General Question

ahimsa16's avatar

Do religious tattoos always reveal something spiritual about a person?

Asked by ahimsa16 (100points) May 18th, 2009 from iPhone

What do you think about religious tattoos? Are they visual metaphors, expressing things about a person on a deeper level?

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34 Answers

steve6's avatar

Desecrating one’s body is thought by some to be a one-way ticket to hell.

ahimsa16's avatar

No doubt! Working on this topic for a thesis. Lots of orthodox Jews won’t bury you in a Jewish cemetary if your tattooed, and there is a new movement of Christian kids who are reinterpreting their scripture and saying it’s ok to get them if they are “Christian” in nature….interesting to research for sure!

ahimsa16's avatar

Is it really “desecrating” the body? How so? Would you say that to the countless cultures who have been doing it for millenia? Not attacking…just curious ;)

jackfright's avatar


Most people with tattoos i know chose them for aesthetic value. It seems to me that it is only the minority who go deeper than that.

AstroChuck's avatar

If desecrating one’s body is a one-way ticket to hell does that mean there are round trip packages available? How could I get one of those?

lillycoyote's avatar

Depends on the religion. Tattoos, scarification, other forms of body modification is done in many, many cultures. In some cultures it is for religious or spiritual reasons, in some cultures it is done to attain cultural standards of beauty or status and in some cultures it is forbidden or considered a desecration. It all depends on the culture.

ahimsa16's avatar

True, true… In many cultures religious tattooing was done by a priest/shamen, and in a spiritual setting. Western tattoo shops are not that sort of environment, yet people flock there for their religious tattoos (myself included). I think western tattooists are really contributing to religious style work in a big way!

DarkScribe's avatar

Only if the Tattoo also says “Jim Beam” or similar.

ubersiren's avatar

Most of the people I’ve encountered haven’t been all that “spiritual.” They only get a huge cross or Christian fish to wear their religion on their sleeves, or more literally, under it.

ahimsa16's avatar

That was a fact I encountered in my research too. Wonder why you’d get a cross done if a) you weren’t Christian, or b) you didn’t feel that symbol represented some characteristic you were attracted to?

RedPowerLady's avatar

On the topic of desecrating ones body. There are quite a few cultures and religions where tattooing is part of ceremony and welcomed instead of shunned. Just thought I’d through that in there. I know Christianity is a large religion but there are many others as well ;)

I think that a tattoo, especially religious, can give you insight about the wearer. However we must keep in mind that things change and just because someone got this tattoo at one point does not mean they still believe the same way. Still it is a reminder of what once was which is insightful in and of itself.

ahimsa16's avatar

Very True! Thanks!

Clair's avatar

WELL SEND ME TO HELL BOYS, i got the body desecratin goin on! Although the tattoo may mean something to them, it doesnt mean they are of that religion
or whatever. I do think that it should mean something and not just at random. Religions viewpoint on tattoos and piercings etc is fucking stupid an i will repeat that for anyone that wants me to. I think it tells a story about that person. Tattoos make me feel grounded and in touch with myself and the world around me. I love them

elijah's avatar

Not everyone that has a religious tattoo is strongly religious. I think there are so many people that claim to be religious but know absolutely nothing about their religion besides what their mom told them growing up. A cross tattoo is very common, so if someone is getting their first tattoo and considers themselves even slightly religious, they will get a cross. I think they see a cross as less offensive than say a flaming skull or whatever. Like it’s ok because it’s about jesus.
I personally don’t believe in god, yet I wear jewelry with religious themes, I have religious artwork, and I love visiting old churches. Part of my back piece is a non traditional sacred heart. I would get a religious tattoo if I enjoyed the piece from an art perspective, but not because I believe in what it stands for. My brother has a virgin mary tattoo but he doesn’t believe in god. Then again, his mary has dynamite strapped to her chest, so I doubt anyone would mistake it as traditionally religious.

ahimsa16's avatar

So, are religious traditions that encourage tattooing “fucking stupid”, or just the one’s who you think grown upon it? Lame response. It doesn’t mean they are “stupid”—just that they have a different opinion that you (and I) don’t share.

ahimsa16's avatar

*frown upon it.

