Spirituality vs. Fundamentalism

Exploring teachings and beliefs associated with Spirituality and Fundamentalism

History of Santa Claus December 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Claire @ 3 p Sunday



As I grew up, every December 5th was the night St. Nicholas visited us. We were to leave our shoes outside our rooms. When we awoke the next morning they were filled with small gifts and treats. As I grew older I left a big snow boot outside my door hoping to get more, but that plan failed on first execution. As a child I believed that St. Nicholas was a Saint separate from Santa Claus. It was always exciting, and though we no longer practice that tradition, it is one I will continue with my own children. The tradition of believing in Santa Claus/St. Nicholas is one that continued throughout history. In this blog I will implant an article found on religious tolerence.org that sequentially lists the belief and traditions of Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas from their infancy. The author is B.A. Robinson and includes a complete bibliography.


Origin and history of Santa / St. Nicholas

Origin of Santa Claus:


4th century: There are two main, incompatible belief systems about St. Nicholas:


Among Roman Catholics and conservative Protestants, there is a near universal belief that St. Nicholas of Bari once lived in Asia Minor, and died in either 345 or 352 CE. The Catholic Information Network speculates that he was probably born in Patara in the province of Myra in Asia Minor; this is apparently based on the belief that he later became bishop of Myra in Lycia (now Turkey). 8. He is alleged to have attended the first council of Nicea; however, his name does not appear on lists of attending bishops. He is honored as a Patron Saint in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Sicily, and Switzerland. 2 He is also considered the patron saint of children and sailors.

Many legends and miracles are attributed to him:


When he was an infant, his mother only nursed him on Wednesdays and Fridays; he fasted the remaining days.


He halted a storm at sea in order to save three drowning sailors.


During his lifetime, he adored children and often threw gifts anonymously into the windows of their homes.


His father left him a fortune which he used to help poor children.


He grabbed the sword of an executioner to save the life of a political prisoner.


He brought back to life several children who had been killed.



Some religious historians and experts in folklore believe that there is no valid evidence to indicate that St. Nicholas ever existed as a human. In fact, there are quite a few indicators that his life story was simply recycled from those of Pagan gods. Many other ancient Pagan gods and goddesses were similarly Christianized in the early centuries of the Church. His legends seems to have been mainly created out of myths attributed to the Greek God Poseidon, the Roman God Neptune, and the Teutonic God Hold Nickar.  “In the popular imagination [of many Russians] he became the heir of Mikoula, the god of harvest, ‘who will replace God, when God becomes too old.’ 8

When the church created the persona of St. Nicholas, they adopted Poseidon’s title “the Sailor.” They seem to have picked up his last name from Nickar. Various temples of Poseidon became shrines of St. Nicholas. 1 In medieval England… in tiny sea ports we find the typical little chapel built on an eminence and looking out to sea.8 St. Nicholas also adopted some of the qualities of “The Grandmother” or Befana from Italy. She was said to have filled children’s stockings with gifts. Her shrine at Bari was also converted into a shrine to St. Nicholas.

The Christian church created a fictional life history for St. Nicholas. He was given the name  Hagios Nikolaos (a.k.a. St. Nicholas of Myra).



10th century: The Christian author Metaphrastes collected and wrote many traditional legends about St. Nicholas.


11th century: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that during the Muslim invasion of Asia Minor, his remains were transferred to Bari in Italy, where he became known as Nicholas of Bari.


19th century: St. Nicholas was superseded in much of Europe by Christkindlein, the Christ child, who delivered gifts in secret to the children. He traveled with a dwarf-like helper called Pelznickel (a.k.a. Belsnickle) or with St. Nicholas-like figures. Eventually, all three were combined into the image that we now know as Santa Claus. “Christkindlein” became Kriss Kringle.

Before the communist revolution, large numbers of Russian Orthodox pilgrims came to Bari to visit St Nicholas’ tomb. “He and St Andrew the apostle are the patrons of Russia.8


Present day: 


Throughout many countries in Europe, St. Nicholas/Santa distributes gifts to the children on DEC-5, the eve of his feast day. In some countries, the gifts come at another time during Advent or on Christmas eve. 


In Germany, Weinachtsmann (Christmas man) is a helper of the Christkind (Christ Child)


In France, Père Noël distributes the gifts.


