4 Religious Practices That Make Lent Look Easy
One of the many benefits of worshipping the Devil is not having to participate in Lent. From Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday, the faithful practice fasting and self-denial as an act of penance. Some do this to honor the Passion of Christ, some to bring them closer to God, and others just do it as a yearly period of introspection. Though it's traditionally a Catholic ritual, observation of Lent is on the rise among many denominations, including Baptists and the Amish, and even among the nonreligious.
There are strict guidelines to proper fasting, but most people tend to approach Lent fairly loosely. You pick something you like such as chocolate, booze, sex or the first three things without the intervening commas, and you abstain from it through the period. It can be healthy to learn to live without luxuries or vices, and in general it's not too rough a deal.
Then there are some religious practices that make Lent look even easier, such as...
Jainism (Not to be confused with Jayneism, the adulation of the Hero of Canton) is an Indian religion that is centered on nonviolence. They have some interesting views on karma, that the force is a natural law rather than a moral one, as predictable and understandable as the laws of physics. There are two sects of Jainists, the Svetambara, who wear white, and the Digambara, who wear nothing.
To be fair, only the monks in Digambara give up clothing, and not even all of those. It's still a major part of the religion (Digambara means "sky clad"). Ascetics consider themselves clothes in the environment, and use the practice as a means of denying the weakness of the body. They are also only allowed two possessions, a broom and a water gourd. So while giving up Hooters for Lent may sound like a chore to you, at least you get to keep your T-shirt.
Katie Holmes gave Scientology's Silent Birth practice a lot of press when she was expecting her first child. The idea that L. Ron Hubbard had was that a child was super-susceptible for the first seven days of its life, and that the wrong words or sounds could do real damage to its mind. Women are allowed to moan or grunt, but screaming is out, and no one involved is to speak except when absolutely necessary.
Hubbard never went to medical school or studied pediatrics, and there's absolutely no evidence that the silent birth practice does an infant any good at all. It's been proven that children hear just fine in the womb, so they're already hearing anything you say. On the other hand, the practice hasn't been proven to hurt, either. Providing a calm, quiet birthing environment is perfectly understandable and beneficial, as long as it's not taken to extremes.
"I think that all people would agree that having delivery occur in a calm environment is pretty important," said Dr. Patricia Connor Devine in a WebMD interview. "If a silent birth is how someone wants to achieve that, it's reasonable. But remember: You can't banish words completely. It still has to be a birth environment that's safe. If the goal is to have it quiet and peaceful, that's fine -- but it can't be enforced to the point that it would hinder clinical outcome by preventing care providers from communicating."