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Nothing to add but I wanted to thank you for this. I'm not religious, and I wonder how I, and people like me, ought to replace some of the social goods provided by religion or religious institutions. Unfortunately, joining such a group is not really a viable option.

Sorry I didn't get to this earlier. Whose tradition? If you say "Christian", sorry, you fail.

The Protestant Reformation ended Lenten fasting in the Church of England in the 1500's and all the progeny that the Anglicans have spawned since then (Baptists, Methodists, well, most churches you can think of in Canada except the Catholics and the Lutherans). The Scots Reformation which went even further and eradicated the Liturgical Year entirely in the Church of Scotland. Various Presbyterian churches have since started to use it again, but only since the 19th Century.

You can't appeal to a "save the seed" argument either. No Protestant settler in Ontario would have observed a Lenten Fast. Indeed 50% of the settlers who homesteaded here were Methodist (hence all the small country United Churches). Not a Lenten Fast to be seen.

I'm a "Son of the Manse", a United Church manse, and both my parents are ordained ministers. The United Church doesn't do Lenten Fasts and none of our predecessors did either (Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregationalist).

Sorry, imputed traditions are one thing that get me up off my pew. I loved the Easter Breakfast my church served this morning but we sure didn't break any fasts except the one you sleep through.

Determinant: Agreed. In this context, "It was once traditional" refers to a period earlier than, say, the 1950s.

There were two points to this post.

One is that, in moving towards a more secular society, we have lost social norms that reinforce notions on saving and sacrifice. Did you honestly as the son of ministers never give up anything for Lent? I find that very odd - my (protestant) upbringing encouraged making a sacrifice for Lent - not eggs and butter, but something that was meaningful to me personally. I have at least two friends who made dietary Lenten sacrifices this year (alcohol, chocolate, that kind of thing). Now, for the early Protestant settlers in Ontario, Lenten dietary sacrifices would primarily have been making a virtue out of necessity, as chickens aren't laying well this time of year, winter supplies are running low, and there are very few greens to eat - I don't know if fiddleheads have come up yet, but if so they will only just be up. But making a virtue out of necessity is better than feeling really miserable about necessity.

The second point of this post is that we potentially miss out on particular types of enjoyment when we separate ourselves from the rhythms of the season. Maple syrup in March and April, asparagus in May, strawberries and rhubarb in May and June, blueberries in late July, corn in August. Now it all comes from the supermarket and is available all year round, and perhaps we're better off, and perhaps we aren't.

My usual pledge is to give up sacrifices for Lent/

Very few people get the joks.

Frances, I didn't say 1950's, I meant 1500's when Henry VIII was on the throne.

By "Protestant" I'm guessing Anglican (with the greatest of respect, but church selection in Canada isn't large) but that's the rub. The Anglicans had a Catholic Revival starting in the 1840's. Mitres on bishops, use of incense, etc., all things not seen 300 years in England by that point. An Anglican rector in your youth would have done things quite differently from his great-grandfather's day.

The Church of Scotland tradition which the United Church inherited threw out the Liturgical Year entirely and fasting went with it, in 1560. The English Congregationalists were the same way. Methodists were a tad more liturgical, they split off from the Anglicans over a period from 1790 - 1810, before the Catholic Revival and inherited the austere worship traditions that the Church of England had at that time.

No Frances, neither me, my parents nor my grandfather (also a minister) have ever fasted during Lent. We don't do it. The United Church and its predecessors have never done it. Until the Catholic Revival in the Anglican Church fasting was a very Roman Catholic thing to do.

No rural Methodist or Presbyterian church in Ontario or anywhere else in Canada before 1925 would have encouraged fasting. I'm rebutting your first point because it's anachronistic. Sure it's logical but it isn't supported by historical facts and practices. Sorry.

More subtly, many worships practices in the Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant churches changed quite a bit over the 20th Century. We all started to listen to each other more. Vernacular Mass and fasting in Protestant Churches are examples of how that 20th Century process worked.

A little late to the conversation, but nonetheless I think observance of fasting in a culture of plenty - whether it is historical or not - is a very interesting economic question. Rather than the 40 days, what about the 1 in 7 where neither you nor your oxen are supposed to work?

On the one hand this is for the labour economists, are people more productive if they take a break? Letting farm land sit fallow every so often suggest this is true for some forms of Capital but what about people?

In a different classroom, do people consume more by being able to shop 365 days a year or do they merely spread their annual consumption?

But last of all, and this is my personal experience, does having a day set apart from commerce, with zero trade transactions, have an intangible benefit on my state of well being? I claim that it does. However the effect is not realized by having one day occassionally but rather having the knowledge that every Sunday will be a day of rest. I need to be prepared ahead of time or be willing to accept that planned events will not take place.

Surprisingly though, this effect is only possible by adhereing to strict rules that prohibit me from engaging in "work." The only parrallel I can draw is the practice of a rowing crew hiring a drummer (or post-1950s hiring a personal trainer or going to a fitness bootcamp).

Despite the knowledge that rest is as necessary as sleep, people seem unable to do this without a) spending lots of money on personal retreats and clubs with scheduled activities, or b) becoming "religious."

(Which could feed into another econ question, namely the "profit" in religions vs other social structures but save that for another day or more accurately phrased - in the absence of God is the creation of religion profit maximizing?)

In a world of plenty where everything is advertised as readily available, does it ever make sense to postpone consumption when the opportunity cost is zero? (i.e. you cannot postpone Sunday's consumption of apples in exchange for Sunday's consumption of oranges. Sunday's apples are merely postponed until Monday.)

Peter: "what about the 1 in 7 where neither you nor your oxen are supposed to work?" - I saw a paper fairly recently suggesting that, when Sunday shopping laws were struck down, the average self-reported happiness of white women decreased - presumably because they spent Sundays at the mall rather than with friends or family or in church, and this made them less happy overall.

It's one of these cases where the social norm is unstable in that a person who deviates (works while others rest, opens a store on Sunday) can profit thereby. But would we all be better off if we could agree to have shops open less? Perhaps.

"in the absence of God is the creation of religion profit maximizing?"

How about "in the absence of God and the presence of tax exemptions...?";-)

Religion might not be profit maximizing in the narrow sense, but it still might serve useful social functions. In fact, it almost certainly does - social insurance, contract enforcement (enforcement of marital contracts, e.g), etc.

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