Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

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Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby Rian » Sat Mar 22, 2014 12:27 am

I've heard people compare Jesus to the tooth fairy many times, both here and at other places. I've always thought this was a pretty poor analogy, although I think I can see what they're trying to say (no one living has been able to prove that they've seen either Jesus or the tooth fairy, so they must be equivalent in some significant way - is this right?)

The main reason that I think the analogy is a poor one is that Jesus is considered by the vast majority of mainstream historians to be a historical figure, while I've never heard of an educated adult think that the tooth fairy is a historical figure.

Can anyone that thinks this is a good analogy explain why they think it's good?
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Re: Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby spongebob » Sat Mar 22, 2014 9:40 am

Rian wrote:I've heard people compare Jesus to the tooth fairy many times, both here and at other places. I've always thought this was a pretty poor analogy, although I think I can see what they're trying to say (no one living has been able to prove that they've seen either Jesus or the tooth fairy, so they must be equivalent in some significant way - is this right?)

The main reason that I think the analogy is a poor one is that Jesus is considered by the vast majority of mainstream historians to be a historical figure, while I've never heard of an educated adult think that the tooth fairy is a historical figure.

Can anyone that thinks this is a good analogy explain why they think it's good?


Rian, in my opinion, the analogy is more of the tooth fairy to god. The existence of Jesus as a historical person is widely considered to be factual, but the events of his life, his teachings and certainly his miraculous feats are subject to much debate and are considered essentially myth by all non-religious scholars and even some religious people.

The analogy of the tooth fairy to god is a good one because both are equally unsupported by evidence, impossible to observe, yet both are purported to possess very specific and profound characteristics. I prefer Carl Sagan's analogy of an invisible pink unicorn that lives in his garage and defies all attempts at being observed. I don't believe a comparison of the tooth fairy to Jesus, the man, is a particularly good one because I do consider Jesus the man to be a realistic possibility, meaning a man who preached about love and peace and a connection to god in a way that people had not considered before. There have always been religious profits and this was no different during Jesus' supposed lifetime. And there is no shortage of such profits today. However, I do not recognize his divinity nor his miraculous feats and I believe Jesus, the god, is just as unsupported as god, the god.
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
~Bertrand Russell

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Re: Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby mitchellmckain » Sat Mar 22, 2014 2:40 pm

No comparison is perfect. The point is that there are similarities and it is those similarities that you want to point out. Of course there are differences. There always are in a comparison. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't point out the differences in order to make them clear. But it does mean that the differences do not invalidate the comparison.

That said, an important difference is that nobody has a life changing experience with the tooth fairy while millions do have life changing experiences of God and Jesus.
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Re: Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby spongebob » Sat Mar 22, 2014 2:58 pm

mitchellmckain wrote:That said, an important difference is that nobody has a life changing experience with the tooth fairy while millions do have life changing experiences of God and Jesus.


That is a valid point. But I guess my counter reasoning would be that the mythology of the tooth fairy doesn't include life-altering experiences while that of god does, so the characteristics of each being is sort of "baked in". I don't think this invalidates one or the other; I think it's only part of the definition of what the tooth fairy is or what a god is. Santa Clause is another such mythical creature and I would say that the impact of Santa has on some children is certainly significant.

I know a guy who truly believes he has experienced ghosts of human beings and this affects who he is as a person. I don't believe his experiences are what he believes them to be but it's impossible to argue the point precisely for the reasons I discussed with the tooth fairy/god comparison.
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
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Re: Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby sayak » Sun Mar 23, 2014 1:54 am

More correctly perhaps believing in the risen christ as a being who listens to prayers, guides a person through tough situations and communicates at a personal level has often been compared to believing in a guardian fairy (the fairy god mother) in pagan belief systems. Not sure if there were actual fairy beliefs in pre-christian era at all though. In general it can be argued that Roman and Greek culture believed in prayers to personal "family" gods and goddesses and thus a personal monotheism like Christianity found more favor than impersonal Judaism. In contrast, the Middle East was more attune to centralized worship of impersonal monotheistic god in Judaism and Zoroastrianism, and thus Islam succeeded there more.
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Re: Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby spongebob » Sun Mar 23, 2014 6:18 am

