Sacred and Secular Affliction: Fasting in the history of the West and Western Christianity

Abstract

Fasting has been a part of human history from the very beginning. Whether involuntary due to a lack of food or voluntary due to a religious practice, fasting has remained a part of human culture; now, the practice has even found its niche in the health and fitness community and is resurging in Christian circles. This thesis explores the evolution of fasting in the history of medicine and modern culture, as well as the history of western Christianity. Works from historic giants such as Hippocrates, Saint Augustine, Avicenna, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Upton Sinclair, and C.S. Lewis show that fasting is a staple of western practice. Finally, it finishes with a look at the interplay between the two realms. Fasting, common to the human experience, can be used in a variety of ways; whether one uses the practice for holy purposes or for healthy purposes depends on the intent of the agent.

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