Monday, April 05, 2010

Forty Days of Bitching

Another Easter has come and gone, and with it, marks the end of Lent. In case you need a refresher, Lent is a 40-day period in Catholic tradition that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. Many devout Catholics will give stuff up for Lent. I thought it was because of the whole story of Jesus being in the desert for 40 days, being tempted by Satan, but according to this Wikipedia article, it seems that I was wrong. Either that or I skimmed the article and did a crappy job of reading it (sorry). At any rate, the types of things that people give up for Lent include (but are obviously not limited to) chocolate, sex, coffee, and drinking. I even know of a friend of Facebook who gave up using her Blackberry for Lent. Uh, whatever.

Well, thank goodness that Lent is over, because I am sick and tired of people on Facebook talking about what they gave up for Lent and how hard it was for them. Boo frickity hoo. Nobody forced you to give anything up; you did it out of your own free will. So please, spare me the bitching and moaning about how you can't live without coffee and how you won't make it to 40 days. If you can't live without coffee, then drink some, for the love of god, but stop complaining!!!

Actually, my beef isn't really with Lent per se. My beef is with religious tradition in general (ANY religious tradition). When we are born, most of us take up the religious faith of our parents. I was born into a Roman Catholic family, and therefore I was raised as a Catholic, having been baptized and had my first communion per the traditions of the Catholic faith. Catholicism, compared to Protestantism, for example, is VERY VERY focused on tradition. Devout Catholics, for example, will not eat meat on Fridays. Catholic mass is huge on tradition (I'm not sure that tradition is the right word here, but I can't think of a better one right now). My husband, a Protestant, attended Christmas Midnight Mass with me once (I was dragged), and was quite surprised by how we had to stand up, sit down, and kneel at various points throughout the mass. And then there are the various things that are recited. I've been to mass a number of times in my youth, and I still don't know all the stuff that's recited. But I think that even the people who DO know what's being recited are just saying the words. I'll go out on a limb and say that I think this applies to 90% of Catholic churchgoers. I say that because in the recent times that I attended (ahem...was dragged to) mass, most of the people looked totally unenthused about what they were saying. It was just pure regurgitation.

So back to my original point. We are born into our parents' faiths. We are immersed in their religion. We are often (though not always) taught to accept their faith and its accompanying traditions as the only way of doing things. Questioning the faith is not really encouraged, even though are parents and/or teachers/schools/workplaces can make us aware we are made aware of other faiths. After all, most of us don't live in isolated communities and will at some point be exposed to other religions. Hell, I even took world religions in my Catholic high school (I was already an atheist by then).

And questioning faith doesn't necessarily have to be all about questioning the existence of god or Jesus or any of that stuff. It can even include questioning traditions. What does it mean to follow the rules of Kosher, or to eat Halal meat, or to eat fish on Fridays? What does it mean for women to cover their hair with a wig in the traditional Jewish faith or with a scarf in Muslim faith? If god is supposed to be this benevolent, omniscient, omnipresent being who created humans in his (or her) image, then what will it matter what food we eat or what we wear? (Okay, I'm not saying to skank it up here.) I don't think god will love you any more or any less for it. And if such a god did judge us that way, then I think we have bigger problems on our hands.

1 comment:

Meandering Michael said...

The eating fish thing was an economic move from the days when the church was as much a government as anything else to save the fishing industry.

As for the giving things up for lent, I thought it had its origins in the Jewish Passover tradition (giving up unleavened bread), which happens each year around the same time as Easter.

That World Religions class we took sure comes in handy sometimes!