The First Fairy Tale
Dale K. Brown
But many of those other faiths had little to snicker about. Some of their "gods" truly were nonexistent and were destined to always remain so, because nonexistent gods are really the only known way to solve some of the more notable divine character defects, such as jealousy, rage, greed, and intolerance.
One of the problems inherent in the propagation of gods as ruthless and arbitrary as those of even conventional Christianity is in teaching that concept to growing children. For one thing, children need a good night's sleep. They aren't likely to get one left all alone in the dark, waiting for the vicious, bloodthirsty god of the adult world to pounce on them for that cookie they snitched a few hours earlier when Mother wasn't looking. These beings are just too scary, definitely "R" rated gods, and, totally unsuitable for those below the age of seventeen. A surrogate was desperately required. The inexorable law of capitalism, demand determines supply, eventually provided one.
A largely Germanic invention, this interim deity achieved social respectability in the late 1800's. The business of America at this time was rapidly becoming business and, aside from being a bland enough entree for small children's religious digestive tracts, this new tidbit was definitely good for commerce. He even appeared, from a merchant's point of view at least, at a fortuitous time of year and it was, thus, that on the evening of December twenty- fourth, between the hours of sundown to sunup, an obese elf of retarded vocabulary began visiting the homes of all children, good or otherwise, in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, almost everywhere kinder, gentler gods are sold, leaving behind a trail of toys, candy, and other bribes to insure the recipient's future good conduct, while rewarding that of the year past. For those who had led less than exemplary lives, the worst they could expect was a lump of coal in their stockings, presumably an omen from the nether regions. But, at least, this could be lived with and little hellions who perhaps needed it most could at last get a good night's sleep.
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