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Secular Lent?

(48 Posts)
M0nica Fri 19-Jan-18 14:16:42

Most religions seem to include the practice of fasting and deprivation among their pracrtces. For Christians it is in the season of Lent that we are encouraged to give up something in the run up to Easter

I have noticed that in this more secular age, when few fast for religious reasons, there has been a huge growth in fasting and deprivation for purely secular reasons. Veganuary, Dry January, constant hectoring from the pulpit media about eating less, cutting out sugar/carbohydrates. do more exercise.

Even the magazine from SH's pension supplier has an article on New Year Resolutions, with sub headings saying Exercise more, Slim Down, Abstain from Alcohol, Stop smoking

I am coming to the conclusion that people 'need' religion, because as soon as they give it up they start developing ways of bring its constraints back into their lives in other ways.

wildswan16 Fri 19-Jan-18 14:30:53

Interesting post. It seems to me that a lot of people complain about the "nanny state" telling us what we should and should not be doing. But these same people then accept being told by media or charities that they should be vegan in january, stop chocolate in x month, don't drink in y month.

I just don't understand it all. Stopping alcohol for a month and then going back to exactly what you were doing before appears totally pointless to me. Can people not carry things through for the rest of their life?

Lent represents Christ's time in the wilderness and is of significance to all practising Christians, and reminds us of an important part of our religious teachings. It has nothing to do with losing weight or anything else.

Ilovecheese Fri 19-Jan-18 15:56:49

I think it is people wanting to prove to themselves that they have strong willpower.
Then they can feel superior to those weaker willed than themselves.

The secular people I mean, not those who deprive themselves because of their religion.

suzied Fri 19-Jan-18 16:06:00

Why attribute a negative motivation to those who maybe want to cut down on alcohol, sugar, fat, animal products, whatever? Maybe they're doing it for perfectly good health reasons and do so at a time when there is social support (just like those who fast for religious reasons at certain times). To use your logic, some people who "give things up" for lent could be doing it to feel morally or spiritually superior to those who don't. It could be people who object to a nanny state who blindly follow the edicts of organised religion. Who is to say? there is absolutely no evidence for either of those viewpoints.

Lazigirl Fri 19-Jan-18 16:29:24

Good post suzied

M0nica Fri 19-Jan-18 16:34:00

I wouldn't argue with your question suzied and I did not suggest that fasting for religious reasons was morally superior to any other fasting but currently there seems to be a constant relentless demand for us to do more and more to cut things out of our diets, exhaust ourselves exercising, lose weight stop all pleasurable occupations, way beyond any need to look after our health.

These articles and diets etc have always been around, but it has gone way beyond what is needed just for health purposes. We have this obsession with 'Clean Eating and lots of self-appointed gurus telling us what (mainly) what we must not eat to be beautiful, inside and out, - and their websites are liked by millions and their books fly off the shelves.

The priests/ priestesses of the cult speak from government pulpits and university podiums constantly hectoring us with lists of things we must do or not do to make ourselves healthy and not be a burden on the NHS. It doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone that NHS is there to look after us when we are ill.

Meat is now considered 'bad' for you, so cut it out, gluten is 'bad', cut it out. In fact a study today showed that it is removing gluten from your diet is bad for you, unless you have coeliac disease.

I am afraid I am the unrepentant sinner, I always felt he had much the better time. I am going out to night for a big curry. I will eat fatty food, lots of white rice and drink alcohol, probably drink a toast to all those Calvinistic food experts, who would sooner drink their own urine than be seen in an Indian restaurant.

suzied Fri 19-Jan-18 16:56:27

I don’t feel constantly “hectored”, it’s a free choice isn’t it? You’ll enjoy your curry ( as will I tomorrow) and the health police aren’t going to come round and reprimand us. What annoys me is the shifting of the goalposts in a seemingly arbitrary way e.g. guidelines on units of alcohol keep changing. I feel free to ignore them .

SueDonim Fri 19-Jan-18 17:03:57

My 90yo mother gets very cross at all these messages. She says they get told to eat this, do that, give up something else. Then you get to be 90yo and everyone complains that you're a drain on services and it would be better for the country if you were dead! grin Not that my mum is a drain on services. She lives on her own with no help and has no health issues apart from arthritis and a bit of high BP.

I don't really care what people do, so long as they don't preach at me or ask me to pay money for them to stop smoking/drinking/whatever.

Lazigirl Fri 19-Jan-18 17:06:37

I think many of the so called health benefits of (ever changing) advice have no valid research evidence to back them up, but in our culture people think they can live forever if they can only find the magic key. Fashion plays a part too, just look at everyone carrying bottles of water, as if they'd dehydrate without.

M0nica Fri 19-Jan-18 17:20:24

The question is: with so many people signing up to be 'clean', limit their food groups, set themselves exhausting exercise routines etc; are they drawn to it in the same way those with religious beliefs also adhere to periods of fasting/ abstinence (not just alcohol)?

Cherrytree59 Fri 19-Jan-18 17:30:47

Just a thought
Could it be that our ancient religious mentors were wise indeed?

In the Christian world there has been a spell of great feast
So the flock are now to required to reign it in and fasting is just what it is needed.

This could probably be applied to other religions regarding feast and fasting.

