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At the close of this Christmas season and the start of the New Year, I want to make this point about belief and about what is real. Most of my readers are probably familiar with the “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter that was posted in the New York Sun in 1897, since it has worked its way into Christmas tradition.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. 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. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.
We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Well, there’s one way to confuse a child about the difference between fantasy and reality. Virginia didn’t ask about enjoyment or love or generosity or beauty or joy or poetry. We actually have evidence for all of those things. She asked about Santa Claus and whether or not he is real. If you have to redefine what it means for something to be real so you can believe in it, then you might as well admit to yourself that it is not really real.
And of course it is the same for God as it is for Santa Claus. Better to be honest with oneself about what is real or not. The threats are empty. Joy and love and beauty — and even imagination — will not disappear. I promise.