The old man is almost superhuman in his eating patterns. He never professes hunger, despite eating very little or not at all. For him, eating is not about pleasure, but is instead a painful act that he must endure for strength. The old man does at one point refer to hunger as pain, but in terms of the fish’s hunger, not his own.
In many ways, the old man is an ascetic. His "religion," then, is explored as the story progresses.