M0nica Fri 19-Jan-18 17:49:31

Thinking as I post, I wonder whether it could be linked to how life was lived in agricultural communities from the neolithic until quite recently. There were seasons when food was abundant and seasons when it was scarce and crops were variable so feasting and, perforce fasting was part of how people lived and our bodies are programmed to do it.

Spring would have been the season was scarcest, winter stores consumed and no new crop yet - and that is the time of the season of Lent. Perhaps the obsession now with restraint and limiting foods you eat, doing other activities, like exercise, that leave you with a hunger you are not allowed to satisfy, is a non-religious way of responding to the body's instinctive seeking for feast and famine. Again the time when this is most sought is at the beginning of the calendar year as the winter stores are running out and food is scarce.

Jane10 Fri 19-Jan-18 18:29:23

I was very pleased, years ago when I attended a church, to hear the rector suggest that rather than give up something for Lent it would be more useful to consider doing something extra for others instead. I thought this was more positive and practical than denying oneself chocolate or similar.
So much needs to be done in our communities that is much more important than self denial in order to facilitate more narcissism.

Treebee Fri 19-Jan-18 19:16:47

Interesting thought Monica. I agree that these periods of deprivation could be seen as spiritually and physically cleansing. I’m sure you feel something has been achieved once the Lent/dry/detox period is over.
Personally, I don’t ‘do’ Lent, mainly because, as I’ve dieted since I was 10 I equate deprivation with losing weight so my motivation would be skewed.
I have done what Jane10 mentions, following a thoughtful Tearfund programme that involves counting your blessings, doing small acts of kindness and giving to charity.

Jalima1108 Fri 19-Jan-18 19:43:53

A very interesting OP M0nica and I shall go away and ponder.

and your post about 'feast and famine'.
Perhaps animals and birds have more idea of the natural cycles than we do, in our age of globalisation, food travelling around the world, freezers etc.

Eglantine21 Fri 19-Jan-18 19:58:33

In Waterstones today, on the best sellers shelf, was a book called "The How Not to Die Cookbook"

M0nica Fri 19-Jan-18 20:39:50

Now that is taking fasting to extremes grin

SueDonim Fri 19-Jan-18 20:40:33

grin Eglantine. I wonder if they could be prosecuted under the Trades description act!

The famine & feast question is interesting. Maybe the current fashion for self-denial is a subconscious reaction to the modern culture of excess, with food so cheap and plentiful. It's hard to get away from food or pictures of food or restaurants and cafes and people eating in the streets etc.

Feelingmyage55 Fri 19-Jan-18 21:34:36

I'm with Jane 10 and Treebee.

Jalima1108 Fri 19-Jan-18 22:54:26

Perhaps we are all have a Puritanical streak within us. Self-denial brings a degree of self-satisfaction which is greater than the fleeting satisfaction which we gain from a bar of chocolate.

Still pondering and regretting the Toblerone we shared this evening.
Guilt, regret, knowing that weight may have been gained?
It would be better to feel smug and self-satisfied.

SueDonim Sat 20-Jan-18 00:16:04

I was raised to be puritanical, I think, Jalima! grin My mum's family was Welsh chapel so by default there was rarely any drink in the house, no one gambled, didn't play cards etc. It wasn't deliberate, it was just that it simply didn't feature in our lives. I suppose it was an atmosphere of moderation in all things. And a lack of money to do anything to excess, as well!

paddyann Sat 20-Jan-18 00:32:29

I always fasted since my teens in an effort to lose weight ,5 days on hot water and lemon juice ,then someone told me I'd messed up my metabolism when I was over 30 so I stopped .Wish I'd kept it going now as I find it hard to do and I need to more now than when I was a size 8

Grannaby Sat 20-Jan-18 08:20:00

That’s an interesting thought M0nica on the season of the year. I also think that it is now driven by the media and particularly the supermarkets. We over bought foods at Christmas so don’t spend so much in January and they need us to put more in the trolley again. It's too early to push Valentine's Day foods, gifts and treats for Mother's Day and even though the Easter eggs have begun to appear they can’t be seen to highlight them yet. Both the media and the supermarkets have the year mapped out and we just suck it all up. It won’t be long before we are enticed to worry about being “beach ready” again.

Caramac Sat 20-Jan-18 08:56:32

Interesting post which made me think that you may be right and I considered us there any connection to my observation in my work - that people take less responsibility for their actions, it is always someone else’s fault/responsibility. Also, is this maybe a sign of our relatively affluent society. I’m pretty sure my parents and grandparents had little enough money or access to many of today’s excesses. Also, much more walking and general physical activity meant less need to diet and exercise. Fags, however, were smoked with relish but were less heavily taxed and cheaper in real terms than today. Definitely a good thing to cut down or give up imo.

M0nica Sat 20-Jan-18 10:04:29

I am a catholic and was brought up to observe Lent, which is why I haven't had sugar in tea or coffee since I was about 12.

Compared with 50 or 60 years ago, we do have more possessions and money to indulge ourselves, but a world with today's indulgences was beyond our imagination and my childhood was unimaginably better than 2 of my grandparents who had grown up in close to extreme poverty.

What I remember from childhood is a general belief in self-discipline, of not being greedy, which again fits in with fasting, in the past as now, if you consume your stock of anything too fast, it will not be their to support you when times are hard.