I sometimes reflect on the fact that to a child there is much more evidence for the existence of Santa Claus (photo to the left) than for the existence of God (no photo available).
Consider the similarities.
The child is told by the main authority figures in his or her life, parents, grandparents and extended family that both exist.
Furthermore, that both perform miracles. God created the Earth and everything on it in 7 days (even before there was a Sun to provide a measure for days) and Santa Claus delivers gifts all over the planet in 24 hours once a year, dispensing them from a sleigh drawn by flying reindeer.
There the similarities end.
The child cannot see God, despite being told that he's everywhere. Santa Claus, by contrast, IS everywhere, with his helpers on every street corner and in every department store. You can get any number of books and videos featuring him. And television trots out a plethora of movies, from "Miracle on 34th Street" (original and remake) to "The Santa Claus" all predicated on the assumption that he is real.
Heck, on the night before Christmas, you can log into a NASA web site that radar tracks the sleigh setting out from the North Pole! How's that for proof?
But the most noticeable immediate contrast lies in the fulfilment or otherwise of prayers.
Prayers to God are unanswered and unfulfilled. A mine cave-in results in three people being in the right place at the right time. The falling rocks wedged themselves around them, leaving an air pocket to breathe. Nine others weren't so lucky and were crushed to death. Typically, the nearest and dearest of the three who survived thank God for answering their prayers. What about the other nine? Should they have prayed just that little bit harder?
Or could it be that the result we're seeing is exactly what would have happened if there were no God?
On the other hand, prayers to Santa Claus are answered big-time. Whether it's desires told to one of Santa's department store helpers or a list written out and mailed to the North Pole, generally speaking the prayers for Christmas gifts are answered. How convincing is that?
But the biggest difference of all is this.
At the age of around six, the child is told that there is no Santa Claus.