I need to clarify some things. The comparison of god or Jesus to mythical creatures is not a perfect analogy and any atheist who denies this is being dishonest. It is usually just a device used in debate or argument to point out the similarities between the two and to communicate the reasons why the atheist does not believe in god. The characteristics of non-objective observance is a major one and also the miraculous claims that are equally non-objective and easily explained by other means. I want to point out also that even though Christians all over the world believe that god or Jesus has changed their lives; this does not mean that this is a true statement. Personally I do believe that people can change their life because of their belief in the supernatural, but I do not believe that the supposed supernatural entity is what changed them. I believe that their very belief is what changed them. And it is well known that belief, even in non-existent things, can affect a person's life. So it's for this reason that I do not reject the value of religious beliefs. Many people find them extremely powerful. I find many of them quite beautiful although I do not believe any of it comes from the supernatural. I believe all of it comes directly from the human mind, from within us. And from that perspective it actually has more meaning for me. I believe that when a person does change his life in a positive way, he should take credit for it himself just as I believe he deserves the blame when he allows his life to go into the ditch.
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
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Re: Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby sayak » Wed Mar 26, 2014 1:59 am

great post spongebob!
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Re: Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby Rian » Sat Mar 29, 2014 10:13 pm

Very good comments, guys.

I was so happy to hear that this part of the forum was happening, and now I have to pull back even more - my health has gotten worse, and I have to go thru a week of medical treatments next week that will basically transform me into a wet noodle for a bit, so I won't be able to post. This conversation is exactly what I had always dreamed of happening here, and I hope to be healthy enough to start participating again in a week or two. Keep the Lounge seats warm for me, and I'll try to peek in when I can!
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Re: Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby Rian » Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:08 pm

spongebob wrote:
Rian wrote:I've heard people compare Jesus to the tooth fairy many times, both here and at other places. I've always thought this was a pretty poor analogy, although I think I can see what they're trying to say (no one living has been able to prove that they've seen either Jesus or the tooth fairy, so they must be equivalent in some significant way - is this right?)

The main reason that I think the analogy is a poor one is that Jesus is considered by the vast majority of mainstream historians to be a historical figure, while I've never heard of an educated adult think that the tooth fairy is a historical figure.

Can anyone that thinks this is a good analogy explain why they think it's good?


Rian, in my opinion, the analogy is more of the tooth fairy to god.

I agree, but I've seen it repeatedly about Jesus from the "Jesus didn't even exist" fringe.

The existence of Jesus as a historical person is widely considered to be factual, but the events of his life, his teachings and certainly his miraculous feats are subject to much debate and are considered essentially myth by all non-religious scholars and even some religious people.
I agree.

The analogy of the tooth fairy to god is a good one because both are equally unsupported by evidence, impossible to observe, yet both are purported to possess very specific and profound characteristics.
It's definitely an analogy, but I think it's a weak one, although there are some good points. So I guess I'm also looking at what makes a good analogy? I know that all analogies break down at some point, but there are some analogies that are worthwhile and others that aren't; ya know what I mean?

The reason that I think that the tooth fairy one is a bad analogy, even to God, let alone Jesus, is that I just see such a huge difference between something that adults don't believe in and choose to tell their kids about as a fun story and actually do the action themselves (putting money under the pillow), knowing that it isn't true that the tooth fairy put the money there, and that kids naturally grow out of believing in, and that no rational adult that I've ever heard of believes in, compared to something that the majority of rational adults all over the world believe exists. Also, a lot of atheists that use this analogy are the type that mock Christians, and I think this analogy is just another way of getting another dig in when these atheists use it. Basically, it's comparing a child's belief in something that the adult telling them about it knows is not true, to an adult's belief in something that they feel is justified, and I think that that's a big enough difference to make the analogy a bad one, except if it's qualified like you qualified it.


I prefer Carl Sagan's analogy of an invisible pink unicorn that lives in his garage and defies all attempts at being observed. I don't believe a comparison of the tooth fairy to Jesus, the man, is a particularly good one because I do consider Jesus the man to be a realistic possibility, meaning a man who preached about love and peace and a connection to god in a way that people had not considered before. There have always been religious profits and this was no different during Jesus' supposed lifetime. And there is no shortage of such profits today. However, I do not recognize his divinity nor his miraculous feats and I believe Jesus, the god, is just as unsupported as god, the god.
And I'm sure you have many good reasons to come to that conclusion, and I hope you grant me the same respect and believe that I have my reasons that I think are sufficient. I think where we get into trouble is when we expect others to come to the same conclusions as we do, when we can't live their lives and have their experiences. And the "angry atheist" subset is just as guilty of this as the "angry Christian" subset.
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Re: Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby spongebob » Wed Apr 09, 2014 5:37 pm

Rian wrote:The reason that I think that the tooth fairy one is a bad analogy, even to God, let alone Jesus, is that I just see such a huge difference between something that adults don't believe in and choose to tell their kids about as a fun story and actually do the action themselves (putting money under the pillow), knowing that it isn't true that the tooth fairy put the money there, and that kids naturally grow out of believing in, and that no rational adult that I've ever heard of believes in, compared to something that the majority of rational adults all over the world believe exists. Also, a lot of atheists that use this analogy are the type that mock Christians, and I think this analogy is just another way of getting another dig in when these atheists use it. Basically, it's comparing a child's belief in something that the adult telling them about it knows is not true, to an adult's belief in something that they feel is justified, and I think that that's a big enough difference to make the analogy a bad one, except if it's qualified like you qualified it.


