Stop Stressing over Santa:
Skepticism about the “Science” of Sacred Superstitions
“I know that Santa Claus is a very kind person. I am not asking about that. I just want to know how he gets in to the homes of people who do not have a fireplace and a chimney. How does he put presents under the Christmas tree if he can’t even get inside of the room? Does he break in like a burglar? Also, my friend Pete lives in a two-story complex on the lower level. However, I saw presents under his tree last week and it is just the beginning of the month. I thought that people were not supposed to get any presents until the night before Christmas when Santa comes! Can you explain this?” – Little Johnny
Consider that in your life you may have been exposed to presumptions that are not entirely precise. Some of the presumptions that you may hold could be very popular across lots of people. Some presumptions are only common within certain exclusive groups and those groups may even withdraw from mainstream society in order to avoid interacting frequently with people who do not share some of their most sacred presumptions.
In fact, I saw a TV show recently about a radical religious group that had recently split off from another similar group. They both lived in a remote rural area with the two groups living several miles away from each other.
Each group included many members who insisted that the other group was “the wrong kind of fundamentalist: fanatics!” I also find it interesting how these two groups of “family-centered” extremists maintain that they are both family-centered, yet they both tend to rigidly “shun” the other group (even though the other group may include their parents or their adult children as well as lots of “extended family”).
So, when someone holds certain presumptions to be sacred, they may experience stress when someone else questions whether a presumption is in fact presumptive. People state lots of presumptive ideas without identifying the idea as presumptive. Even individual words can be considered presumptive, interpretative, symbolic, or poetic.
Back to the example of a child asking about Santa Claus, we might easily recognize a sequence of false presumptions. First, we may understand that when most parents refer to Santa Claus, they are not talking about the historical figure of a Roman Catholic Saint named Nicolaus.
Parents use the words “Santa Claus” as a deceptive reference to the parents themselves. They are using a code word. There is an “inside joke” that they use to intentionally deceive a naïve child.
Why use such deceptions? They can be highly efficient at governing behavior. They can be very convenient, too.
When the children believe in Santa Claus, they do not ask about getting the gifts before the holiday. Each child presumes that the gifts from Santa are not already hidden in the attic, so there is no point nagging the parents about giving the gifts to them today. In fact, with the deception of Santa Claus, the parents can create a pretense in which they defer authority to the inaccessible Santa. “To give you the gifts today is just not in my power” the mother lies.
Beyond convenience, there is also the issue of efficient influence. The children are confused with deceptions and then manipulated based on their false perceptions. The parents also assert that there is an external authority that is magically watching to keep track of how obedient the child is to the parents.
In that regard, Santa is the prototype for the God of the Dead (who reviews the life of a recently dead soul and then sends the soul to heaven or hell depending on how worthy or obedient the person was). In the Roman Catholic tradition, the ancient God of the Dead (which goes by many names in many different languages and religious traditions) is typically identified as Saint Peter. In many of the new branches that rest on the same foundations as Catholicism, Protestants still keep the same ancient idea of a specific after-life figure that sends some to hell and some to heaven.
Religion can be a tricky subject for a lot of people. The two groups of “family-centered” radicals who refuse to speak with their close family members may all insist that they know for certain- even if their certainties happen to be conflicting. However, if they all argue with antagonism and then shout with threats of burning books and witches, then maybe they are more interested in promoting conformity than in promoting a relaxed exploration of all possible perspectives to identify which is most relevant and efficient.
In the New Testament verse of Matthew 16:18, a speaker identified as Jesus seems to make direct reference to Hades, which is a Greek mythological figure (and the same figure that modern people associate with the “planet” Pluto). The translators who used the word Hades were translating an ancient word for “the underworld,” which is Sheol in some languages and hell in other languages or even “the land of the spiritually dead.”
Does this language refer to actual “dead spirits” or is it metaphorical language that refers to people that are only dead metaphorically, like ignorant or unenlightened or naive? For instance, if children believe in Santa Claus, then they are operating in the realm of the unconscious or intellectual blindness or symbolical death (prior to their spiritual birth as initiated members of the elite priesthood).
When the high priest says to those who are most naïve that Santa will be watching at all times and then when you die you will be rewarded or punished based on the clearness of your conscience, is it a myth? Conscience is a real thing, but much of the rest could be intentionally deceptive, right?
Consider that a perceptive person can assess the conscience of other people. Of course, the same kind of evaluation can be done with lie-detector polygraph tests. What is studied is not the actual history, nor the memory of the person, but simply their stress levels. Do they “seem” notably guilty? Are they just as stressed as the average innocent person when questioned about a crime? Further, if there is no elevated stress level, does that establish innocence?
For instance, someone who has amnesia or was completely drunk when a certain incident happened cannot be relied on to report on the past because they have no memory to issue any report. They cannot affirm or deny any allegation. They might experience stress simply to contemplate a particular allegation, but that is still no evidence of historical events.
Further, imagine the mother who has a deluded view of her child as pure. I do not mean a mother who is intentionally lying to protect her child, but a mother who is sincere yet quite inaccurate. “My baby would never do something like that,” the mother might say. Why? Because the conscience of the mother is experiencing stress.
