanations. Modern knowledge shows a complete dearth of evidence for any supernatural interference anywhere in nature, from us to the dance of galaxies. Yet we still cling desperately to the idea that it does.


    Hmmmm... I am tempted to go off on a tangent and give the biological explanation of what love is. But that deserves a thread of its own.

    Tao
     
  15. Paladin

    Paladin Purchased Bewilderment

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    I'm not sure I addressed the practical and may I add utilitarian aspects of religion and belief in deity(s) though it is an interesting invitation. It would seem from the above that you are arguing that God is merely a symbol and has no independent reality? Hmmmm very interesting indeed.

    There are many people who live from the religion meme and that's fine as far as it goes but time is still turning and other memes have already been established. Beyond magical beliefs which gave way to belief in higher power there came the belief in the "individual" apart from the religious community then there arose what Graves called the "green" level or a more egalitarian meme.

    If we keep evolving- and I have no reason to believe we will not -there will I suppose, arise the consensus that all these memes have an intrinsic value and are in fact nested within the individual. After this we may see reforms and variations in levels of cooperation and social interaction transcending rather than re-forming.

    To think that things must continue in the way they have always been done is to sink into stagnation and defies logic. At least the kind of logic that the Greeks gave us. You know, like Socrates. Or was he really just an Atheist as he was accused? ;)
     
  16. cyberpi

    cyberpi Interfaith Forums

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    A number of times this year. Two weeks ago. It is repeatable.

    Relative to the existance I submit the focus on believer versus non-believer is misguided. When you place faith in someone you know they exist. When someone places faith directly in you, you can see the things they do because they know you exist and what you are looking for and asking for. You can see when someone responds to your needs. With Santa clause there is interaction but it is directly with the parents and society, and someone there is lying... pretending... with outright deception. Realize that the 'faith' the child first places in the Santa was not in Santa, but it was in the parents and the society. It is good to place faith in a known liar... but then when the lies are revealed then it is good to rebuke them. Afterall that is what you think you are doing by speaking against the existance of God; however, I tell you God is still real.

    Similarly I agree that the word 'God' in the world is full of tradition, gossip, and outright lies. The 'faith' there is not really in God, but it is in the parents or the church who passes on the teaching. Which again is good, but the word can be just like 'Santa' depending on who tells it. The faith placed in the story told by friends and religion is good, but it is bad on the part of the friends and religion because of the lies, the unsubstantiated gossip, the entropy, etc... Again, I know your viewpoint; however, God is still real. I have seen it... God's power here is beyond the word 'power'. I tell you honestly: I have personally placed some faith in God, and God has placed some faith in me.

    How can I be sure... well I've seen God by the interaction and some amounts of love, faith, and honesty vested in my direction. To see it or to receive it I believe I also had to be actively vesting the same in others. I'm certain I further had to come clean on some lies that I had told and some commandments that I had broke. I'm certain though there are people who know God much better than me. I consider every day a day in school.

    Tell you what Tao, I've requested something of God tonight and I will put it in a PM to you and if you agree then we will see if we can't convince God to reveal something. Either way though you can of course still believe whatever you wish. But if the evidence is received then hopefully we will agree that it wasn't from Santa.
     
  17. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    Tao,

    Previously you wrote:
    I think you are giving lack of evidence too much weight.

    Lack of evidence does not prove anything one way or another. It may just mean that our understanding of how to get at the truth is faulty.
     
  18. Operacast

    Operacast Member

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    Yes.

    Yes.

    Here, the answer is "not quite". I wouldn't probably change many of my life choices were I to find that deity is no longer a common denominator after all behind the most significant cultural breakthroughs in social/cultural altruism. However, if I were to determine that it indeed isn't so after all (via a successful innovator on some isolated island of the skeptical sort outlined in my last posting whose reform would be hypothetically 180 degrees away from any theism, countercultural or otherwise), I would then feel it important to accept openly and not deny that my initial assessment of deity as the common denominator behind any cultural "mainstreaming" of altruism is now in question.