Of course it's a cynical analogy; that much is obvious. It reflects the cynical attitude many atheists have toward religion. But then you would likely take issue with more appropriate analogies, like ancient "mythological" gods because to you, your god is not mythological, yet to the atheist, the two look exactly the same. But there's another side to the silliness of comparing god to the tooth fairy or the flying spaghetti monster and that is to draw attention to the silliness of believing in non-evidence based things. To the atheist it is just silly so it's kind of hard to see it in a serious context.

And I'm sure you have many good reasons to come to that conclusion, and I hope you grant me the same respect and believe that I have my reasons that I think are sufficient. I think where we get into trouble is when we expect others to come to the same conclusions as we do, when we can't live their lives and have their experiences. And the "angry atheist" subset is just as guilty of this as the "angry Christian" subset.


I don't approve of terms like "angry atheist" or "angry christian" because both suggest emotional reasons for making an argument to support their case and it's always been my contention that such positions should be based on reason and logic and not emotion. I have always granted anyone the right to believe in whatever gods they choose, but it doesn't mean I respect those reasons. In fact I see many of them as nonsensical and downright ridiculous, but it's their right to believe them. I don't expect others to come to the same conclusion I do, but when discussions are kept to facts and reason, I expect others to at least acknowledge the validity of those facts and reasons and not inject fallacies into the discussion.
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
~Bertrand Russell

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Re: Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby spongebob » Thu Apr 10, 2014 8:53 am

Rian wrote:It's definitely an analogy, but I think it's a weak one, although there are some good points. So I guess I'm also looking at what makes a good analogy? I know that all analogies break down at some point, but there are some analogies that are worthwhile and others that aren't; ya know what I mean?


One thing that I think may be lost here is the reason people use analogies in discussing different points of view. If we were discussing a topic that we totally agreed on, the conversation would probably not involve analogies much; we would just comment on things that we both had experienced and ponder the reasons they exist or what's good or bad about them. But when you have two people from polar opposite points of view, each arguing why their point is valid, then analogies come into play as a device to support one's argument. So any analogy that's of any value is discussion has to have some similarities to the main issue although it could have many dissimilarities as well. The closer it represents the main issue, the better the analogy. And of course this is directly related to how much thought someone has put into the analogy in the first place.
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
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Re: Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby Baz86 » Tue May 05, 2015 11:40 pm

It's just a way to demean the other party's ethos and shut down the conversation. I don't waste my time with this topic anymore. Vanity.
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Re: Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby Jesus Raves » Wed May 06, 2015 12:50 am

Baz86 wrote:It's just a way to demean the other party's ethos and shut down the conversation. I don't waste my time with this topic anymore. Vanity.

Did you read the interesting, informative posts that were written before yours? I recommend you do; they might enlighten you on how the Tooth Fairy analogy can be fitting or can be not fitting but also not demeaning.
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Re: Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby Baz86 » Thu May 07, 2015 12:36 am

Hi, JS, I did read and there is nothing enlightening about it. It's boring an old like a stale slice of bread. What I described is how I've always seen this analogy used, like an old taunt used on a school playground. It's of no use to me in a serious conversation. It's not even offensive to me, just immature like Spaghetti Monster or Zombie Jesus (though the latter is more interesting to pick apart). On a practical level, it shuts a door in my face and cuts any further meaningful exchange.

If a person just thinks God is a fairytale, what does he hope to achieve with a believer by saying so? How is it productive?
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Re: Jesus vs. the Tooth Fairy

Postby Particles » Thu May 07, 2015 11:14 am

Baz86 wrote:Hi, JS, I did read and there is nothing enlightening about it. It's boring an old like a stale slice of bread. What I described is how I've always seen this analogy used, like an old taunt used on a school playground. It's of no use to me in a serious conversation. It's not even offensive to me, just immature like Spaghetti Monster or Zombie Jesus (though the latter is more interesting to pick apart). On a practical level, it shuts a door in my face and cuts any further meaningful exchange.

If a person just thinks God is a fairytale, what does he hope to achieve with a believer by saying so? How is it productive?


Well if it's just a taunt and nothing more, you should be explain why the comparison is wrong. Otherwise, you're the one stopping the conversation without good reason.
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