Even if the stress level is low, that could be because the neurological filters are so biased that the mother simply dismisses any “potentially upsetting” allegations without even getting upset about them. From such a mother, all we can observe is the functioning of psychological denial (their metaphorical blindness). If they lack the maturity to even contemplate a possibility that would cause them guilt and distress, then their “testimony” cannot be considered credible. Their “defenses” of their child will be incredibly biased.
They may calmly say “Oh no, I simply can’t believe that such a thing is even remotely possible! I know my child. Are you suggesting that I do not know my child? I do know them and so I dismiss your suspicions as silly without even needing to consider them. You simply must be mistaken. That is all I have to say about that.” Then she pauses and smiles, adding “Although I do hope, my dear, that you are not being decieved by Satan.”
Since they lack the ability to intentionally entertain the possibility of recognizing any flaw in their sacred ideals about their perfect child, their only contribution to a judicial proceeding might involve tricking them in to revealing something relevant. They can be asked to provide background information that they do not suspect in any way to implicate their child. Otherwise, an extreme bias may render them unreliable and useless for the court’s ritual of selecting a new convict to subject to cold-blooded capital punishment in a public human sacrifice.
One who is spiritually dead will be disturbed by these references. “This is not how it should be! These ideas are causing me a headache.” In fact, their own ideals and superstitions are held only through chronic tensions while these ideas actually are offering them relief. Nevertheless, if they are not ready for releasing their distress and displaying the fears hidden by their superstitions, then they will dismiss any “disturbing” presentations and return to their worship of their favorite sacred supersititions.
In contrast, one who is not spiritually dead can easily recognize all of this. Once the logical sequence is pointed out directly, they experience immediate relief and even excitement. They recognize the existence of spiritual blindness and that alone proves that they are at least in the process of awakening (open to logic and learning).
There may be no direct evidence that there is an eternal soul that travels to the planet Pluto after the death of the body to meet St. Peter and then based on the state of their conscience, get sent either to live eternally in hell on the “planet” Pluto or else in heaven.
One who believes in Santa cannot be expected to make intelligent comments on the subject of “sacred superstitions.” They are ignorant of the idea of superstition. They are blind or dead to the idea of superstition.
We can train them to repeat that “all people are equal and have the right to vote,” but then tell them that they cannot vote until they are 18 years old. They lack the logical skills to identify the inherent contradiction of “everyone has the right to vote, but just not yet.” (Or perhaps they lack the economic independence to be willing to make a public statement on the issue, kind of like the example of holding a whip over a slave and asking if they are happy with their life as a slave.)
They may perceive democratic elections not as limiting their influence, but as somehow increasing it. The logical conflicts of their sacred superstitions can be most extreme in regard to the subject that we will call “science.”
The most sacred of all modern “institutions:” science
I recently saw a TV ad saying “arthritis causes joint inflammation and pain.” How scientifically precise is that?
Arthritis is a Latin word meaning joint inflammation. To say that joint inflammation CAUSES joint inflammation seems idiotic, but by using another word that means the same thing, the masses watching the TV ad can be quickly confused and thus efficiently deceived.
“Blindness destroys the ability to see.”
“Baldness causes hair loss.”
“Hyperglycemia causes elevated blood sugar.”
“Sunburn causes inflammation.”
All of these are quite ridiculous. Sunburn is a type of inflammation. Sunburn does not cause inflammation.
However, in the case of a long list of financially-rewarding diagnostic labels, the label for the symptoms is widely promoted as causing the symptoms. This is nonsense, but can be extremely effective.
“Cancer causes tumors.”
“Autism causes behavioral abnormalities.”
“Demon worship causes doctors to imply that all diagnostic labels refer to a pre-existing external entity that possesses an organism, victimizing it and causing severe health problems unless surgically removed.”
It’s not popular to say so, but the conceptual foundation of modern medicine is the idea of demonic possession. I consider this uncontroversial in regard to the accuracy of the statement.
Of course, there are many controversies about science. However, there are no controversies of science. Science does not change. Models of science change, but not science- or at least that is the basic idea or definition of “science.”
When Galileo took the data about planetary retrograde “motion” and created his model of a heliocentric “solar system,” there was no real controversy about the data. Everyone could collect their own data and agree that all the measurements of data were very consistent.
The only practical issue was which of the two models was quite ridiculous and which model was totally consistent with the data. Because of a hysterical defense of a ridiculous model by the “spiritually dead” (or by priesthoods that benefited from the intellectual blindness of the masses loyal to that priesthood), the model that was far more logical took a bit longer to become popular.
Not only was Galileo punished by the priesthood for publicizing a model that showed the vast inferiority of a more popular model. Galileo was also hated by the masses for exposing their naivete. The hysterical masses did not want their sacred superstitions challenged by logic and science and evidence. They ridiculed Galileo, championing their rejection of his unfamiliar model as skepticism, even though they declined to actually explore the details of his model.
The hysterical masses simply wanted the emotional security of perceived uniformity in order to hide the simple fact of their own hysteria and spiritual blindness. The accuracy of Galileo’s model was irrelevant to them. If they did not want to discard Santa Claus or St. Peter or gravity, then why consider the alternatives?
