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From the time of our birth, we are victims to an infamous string of lies. Our innocence was used against us as an incubator for ignorance. We took the blue pill. In the graveyard of our minds, upon our tombstones, it is written "Herein lies true happiness." (Pun intended.)

I consider truth essential for the development of human life and happiness. I think there are terrible consequences from lying.

Once upon a time...

For me, the birthplace of lying is mythology. You remember the first years of childhood, right? Our parents placed all of the beautiful presents under the tree. Yet every one of those presents contributed to the overall lie - that a jolly, fat man named Santa Claus carried these gifts through the air on a flying sled. Of course, the truth was that my parents saved money to buy those gifts. Why do parents think that a child places greater value on gifts from a mystical fat man over the honest effort of earning the money to purchase them through hard work?

In the pursuit of happiness, did my parents fall guilty to the moral sin of consequentialism (better known as "the ends justify the means")? Although I was probably too young to make a logical choice, no matter how elementary the lessons in logic were, personally, I think I would put greater value on learning about my parents' effort to buy me such wonderful gifts. The way I see it, I would have been happier if I knew the truth, rather than believing an irrational lie of a jovial, flying, fat man. Happiness is earned by learning the truth, and I think that truth also fosters happiness for those you love (e.g., showing your love by working hard for them). I don't think that's a concept too hard for a child to understand.

And let's not forget the horror upon learning the truth from your classmates: that Santa doesn't exist, that your presents were placed under the tree by your parents, that it was your mom who ate the cookies and drank the milk you left, and that you don't even have a chimney. "But my parents wouldn't lie to me!" you scream... that is, until you arrive home to confront them with this heresy. Sooner or later, a lie will disappoint you when you learn the truth. As a child standing in the kitchen, looking at your parents with disgust for lying to you, there's typically only one question on your mind: what else have I been told that isn't true? But as your little mind works to sort out what appears to be a contradiction between your belief that your parents love you and your parents lying to you, you likely come to only one resolution: a justification that love and happiness are based on lying.

Becoming mature

Fast-forward to present day, to a society where lying is commonplace. The justifications are endless: I lied because I didn't want to hurt their feelings. I lied to protect them/keep them safe. I lied because I thought it was in their best interest. I lied to fit in. I lied because I wanted it. I lied because everyone else does.

But, of course mythology isn't limited to fun stories about aerial reindeer. Religion provides us serious myths. We are taught of a supreme God - an irrational divinity that knows everything we do. Should we question God's existence, we are made to feel guilty, naïve, and ignorant. It wasn't enough that Santa Claus made a list of those who were naughty and nice and, once each year, kept gifts from those who were placed on the wrong list. This God would punish us if we were bad, so we had to beg for forgiveness every Sunday at church. We had to forget our own wishes in order to please God's will. We had to pray every single night in apology for living and thinking.

As children, we really don't know any better. We learn from adults what to think, how to act, what to say, what not to say. We grow from happy, inquisitive, wanting, individual, innocent children to uncaring, fearful, insecure teenagers looking for the approval of others. This is how a child develops. This is why children grow to adults without self-esteem.

Though the human mind is an amazing thing, a child requires a steady stream of lies and misdirection in order to maintain ignorance. Life is too full of reality. And so, from preschool to high school, as through intravenous therapy, we are sedated with "knowledge" from "experts," teaching us not to think for ourselves, requiring us to learn the same ideas and follow the same methodology. Like a scar from a ghastly operation, we graduate with a diploma signifying that we have properly learned WHAT to think and ignore HOW to think. We have earned our place in the collective community - a place to share common interests and ideals. A place where we are wanted for who we are because we are common. We "commoners" have achieved a common level of happiness. And, for those who haven't received "commoner" status, we are made to feel guilty and help them get there. After all, as we were taught, we live in an unjust world.

NOT doing away with childish things

As an adult, we accept lying as a normal part of life. Faking reality has become customary... common... normal. Supporting fallacies is such a common practice that, when individuals put forth facts countering fallacies, they are usually labeled as a threat (and sometimes even as a terrorist). We condemn those who claim to have truth that isn't consistent with our make-believe realities. We hide behind the lies for protection. We hide behind others who lie (e.g., politicians) for protection. We like the comfort of the lies in which we live. We are happy. When will the fat man be back with more presents under the tree? Such anticipation.

Our fraudulent reality manifests everywhere. We support political systems that destroy the rights of individuals, claiming that we are defending the "common" good. We accept property stolen from others as gifts under the Christmas tree, and even go so far as to riot when someone threatens to reduce our presents. Being spoiled as a child becomes entitled as an adult. We ignore true injustice that would interrupt our otherwise calm happiness. As Pink Floyd said, we become "comfortably numb."

