Wednesday: Hili dialogue

September 21, 2016 • 6:38 am

It’s Wednesday, September 21, and the “food day” holidays have reached their nadir with National Pecan Cookie Day. I doubt that any reader here will eat one. Getting to the larger events on this day in history, in 1897 the New York Sun published its famous “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter, helping inspire, I’m sure, dozens of Christian apologists.  The Sun‘s response, evoked by an inquiry from an 8-year-old girl, is given below. It could have been written by someone like C. S. Lewis, but substituting the word “God” for “Santa Claus” and leaving out the chimney bit. It even extols faith and says the world would be meaningless without Santa! Have a look:


Speaking of fantasy, on this day in 1937 J. R. R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit was published.

Notables born on this day include the great mountaineer Hermann Buhl (1924), killed by falling through a cornice on Chogolisa in Pakistan in 1957. He’d made the first ascent of Nanga Parbat, finishing it solo and bivouacking overnight at atltitude because he was caught out late. Leonard Cohen was born on this day in 1934, Stephen King in 1947, and Bill Murray in 1950. Those who died on this day include Walter Brennan (1974) and Florence Griffith Joyner (1998, epileptic seizure). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has taken to sleeping upstairs on the guest bed.

A: You have become very fond of this place lately.
Hili: The guests come and go but bedding stays.

In Polish:

Ja: Bardzo polubiłaś ostatnio to miejsce.
Hili: Goście przyjeżdżają i wyjeżdżają, a pościel zostaje.
Lagniappe: from Dangerous Minds, via reader T. Fife, we have the face of Charles Darwin seen in a patient’s eye scan. Pity the person can’t charge others to come see it!

34 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. ” in 1897 the New York Sun published its famous “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter, helping inspire dozens of Christian apologists.”

    Damned mainstream media.

    1. Yep, I love that bit. It shows a whimsy that I think is often missing from today’s discussions. Clearly, the author (authors?) were perfectly aware of what they were doing and didn’t think there was any harm in it. I expect many atheists today would be horrified with that attitude. 🙂

  2. ‘THE SUN’

    This is obviously not the Sun to which I am accustomed. (To quote Maxim: “On November 17, 1970 […] The Sun, the newest addition to Rupert Murdoch’s expanding publishing empire, put a nude photo of German model Stephanie Rahn on page three under a headline no one read. This struck roughly half of The Sun’s readership as a really good idea ”


    1. I used to work with a bunch of “English job-shoopers” (ex-pat. Englishmen contract engineers who came the USA in the 60s and 70s and stayed).

      Any time one of them went back to the UK, he was expected to return with at least one copy of the Sun for page 3 viewing (“here comes the page 3 girl!”). I’m quite sure they never looked at any of the rest of it.

  3. Pecan cookie day? Let me know when it gets to National Pecan Pie day. THAT is a day I can really tuck into, especially if it’s my grandmother’s pie, but she only makes that for us around Thanksgiving.

    But, the question is, how do readers pronounce “Pecan”? I go for peKAhn, as in Madeline Kahn, or as “puhkahn, rather than the amusing, mostly southern “pee-can”, or as Gordon Ramsey says, “peak-in” (well, he probably says g*$#&$^ F*&$^ing peak-in pie).

    1. As a true Canadian, I front the second vowel: pee-CAN 🙂 If it occurs in combination with another vowel, the stress shifts: PEE-can pie.

  4. … the “food day” holidays have reached their nadir with National Pecan Cookie Day. I doubt that any reader here will eat one.

    I’m not much for sweets, but those Sandies Pecan Shortbreads aint’ half-bad. Now that you’ve tossed down the gauntlet, I might have to pick up a package out of pure orneriness.

    1. Our cat, Holly, loves the second set of bathroom rugs, which live on top of a chest of drawers in the guest bedroom (why put them in the chest when they’ll be on the bathroom floors next week, and the ones there will be in the wash). Height and something freshly washed!

  5. Leonard wasn’t the only Cohen born on this date. Just heard on the radio that today’s the birthday of Ethan, the younger half of the great filmmaking duo the Cohen brothers, makers of Lebowski (and maybe a couple other moving pictures, I hear).

      1. You’re right; and I knew that, but forgot it somehow. What I get for not looking it up. Pretty sure I got the birthday part right at least.

  6. “…National Pecan Cookie Day. I doubt that any reader here will eat one.”

    Give me a chance, I’m finishing the last of my butterscotch pudding.

  7. Theists not only get offended when atheists compare believing in God to believing in Santa Claus, they often become scornful and even amused. Why, what could better show that atheists don’t understand God than this puerile and ridiculous analogy? God is nothing like Santa Claus. Old Man in the Sky With a Beard. Pshaw.

    But the ‘Yes, Virginia’ letter is, as Jerry points out, a perfect example of the need to believe, and how faith is defended against The World. It’s sophisticated apologetics.

    1. Meh, I don’t see it that way. The reference to fairies is pretty clearly tongue in cheek. Or do you think they were seriously saying disbelief in fairies is preposterous?

      IMO the authors are defending make-believe in Santa, not serious belief in him. Now, many atheists today might think that its not just ‘harmless fun’ to tell their kids Santa is real. That’s fine. But still, the argument ‘I think its okay to let your kids believe in Santa’ (what the authors are communicating to the adult audience) is not the same sort of argument as ‘I think its rational for adults to believe in Santa’ (which would be actual apologetics).

      1. The claim that “when you stop believing, you lose something pure and precious” is applicable to fairies, Santa, angels, and God. This is belief in belief, as Dennett calls it. And the refusal to entertain ‘possibilities’ — to believe in something asa the say — is I think directly related to the common assumption that atheists lack the capacity of wonder and joy.

        Of course, my analysis here may be skewed as usual by the fact that I actually know people who believe in fairies — and/or respect those who do. They’d never agree that their beliefs are obviously “preposterous.”

  8. One of the few good things that came out of this is the paper “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Real World”. Alstom (the author) is a Christian, but his defense of metaphysical realism is secular enough.

  9. When I was little my big sister started picking on my little brother and I for believing in Santa. She stated that only dumb little kids believed in Santa. Then our mom told her that only people who believe in Santa get presents from him at christmas. My sister suddenly started believing in Santa again.

    My siblings and I now buy our primary gifts from Santa with an extra gift from our mom, but if you ask my sister if Santa exists I bet she would say yes.

    1. Having jut put a volume of Pterry’s shorter works back to the library, I do feel the need to re-read Hogsfather. Maybe I’ll do it over the winter solstice holiday season.
      Would you like a “bah” with your “humbug”?

  10. The problem I have with the letter is how male-centric the language is, especially as it’s a letter to a girl. It’s also effing patronising. I can’t help but wonder if the same letter would have been written to an 8-year-old boy.

    Yes, I know that’s just how things were then, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Is it any wonder so many girls grew up believing men are supposed to be in charge in all circumstances when this sort of attitude surrounded them so completely?

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