By the way, the theory of gravity has been thoroughly discredited to the best of my knowledge. Yes, of course there is a real phenomenon that people generally call gravity. It is just that the popular theory about gravity is inconsistent with huge amounts of data collected from outer space.
Further, there is the glaring issue of the fact “the gravitational constant” has measurably changed over time (and again there is no controversy about the actual data). Should people care about the legitimacy of the theory of gravity? Since the gravitational constant is consistent across the planet, just not over time, then there is no major problem with calling it a constant, right?
For most people, it is simply not an important issue. Who cares about the details? Maybe the earth rotates around the sun and maybe the sun rotates around the earth. Why should we care?
However, it could be interesting to witness how people respond to challenges to their sacred superstitions. Are they upset and hysterical because of an interest in preserving a pretense and a total absence of competence (and calm confidence) in regard to a subject? Are they dismissive of a subject not to display a pretense of confidence, but simply out of a stated lack of interest?
The blind worshipers of the sacred superstitions of science
What I have noticed is that institutional schooling presents pre-selected curriculum and then trains the students to memorize presumptions and next to repeat those presumptions back to the perceived authority to be graded. Then, Mrs. St. Peter, who is the most heavenly teacher in all of the 2nd grade, will review the work of each student to identify who is a good little conformist and who is not. Of course, students will be punished if they disrupt the class (such as by asking about the scientific credibility of the presumptions which Mrs. St. Peter is paid to emphasize).
If the teacher rewards students for learning sacred slogans and repeating them back to the teacher, then that is a good teacher, right?
“True or false: Our country is the best in the world because we promote independent thinking the most.”
“True or false: Our school is the best in the country because we promote independent thinking the most.”
“True or false: Our teacher is the best in the school because she promotes independent thinking the most.”
Isn’t the new “common core” curriculum program the best way to fight communism and the centralization of authority? Or is the centralization of authority really so bad?
I do not really mind if you worship Mrs. St. Peter and tell me to “go to hell” if I question the logic of your devotion to her. I get it. You like her. Conformity and social approval are important to you. She’s your teacher. You are not going to request a transfer to a different classroom. So be it.
Of course, you can attack the trivial examples in this article, such as my unsupported assertions that the popular theory of gravity is not important enough to me to rip it apart in detail. I know that you may challenge me to argue with you about proving that I do not even really care how imprecise or precise the popular theory of gravity is. Well, I still do not care.
However, for the record, if you do take the time to attack anything in this article, I will presume that to be an indication of your interest in eventually reviewing the sacred supersititions of science with an interest in identifying which scientific presumptions are most relevant to you. Even if you attack the use of the words “scientific presumption,” the more you attack it, the more I will presume that you are interested in it. The more you focus on it, the more I will focus that you focus on it… unless I stop paying attention of course. Maybe I will consider you to be dangerously deep in “spiritual hysteria” and thus attempt to avoid provoking your inner demons. 😉
If you worship the idea of a persona that tempts humans to disobey the commandments issued directly from Santa Claus to the holy scribes, I do not mind. I will notice that. I will consider that evidence of spiritual blindness, but that is a normal developmental stage in many cultures. At first, people tend to do whatever they are effectively programmed to do.
I might condemn you for displaying the same kind of loyalties that I once displayed, but that might just be an experiment from my curiosity to observe how you will respond to being condemned as “disloyal” or “too loyal” or whatever. We have been programmed to give attention to certain subjects (like if there are a lot of words for snow in your language, then you will probably be able to identify snow with much more precision than someone who calls all of that by the single label of “snow”).
Our attention has been programmed. Our values and interpretations have been programmed. Our responses to our interpretations and evaluations have been programmed.
Now, if you are brave enough to face the reality that science is simply a set of presumptions, then I am interested in talking with you further. About what? For one thing, people whom I consider spiritually worthy can talk with me about the most profoundly efficient models of promoting health.
Promoting health without being held back by sacred superstitions about science
While mainstream practitioners are arguing over which surgery is the best way to remove the evil diagnostic label (such as “scurvy”) from the one “possessed,” we can explore not only how to reverse unfavorable symptoms, but how to create neurological efficiency far beyond that of a so-called “healthy person.” Of course, lots of the most popular “sacred superstitions” will need to be relaxed or released, but only as relevant. In fact, mainstream medical interventions may be relevant to you. This is not a program to exclude any possible interventions, but to quickly and accurately assess the relevance of as many options as possible.
All of the popular superstitions that are truly irrelevant to you can remain irrelevant. I won’t mind if you don’t mind.
I’m not interested in your approval or agreement. In fact, in a group committed to shedding superstitions and adopting the most relevant presumptions, contrary evidence will not only be welcomed, but prized.
Unlike the so-called skeptics that are terrified of dissent, true skeptics are eager to identify relevant information and to learn within the realms that they deem relevant. Further, anything presumed to be irrelevant at one time can later be redefined as potentially relevant at any time (and vice versa).
If you are willing to sacrifice any pretense of certainty in order to embrace humility, curiosity, and courage, then welcome. You could be exactly who I wrote this to find.