March 9th, 2011
09:47 AM ET

Explain it to me: What's Lent? And what are you giving up?

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the season when many Christians give something up in the weeks before Easter. It's a nod to Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the desert before beginning his ministry. 

Some folks are giving up Facebook. Others are cutting down on their carbon emissions.

Are you giving something up? If so, let us know - and explain your choice.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Easter • Holidays • Lent

soundoff (1,213 Responses)
  1. ania

    Why cant even give up our jobs for few days in the name of Jesus.....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Lupe

      HAHAH – Good answer!

      March 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  2. brad

    I'm going to give up reading books by loud second-rate evolutionary biologists who must supplement their incomes by writing shallow books against religion.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • The Zen Particle

      I actually love reading RIchard Dawkins, but I also love reading passages from religious text as well. Both present differing, vibrant views of the world around us.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  3. Pirogoeth

    I am fasting, praying, and giving alms. For fasting I am abstaining from buying anything that isn't necessary. For praying I am working to improve my daily prayer life. For alms I am increasing the change I set aside for Catholic Relief Services to include dimes with my pennies and nickles.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  4. Jon

    If you do not wish to believe in a god, then don't. If you are right, then nothing will happen. If you are wrong...it is only you that will pay the price. However, do not suppose to tell those who DO have faith, that they are worshiping a fairy tail.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • The Zen Particle

      Now THIS is truly rational thought and perhaps the ONLY post that should be shown. Period.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Inbox full

      Faith is not about being right or wrong ... it's simply about believing in something higher than yourself. It's a personal choice and a lifestyle decision: either a) I will live for myself with no regard to my true purpose in life or b) I will live in a way that honors the God who chose to create me in His image. Faith is something one feels and knows in their soul ... proof has absolutely nothing to do with it.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • wild bill

      Jon unfortunately if you don't believe in certain things you could be hung, stoned to death, burned alive, chopped up with an axe, drowned, crucified, shot, stabbed or how about this; be in a building when a plane flies into it.

      If you think ignoring religion is the correct thing to do if you are asking to be persecuted.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • The Zen Particle

      Oh wild bill, in America when has someone who has espoused different beliefs been stoned, hung or persecuted? Such the drama queen.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  5. The Zen Particle

    Oh I would wish that the atheist nutbags would stop stooping to their religious counterparts level (ie: thinking they know the absolute truth) and keep a more open mind about things, but unfortunately their pompous pride won't allow them such a conviction....kinda like the religious.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  6. wild bill

    I'm giving up religion for lent! Oh wait, already done. Then I'm giving up god for lent! Wait, can you give up something that never existed before.

    All you religious nut jobs only worship your little god to save you from an "eternity in hell". Do you really want to be around for an eternity if it were possible? That’s an awful long time. Well, I guess your god has more important things to do than helping the sick and the dying. You know those billion starving people, or the ones suffering at the hands of others. I guess he much rather listen to your whinny little prayers and see who gets to live with him in “heaven” then help others. You know they have a name for that. It called narcissistic psychosis. Sounds like that’s what your god is. I mean he wants you to love him more than your mother or father before you can be saved. Tsk – religion is for cowards and idiots.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • The Zen Particle

      Amazing, such rationality presented by you....oh wait, not really rational to poke fun at your human being unless your own self esteem is so low that the only means to feel superior to your fellow human being is to belittle them for their beliefs....kinda like what the religious do to you. Funny that, eh?

      March 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • wild bill

      Ah Zen, where did I poke fun of another human being. I am poking fun of religion, well maybe those who believe in certain religions. Believe what you want, not my place to decide what you believe in. Now do me a favor and get out of my life. Completely. The world would be a much better place if people were accountable for their actions. Not the actions of some diety who is above all else.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • The Zen Particle

      "Tsk – religion is for cowards and idiots."

      Perhaps reading your own words carefully might make you seem less like a dim bulb and more like a brilliant evolved ape. You purposefully lumped the belief in religion into a category reserved for the ever fearful and mentally infirm human beings. That, in itself, is attacking your fellow human being. Nice try though.

