Over the years we have had numerous debates and public discussions with atheists and atheist spokespersons. One of my favorite discussions was a radio debate I had with Jon Garth Murray, Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s oldest son. Jon and I had known each other for a long time, and we knew what would probably develop in the course of the evening. We were both somewhat frustrated by the lady who was the emcee who had her own agenda and really would not allow us to develop our own format. Early in the discussion Jon made the statement that he did not believe in God for the same reason he did not believe in Santa Claus. This is an old argument that atheists have used for many years, but I thought I might shake things up a little by posing a question about evidence.
"Suppose scientific evidence was uncovered that proves conclusively that Santa Claus does exist," I suggested. "Would you be willing to look at that evidence or not?" Jon stated categorically that the proposition was so absurd that he would not consider it. "Of course there is no Santa Claus," he said, “and no amount of evidence could ever convince me otherwise." "So what you are saying," I suggested, "Is that there is no room in your mind-set for something you have already discarded, no matter how strong the evidence might be. You also have formulated your own concept of what Santa Claus is, and you have discarded the myth without considering whether there is a better understanding that a rational person could believe in and accept." The fact is that Murray and many others have done the same thing with the existence of God!

There was a famous editorial in a New York newspaper in 1897 that included the well-known line, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." Francis Church, who wrote the editorial in response to an eight-year-old girl’s question, pointed out that belief in Santa Claus involves more than childhood fantasies. We have Christmas carols that talk about the wonder of Christmas and ask why we cannot have the Christmas spirit all year. The image on the cover of this issue of our journal is just fun, but the notion of a personality that embodies the spirit of the holiday season is real.

Let us be very clear, God and Santa Claus are not the same thing. Certainly the existence of God is supported by a different kind of evidence and brings a need for a different response from us as responsible humans. The point being made is that many people in our culture have created their own concept of God and have discarded it because the image is unworkable. They want a God who holds up puppies, smiles all the time, gives wonderful gifts, makes no demands,   and has no expectations. They want a God who is only there when they want Him to be there and can be ignored in our daily walk of life. The notion that we serve Him instead of Him giving to us is not considered. The idea that we have a purpose in our existence is discarded. The belief that our purpose involves the real world with all of life’s pain and loss is rejected, because it demands commitment and a particular way of living life.

No, God is not equal to Santa Claus, He is so superior to the man in the red suit that the two notions should not be entertained together, but how people approach the two is revealing and has lessons for all of us.
--John N. Clayton

This is how Alister McGrath responded to the charge by Richard Dawkins that believing in God is like believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.
Like many of Dawkins’s analogies, this has been constructed with a specific agenda in mind—in this case, the ridiculing of religion. Yet the analogy is obviously flawed. How many people do you know who began to believe in Santa Claus in adult-hood? Or who found belief in the Tooth Fairy consoling in old age? l believed in Santa Claus until I was about five (though, not unaware of the benefits it brought, I allowed my parents to think I took it seriously until rather later). I did not believe in God until I started going to university. Those who use this infantile argument have to explain why so many people discover God in later life and certainly do not regard this as representing any kind of regression, perversion or degeneration. A good recent example is provided by Antony Flew (born 1923), the noted atheist philosopher who started to believe in God in his eighties.
Alister McGrath in The Dawkins Delusion? page 20.

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