Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Fasting And Its History

Fasting is as old as the human race, All the major religions in the world, like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, expect their followers to fast in some form or another. It is believed that fasting has always been the same in all the major religions in the world but changes happened as time passed by and by the appearance of new sects in different religions.

The most common motives for fasting are religious ones. In a religious fast there are three primary purposes: self-control over the body and its appetites; focusing the mind on God or prayer; making sacrifice to God for offenses committed. The Western religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have, from their inception, set aside certain times in the year for regular fasting observances.

Although the number of occasions on which fasting is practiced has tended to diminish over the centuries in all religions, most branches of Judaism still observe a Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) fast in the fall. Early Christianity developed a number of fasting periods: food was not eaten on Fridays in commemoration of the death of Jesus Christ.

Later a period of 40 fast days before Easter, called Lent, was set aside to allow Christians to meditate on the suffering of Jesus. In the 20th century the number of fast days has been dramatically reduced by the Roman Catholic church to two: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday the beginning and end of Lent.

The church formerly required abstinence from eating meat on most Fridays and certain other days, but this did not include any restriction on the amount of food eaten. Protestant churches generally leave fasting to individual choice. In Islam abstention from food and drink is required of all able Muslims from dawn until dusk each day of the month of Ramadan.

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