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  Today is ash wednesday, meaning it is the beginning of lent, and I am upset. In the last week, I've heard tons of people debating what to give up for lent. I don't want this to call anyone out, but I can't tell this story without examples. "I could give up alcohol. . .on second thought, nevermind, that's not fun." "I'm giving up Pepsi by limiting myself to one can a day." "I'm giving up meat. . .but I hear you're allowed to cheat on Sunday." "I can't give up smoking since that's an addiction, maybe I can give up something like shopping." I call bullshit on all of you. Normally, I don't like to meddle in religious affairs, but this one is so blaring I can't leave it be.
  Originally, the forty day period is symbolic of the forty days spent by both Moses and Elijah in the wilderness. Later, Jesus is said to have retreated into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights. Afterwards he was hungry and the devil tempted him. Jesus overcame all of the devilish temptation of the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life by citing holy Scripture to the devil. The Devil left him. Holy Angels ministered to Jesus, and he was able to begin his work as a minister spreading the word of god, the result of a living form of rebirth. As a result, individuals celebrate the 40 days and nights before Easter by giving up something dear to them. The intended effect of this deprivation is the sensation of success against temptation; once one can be immune to temptation, their faith may be renewed and they can re-emerge into the world. I may be an atheist, but not believing in god means nothing about not understanding doctrine.
  So here's my problem. So many people are willing to take this religious task so lightly as to skirt the responsibility of full deprivation. Comparatively, if you believe that Jesus literally walked in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, giving up alcohol or meat shouldn't be such a strain. The truth is, faith isn't about specific doctrine today, it's about integrating doctrine in such a way to operate in a functional way with ones life. I understand this, and I also understand deprivation. In 2003, as a test of self discipline and possibly on a mission for some sort of existential lesson that was never fully realized, I gave up chocolate, soda and caffiene, cold turkey and from January 1 to January 1. All 3 of those things weren't trivial things I gave up because I had to, they were things integral to my life and completely inconvenient, both since I was physically addicted to caffeine and because they're part of our culture. Nevertheless, I succeeded for the year and have resumed my addictions. If I can do that for a year with no god over my head, why can't someone under the observation and absolute authority of god go all the way for a mere month and a half?
  More importantly, why is it that when it comes to personal sacrafice we can change doctrine and tradition as theyr'e convenient, yet when it comes to gay marriage people can stick so firmly to doctrine that they promote fear, hate and legislative intolerance?

EDIT: Once again always convict the atheist. This post is NOT anti lent. Not is it anti christian. It is anti intolerance. Ask people, I've encouraged them to give up something hard, and if they did, I'd help them however I could. I don't want to take your christianity away from you, and I support everyone's right to choose their lifestyle, christian or gay. Nevertheless, convenience is a poor excuse for choosing when to spread intolerance through doctrine.

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