    The means toward the ends of the further "mainstreaming" of communal caring by all for all is still critical, but if those means do not involve deity in my hypothetical island-skeptic scenario (above), then clearly any means toward "mainstreaming" communal social caring anywhere will be demonstrably proven not to involve deity anywhere at all, that common denominator of deity up to that point having been shown up as a transitory coincidence only.

    Now as of this moment, nothing in the anthropological/cultural record contradicts the uncanny presence of countercultural brands of theism in all instances of culture-transforming ethics. Hence, my conclusion for now that we're not dealing with a coincidence at all. But when and if something contrary to this pattern, such as my hypothetical culturally successful skeptic on that isolated island, emerges, then my first priority would not be to safeguard a pattern for cultural reform now evidently based on a coincidence only. Rather, it would be to redouble my efforts in attempting to ascertain what might be the real common denominator behind both the successful sensitizing efforts of the Buddhas and the Christs and those of my hypothetical island skeptic.

    There's no point in standing by an assumption regarding means if those means are not involved in but one instance of cultural success. That single instance alone would automatically disprove those "means" as being any sort of common factor at all. Under such circumstances, standing by such "means" would be a futile waste of energy. Determining other factors as common denominators instead would not be, however, and would be eminently worthwhile. So far, I've simply not seen the need to do that. But when/if my hypothetical culture-transforming island skeptic comes along, I would indeed see the need.

    Cheers,

    Operacast
     
  19. 17th Angel

    17th Angel לבעוט את התחת ולקחת שמות

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    Lets look at who santa is...

    We can see that he stems from many cultures and folklore... But in each he differs quite a bit, from what I have read here and there, then confirming with wiki lol.....

    Santa we know is strongly linked from the early Christians with saint Nicholas of Myra... He was famous for being a very generous and charitable gift giver mainly to the poor, he gave much to his comunity, one of his most famous gifts of generosity, he helped three daughters of a man with dowries so they didn''t have to become prostitues.

    Pre christian time there is a link to him with the early gothic/germans? An incubus named Krampus, which is an old german word for claw (Krampen) (Santa CLAWs...)

    Also in german tribes you have the link of santa with the God Odin. As I have said before many times that christanity as a religion is mixed, a cross breed from paganism, and these germanic pagans brought this concept with them when converted to hold on to some traits. Such as many more they brought with them from their winter festivities the Yule goat, christmas tree, yule log and christmas ham and so on...

    Skald poetry spoke of Odin as long beard and great beard and yule figure.. Children would put their boots full of food by the chimney (sound familiar) such as carrots, sugar, wheat, grain and berries so Odins magical flying horse (sleipnir) could feed.

    The only man differences with Odin when he was checking his list, for all that were nice, and checking it twice, what he was using his sack for was to capture the naughty children, so best behave kiddies.

    We could go on, but now I am looking at this properly lol... We cannot help but see a connection surley? Not only this but God, and Santa.... Have identical traits.... They all stem from religions they all differ to a degree many names, many different traditions, many changes and yet a connection....

    God
    Jehovah
    Allah
    Jesus
    and soooooo on

    Santa
    Odin
    christkind
    julemanden
    sion corn
    Reyes Magos (biblical magi ;) )

    So I guess in a way... No, I don't believe we can proove that either really do or don't exist... Because like God, Santa has many forms and represents so much and comes from many backgrounds...

    *goes to his window hearing something fly past the sky *hohoho**
     
  20. Tao_Equus

    Tao_Equus Interfaith Forums

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    Operacast,

    I find it rather amusing that you set up conditions that are impossible to achieve. History does have its examples of trying, Mao's cultural revolution for example. But all such imposed ideologies do is drive the believers in God underground. Where they wait for conditions to change again.

    The only way we will get a truly atheistic state, from root to tip, is by religious indoctrination of successive generations being halted for several generations. Something that is unlikely to happen any time soon.

    Tao
     

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