The death of Santa Claus seemed very reasonable to us. Why we, clad in our Wrangler bluejeans and bright white Keds, were discussing the demise of Santa on this sweltering suburban day is the only thing vague about this particular memory. Ol’ Saint Nick, my playmates and I reasoned, was just that: old. He had been old forever and must have surely kicked the bucket by now.
But what of his elves? Ah, that was a different matter They must surely we alive, we concluded, for who else was left to delivery Christmas presents?
I often think of this conversation with Fran Platt, Tommy Sirino, and Karl Kroner when I think of God. Though the memory comes uninvited, I use it to check my reasoning skills when pondering the divine nature of God. I also use it when non-believers equate my belief in God with that of Santa Claus.
My reasoning has matured. I no longer believe in Santa Claus or elves. I haven’t a clue about angels.
But I do believe in God, and here’s why: The existence of love. There is no evolutionary, biological, geological or neurological need for it to exist, and yet it does. The lovely universe has been growing quite nicely without love for some 14-odd billion years. Neither birds nor bees to my knowledge have the capacity to love, and yet they flourish. Certainly, they are hard-wired to propagate their species, and they regularly lay down their lives for their fellow beings in acts of animalistic altruism.
What they all lack is the one thing we alone possess: the capacity for agape, unconditional, unselfish love. There is no earthly need for it, yet it exists. I’m sure of it. I have felt it as a son, father, brother, husband — and as a stranger.
Reductionist philosophers and post-modernists will tell you that, in essence, there is no such thing as agape. The former will point to a “selfish” gene that compels us to help ourselves by helping others and they will insist that we wrap this biology in the mantle of something more heart-warming, like God. The latter group says we simply can’t be certain of anything because of our inherent human limitations.
I find these notions as convincing as my elf argument. Evolution may well have hard-wired our brains to help ourselves by helping others. That doesn’t preclude the co-existence of love.
And if you can believe in the existence of love — that is, something that transcends our genetic programming — then the rest is easy. Love is certainly much easier to prove than the existence of Santa and his elves, that’s for sure.
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