Lent/Easter; Not as fun as No-Guilt/Christmas!

Today is Ash Wednesday. That means the start of Lent. And wouldn't you know it, my favorite e-card website, someecards.com, has provided a number of cards which finely encapsulate how I'm feeling during this time.

The biggest thing I don't like about Lent, is the biggest thing I don't like about Christianity in general: the constant, overwhelming feeling of shame a guilt they're always pushing on you. That's why Easter never took off like Christmas did. No one minds a story about some baby being born (assuming you ignore that little part about the genocide of all the other little babies in town.) Although, it's pretty hard to rally around what is essentially the glorification of an ancient and barbaric means of public torture and execution. Even if you do dress it up in the pagan festival of that current season. ("Hey, it worked for x-mas! Why not Easter, too?" "Maybe because this story has a dead guy in it.")

This is also the first Ash Wednesday where I didn't go to church and get uncomfortably wet, smelly stuff smeared on my forehead.

While, I must confess, I didn't go just because I didn't want to (though I didn't) I lucked out and my class schedule didn't allow me any time to go. So, that's good. I feel like shit enough as it is. I don't need to sit in an incense-drenched room for an hour with a bunch of other people of questionable health-levels and let my sinuses become enflamed.

This was also the first time I noticed how ridiculous those ashes actually looked on people. My parents got home from church shortly after I got home from school, and for the rest of the night I couldn't stop looking at their foreheads. I didn't feel bad, or anything like that, they just looked really silly. It was an oddly liberating feeling.

This was why, last year, I didn't participate in Lent for the first time. Sure, I went to the Ash mass, and if told by my parents, I wouldn't eat meat on Friday (or just go, "Oops! Forgot!" and finish the damn sandwich) but I didn't give anything up.

When my parents asked if I was going to give anything up, such as cursing, I said no, because giving things up for Lent always just meant you would restart said activity doubly once Lent was over. I actually wanted to curb my cursing, not just lay off it for a month only to pick it back up even harder later.

And they respected that. Of course, that was last year. Back when I was just trying to be a Better Catholic(tm) or a better person, whichever came first. I was definately seeing flaws in the system then, and was totally ready to leave the church, I just wasn't ready to leave the faith, or God. (As ridiculous as that sounds now....I was also very into woo back then. I fell hard for Taoism and Confucianism, as well as all that New-Agey crap. I was just too lazy to follow up on any of it, thank goodness).

Last year, if anyone asked me what I was giving up for Lent, I told then, "feeling guilty". I thought it was very clever, but now I can see how it could be taken the wrong way.

I don't know what I'll tell people if they ask me this year. If I had the balls, I'd say "God". But then, we'd be going back to the "End-of-40-day Paradox" (it's a working title). It would be strange indeed to give up religion for Lent, and then come back to it ten-fold once all the pain, suffering, and guilt had been packed back away for another year.

In the mean time, I'm going to try and revile in the fact that I'm free to have a blast this month, while a large majority of the population is required to make themselves as miserable as possible (Except for St. Pat's Day. The Father always lets the Catholics 'off the hook' for that day.)

Views: 113

Tags: Ash_Wednesday, Catholicism, Deconversion, Easter, Guilt, Lent, Painfully_True, Xtians

Comment by Graham E. Lau on February 18, 2010 at 4:09am
I remember the first time I heard about Ash Wednesday. I was 18 and working in a restaurant. One of my servers came in to work and had this smudge on her head. I'm like, "you have some crap on your forehead there". I forget how she responded, but I remember her being surprised to discover I had never heard of this practice before. Even worse for her she had no idea why I thought it made absolutely no sense whatsoever. I still don't really get why the smudge is so important. I would look it up, but I have some other stuff going on.

Don't worry about spending some time trying out other religious viewpoints and seeing what other people in the world think. When i decided to officially separate myself from the beliefs of my christian family members I spent a lot of time looking into other religions and trying to figure out exactly what I thought and who I was. Having a knowledge of Buddhism, Daoism, and other religions is awesome.
Comment by Pinko Commie on February 18, 2010 at 9:43am
I still don't know exactly what the whole smudge/40 days/palm leaves/Easter bunny thing is all about about but I suspect even if it were carefully explained to me, I would still be pretty confused. All I know is, cadbury creme eggs are the shit. :D Good luck on working this stuff out. I can't imagine what it's like to leave religion - the guilt alone would give me ulcers. :/
Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on February 18, 2010 at 11:24am
Lent- Yet another superficial expression of self righteous twattery intended to make the participant feel equally superior and victimized.

Yeah. Have fun with that.
Comment by B. on February 18, 2010 at 11:32am
I've never done the Lent thing, or really knew much about it until I was a teen (I guess I still don't really get it).

Is this unique to Catholicism?
Comment by Apple on February 19, 2010 at 1:18am
Well stated Misty. This thinking applies throughout all the catholic teachings.
Comment by Shine on February 19, 2010 at 7:48am
This was also the first time I noticed how ridiculous those ashes actually looked on people. My parents got home from church shortly after I got home from school, and for the rest of the night I couldn't stop looking at their foreheads. I didn't feel bad, or anything like that, they just looked really silly. It was an oddly liberating feeling.

Jake, I completely understand. I grew up in a very Catholic family; my aunt is a nun and observance of all holidays and sacraments was basically required. I remember in my teens finally gaining enough of an individual perspective to realize just how batshit crazy everything around me was. In particular, I remember sitting in Mass one Sunday during the recitation of the Apostles' Creed and suddenly realizing just how much it sounded like some sort of Satanic chanting by a pack of mindless zombies. I can still hear that sonorous, disconnected tone; honestly, the Apostles' Creed haunts my nightmares more than anything.

Anyways, the let-an-old-dude-smudge-black-junk-on-your-forehead is another one of those creepy rituals that really strike a note of fear when you really just how insane it really is. It is so irrational that it makes it difficult to seriously converse with anyone who partakes in it, especially since they walk around like the ashes are some badge of pride.

Oh, and my favorite part of Lent is that people usually give up something that will benefit them and totally defeat the supposed ascetic aspect of the event. For example, most people give up chocolate or alcohol hoping to lose a few pounds. But even if they genuinely do give up something that "hurts" them, it's a self-imposed victimization like Misty said. Catholics are all about the "voluntary" martyrdom, even though the voluntary nature of such an act really removes any element of persecution.

I remember my mother got all pissed during Lent when I was six because I decided that instead of giving up candy or soda, I was going to give up the use of my bureau. I mean, in my mind it was a perfect plan; I was "giving up" something, and I wouldn't have to put my clothes away for forty days. That one didn't go over so well. :(
Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on February 19, 2010 at 11:56am
Oh Shine! You make me so happy!
You know what MY favorite part of Lent is?
The fact that Cadbury Eggs are about to go on sale!

OOOOoooohhhhh yeah!
Comment by Shine on February 19, 2010 at 12:41pm
You know what MY favorite part of Lent is?
The fact that Cadbury Eggs are about to go on sale!

Yes! I remember those being used as bribes to be quiet during the epically long Easter vigil services sometimes, lol. I seriously think that I associate Easter with being happy, even in spite of all the ridiculously boring ceremonial junk, because of Cadbury eggs.


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