Clair's avatar

I disagree. But dont belittle your response. Its totally an opinion.

ahimsa16's avatar

So, are religious tattoos somehow more socially acceptable? As opposed to my skulls, robots, and script? btw, I have a full sleeve of Hindu religious imagery——yes, I practice the faith.

elijah's avatar

@ahimsa16 Im referring to “regular people” who have one or two (usually crappy) tattoos. I’m not talking about people that are actually involved in the tattoo culture. People who are sleeved or that have more than an armband and tramp stamp usually put much more thought into what they put on their bodies. I’ve never seen a person covered in flash. Of course there are people that are covered in shitty tattoos, but I’m talking about people who actually take pride in their tattoos. I’ve seen people covered in beautiful religious themes.
But to answer your question, of those people who only dabble in tattoos, yes I think a religious tattoo is slightly more socially acceptable in their world.

Clair's avatar

@elijah yes. Yes yes.

bea2345's avatar

No. It reveals that something was on his/her mind at the time the tattoo was made.

ahimsa16's avatar

I’m trying to grasp why a person who does not believe in god, or doesn’t practice Christianity—- why would they get that tattooed? I’m not totally disagreeing with anyone here…just trying to understand more for my research. You all bring up interesting points——I’m just trying to play devil’s advocate. I think tattoo culture in the west has really changed why people get them in the first place. It’s really fascinating.

wundayatta's avatar

I can’t answer the question, but I can think about what my reaction to religious tattoos might be. I guess I’d think that it meant something to them if they wanted it on their body. I don’t know if it would correlate with any level of religiousity. My guess, actually, is that if religion was tattooed on them, they are more likely to be independent of any religious organization. But other than that, I couldn’t begin to guess.

CMaz's avatar

Not always, some people think it just looks cool.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i guess it depends on the person.

and this isn’t completely relevant, but it does fall under body mods, and this reminded me of it. there’s a book called “body piercings saved my life”. i’m not religious by any means, and i don’t really know what the actual content of the book is (besides that it’s religious), but i thought that was a really cool way to look at it.

ahimsa16's avatar

@ChazMaz – ”..some people just think it looks cool.”

Sadly, I think I hate people like that. It’s like, “Wow, yoga is cool, and this studio where I practice has a cool Ganesh on the wall. It’s all hip and shit. I’m not religious, but I’ll get Ganesh tattooed on my upper back because it’s trendy. I’ll also cover it up all the time because I wouldn’t want people to call me out on it and ask me about why it’s significant to me, because I really have no clue.”

Ugh….not religious? Can’t talk your way through the significance of what that “om” symbol means to you as a person who does NOT practice the faith——just DONT get it done. That’s what all that flash is on the wall for——for people who wanna be cool.

rant off. sorry.

ahimsa16's avatar

wow…that was not a very “spiritual” response, huh ;)

CMaz's avatar

Sorry you are so quick to hate. My input was very spiritual. Honest and simple. “Spiritual” is a personal state of mind. Was no need to rant either, as far as I am concerned. For me, a Tat can be very personal. And, it does not necessarily have to make a connection or have a meaning to you. No matter how apparent the tat might be (picture of jesus or a cross) it’s meaning could be deeper then you might think. Or as simple as I like the look of it. Crazy thing about people and their tattoos.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

My favorite tattoo story is about the Korean (I think) artist that, when non-Asians ask for some Korean script that means “Warrior” or “Power” or some such nonsense, he give them a word/symbol that instead means “He who rapes chickens” or “goat fornicator” or soemthing even worse in order to not dilute his language by inking it on white folks.

That just cracks me up.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

And another thing, odds are that many people will someday regret a particular tattoo and want it removed or covered up, according to some statistics I have seen. I suppose this is true, as I have three tats, and at least one was a mistake, not in subject matter, but definitely in placement.

So I either have to keep it covered up at work, or have it removed. Having a tattoo lasered isn’t something I’d take lightly, until they make it much more painless.

ahimsa16's avatar

Fortunately, I live in an area of the country, and in a city where tattoos are not an issue. I’ve worked for dot coms from Timbuk2 to a Johnson & Johnson company and they don’t care. I’ve got very visible work including my neck.

I have a few tattoos that were not done too well, but I think that’s fairly common for the heavily tattooed. One of my artists has had his 2 full sleeves removed and now he can start over. Pretty cool really.

ahimsa16's avatar

Nothing’s forever…as far as tattoos go!

CMaz's avatar

I agree, nothing is forever. I have the Chinese symbol for peace on my leg. This way, no matter what, I will always have peace. Then my father said, “unless you loose your leg.”

ahimsa16's avatar


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