Thursday, October 26, 2017

Fasting for God...

I'm not sure why I haven't yet, but it appears that I have never ranted about extreme fasting for religious reasons...  If I am mistaken, please accept my apologies.  (ETA: I see I did post the video, but not the discussion.) 

A lot of religious people fast on a less extreme basis.  Faithful and healthy Mormons do it the first Sunday of every month.  On F&T day, Mormons skip two consecutive meals.  They also don't drink any liquids.  It coincides with their fast and testimony meeting, which has hungry people getting up and sharing their testimony.  When it's time for the F&T meeting, Mormons are expected to tell everyone about how they came to the religion and how it's made their lives better.  This is done to prove the church is "true".

Pardon me for a slight digression.  When Mormons talk about getting up and speaking about their faith, they often say "I want to bear my testimony."  But I never know if that's the right spelling/usage of the word.  I usually see it spelled "bearing", but it also seems right to use the word "baring".  "Baring" can mean "stripping down or making naked", while "bearing" can mean "enduring".  Maybe it's better to say a person "bares" their testimony as everyone else "bears" listening to them.

I've never actually been to a Mormon church meeting, so I have not witnessed a F&T Sunday.  I have heard and read more than a few stories, though.  From what I understand, sometimes those meetings can get kind of weird.  Sometimes I have heard they can be hilarious, which may be worth the price of a little stomach growling.


Here's a video from one F&T meeting that got "interesting".  This brave guy used it to express his negative opinions about Proposition 8 in California.  Notice what happens when his talk gets "offensive".  I'm pretty sure I've shared this before, but it bears repeating.


Here's a parent spoon feeding a testimony to a kid.  This happens to kids every month.  I'm sure it's very pleasant to behold, especially when you're jonesing for an Egg McMuffin.  


And here, a brave 12 year old girl named Savannah comes out during F&T.  Notice that she is asked to sit down after about two minutes of bravely testifying that she's gay.  To the church's credit, they do let her say a lot more than I would have expected.

Anyway, enough about the Mormons.  My only point in posting the F&T videos is to show that this is what happens on their day of fasting.  You can imagine that things can get nutty because people often get emotional when they're hungry.  Fasting is supposed to make worshipers more open to receiving the spirit, but I speak from experience that being hungry makes people quicker to emote and, perhaps, a bit more malleable.

Muslims also fast.  They do it during Ramadan, which involves about a month of eschewing food and water from sunrise to sunset.  They are also expected to refrain from sexual relations during this time.  

Catholics observe fasting and abstinence at different times of the year.  They fast for different reasons, to practice self-discipline, to achieve spiritual focus, and to perform penance.  

Although fasting is a common practice among religious folks of every stripe, some people really do take it to extremes.  Devout Christian Pat Boone fasted with his family regularly.  His eldest daughter, Cherry, suffered from anorexia nervosa and used fasting for religious reasons as an excuse for not eating.  Below is a quote from the book, Almost Anorexic, by Jennifer J. Thomas and Jenni Schaefer, who quoted Cherry's memoir about her experiences with anorexia nervosa in the 70s.

For example, as Cherry Boone O’Neill (daughter of American singer Pat Boone) recounted in her anorexia memoir Starving for Attention, “Fasting on Thanksgiving Day had really saved me. . . . When I was asked why I had not loaded up my plate like everyone else I just answered with spiritual overtones, ‘I’m fasting today,’ and that was that!”

I have reviewed the book, Almost Anorexic.
I have also reviewed Cherry Boone O' Neill's book, Starving for Attention.

Below is a video I found a couple of years ago.  I was sure I had written about this, but I guess I never did.  


In 2009, Jewish YouTuber aaroncohen went on three separate consecutive forty day fasts...  She drank water and took a daily vitamin.  

