Tattooings are not only ornaments...they are not only emblems of nobility and symbols of rank in the social hierarchy: they are also messages fraught with spiritual and moral
significance...not only to imprint a drawing onto the flesh but also to stamp onto the mind all the traditions and philosophy of the group.
- Claude Lévi Strauss
There seems to be a growing popularity among people of faith who are requesting tattoos that reflect their spiritual and religious beliefs. A recent survey amongst tattoo artists suggest that about one-third of the tattoos being requested are spiritual symbols and art, including crosses and detailed images of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Many first-time tattoos in particular seem to be religious or spiritually inspired tattoos.
Although there are many people ready to question whether tattoos are an appropriate way to display faith. Religious leaders say tattoos whether religious/spiritual or not — are sinful because they deface a person’s body. But people who get them and give them say the tattoos are a way to express and even share their faith with others. There is no doubt that sacred hearts and other symbols of devotion to Jesus or the Virgin Mary or symbols depicting Buddha or Hindu Gods seem to be hugely popular at the moment.
To some Buddhists tattoos of Buddha are considered disrespectful. Images of holy people are not to be reproduced on the body. Scripture also teaches us that "your body is the temple of God", and you are not to desecrate the temple and a tattoo is a desecration. According to the bible:
Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
There are some who will claim that the scriptures referring to tattoos is “old law” that was speaking to people who would scar their bodies as a sacrifice for dead family members and no longer applies to modern society. Maybe we just need to move away from the out-worn concept of God as a vengeful old man sitting on a throne in heaven who gets angry when his 'subjects' do things that offend him and celebrate our religious or spiritual faith in whatever way we think is right.