Fish on Fridays

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Nothing symbolizes the supposed arbitrariness of religion to those predisposed towards skepticism towards religious belief more than does the Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays during the season of Lent. I’ll admit to having asked myself, especially on Good Friday, what connection is there really, between not eating meat and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And then there is the philosophical paradox. If my soul is lost after I’ve eaten meat on a Lenten Friday, does that mean I’m free to commit worse sins without making my situation worse? But if the rule doesn’t really matter, then why follow it? And on and on and on and on…

Here’s what I do know. With the wide variety of fish and other meatless options available to a 21st century American, abstaining from meat on Fridays is about as small a “sacrifice” in a material sense as can be asked for. But honoring the rule does require me to make some conscious choices that run contrary to what the surrounding culture tells me are cool and sensible. And if I am unable to make this small sacrifice, because I find it too inconvenient, or because I’m afraid to explain myself to others who don’t share my belief or who might think that I’m being just plain silly, then on what basis can I believe myself to be capable of taking a stand in more serious situations, when the choices might be a little harder and the stakes a bit higher?

Slightly edited re-post of an April 6, 2007 original.



  • Rhett Hardwick

    When did this practice come into effect. I have difficulty thinking of any time that meat was so plentiful for the masses that “giving it up” was a sacrifice.

    • Stirringthepot

      That’s basically the point…back in the days where the average family would have meat in the meal only once or twice a week, to give up meat on one of those days was a sacrifice. Not eating meat on Fridays has been a tradition for centuries. To a point, it’s a bit symbolic for most of us (though I do find myself craving a steak quite often on a Lenten Friday, so the sacrifice does become more pronounced.) As meat became more plentiful, it came to be that every Friday was meat-free, not just ones during Lent (per my mom, who grew up in the 50s/60s.)

      • Rhett Hardwick

        Looked it up. By episcopal decision, American bishops have relieved most American Catholics from the obligation to “Do penance” by abstaining from meat. They are hopeful Catholics will select some other form of abstinence.

        • ShannonEntropy

          A new post on an old thread for ya, Rhett. See below

    • ShannonEntropy

      Reminds me of an old joke:

      A guy doing a street survey stops a Frenchman, a Chinese guy, a Russian, and an American. He says:

      “Excuse me… What is your opinion of the meat shortage ??”

      The American says: What’s a “shortage” ??
      The Russian says: What’s “meat” ??
      The Chinese guy says: What’s an “opinion” ?? and
      The Frenchie says: What’s “Excuse Me” ??

  • ShannonEntropy

    This old Roman Catholic dinosaur grew up in the ’50s & ’60s — pre-Vatican II — when Every. Fricken. Friday. was meatless. [ After V-2, only Fridays in Lent were meatless. Comedians used to make jokes wondering how many poor souls were still roasting in Hell “on the meat rap” cuz they died before V-2 ]

    I remember my dad ranting about how we poor plebs were forced to exist on tuna casseroles and fish sticks whilst the Clergy were feasting on lobster & caviar… such a “sacrifice” they were making !!

    And in typical R-C style, much like the rest of the faith, the practice isn’t even Biblical !! In fact St Paul *specifically* forbids such practices !!

    From my NKJV of The Holy Bible, here is 1 Timothy 4:1-5,
    a chapter titled “The Great Apostasy”

    The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

    And these hypocrites have the cojones to tell me I am ex-communicated and gonna roast in Hell cuz I got divorced back when I was 25 yrs old. I’d say *they* are the ones who better wear some flame-retardant shrouds in their graves

    • Rhett Hardwick

      Better be careful. I doubt the NKVJ has the “imprimatur”. Sorry, I think the “codex” is gone too. I’ll try a King Heinrich, after being excommunicated by the Pope he appointed, King Heinrich had to stand in the snow for 3 days.

      • ShannonEntropy

        The prablem with all versions of the Bible is that it only takes one tiny mis-translation to have enormous effects

        Have you heard of The Daniel Diet ??
        It’s based the OT verse Daniel 1:12, which the NKJV translates the original Aramaic as: Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink

        But the KJV doesn’t say “vegetables”… it says “pulse” — which my AmHeritage dictionary defines as “the edible seeds of certain pod-bearing plants, such as peas and beans”

        That’s quite a major difference. Which is the better translation ?? Beats me… I donut know Aramaic or know anyone who does

        A *much* bigger problem occurs in The New Testament, which was originally written in Greek. There, one single mis-translation of ONE word — changing it from plural to singular in every Bible version, completely changed the way Christians celebrate Holy Week and Easter.

        I only figured this out after researching the difference between what Jesus himself said about his own death & resurrection [ that he remain in the tomb for 3 days & 3 nights Matthew 12:40 ] and The Catholic Church’s version [ 3 days& 2 nights ]

        Turns out Jesus was right and the Church got it wrong — all based on the mis-translation of a single word

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