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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. Stacy

    I am trying to not smoke today and on Fridays as a sacrafice because I am a vegetarian so sacraficing meat is not really a sacrafice.
    As far as giving something up for lent...I'd rather do something extra. I'm going to try to go out of my way to compliment others at work and I plan to volunteer my time at least one day a week. I feel that this sacrafice will bring me closer to God than simply giving up sweets or something like that.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Jim

      You're right - not completely quitting to smoke cigarettes right now will bring you closer to God much sooner in life.....

      March 9, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  2. Bender

    Giving up reading these terrible articles.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  3. Elipsis

    I am giving up god.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  4. Jay

    I don't understand why people feel the need to make comments to mock or ridicule people and their beliefs. If you don't believe in God or Christianity that is fine and your right to do so. But why come on a blog that is discussing Lent to ridicule others and their beliefs. Where is the tolerance in this? I don't go around mocking atheists or people of other faiths on message boards for their beliefs and what they do.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • J

      hear hear!

      March 9, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Doug

      Ever try and "save" someone? Same thing, different approach.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • RangerDOS

      So Doug is practicing religion, just not believing in god... You're a hypocrite Doug. You read and comment because basically you're a coward. You wouldn't say mean things to other people's faces because you're worried they would knock you out. Well at least not to anyone that can stand up to you.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Doug

      Not very christian of you, RangerDOS. And no, it is not a religion to believe in nothing. I have NO BELIEF one way or the other. You can't prove god exists, I can't prove it doesn't. However, it is very typical of the religious to violently defend their beliefs.

      Feel free to call me names, on the internet. Feel free to threaten me with your pathetic violence, on the internet. In the end, you are a dead body, just as I am. You have gained nothing. You will change nothing. You will mean nothing.

      We are all going to die, this planet will die, and the thought of religion will be wiped from the existence of the universe.... or will it?

      Cheers, RangerDOS. You're another shining example of the religious.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Doug

      And, RangerDOS. Should I ever have the pleasure of meeting you in person. I'd love to say all sorts of mean things to your face about religion. Just so you could prove your point. That violence is the solution.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  5. Susan

    I am giving up Facebook (trying to anyway LOL) Why? Because we are supposed to do something that is not easy for us to do as a way to hopefully bring us closer to God. I spend so very much time on there that a lot of times things I really should be doing around the house go undone for too long. I just feel that this will be a real challenge for me, and that is what this is all about; doing something that is not going to be easy but trying to do it anyway

    March 9, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Doug

      Just friend god on his/her facebook page. That should bring you closer.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  6. Salty Bob

    In the beginning man created the gods

    What I think of organized religion. I hope you gleam a small bit of useful information as I have. What games religion is playing in America and the world today? We live in a rare time and country where we can choose for ourselves how much or little Religion we want in our lives, but the followers of most religions just don’t understand the word no! Not in my life not in my schools not in my government, NO! is the choice I have made for me and my family, the following reasons are part of the problem as I see it.

    First: religion is in no way real. The word religion or god is nothing more than an expression or product of human fear and weaknesses or imagination in some cases. The Bible/Koran, a collection of ancient myths and stories borrowed from many different cultures over hundreds of centuries or longer. Sadly the followers of Christianity, Islam, and others want to make decisions for us all based on there interpretation of books that are in no way real. These groups are working hard and spending millions trying to influence our politicians to pass laws based on there interpretation of these books. Trying to convert the USA into a religious state. I hope to never see any religious icons on our flag, because then it would be a good time to leave.

    Second: Religion no longer has a place in the real world. It divides us as a people to choose ignorance over logic, to forsake the future for a ruthless past. A Wall of Separation is supposed to protect us from all religious infringement upon our school’s teachings of science to find real truth and knowledge. Not to pass out fairytales to our children of some aged dogma from an era long dead, our children deserve better.

    Many of these groups place supernatural abilities on some of its members, born of a virgin or walk on water or cure the blind sick or to fly. Throughout history you will find many who have claimed the same feats, again they are all wrong. No interpretation no matter how subtle can change the fact these are nothing but stories meant to entertain or teach something to the people of that era nothing more.

