In our Western culture, we have a polytheistic religion especially for children. Like any polytheistic faith, some figures are more or less important, and some families have particular devotion to one or more.
The spirits, deities or supernatural beings in this religion include:
Father Christmas. Who judges our moral qualities and travels round the entire world visiting every child on Christmas eve to bring their rewards.
The Easter Bunny. A figure who’s devotion is on the rise. Visiting on the night before Easter and laying out an elaborate chocolate puzzle for children to solve.
The Tooth Fairy. Who brings monetary gifts as compensation for the traumatic experience of bodily loss.
The Sandman. Who brings blissful dreams, and nightmares, and whose visits can be detected by the grains of sand-like hardness in your eyes when you wake. His devotion is somewhat waning these days.
Jack Frost. Who brings the cold weather, and whose finger prints can be seen on your window when you wake.
The Bogeyman. A malevolent spirit who will visit retribution upon children who misbehave.
Many parents react with as much anger and outrage at the prospect of someone taking away their children’s faith, as they would if someone were to take away their own. Yet this religion is unique in that we expect it to last only for a time.
Adults, despite not believing, are expected to be the theologians and priests of the religion. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are expected to give theological accounts of this religion, and to act as apologists in the face of skeptical questioning.
Despite this odd feature, Children’s religion is a religion like any other. It relies on the same theological and evidential tricks, the same appeals to the supernatural, the same moral calculus, and the same cultural inertia.