In Russia, under the influence of communism, St. Nicolas evolved into the secular Father Frost. He distributes toys to children on New Year’s Eve. 3


In England, Father Christmas delivers the presents. He is shown with holly, ivy or mistletoe.


In Scandinavian countries, the ancient Pagan Yule goat has transmuted into Joulupukki – similar to the American Santa. 


In North America, Santa Claus rules, thanks to a certain brand of soda.


According to Roman Catholic church, his body is said to have not decomposed. In his shrine in Bari, Italy, it is believed by many pilgrims to exude a sweet smelling odor which cures medical disorders and illnesses. 8

History of Santa in America:

Santa Claus can be traced back for four centuries in the U.S.:


1600’s: The Puritans made it illegal to mention St. Nicolas’ name. People were not allowed to exchange gifts, light a candle, or sing Christmas carols.


17th century: Dutch immigrants brought with them the legend of Sinter Klaas.


1773: Santa first appeared in the media as St. A Claus.


1804: The New York Historical Society was founded with St. Nicolas as its patron saint. Its members engaged in the Dutch practice of gift-giving at Christmas. 


1809: Washington Irving, writing under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, included Saint Nicolas in his book “A History of New York.” Nicolas is described as riding into town on a horse.


1812: Irving, revised his book to include Nicolas riding over the trees in a wagon.


1821: William Gilley printed a poem about “Santeclaus” who was dressed in fur and drove a sleigh drawn by a single reindeer.


1822: Dentist Clement Clarke Moore is believed by many to have written a poem “An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicolas,” which became better known as “The Night before Christmas.” Santa is portrayed as an elf with a miniature sleigh equipped with eight reindeer which are named in the poem as Blitzem, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Donder, Prancer, and Vixen. Others attribute the poem to a contemporary, Henry Livingston, Jr. Two have since been renamed Donner and Blitzen.


1841: J.W. Parkinson, a Philadelphia merchant, hired a man to dress up in a “Criscringle” outfit and climb the chimney of his store.


1863: Illustrator Thomas Nast created images of Santa for the Christmas editions of Harper’s Magazine. These continued through the 1890’s.


1860s: President Abraham Lincoln asked Nast to create a drawing of Santa with some Union soldiers. This image of Santa supporting the enemy had a demoralizing influence on the Confederate army — an early example of psychological warfare.


1897: Francis P Church, Editor of the New York Sun, wrote an editorial in response to a letter  from an eight year-old girl, Virginia O’Hanlon. She had written the paper asking whether there really was a Santa Claus. It has become known as the “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter. 4


1920’s: The image of Santa had been standardized to portray a bearded, over-weight, jolly man dressed in a red suit with white trim. 5


1931: Haddon Sundblom, illustrator for The Coca-Cola ™ company drew a series of Santa images in their Christmas advertisements until 1964. The company holds the trademark for the Coca-Cola Santa design. Christmas ads including Santa continue to the present day.


1939 Copywriter Robert L. May of the Montgomery Ward Company created a poem about Rudolph, the ninth reindeer. May had been “often taunted as a child for being shy, small and slight.” He created an ostracized reindeer with a shiny red nose who became a hero one foggy Christmas eve. Santa was part-way through deliveries when the visibility started to degenerate. Santa added Rudolph to his team of reindeer to help illuminate the path. A copy of the poem was given free to Montgomery Ward customers. 6


1949: Johnny Marks wrote the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Rudolph was relocated to the North Pole where he was initially rejected by the other reindeer who wouldn’t let him play in their reindeer games because of his strange looking nose. The song was recorded by Gene Autry and became his all-time best seller. Next to “White Christmas” it is the most popular song of all time. 


1993: An urban folk tale began to circulate about a Japanese department store displaying a life-sized Santa Claus being crucified on a cross. It never happened.