      People, whether atheist or theist, tend to flock to some community or belief system. Atheists have their Atheist Out, Humanist Organizations..etc to flock to to congregate with to express their superiority of intellect to each other.....kinda like the religious.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • wild bill

      Zen, the terms cowards and idiots are verbs. People or other humans are nouns. Expressing distaste regarding the behavior of people is not attacking people, it is attacking an action of people.

      Before you try and phrophetic, or sound intelligent realize there are people out there smarter than you. Really, there are. Yes, a dim bulb. Haha, your rehetoric is the only thing dim here. If you do not understand the concept of the effects of religion on social values and culture I'm sorry. Read a book. Oh, wait. You are a brilliant evolved ape. Cute.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  7. Corey

    I'm giving up Christianity for lent. Heck, I'll give up religion for lent. Who's with me?

    March 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  8. Howard

    I've given up on the Catholic Church. It's hopelessly corrupt to its very core. Every parish priest either was (1) abusing children, (2) knew others who were abusing children and said nothing, (3) aided in covering up those who were abusing children, (4) suspected something fishy about some other priests and still turned a blind eye, or (5) were unforgivably and inexcusably naive and ignorant.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  9. Lars

    I am giving up on random numbers. Much easier to stick with 666. 666 666 666 666. Hail Satan! Hail Satan! Hail Satan! So fun to scare Christians. They actually believe in these things. 666! 666! 666! Praise the devil! Praise the devil! Amen.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  10. CB

    I am not giving something up, but vow to do at least one random act of kindness a day. Additionally, I am going to work on myself to forgive a person who has been incredibly cruel over the past year.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  11. Phil E. Drifter

    12 years of catholic school is enough to make any somewhat intelligent person (like myself) an atheist. What a bunch of baloney. You people realize you're basing your entire lives around a few scraps of ancient paper written by primitive people? What's more, those stories were handed down for hundreds of years *before* the developed a coherent writing system!

    March 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Primitive person before Christ

      I'm so primitive I built the pyramids and the smart modern day people have no idea how.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • OldKyHome

      I don't get on these stupid things very often, just to read the comments not make them.

      However; you must not be that "intellegent person" you are talking about...you can't even use correct spelling. (That Catholic school didn't do you any good.) And if you can't spell you shouldn't be telling people what is true and what is a 'lie." Religion, of all kinds, is about belief in something that hasn't shown proof. WE are able to choose what we believe in just as you are able to open your uneducated mouth and say what you have.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  12. Jesus

    I'll be Back soon.

    Prepare yourself.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Todd

      Just rapture your rabid followers so the rest of us can live in peace, and I'll call us even.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • wild bill

      Hey Jesus, when you come back blow me. I don't want to be saved!!! I don't want to live forever!!! I don't believe in the boogie monster!!! I believe my pet rock is god!!! Now prove me wrong! Don't dismiss my faith! All hail the rock god!!!

      March 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Matt

      Well said.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  13. Samantha

    I am catholic and my grandmother taught me that Lent season bit is not only about giving up something but more important it is about sharing. If I give up my chocolate, steak dinner, Starbucks, etc etc I will donate that money to a food bank or shelter. Also, this year, I am going to read the New Testament from start to end which I have never done in my 49 years.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  14. Marc

    I'm giving up things that I want, and bad habits I've adopted. I'm starting to take care of myself, and, in doing so, I'm asking myself each morning, "What have I forgotten to notice (or have chosen not to notice) about that person at work, or that person I run into on the road of life?" "How can I learn to appreciate others more, and see the good in each one of my brothers and sisters?" And yeah, if you ask, I'd pray for you, but Lent is a time for praying for forgiveness for *my* sins, my wrongs, not judging others. So I'm keeping my head down. I'm reminded by ashes that life here on Earth is short, and Heaven (if, by God's grace, I make it there) is long.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  15. Silly you

