(Please forgive the very long title. Humorously it is balanced out by one of my shortest posts.)
I was reminded the other day of an incident that deeply affected our nation when I was in high school. The incident was the Columbine shooting. I was reminded of the incident when I heard a song that spoke of the incident. The song is called “This is Your Time” by Michael W. Smith. The song speaks about one of the victims in the shooting. A young girl by the name of Rachel Joy Scott was the first victim of the Columbine shooting. She was fatally shot after the shooter asked her if she believed in God and she answered, “You know I do.”
So this young girl, Rachel Joy Scott, was willing to die for her belief in God. Now, I have heard many atheists compare belief in God to belief in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.
This is what I dare atheists to say to the parents of Rachel Joy Scott: “Because you let your little girl believe in God, you might as well have let your little girl die for believing in Santa Claus.”
I want you to seriously think about doing that. Imagine yourself walking up to the parents of this girl who died for her faith and with a straight face say that to them. Are you not already blushing at your indignity if you were to say that? Do you not know that is in essence what you are doing when you make the unsophisticated claim that believing in God is the same as believing in Santa Claus? Sure it is easy to say it through your computer screen, but it is a whole other thing when you are face-to-face with some one.
I am sure you can imagine blushing in embarrassment after telling the parents of Rachel Joy Scott that her daughter died because she refused to admit that Santa Claus was not real. Preparing for the moment that you would actually walk up to them and say that, I am sure you would start thinking better about your words and realize that what you were planning on saying probably does not hold the intellectual weight you thought it did.
If you are realizing that telling Rachel Joy Scott’s parents that her daughter basically died for her belief in Santa Claus is not a very accurate thing to say, then please stop popularizing the unsophisticated claim that belief in God is akin to believing in Santa. But go beyond just quitting that claim. I challenge you to correct your fellow atheists (including Mr. Dawkins, Harris, and other popular writers) when they make the claim.
Unsophisticated claim and intellectual dishonesty
Many have written on why the claim that believing in God is like believing in Santa Claus is unsophisticated. Since so many authors have written on that, I will not go into all those reasons here. If you would like to read a short article about that, you can do so here.
However, I do want to explain another phrase: intellectual dishonesty or intellectual deceitfulness. I have been using this phrase a lot lately when describing arguments or statements that are known to be unsubstantial but are still employed. A second definition I would give to intellectual dishonesty would be arguments or statements that are clearly not critically investigated before they are used. The Santa Claus argument against God fits these two definitions quite well.
Yet a third definition for intellectual dishonesty or deceitfulness is redefining terms to fit one’s preference instead of using the terms for their intended meaning. An example of this third definition would be calling one’s self an atheist Christian. Those terms are incompatible. Since Christianity has as one of its foundations the belief in a Deity, it is intellectually deceiving to try to merge atheism and Christianity. (I suggest a new title be given to someone who wants to claim the title of atheist Christian: post-Christian atheist. If someone who never was a Christian likes the title atheist Christian because they like many of the teachings of Christianity but is an atheist, then they ought to just call themselves humanist, because that is basically what humanism is and humanism is a much more accurate description than atheist Christian).
All one has to do is just begin to critically investigate the claim that belief in God is equal to belief in Santa Claus, and one will quickly come to the realization that it is a very poor argument. Yet multiple popular atheist authors and bloggers continue to use the argument. I believe they are committing intellectual dishonesty or deceitfulness when doing so. They know better, but still lay claim to the argument.
As long as there are intellectually dishonest or deceitful arguments being thrown around, we will never be able to understand each other. For that reason I plead for all of us to realize when we are using intellectually dishonest or deceitful arguments or statements and to drop them.
Unfortunately I have seen Christians use intellectually dishonest or deceitful arguments as well. I am calling for all Christians to critically investigate their truth claims before they stand behind them and to recognize when you are taking a “cheap shot” form of argumentation (using an unsubstantial claim) and to rid that from your debate style.
If you truly believe that belief in God is equal to believing in Santa Claus, then I dare you to tell the Scotts what you think of their daughter’s confession. If you realize that they are not equal, then I challenge you to correct the mistaken claim. It is intellectually dishonest or deceitful to use an argument or statement that is either known to be unsubstantial, not critically investigated, or a redefines terms to fit one’s preference.