1997: Artist Robert Cenedella drew a painting of a crucified Santa Claus. It was displayed in the window of the New York’s Art Students League and received intense criticism from some religious groups. His drawing was a protest. He attempted to show how Santa Claus had replaced Jesus Christ as the most important personality at Christmas time. 7



1. Barbara G. Walker, “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.” Harper & Row, (1983) Pages 725 to 726.

2. St. Nicholas of Myra,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11063b.htm 

3. Father Frost,” at: http://www.bobandbabs.com/ 

4. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” at: http://www.stormfax.com/virginia.htm 

5. The Claus that Refreshes,” at: http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/santa.htm 

6. Rudolph,” at: http://www.snopes.com/holidays/xmas/

7. R Cendella Gallery – Theme: Commentary,” at http://www.rcenedellagallery.com

8.   St. Nicholas of Bari (Fourth Century),” Catholic Information Network, at: http://www.cin.org/nichbari.html



Work Cited

Robinson, B.A. Santa Claus: the Origin of Santa and St. Nicholas. Ontario Consultants on Religious. 1999 to 2003. Updated: December 24, 2003. http://www.religioustolerance.org/santa1.htm 


Modern Religious and Political Freedom November 18, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Claire @ 6 p Tuesday

These videos are to be viewed consecutively. The people in the videos are atheists who discredit the top five arguments against gay marriage. (if the videos are not loading correctly, then go to youtube.com and search “gay marriage and religion” and scroll down and they are listed as 1, 2, and 3)

Since Thanksgiving is next week I thought to focus on modern religious freedom. Thanksgiving is a holiday rooted in historical religious freedom of the pilgrims who adopted America as their home. They were escaping religious persecution in Europe and desired a place to freely worship their religion and religious ideals. Modern religious freedom, as it was in the past, is bound politically. An example is gay marriage whose primary objectors base their arguments behind religion. Though religion espouses equality, people manipulate religion and exploit it as an end-all excuse.

The five arguments against gay marriage stated in the videos are: same sex marriage is bad for children (according to religious conservative devotees), same sex couples cannot have children (what about heterosexual couples who cannot have children or do not want children, older couples), homosexuality is both unnatural and abnormal (homosexuality is present in animals), marriage is defined as one man and one woman (what about harems, polygamy, polyandry, bigamy), and marriage is a sacred institution and homosexuality is a sin (what about political marriages in history, priests raping young boys, marriage was not originally a sacrament, seen as an excuse for sinful acts).

The statements these men discuss are accurate and veritable. Religion should not be a pretext for why something is bad or wrong, but why they should be better understood and accepted. Though these videos will upset radical and conservative religious people, they bring to light why same-sex marriage is seen as wrong by religious people and why they are wrong. Religion is supposed to broaden our minds, not provide unexplained and unsubstantiated limitations. Things are not bad or wrong “just because”.  

Work Cited

Atheist Experience, viewed November 17, 2008. youtube.com


Differences Between Religion and Spirituality November 16, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Claire @ 2 p Sunday

This blog is my personal view of religion and spirituality through my own experiences and opinions. They are not to be taken as hardcore facts, but observations. (in the case of religion I will focus on Catholicism since that is my only personal experience with religion)

Raised as a Catholic and emerging as a spiritualist (or what I call myself “being of faith”, sometimes agnostic) was a journey throughout my childhood and beginning of my adult life. As a child I was immersed in Catholic teachings, raised in Catholic School education since pre-school, and attended the local Catholic Church. I was taught, both in school and at Church, that God was something to fear and love. I wanted to love God since this would make my mother, teachers, and priests happy, but I fell short. I believe I have always been a skeptic, being hardwired to need physical proof and to view it with my own eyes. I have never been given proof beyond a reasonable doubt for the existence of the religious God. I say religious God because there is a difference between that God and a God for spirituality.

I slowly became more spiritual in my beliefs once I gained confidence in myself. When I turned 13 or 14 (I cannot perfectly) I no longer attended services at Church because I could no longer force myself to believe something I cannot. Since then, I have attended Church during family ceremonies and the occasional holiday. My core beliefs about God is that he/she/it is something our minds cannot fathom to understand and the abilities attributed to him were created by those who did not understand the world and its changefulness. Floods, disease, death, geological occurrences, and time itself, among many things, have all been attributed to God when in fact they are scientifically proven they do not. I was taught the creation story, which I no longer believe. In turn I have more confidence in the Big Bang Theory. I was also taught the fire and brimstone version religious version of hell and I believe in the idea that we do not know what comes after death. We make ourselves feel better about passing on through the creation of ideas that no one can prove. In my opinion, no one knows what comes next except those who have already died.

