Should I Tell My Children that Santa Claus Exists?
I tell my young child that Santa Claus is real.
This statement does not violate Q1 unless you are making a special case for Santa Claus that you would not make for some other, equal imaginary things and don’t have a justification for doing so.
This statement does not violate Q2 unless you would condemn another parent for treating imaginary stories as true for similar reasons.
Many things have to be considered before you can decide whether or not it is moral to tell your child that Santa Claus is real. For example, is telling your children that Santa exists a lie? If not, then how is this different from telling other falsehoods? If you argue that it is not a lie because Santa is (for example) "the spirit of giving" and not a physical being, then are you sure your child understands this or are you deceiving your child by not being more clear in the first place? Would you be upset if your child told you a similar story (for example, that she hadn’t lied about playing hooky because she had been "going to school in spirit")?
Is your reason for telling your child that Santa is real defendable? If you’re doing it because it’s fun or because you like how your child acts when believing in Santa, are those sufficient reasons? Would you be deceptive about other things for the same results? If you do it to teach your child a lesson — that people shouldn’t be trusted, for example — are there other ways to teach this lesson without deception? If you are doing it so that your child will have a sense of magic in the world, are you making a special case for Santa or do you also talk about other imaginary things as if they are real? If you assume that your child knows you are just playing a game, are you completely sure? If you are treating Santa as real because your parents did the same, is this sufficient reason?
And, most importantly, are you sure that your reasons for saying Santa is real are actual reasons and not simply justifications for doing something you enjoy?
If you have a defendable reason, then you must decide how much deception is morally allowable. Is simply saying that Santa is real enough? Is it allowable to leave evidence? What would you do when questioned by your child about inconsistent evidence? Would you continue to try to prove Santa’s existence after your child figured out the truth?
If your child learns that you were deceptive about Santa, are you prepared for the possibility that your child may doubt you about other issues (such as religious beliefs or the risks associated with recreational drug use and premarital sex)?
You may think that in some cases it is justified to tell a lie to achieve a good end. In which of these situations would a lie be justified?
- You’d like to inspire your child to be honest by telling him the story of George Washington and the cherry tree (even though it never happened).
- A neighbor child asks you if Santa Claus is real (her parents would say he is).
- A panhandler asks if you have any change (you do).
- The electric company calls to ask if you’ve sent a payment (you haven’t).
- Your boss asks how the big project is going (you forgot all about it).
- An insanely jealous man asks if you went to lunch with his wife (you did, as a friend).
- Your dying grandmother asks where her husband is (he’s been dead for a year and she was at the funeral).
- Police ask if you knew your brake lights were out (you did).
- Police ask if you know who caused an accident (it was you).
- Police ask if you can alibi your mother (you can’t).
- Abusive parents call to ask if their runaway daughter is hiding in your house (she is).
- A paranoid-seeming customer asks if your restaurant is shielded to keep out electromagnetic mind-control radiation at 3.5 MHz or above (you have no idea).
You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.