The common perception of Richard Dawkins is of a baby-eating, kitten-crushing ultra-realist, denying fun to everyone, especially children. See here, here, here and here, for example, in which various papers accuse him of wanting to deny all the fun of Santa Claus to the kiddy-winks, and MP Tom Watson calls him a 'soulless bore' for wanting to 'ban fairy tales'.
In fact, Dawkins sees some values in fairy tales; as he explained:
Fairy stories might equip the child to reject supernaturalism when the time comes … Santa Claus again could be a very valuable lesson because the child will learn that there are some things you are told that are not true. Now isn't that a valuable lesson? Unfortunately it doesn't seem to have had the desired effect in some cases, because after children learn that there is no Santa Claus, mysteriously they go on believing that there is a God.So the media caricature of Dawkins is wide of the mark again, even if he is still somewhat Professor Yaffle-like.
William Lane Craig has weighed into this momentous and seasonal debate with a new Q&A, in which he recommends children are not led to believe in Father Christmas, but to 'make-believe' him:
Saint Nicholas was a historical figure, an early church bishop. We can teach our children about who he was and explain how people like to make-believe that he comes and brings children presents today at Christmas time. Children love to make-believe, and so you can invite them to join in this game of make-believe with you. When you see a Santa at the shopping mall, say, “Look, there’s a man dressed up like Saint Nicholas! People pretend that he is Saint Nicholas. Would you like to tell him what you want for Christmas?”Hoorah for Xmas! Ho-ho-no! There's a pretend Santa over there! Would you like to tell pretend Santa what you want for Christmas? 'What the hell for?' might be the reasonable reply.
How nice it would be if the media advertised the religious who want to banish magic and fun from the festive season as much as they do puppy-murdering atheists.
Craig's parenting has led to some unhappy friends, I suspect:
My daughter said that our policy of telling the children Santa is make-believe led to “some interesting conversations” at school with children who said that Père Noël exists. “No, he doesn’t!” Oops! I find it rather ironic that it was our children who were the free-thinkers and sceptics when it came to Santa Claus. Best to tell your children that while we know Santa is a just a fun, make-believe figure, they shouldn’t upset other parents who haven’t been so honest with their children as we have.So Dawkins is less the killjoy than Craig on this occasion; one can imagine the other parents advising their kids not to listen to Craigs Minor. Stop spoiling the magic, WLC! At one point he seems to be channeling Dawkins when he says 'Maybe the whole Christmas story is a myth which thinking adults should outgrow'. Hallelujah! But, sadly I think he means the story of Saint Nicholas, not the Nativity.
Nevertheless, good to see Craig instilling some scepticism in his children; maybe they can carry that through to their religious beliefs too.