Notice at the beginning of the video, female user aaroncohen (whose real name is apparently Olivia) is quite overweight and weighs 182 pounds.  When she speaks, she sounds pretty normal as she explains why she's going on her first forty day fast.  She's videoing it for others so they can "fast for God" as well.  As the video progresses, she says she's feeling stronger spiritually, but she's feeling physically tired and extremely hungry.  By the end of the video, which is after 123 days of not eating, she's skin and bones.  Her eyes look huge on her gaunt face and she's talking like she's a bit mentally ill.

Olivia complains about being very hungry, but insists she's doing this for God.  By day 35 of her third 40 day fast, she's emaciated, but quite animated as she talks about being "refreshed".  She seems to have more energy, but also sounds a little crazy and looks drawn and sick.  Yet she's happily crowing about being "allowed" to eat the next day.  

I have to wonder if God really wants people to do this to themselves.  I also wonder if the people in this woman's life were not alarmed by this behavior.  I see on her channel that she broke her fast by eating four ounces of steak.  She later drinks a lot of milk, which made her really sick.  She lost over sixty pounds on her fast and a month later, looks healthier and less gaunt.


Looking better here.

And here she is six months after the fast, pregnant with her eighth child.


Whew...


In 2014, she was pregnant with number 10.  She was 36 years old.  

It looks like aaroncohen (Olivia) signed off YouTube after these videos were made.  I see nothing new posted by her from the past three years.  Many people were attracted to her videos and more than a couple of people have accused her of having an eating disorder.  I don't think she had an eating disorder, because she doesn't seem freaked out about gaining weight when she's finished.  I do think that during her fasts, her thinking became a bit muddled.  She speaks only of food and God, although clearly she has seven kids to take care of.

I suppose I can understand why some viewers were upset watching her because her videos could serve as "thinspiration" for people with eating disorders.  This is the kind of thing that serves as an example for anorexics to follow, although in fairness to Olivia, people with anorexia and, to a lesser extent, bulimia, will look for anything to serve as "thinspiration".  It takes a lot of will to deliberately starve yourself until you get to a point at which being hungry starts to feel "good" and euphoria kicks in, so people with eating disorders look for ways to get to that point.  "Competing" with someone thinner, who seems "stronger" in their desire to be thin is one way they get past those initial and extreme hunger pangs.  Watching the first video, in which you can see an actual progression in Olivia's body, could certainly serve as a tool for a person suffering from an eating disorder.

If you've been reading this blog, you may already have an idea of what I think of religion.  I'm not quite an atheist.  I do believe in God.  I don't believe in being extreme about God.  I think many people complicate their lives with religion, which I don't think necessarily has anything to do with God.  I think a person can believe in God and not be particularly religious.  I have never been religious, but I have always believed in God, if that makes any sense.  I think a person can have a relationship with God and it can (and probably should) be private.  But that's just me.

I think most people are trying to get through life however they can.  If religion brings comfort, who am I to disdain it?  I suppose there is nothing wrong with being religious; except, of course, when religion is used to hurt or shame other people for living their lives.  I have often seen religions used as a weapon and a means of control, which is probably the main reason why I am not a fan of most of them.  I have seen religion used as an excuse to abuse other people, and for people to abuse or even kill themselves.

I do think that going on three consecutive forty day fasts is unhealthy and actually kind of selfish, since Olivia was also taking care of her children during that time.  Listen to her speak.  She speaks only of God and hunger in her short videos.  I wonder what she talked about with her children as she was doing this to herself.  Like I said, it takes a lot of focus, will, and self-discipline to stop eating when you're not suffering from an illness.  She must have been focusing a lot on herself to be able to accomplish this, which means she was not focusing on her kids.  At the same time, she posted many, many videos which a whole lot of people have viewed.  She says she's doing it for those who also want to fast.  I have to wonder if it's not also for attention.

I see Olivia has posted videos of her husband, Aaron Cohen in a coma.  He died July 30, 2014 at age 35.  According to the obituary, it looks like he was a follower of the Assemblies of God as well as Judaism.  I hope Olivia and the kids are okay.


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