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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Fasting vs Dieting

Let’s take fasting as an example. I always thought that fasting was dumb and religious people were idiots. Surely, I thought, God can’t be so puny and trivial as to care about what you eat and when you do it.

Now I know, however – because somebody was kind enough to explain – that the reason people fast is because that’s a way of experiencing something larger than themselves and their own, individual need to consume. Fasting works and dieting doesn’t because dieting is turned inwards, it’s all about the self. Dieters do not form a coherent group because their desire is aimed inwards.

People who fast as part of religious ritual experience closeness to God and to their religious community because of this shared sacrifice of their own consumption whims to an objective that lies outside of themselves.

It is no surprise, then, that religions that abandon a shared system of seemingly pointless limitations on the desires of the faithful lose all meaning and are abandoned by said faithful in droves.

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5 thoughts on “Fasting vs Dieting

  1. DWeird on said:

    Clarissa, have you read much of Hannah Arendt? Her concerns, while initiated in different circumstances, seem to be very much in line with the ones you have now – loss of meaning, lack of capacity to relate to anything outside of oneself, all coupled with a love of politics understood as an art of living together.

    She was also one of Bauman’s major influences, in case you’re interested in the intellectual family tree angle.

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  2. Eric Parsonage on said:

    “People who fast as part of religious ritual experience closeness to God and to their religious community”

    If their God was actually real then maybe he wouldn’t need his followers to be delirious with hunger to get close to them.

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  3. Have you read any of the economics of religion literature? For example someone like Rodney Stark. One of its major insights is that ritual actually benefits organized religions, particularly small “sectarian” “club” ones. Ritual serves as a singling device for commitment and allows the group to maintain its sense of identity. In terms of dieting, there is some evidence to suggest that dieters are more successful if they are answerable to some wider social group in terms of their food choices.

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