    So many people misunderstand the meaning of Lent. It's not about giving something up, as so many tend to do. Regardless of how much a person likes chocolate, it's really no sacrifice to go without it for 40 days. Lent is about recommitting oneself to doing the difficult things in life – vowing to set one's Starbuck's money for the homeless, for example, or reading a passage from the Bible each day or doing something that makes life a little better for others. God couldn't give a hoot whether a person eats chocolate or gives up soda for a month. What He wants is for people to enjoy their life and the people they are blessed to share their lives with. Lent is a time to reflect on that and make changes in our lives that enrich the lives of others.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Believer

      "Silly You"....I would call yourself anything but. Your comment was the best I've seen that truly explains the reason / purpose of the Lenten season. Giving up something for the sake of giving it up means nothing. Your example of giving up your Starbuck's coffee and donating instead to the homeless is the true example of living God's Word and leading a life that mirrors Christ. God Bless you and your family this Lenten Season.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • mee2


      March 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  16. awasis

    I'm giving up lent for lent.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  17. CM

    I like giving something up and doing something positive. So I'm giving up my twice a day coffee and I'm going to not raise my voice around my 2 little ones.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  18. Chris

    I hope the libs and atheists give up flocking to every CNN Christian or Jewish article and bashing people because they have different beliefs than they.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Luch


      March 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Catrina


      March 9, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Jonathan

      Braddah I'm no Elitist or atheist but I am educated and educated in Chrsitian history and the Bible. The stories and dogma of Christianity have been made up over time and continue to be made up. Almost all the stories surrounding Jesus (if he did exist, some scholars say their is no proof of a historical Jesus) were borrowed from earlier myths and used word for word....as well as the rampant literary corruption and forgeries of Biblical Texts............It is also impossible for God to exist in the Christian version or form they created. The beleif system of Christianity is extremely primitive and childish.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Todd

      I hope the christ eaters stop rubbing their worthless religion into my life.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • CM

      The funny part Jonathan is that you claim to be all these things and so highly educated yet a vast majority of scholars out there believe and have proof that there was a historical Jesus. So your talk of that is just your personal rub. There are also many highly educated Christians that take the Bible as teachings and not word by word truth. There is some of that is most stories. But that doesn't make people less or more Christian. So I'd advise giving up the idea that you have some form of vast knowledge for Lent and do some more research. Making yourself feel better at the attempted expenese of others isn't a good Lenten option.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Sad

      Todd, no offense, but aren't you the one posting on a blog about belief? I don't see how this is pushing something on you...I'm just saying it seems like provoking others.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  19. Bill

    I am giving up the catholic church. They are more interested in hiding the truth than solving the rampant pedophilia problem that has existed for decades throughout their organization.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Ralph

      'Report Abuse' button below = pun intended?

      March 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • EW

      You might as well give up on all religions since this is happening everywhere. The Catholic Church is not the only group doing this.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  20. Connie

    I agree with CalBears...it's a personal choice we make when choosing to participate in the Lenten ritual, and just because someone has had a bad experience with their church or their Catholic faith is no reason to critcize. I would not be the person I am today were it not for my faith, and I feel sorry for those who are ignorant about the true meaning of being a Christian.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • CM

      Jonathan, maybe for Lent you can give up judging others and trying to ramrod your personal beliefs down people's throats. There are many more highly educated Christians out there that understand different things about the Bible. It doesn't make the lessons any less powerful or true. You aren't the authority and your bitterness comes off as desperation.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Lulu

      @ Jonathon – that is your opinion. It is not fact. Why do you troll Christianity stories if you do not believe as Christians do ?

      March 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Jack

      I'm giving up Catholic guilt. (quote taken from Alec Baldwin)

      March 9, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • csp

      Wow such hate from atheist. If you do not like religion then why do you comment. You are the very same people that say let people live their lives they way they want and yet you think Christianity and religion in general should be banned. Hypocrites. In regard to lent, I never give anything up because I find it odd that as Christians we pick one time of the year to give something up in the name of our religion. Giving something up that you indulge in or that is a sin should not be assigned a time an place. As Christians and non Christians we should be willing to give things up to better ourselves. I challenge any of you to give up soda, coffee or whatever else you are addicted to for 1 year! However, if lent makes you feel better and gives you satisfaction or builds your faith then more power to you. I pray that those who partake do not just walk through the motions and are serious about the impact that it can have in your life.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.