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Should you take part in Lent even if you aren’t religious?

By Natalie Clark

So as everyone is pretty much aware, Lent is well and truly underway. Shrove Tuesday was happily indulged in, pancakes being tossed left right and centre, and I can certainly say that my household bulldozed through tubs of Nutella, syrup and a stupid amount of sugar.

The conversation around the table, in between shoveling the stacks of pancakes into our mouths, went a little something like this: “What are you giving up for Lent?”

“Chocolate,” “Crisps,” “Carbs,” “Dixy Chicken,” “Facebook,” “Daily Mail Online,” came the answers.

The days leading up to Ash Wednesday had been full of these same dialogues, and really, each one had the same answers. Each year, we ‘sacrifice’ the same indulgences for forty days and forty nights, hoping to drop a few pounds, or to complete the challenges we set ourselves.

Can we partake in Lent if we are not religious?

But let me break it down for you right now. If you are giving up chocolate, or sweets, or bread, that is not Lent you are participating in. It is a diet.

If you have decided to not go on Facebook or Twitter for the next two fortnights, that is not Lent you are participating in. It is just leaving the virtual world for a little while and stepping into reality.

Now don’t get me wrong, Lent as a religious observance for all those who are of the Christian faith is probably the most serious in the Christian calendar.

Lent commemorates the time when Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray for forty days and nights, a period of sacrifice, reflection and preparation before the celebration of Easter.

Before, fasting for the entire duration of Lent was common practice, but now, Christians mainly surrender luxuries to serve as self-discipline. The significance of this practice within Christianity leads me to believe that it is slightly odd that non-christian/religious people jump on the bandwagon in order to shift a few pounds.

I am not a Catholic. I don’t go to church. All in all, I am not a religious person. So why should I engage in a spiritual practice when I don’t engage on a daily basis? People don’t lend themselves to other religious festivals to use as excuses to achieve some kind of personal goal. We don’t participate in Ramadan or Passover because it may work into what we want for ourselves. So why should Lent be a time when we attempt to lose inches from our waistline, avoid posting on walls or tweeting every few minutes?

I think, if you wanted to give up cake and late night takeouts so that you would look great on the beach during your Easter break, or give up Facebook because you need to really knuckle down and meet all of those looming deadlines, you should not rely on Him to help you through it. Really, it should all come from your own personal strength and commitment. At any time of the year.

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