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Anti-Lent: Test Drive a Bad Habit, New Sin or Guilty Pleasure for a Few Weeks

Atheists Don't Believe in Penance for the Soul, So Learn More Ways to Enjoy Life

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Lent is the penitential period of 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter when Christians fast and do penance in preparation for Easter and to spiritually "join" Jesus with the fasting and meditation he did in the wilderness. The principle behind Lent is asceticism: denying material, physical pleasures for the sake of the soul. Atheists reject Christian mythology and can turn Lent on its head by observing anti-Lent. If Christians do penance for their sins, you can rack up new "sins" by test driving new material, physical pleasures. This life is the only one we have, so expand your comfort zone by trying new things.

Try Out New Signature Cocktails

I've read that everyone should have a "signature" cocktail - a mixed drink they know well and order regularly. If you don't already have one, then it's time to start trying some out; if you do have one, it's time to expand your comfort zone and trying out some new candidates. Always start with classics that made cocktails what they are today: gin & tonic, whisky sour, Tom Collins, sidecar, etc. You should at least be familiar with what's in them and what they taste like; if none of them work for you as a signature drink, then start exploring some of the newer inventions. Personally, I go with the Tom Collins but I have trouble finding a place that knows how to make them properly.

Try a Greasy or Fattening Food

America's obsession with health food and low-fat, low-calorie, low-salt eating seems to be driven as much by traditional Christian asceticism as by a reasonable concern with one's long-term health. Take a look around you at all people obsessed with what they eat and ask yourself how many are truly dealing with health issues and how many think they need to deny themselves worldly pleasures out of a moral concern? Atheists don't need to treat worldly pleasures as immoral, so look around to see what sorts of "sinful" foods might be worth trying. You won't want to eat them daily, but what's the point of eating healthy foods normally if you can't indulge yourself occasionally? Make anti-Lent a time for trying new foods, not giving them up.

Experiment Sexually

Sex was once forbidden during Lent, so atheists participating in an anti-Lent certainly can't neglect sex, can we? It's not just enough to have sex, though, because presumably we're already doing that. Right? Part of the point is to expand your comfort zones, so now's the time to try something new and different - and when was the last time you did that in bed? Indeed, when was the last time you did anything in any place but bed? That's a good point to start, but with a little imagination you can probably do better. If you live in Texas, you can do a lot better now that sex toys are legal. Have you ever browsed a catalog or web site and wondered what "that scary thing over there" was like? Well, order one. What have you got to lose?

Try a Dangerous Hobby

Do you really want to live forever? Well, forget it because you won't, so what's your excuse for not trying out something that will really expand your comfort zone like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane? Life is already dangerous, but there are many hobbies which can add a bit more danger as well as exhilaration, at least according to those who do them: skydiving, motorcycle riding, skateboarding, etc. You shouldn't try these out in a stupid and unprepared way because there's no reason to make them more dangerous than necessary, but stepping off into one of these domains will really push your personal boundaries.

Experiment with a New Genre of Music

People's musical tastes seem to get fixed at an early age and then change little if at all. I shudder at the prospect of how many elderly people in nursing homes will one day be listening to Britney Spears, but that's another story entirely. When was the last time you listened to something entirely new and different: Bollywood show tunes, Korean pop, or Tibetan throat chanting? Expand your music comfort zone by listening to something you wouldn't otherwise consider. In addition to gaining all new sources of tunes that won't leave your brain, you may also get new ways of bugging your friends when you start listening to this strange stuff in the car. If you do get a Bollywood tune stuck in your head, though, don't blame me.

Test Your Clothing Comfort Zone

Do you worry about being unfashionable? Well, stop - there's no greater waste of your limited time on earth than worrying about what you're going to wear. Since we're talking about testing personal limits and expanding your comfort zone, though, clothing is a good way to do it. When was the last time you added something truly new to your wardrobe - I don't mean just a new color shirt, but something entirely different? Well, do it. Buy a Hawaiian or Tiki shirt and wear it in public (doesn't count if you just wear it at home). Try wearing a hat - and I don't mean a baseball cap, I mean a real hat. If you can't tell the difference between a Stetson and Bowler, learn. If clothing "makes the person," maybe this will re-make you a little bit.

Rent Some Low-Brow Movies

If anything should be given up for lent it should probably be bad movies, but they rank pretty high in people's lists of guilty pleasures so I guess an atheist observing anti-Lent should find a way to indulge even more. If you don't already have favorite bad movies, look up some lists on the internet and rent a few to see what everyone is talking about. If you do have some favorite bad movies, try to find some new ones - preferably movies in a genre you don't normally care for or watch. Again, part of the point is to expand your boundaries instead of sticking with same old traditional patterns.

Play Hooky and Treat Yourself

We're all supposed to be responsible, do what's right, and play by the rules - but haven't you ever wanted to just ditch the rules and go off on your own for a day? Well, find a day during anti-Lent to play hooky from school or work and try out one or more of the above suggestion: buy some weird music, rent some bad movies, get "that scary thing" from the sex catalog, and enjoy them all while sky diving on a motorcycle. Or, if that sounds a bit too ambitious, just take a walk in the park and enjoy the day. You're an atheist who doesn't believe in any life other than this one, so don't spend all your days of this life staring the walls of a cubicle. Go out to spend a few hours appreciating what we have around us.

Dump Your Email In-box

How many messages do you have in your email in-box? A dozen? A hundred? Does the sight of that full email box weigh on you, making you feel guilty? Well there's no better time to abandon that guilt than during anti-Lent: while Christians are in church obsessing over their shared guilt for Christ's death, you can dump your guilt by dumping out your in-box. Check for any really high-priority issues first; if it's not something you can or want to deal with right now, then out it goes. If it's truly important, they will write back to you again to remind you; otherwise, you can probably live with out it. Do this in the evening so you can start the next day guilt-free.
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