Lying to children is never OK. Even about Santa.

Christmas is for children and those with children. Those of us who are too selfish, irresponsible, selfless or responsible to have children just get a bit of time off and an excuse to eat and drink a bit more than usual. Everyone is a winner and Christmas is great. 

As an atheist it’s a bit uncomfortable to see all the Jesus stuff get thrown around but thankfully there is enough crass commercialism and obvious pagan symbolism to balance all of that. There is one elephant in the room that really gets to me though. Santa. 

This is the point where I will lose most parents. “It’s just a bit of fun” or “lighten up, it’s part of the innocence of childhood” they’ll say to me. Innocence, indeed. And that’s the problem. 

Children are essentially hard-wired to believe every word that their parents tell them. This makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective and indeed explains why something as illogical as religion persists into 2017. Children have absolute trust in their parents. This is the crux of the Santa problem. 

If a child grows up believing that their parents will never lie to them and then one day they find out that Santa isn’t real, this has a deep effect on them. The faith that they had in their parents as Oracles of absolute truth is shattered. Suddenly they learn that it’s not just bad people who are dishonest; the people they love and respect the most in the world are capable of bare-faced lies. What does that mean for the adults who develop from these children? 

Perhaps it’s overly dramatic to blame the impending collapse of western civilisation on a seemingly harmless white lie but I’m going to give it a go. If a child learns that it’s normal to lie, even to the people you love the most, the adult will deceive their way through life and everyone will suffer as a result. 

There seems to be an axiom that some lies are necessary. Being polite when people ask awkward questions about whether they look fat etc. but to me truth is incredibly important. It’s the only hope we have as a species. Without truth we only have lies or post-truth which is a stupid way of saying lies. 

So please stop lying to your children about Santa. The other parents will probably hate you but it’s a small price to pay to save humanity. 

I enjoy conspiracy theories but I loathe the alt-right

I’ve entertained most conspiracy theories for a long time. I remember sitting there watching the two towers of the World Trade Center fall just over fifteen years ago and thinking how much it reminded me of the end of the Fight Club. I’d only seen the movie version at that point. It’s no wonder that I found the stories and YouTube videos about 9/11 entertaining. Something about that day seemed off and these stories seemed to explain something that was otherwise unexplainable. 

It wasn’t long before I discovered David Icke with his seemingly outlandish theories about a global elite that was in complete control of the planet and was made up of reptilian beings from another planet, galaxy, or even dimension. It was impossible to take this on board without accepting that small ideas like race and religion were utterly insignificant. I saw people accusing Icke of using the word “reptilian” as a code word for Jewish people. More than a decade later I’m still convinced that he doesn’t use code words, says exactly what he believes and is quite possibly insane. I genuinely think that he believes that Her Majesty The Queen is a reptilian being. I think that he views the tiny differences in the various types of humans as just that; tiny and insignificant. To steal a set up from Bill Hicks, “we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively”. Essentially that sort of thing. 

I was sucked into this vague spiritual mindset for a fair while. It seemed to follow quite logically that if the universe started as a singularly, all the seemingly separate particles, atoms, compounds and beings that resulted from it must be connected in some ethereal sense.

A few weeks’ exposure to Richard Dawkins made this all seem like nonsense. I’ve heard and read a lot of criticism of his work but it all seems to boil down to the fact that he’s a bit of an arrogant dick. I’m not inclined to disagree with the fundamentals of the criticism but it was Dawkins who convinced me that God, gods, spirituality, and indeed anything for which there is no evidence is to be discarded. 

A couple of years of atheism, skepticism (with a k), rational thought, and almost daily exposure to BBC Radio 4 (against my will) had me seriously questioning my world view. Before that I was convinced that the official story of 9/11 was fishy and that some sort of New World Order was in control of things. Now I was coming around to a belief in the official story that nineteen blokes armed with nothing but a copy of the Koran and a Stanley knife had managed to hijack four aeroplanes and fly three of them into some important buildings without being shot down because the US Airforce were busy elsewhere on training exercises. 

Then one day I arrived at work and pretended to make myself busy. My boss of the time is now a dear friend. He could spot a hangover a mile off and never once told me off for my condition. He would occasionally turn up a little worse for wear; never attempting to lie or make an excuse. After just about easing my way into some work I was hit by a lightning bolt. I’ve mentioned that I was regularly subjected to Radio 4 and this was the source of the metaphorical 1.21 Gigawatts. 

“Brown’s New World Order” was the headline. Gordon Brown who was the UK Prime minister of the time had used these words in a recent speech. The global economy was in crisis and this was his solution. We needed to reorder the world in a novel way. It’s very hard to explain why it affected me so much, especially given that Brown’s speech writers had shamelessly lifted the phrase from a speech given by George Bush Senior in 1990. On the 11th of September. It wasn’t even a new phrase back then but that’s not very entertaining. 

And so let’s bring this up to date. I find conspiracy theories entertaining and that’s why I entertain them as ideas. I’ve been a believer, an absolute skeptic, and most things in between but I’ve always found them entertaining. Maybe they are the truth or maybe they are just a good yarn. I’m only interested in evidence and so I suspect that some are true, some are partially true and some are absolute nonsense. 

And so let’s address the alt-right. What does that even mean? I can’t define it exactly but I feel like I just about understand what it means.  

I’m very pro EU. I think it’s corrupt and almost unaccountable but deep down I know that the alternative is worse. I also despise Trump. I don’t like Hillary but she’s more of a kick in the balls than Trump’s baseball bat to the head. 

I’m also deeply concerned about the rise of the right. I am a firm believer in looking after everyone in the human race. It doesn’t matter where they were born or what nonsense they believe or what they look like. If they are a human being then other human beings should look after them. Humans should also look after other types of animals but unfortunately they often tend to be rather tasty. Hopefully 3D flesh printing will alleviate this particular cognitive dissonance. 

I have really tried to avoid the simplistic ideas of left and right politics but it’s very hard when almost everything the people on the right are saying makes no sense and the people on the left feel like my comrades. Put it this way, Corbyn is right about almost everything and the Centrist Blairite types may as well just admit that they are Tories.

And so I have a new first world problem. I still believe that 9/11 and a fair few other events require a lot more explanation than the official reports offer, but I feel like everyone who talks about those kinds of things and makes any sense is basically an alt-right, Trump-supporting Brexiter who is suddenly so far away from me that I feel totally lost. Everyone who wants to stay in the EU seems to scoff at the very idea of any kind of conspiracy theory nonsense.

Maybe I’m a unique snowflake after all.