March 15 in freethought history…

saintnicholasMarch 15, 270 - The “real” Santa Claus–Greek bishop Nikolaos of Myra–is born in Patara, Lycia (on the Mediterranean coast of what is now Turkey). He may have participated in the First Council of Nicaea, which approved the Nicene Creed. Folklore involving the miracles of “Saint Nicholas” often featured the rescue of children and secret gift-giving. Aside from his ongoing appeal in pop culture as Ol’ Saint Nick, St. Nicholas continues to be venerated by (among others) sailors and fisherman. He died in 343, aged 73.

March 15, 1937 – Howard Phillips Lovecraft dies in Providence, Rhode Island, aged 46. H. P. Lovecraft published some of the most enduring and influential horror fiction in the English language. His stories include “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Colour out of Space,” and “At the Mountains of Madness.” Sadly, Lovecraft’s fame came only after his untimely death. Despite the cosmic and mystical aspects of his fiction, Lovecraft was steadfastly skeptical. In a 1918 letter to a friend he wrote: So far I have seen nothing which could possibly give me the notion that cosmic force is the manifestation of a mind and will like my own infinitely magnified; a potent and purposeful consciousness which deals individually and directly with the miserable denizens of a wretched little fly speck on the back door of a microscopic universe, and which singles this putrid excrescence out as the one spot whereto to send an only-begotten Son, whose mission is to redeem those accursed fly speck-inhabiting lice which we call human beings—bah!! Pardon the “bah!” I feel several “bahs!,” but out of courtesy I only say one. But it is all so very childish. I cannot help taking exception to a philosophy that would force this rubbish down my throat. “What have I against religion?” That is what I have against it!…

March 15, 1998 – American pediatrician Benjamin Spock, whose books on childrearing offered a more humane and individualistic alternative to the colder behaviorist model, dies  in La Jolla, California, aged 94. Dr. Spock, who was also an activist for civil rights and against war, was named Humanist of the Year in 1968 by the American Humanist Association.

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