For me, the above are just a few issues I have with the blind following religion. I will continue with my own thoughts on the differences between religion and spirituality now that you know my background on these matters.

In my opinion, religion can be an absolutist ideal that blinds people to facts because they want to believe in something far greater than ourselves so we are not alone. God must be both out of reach because of his greatness, but also close at hand because of love. For myself, I believe, through my own faith, in the great entity (called God), that it may or may not exist, but if it does, it keeps a close watch over us. I do not think we will ever truly know for sure. In religion, it is their beliefs and no one else’s that is important. Criticism, judgments, and assumptions are prevalent against those who do not follow a religion’s devout beliefs. This is proven throughout history, especially with the three world religions, that often war and death has its basis in religious ideals and religious political dramas.

Personally, I desire to think outside the box and form my own opinions without being told what to believe. We have this capability and let’s use it. I think religious communities that bring people together is a great way to communicate and create relationships with others and God. For myself, I prefer solitude and not having to sit inside a building to gain a connection to God.

In spirituality, one can talk directly to God, but in religion many times you have to communicate and confess to a priest or religious authority, teaching us that God is not connected to us personally, but only to the priests/religious authorities. I always felt the separation and disagreed with it. For religion, one has to follow strict doctrines and dogmas that tell you how, what, who, and why to believe something. I cannot have such ideas taught to me because it is limiting. I need the ability to be open in how and what I believe, to feel free and not held down by institutions.

In conclusion, these are only a few of my beliefs, which many will either agree or disagree. Since many of my family are still religious, I still partially participate with them. Though this seems random and different from my own beliefs, I will raise my children in the Catholic faith till they are of age to make their own decisions concerning their beliefs, be they more liberal or more conservative than my own. I decided this because although my own beliefs are different from the church, I still feel that the community and relationships it provides is a great learning experience. I applaud people’s ability to believe in something greater than ourselves and to openly accept religious institutions for their own beliefs; this route is just not my own.



A Meeting of Minds November 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Claire @ 3 p Sunday

On November 4, 2008 Time Magazine published an article pertaining to a speech the pope made concerning the idea of reason in religion, with reference to Islamic religious traditions of ‘violence’. The article is titled Vatican Launches Catholic-Islamic Dialogue by Jeff Israely. It documents the speech given at the University of Regensburg in 2006, providing a general review of the situation involved and continued with modern efforts of reconciliation and furthering of knowledge and understanding towards both religions.

In the speech, pope Benedict made a comment concerning the acts of violence that seem prevalent in modern Islamic communities. This generalization is both true and false. It is true since the political climate in that country has been quite hot for a long while now, which creates situations that are often rooted in religious and political differences. I say religious because religion is such an important fact of their life, therefore they live, breath, and express themselves through their beliefs. As a result, many times religion is blamed for or associated with political confrontations. On the other hand, religion can be the instigator of many violent interactions because their beliefs are so strong; this refers to the extremists, which are quite a small minority in Islamic countries.

It was stated in the article that many Muslims were insulted by the correlation between their religion and violence. They need to face facts that this does occur. Though the media fuels many beliefs, assumptions, and stereotypes associated with the Islamic community, they must also look toward the extremists for blame, instead of becoming mad over something that is in many ways quite factual. However, I do agree that the pope should not be the one who said it since it creates more dislike toward the Catholic religion, especially since he is the main representative of said religion.

Further on in the article, Israely discussed how a meeting or dialogue was to take place between the Catholics and Muslims. This is quite exciting since it may lead to understanding on both sides of the religion for the other. Therefore discontent and false assumptions towards both can be laid to rest and further relations can be progressive toward an end result accepted by both. The current pope is great in how he views things logically, so instead of focusing on commonalities between the two religions and drawing these into discussions, he focuses on how the differences MAKE the religions and how we can understand them as good rather than bad things. Based on this article, I feel encouraged that some sort of communication and relationship between the two religions will spell understanding that would lead to acts of peace and not tolerance, since tolerance never works when one involves religion.

