Jesus Invented Radical Lifestyle Experimentation

by Frost on March 9, 2011

Lent started today, I’m told. So what is Lent, exactly?

Lent in the Christian tradition, is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Lent is a time of sacrifice for Jesus. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Trading in your sugary goods for sweet Mexican bread in return is an honored tradition during the time of Lent.

According to the Canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent forty days fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by Satan.[1][2] Thus, Lent is described as being forty days long, though different denominations calculate the forty days differently.

Sounds fun.

But what interest do I, a non-believer, have in this holiday? As an atheist, shouldn’t I be snickering at the silly superstitions of the spiritual, and chasing the nirvana of self-importance by reading the latest from Richard Dawkins and Chris Hitchens?

Hardly. Militant atheists – i.e. sophomores who just read the God Delusion and can’t stop telling the rapidly dwindling pool of people who’ll listen how clever they are – are among the most annoying people on Earth.  More importantly, having an annual tradition of picking a habit and giving it up for forty days is a good idea for anyone, regardless of their thoughts on the origin of the Universe and the eventual fate of their soul.

The holiday actually started this morning, but I only learned this at work today, so my Lent is going to be a day late. Depending on when you read this, it doesn’t matter if your Lent starts two or (blasphemy!) three days past Ash Wednesday, unless you’re actually a Christian. But in that case, you probably already knew it was Lent. Either way, here’s my brainstorming list of potential vices to give up:

1 – Sex
2 – Masturbation
3 – Alcohol
4 – Coffee
5 – TV/Movies
6 – Reading Blogs
7 – The Internet
8 – Sleeping In

And some potential good habits to temporarily acquire:

9 – Volunteering at a charity
10 – 20m of yoga first thing every morning
11 – Taking a class in something new and random
12 – Reading a meaty book for a half-hour per night

So many ideas. What’s an ambitious pseudo-Christian to do?

I’ll tell you what:


OK, not really. I’m getting laid tonight, drunk tomorrow, and in all likelihood having a big cup of coffee first thing in the morning. If I do any charity, it’ll be by accident. But my one true Lent promise that I will commit to is this:

I will be awake and out of bed at 7:00am, six days a week for the next 40 days.

Fuck off tomorrow morning, feel free to not ever arrive. Then again, maybe I will come to love the blissful quiet of the early morning air. I guess we’ll see.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Zen Buddhist March 20, 2011 at 7:26 pm

“I’ll stop being a militant atheist when there are no more militant Christians.”

Ha. Me Too. I’ll give up being a militant Buddhist when there are no more militant Christians trying to convert me.

NI March 10, 2011 at 5:47 pm

And I just realized I didn’t actually answer your question about why not hate the people who do bad things rather than the belief system that makes them do bad things. First of all, it’s not so much hate as self-defense; you don’t hate a black widow spider but neither do you want it in a position to do you harm.

And the answer to your question is that it’s religion that takes impressionable young children and turns them into monsters. Would some of them have the personality and temperament to have become monsters on their own? Perhaps. But religion at bare minimum greased the skids.

Frost, you claim to be a hard-nosed, unsentimental realist. Well, my position is the hard-nosed unsentimental position as it relates to religion. Sorry if you prefer this one sugar coated.

NI March 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Frost, because it’s a cost-benefit analysis: If you compare the good religion does (even before you factor in that you don’t need religion to do good) to the harm it does, it’s not even close. Given a choice, would you like to live in a heavily secular society like Denmark or France or Japan, or a heavily religious society like Iran or Sudan or Pakistan? And yes, there is a correlation.

And once you figure out that religion does way more harm than good, what exactly is the value in pretending anything else?

Mike March 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm

What’s up with the anti-masturbation trend on the young guys’ game blogs?

Masturbation is great, as looking at porn stimulated right hemisphere activities. Porn and masturbation are especially needed after a demanding day of using my “left brain.” I’ve also gone to the strip club for breaks when facing writer’s block or where my analytical skills are weak.

Richard Feynman used to work on his math problems at the strip club, and it makes sense.

Frost March 10, 2011 at 7:50 am

Thank you NI for proving my point. Why not reserve your hate for the people actually doing those things?

Neill, ever wonder how much more motivated you would be with 40 days of sexual frustration behind you? I don’t consider coffee, sleeping in, or the internet to be vices either, just interesting potential experiments.

NomadicNeill March 10, 2011 at 6:26 am

I’m concerned you consider sex a vice!

The Christian dogma has infiltrated your belief-system!


NI March 10, 2011 at 6:07 am

Santa Claus doesn’t fly airplanes into buildings, doesn’t try to keep science from being taught in the schools, doesn’t start wars in the Middle East and doesn’t spread prejudice against gays. If religion were nothing more than charming mythology like Santa Claus I’m not sure even I would object. Oh, and Santa’s followers haven’t organized themselves to vote in candidates to make public policy based on what Santa would want.

jules March 9, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Paraphrasing Matt & Trey of South Park: I’d rather not be the asshole kid on the playground annoying everyone by running around explaining how Santa Clause doesn’t exist.

NI March 9, 2011 at 9:45 pm

I mostly agree with you except on one point: I’ll stop being a militant atheist when there are no more militant Christians. And if you think that makes me annoying, tough. Traditions like lent may have their value, but there’s no end to the harm done by religion.

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