    Religion, as an idea has been with us before recorded history from early man’s worshiping of nature to Charlemagne’s murder of the innocent in the name of Christianity, to jets crashing into towers in the name of Islam. Coerced observance is the main method almost all these religions use. Worship me or you will be tortured for all eternity or murdered out right. Fear mongering, or coercion is tyranny! Remember the Dark Age’s religions rule in that dark, distant past didn’t serve our ancestors well it certainly won’t serve us any better today! These are the labels I proudly wear heretic, infidel, atheist, man of science, freethinker.

    Third: We put our trust in our elected officials to maintain the wall of separation, to prevent religion’s ever reaching grasp from tainting the consideration of new laws, as well as research designed to help many! This country was not founded on the rule of any ones religion, but more the lack of religious influence in the governing of this country. But time and again you hear religious overtones spouting out of our leaders, The wall is crumbling. The time for the burning of witches, belief in a flat earth, the murdering of doctors, and crimes against women and children or religions many other immoral and vile acts committed against humanity as a whole can no longer and should no longer be tolerated no matter what religious book or god demands it.

    Anyone of good conscience should agree with what I have said and ban together, so we can bring this country the very world we live on into the 21st century free of these groups hold on our minds and revel in all the promise this century has to offer so our children's children's children will look back in pride an see we did what we did for them and there posterity. This is after all a very small world and a grate leaping point into the vast unknown. I so hope more minds are opened and see beyond the centuries of engrained dogma. I just hope it`s not layed to waste by then.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Ms Galaxy

      Bob, wow, I have to say you have written beautifully the thoughts I hold and the debates I have with believers. Articulate (despite a few typos) enough for it to go viral!

      Thanks for taking the time to type this all out. Hopefully you'll reach beyond the choir. I hope everyone takes the time to read your entry in its entirety. W00t! Let's hear it for freethinkers!

      March 9, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Doug

      Can't we just be people, instead of "free-thinkers" or "atheists" or "agnostics" or "christians" or "jews" or "muslims" or "any other group".

      We are people. First and foremost. Some just believe in man made stories from ages ago. Others don't.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Mustnothavegoodconscience

      since i disagree and since i will not just take what you're saying as new new ideologies. I believe like someone else replied that we are people and we are interconnected by something bigger than just us. Religion or not, i believe we can get along and take humanity further and make the earth a better place. I also think what people believe is personal and i don't need to push anything on them, or have anything pushed on me.

      March 9, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  7. Jeff

    What a kooky religion! These katholics are kaaaraaaaaazy for krist!

    March 9, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  8. Atheist

    I'm giving up religion, once again, for Lent.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  9. Diane

    I put to death all the traditions of the world and bring to birth a dawn of a new day in the book of Diane and all those the come into contact within the 720 degrees off me.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  10. bob

    Lent, I lent my ladder out never got it back.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  11. Caranina

    Lent is also a season of giving, not only of "giving up" something. Help the poor, give a prayer, do something positive and helpful, every day for 40 days, don't swear nor complain. ~~

    March 9, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  12. Nick

    Lent is a sacrifce to Jesus, It's a period to pray, contemplate and reconcil with ourseleves. As well it's very important to give up on something we like, such as coffee, drinks, meat etc..

    March 9, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Coroner Mike

      just in case you didn't notice...jesus is dead.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • SteveM

      In other words, ritualistic mumbo jumbo nonsense from an archaic old book of myths.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Doug

      Give me one sensible reason to give up something I like that isn't hurting me.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  13. Babydove

    You write as though roman catholics are Cristian and Christians are roman catholics. YOU ARE WRONG. Christians honour and worship Christ and roman catholics worship and honour the pope and his band of pedophiles.
    Lent is simply a roman catholic tradition. Nothing more.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Not Catholic

      As a practicing Christian who is not of the Catholic denomination, I have to disagree. Almost all other denominations celebrate Lent by fasting or giving something up.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Doug

