If the only reason you are good is because you want Santa Claus to give you presents on Christmas morning, are you really good, or just greedy? Can you be both at the same time?
If the only reason you are good is because you want God to reward you after you die, are you really good?
If the answer is yes, that you are really good, regardless of the machinations of Santa Claus and/or God, then I think you have to ask yourself why we need them. If goodness is independent of them, then they have no bearing on it.
If the answer is no, that you are only good because they make you be, then there is no such thing as “good” without them, so there is no such thing as “good” at all. There is only God and Santa Claus and their arbitrary sets of laws.
I can’t find myself believing in a liberal, forgiving God. Maybe it’s because I was raised in — and obliged, therefore, to reject — a very fundamentalist, authoritarian church. For me, there’s either no God, or there is a completely arbitrary, punishing bastard up there bossing us around. Or, in other words, there is human freedom and beauty and delight and life, or there is God.
I don’t see how you split the difference there. I just really don’t.
I believed in Santa Claus until second grade. I believed in God a little longer than that. When did you stop believing in Santa — if you stopped?
More to the point: do you still believe in God? Why in the world would you do such a strange thing? I do not ask this question disrespectfully, but with what I consider to be an appropriate amount of astonishment.