The cure

You might take me for a pessimist, but I'm not. Even if the tyrants of this generation all died, the fundamental philosophical problem doesn't change. This is why each generation's happiness is becoming sicker. Like genetics, our philosophies are part of who we are, and we birth children with the same genetic code. But I'm proud to say I have courage enough to declare that lying doesn't make children happier.

I think that, if we can courageously proclaim that the truth is important and support that proclamation by defending truths based on facts, logic, and rationality, we will avoid many disasters. We must stop lying to children about all things. The future will be bright as long as we remove the cloud of mythological and educational lies that hides reality. Real love and happiness will only come from truth.

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My significant other was raised by a mom who supported this idea of not telling your children lies. There was no Santa, and in fact, she usually gave him his presents a few days early and said, well... there is no use in waiting for Christmas when we know I already have the presents. No Easter Bunny, no Tooth Fairy, etc. I remember meeting him in high school and asking if he was excited about Christmas and him saying "not really, I got a cd and some shoes". I gasped, "how do you know?? Did you peek??" and tried to laugh it off, yet his face was somber as he replied "my mom already gave them to me". "What are you going to do on actual Christmas then?" I asked. "Probably ride my dirt bike" was the reply. I'll never forget feeling sad for him. Upset that the holidays didn't really mean anything special to him; there was no anticipation, no delighted squeals on Christmas morning, no excitement. We now have a son, and I asked my partner on that first Christmas.... "Are we going to do the Santa thing?", to which he replied "Of course". He said that he didn't want our son to feel like he did, and wanted to give him something to look forward to with excitement. Now I realize that we don't have to say "santa" got the presents. We could keep the excitement going by actually waiting until Christmas and just let him know we bought the presents. But what about Christmas itself? If we are 100% honest with our children would we be celebrating this holiday at all? As an example, the tree we are putting the presents under.... 

"According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime."- (Wikipedia)

So where do we draw the line regarding the lies we tell? When everyone around my son is talking about Jesus and Santa should I be explaining to him the actual origins of the rituals we now stuff under the "Christmas" category? Or should I let him be a kid and have some fun?

When I was 7 I caught my parents putting the presents under the tree and laughed. I was delighted to know the secret before all my friends did. My younger sister on the other hand, believed until much later and wouldn't speak to my mom for 5 days after finding out she had been lied to. Had I been there I probably would have seen the look of disgust on her face that you described. Parenthood is a hard thing with no set rule book to follow. I appreciate your views but can't help but wonder if you should lighten up a bit. Children only have a short while without burden (some don't get any years to be a child in fact, but we'll leave that alone for now)..... maybe we shouldn't be so harsh as to slap them in the face with reality at a young age. Maybe there is a middle ground where you allow your child to believe until you have observed that he/she could accept the truth and still have fun with it. Sit down and explain before those other kids in the classroom tell them. Who knows what makes a childhood happy, but I don't think believing in a fat man in a red suit makes or breaks it either way.

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My younger sister on the other hand, believed until much later and wouldn't speak to my mom for 5 days after finding out she had been lied to.

And there you have it.

Why do we teach children that it's OK to lie? Why do we think a child can't "have fun" unless he's deceived? It's one thing to have fun with fiction, or to use your imagination, or to celebrate the season of good will (tangent: and why do have that season only once each year?). It's quite another to actively make someone believe something you know is clearly not true. Every lie we tell, no matter how white, is teaching children that lying is acceptable. Why teach them that?

My daughter has a friend who is growing up in an Atheist home. She knew long before my daughter that Santa didn't exist. She would confide in me that she'd keep it to herself so my daughter didn't find out. (I wanted to tell my daughter the truth but her mom didn't.) Yet, she would celebrate the holidays just as others did. She went to holiday parties. She dressed in seasonal outfits. She sang holiday and religious songs in a choir. (Her father even sang in a church choir.) She watched all the holiday movies and shows. She even received and gave presents. She loves the holidays and continues to be the most brilliant and happy kid I know. How is all that possible? Because her parents are teaching her the truth about everything and teaching her to use reason.

So where do we draw the line regarding the lies we tell?

I'm of the opinion that we teach children never to tell lies except in the case of real danger. If a stranger asks you to get into the car, you do whatever you can to get out of there, even if it means lying. Otherwise, you just don't do it.

A holiday doesn't make a period of time special. The people you share it with makes it special. The values you share make it special. The experiences you have make it special. It is never lies that make any time or thing or person special. If lies are required to make it special, it's time to rethink your standards. I'll bet that you could give your son the most amazing Christmas ever without once making him believe that something isn't true, just as you do on his birthday or any other special event in your family.

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When your son asks why his Jewish or Islamic friends don't get presents from Santa, what do you say? If "Santa exists" is accepted as a legitimate lie, how do you decide how far to take it? At what point does a lie switch from right to wrong?

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Touche! =)

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“Too often... we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought," said John F. Kennedy in 1962.

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