      Catholics are Christians and the other way around. Don't try to separate yourselves. It makes the divide and conquer tactics of us immoral atheists that much easier, and we like a good challenge. Not something easy as molesting children, you know.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • j10magnus

      Way to be ignorant... There are many Christians within the Roman Catholic church. They also are not the only denomination that celebrates Lent. Lutherans (which I am) celebrates Lent. Unlike some denominations, Luther (who was more critical of the Pope & Catholicism than anyone) continued celebrating Lent and other traditions. For it is good practice to not throw the baby out with the bath water. There is a lot of good in the traditions of the church. He wrote many excellent sermons for the season of Lent. Lent isn't a Roman Catholic tradition only. At the council of Nicaea, the 40 days of fasting prior to Easter was already being celebrated. This was before the Papist power and theology took hold. (That was the 7th century.)

      March 9, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Deacon Pete

      Dear Dove,

      Roman Catholicism is a religion. The people of this religion, among others, makes up the Church which Jesus Christ established. These people, as are all of us reading this, are flawed. Sin is a common flaw of the people in the Church. It is not something to which we aspire. We strive to honor Jesus Christ. We strive to honor His establishments including the "rock" on which His Church is built, i.e. the Pope. But we strive to honor many other people. We strive to honor our parents (ref. 4th Commandment). We, as followers of Jesus, strive to follow His example by honoring His parents, too. We strive to honor those who've lived honorable lives, especially the disciples of Jesus Christ and have served as people deserving of honor. Honor is not worship. To worship anyone other than God, we believe as you do, is idolatry. Roman Catholic people are imperfect in our honor and worship. But we strive to honor people; we worship only God.

      Blessings and peace,
      Deacon Pete

      March 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  14. Deb

    You all sound like a bunch of Charlie Sheen's!!!

    March 9, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  15. the prophet for profit

    I'm giving up bathing, only my soul should be clean. I hope a lot of priests give up touching the youngsters.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  16. Proud Catholic

    for me, its not about what i give up but what I do differently in an effort to improve myself. But yes, i gave up Facebook. But I will also commit to focusing more on my Family {no TV, more Family style sit down meals} make postive comments to folks on the elevator adn write letters to long lost Family aan friends.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  17. Teacher

    I like the ideology of Lent, however, I believe since it is a period of fasting (you are giving something up for 40 days) then people should not broadcast what they are fasting for Lent, I mean has anyone read Matthew 6?

    March 9, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Jay

      Excellent point. I saw a friend announce on Facebook they were leaving Facebook last night. I was thinking that was kind of ironic.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  18. Alexandria

    Why do we wait for special occasions to give up something? What's the point of giving up something to only go back to it? What type of sacrifice is this and whom is it for? Fasting for a day is not going to cure you of your sins or make you a better person.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  19. Hypatia

    I'm giving up religion.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  20. look at the facts

    i'm giving up hope for mankind for believing in something today that ancient tyrannical societies created to control their people...this is known to many as "religion;" i prefer to think of it as time-tested brainwashing

    March 9, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Me

      Pathetic and selfish. No one is forcing anything on you, stop forcing your lack of spirituality on me. I'm a liberal but still religious, I'm tired of being discriminated against for my belief in a higher power and in the good in mankind. No one should make anyone else feel stupid for for their beliefs whether they are religious or not.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Not a Catholic

      I agree about the man made thing however disagree with giving up on mankind. I have hope for mankind yet man keeps on ruining itself. This is just another silly tradition of the Catholic Religion. It's not your ticket to heaven, remember that. Instead of giving up something, why not give something to god

      March 9, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Doug

      Oh please.... Christians(I presume you are as most Americans), are NOT discriminated against. Don't EVEN try to play that card. You know who is discriminated against in the world of the religious? Atheists and agnostics. How could an atheist or agnostic be a good person? They don't have a divine being to guide their immoral lives. Admit it. Sometimes religions are completely unreasonable and unrealistic.

      Do you follow the book of your lord to the letter? I doubt it. Don't feel bad, you're just like 96% of 80% of the population that claim they are religious.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:27 am |
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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.