 Work Cited


Israely, Jeff, Vatican Launches Catholic-Islamic Dialogue Time Magazine, November 4, 2008. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1856185,00.html


Jesus Camp November 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Claire @ 2 p Sunday

The following is a video clip of Jesus Camp, a documentary about a camp for Pentecostal children followers led by Becky Fischer. It is a disturbing look at how our youth’s innocence is tainted by adult’s extreme views. The children will never be able to function normally in society when their minds are filled with prejudices they believe are THE TRUTH. There is a series of these videos posted on youtube.com, this one being the first in the series.

Throughout this video and series it is astounding how the children are manipulated into hating something they have never experienced. It was mentioned that the world is a ‘sick old world’. This is probably one of the reasons they do not socialize much with the outer world, meaning the average citizen. She further makes mean remarks about overweight people when she herself is overweight. The most fascinating thing about this first video is the children speak in tongues, which is just gibberish and they consciously know it is neither language nor dialect, but endless voiced sounds that have no meaning.

The next video is the second video of the Jesus Camp youtube.com series. It continues from the first one with terrifying comments made by their leader, Becky Fischer.

Becky Fischer talks about her children congregation as ‘usable’ for her beliefs, thus they are seen as valuable only in how they pass along their beliefs, which in her mind is all they amount to. She continues with her beliefs that she wants her congregation to die for their beliefs, similar to Islamic extremists. It seems like she wants to create an army and take over, maybe potentially get rid of every other belief in this country. It’s terrifying how much conviction these children have in their beliefs and their inability to reconcile science and religion, especially when science does prove evolution, global warming, etc. Religion in general is not wrong to practice, and it never will be, but those who take it to extreme lengths should step back and realize what they are creating.


How Humans Began October 26, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Claire @ 9 p Sunday

This week we are to highlight a related blog and provide commentary on a post of the blog that demonstrates the work provided. I will be highlighting a post by Ichabod, titled: The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived Was the First One, Otherwise None of Us Would Be Here. The blog itself centers around the ideas of the “beginning of humanity, faith, life, religion, and thoughts”. It was an interesting post commenting on how our race began as simply as we continue, with procreation between man and woman. They continue with ideas concerning females’ own original ignorance of the fact we were containing the future of our world. But, they end with a theory that our world is a continuing cycle and the present is the past and vice versa, thus neither a beginning nor an end.

This is an interesting blog, though for myself as a historian and anthropologist in ‘training’, I find that theory hard to believe. Ignorance never occurred on such a level that women did not know when they were pregnant and how to proceed with birthing, etc. We are hardwired to biologically reproduce and know how to do so intelligibly. Though, as mentioned in the blog, there were no modern hospitals and quick medical solutions to maintain the health of the offspring. But all of those are menial in comparison to the natural response a mother has when she is pregnant. This is the same as many view faith and religion. These are continuing cycles of beliefs; many are innate to our consciousness because of how we were raised and what we innately believe of the world and God. Faith and religion is a continuing cycle, meaning the core beliefs; however, how and where we practice them changed throughout history.

The blog provided an interesting idea that our world and our existence in this world is a cycle with no beginning or end. This is quite true in how our world recovers and reproduces to sustain itself, as we humans do as well. Our bodies are continuously fighting off diseases, viruses, etc., maintaining a cycle of contraction then healing. We also reproduce to continue our genes and maintain our foothold in this world. Religion is a center for many lives, making us strive for new levels of understanding at times. It allows us to think beyond ourselves into something not quite understood, but many devoutly believe exists. As humans, we are constantly recreating ourselves in our beliefs, once again maintaining the cycle of our world. Overall, the blog is quite ingenious in how it seems to question the idea of how humans evolved, with a conclusiong that perhaps life is a continuous cycle.



Work Cited

Ichabod, The Greatest Many Who Ever Lived Was the First One, Otherwise None of Us Would Be Here. In Life, October 26, 2008


Philosophy According to a Modern Theorist October 19, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Claire @ 5 p Sunday

The following video is of Ken Wilber, a modern philosophical theorist. It is quite interesting.

The following are books that might interest you by Ken Wilber:

The Integral Vision: A Very Short Introduction to the Revolutionary Integral Approach to Life, God, the Universe and Everything (this has great reviews on Amazon.com)


Integral Life Practice: a 21st Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clairty, and Spiritual Awakening (this recieved great reviews as well on Amazon.com)