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What Do The Religions Say About Tattoos?

One subject on which the major Biblically-based religions agree is that getting a tattoo is wrong. Fundamentalist Christians, Catholics, and Jews all agree on this. They do, however, hold very different viewpoints on why it is wrong. It is interesting to take a look at the beliefs and viewpoints of these religions-- not only what each one believes, but what each one bases that belief upon.

For Fundamentalist Christians, the generally-expressed opinion is that people should not get tattoos because tattoos are "a pagan practice." Fundamentalist leaders state that this is a good enough reason for not getting tattoos, although they also add that there is nothing in the Bible which states that a person should not. Potential confusion regarding this standpoint is explained in terms of the Fundamentalist belief that the whole of the Bible consists of the New Testament, and the New Testament contains no references to tattooing, either positive or negative. Describing the practice of tattooing as something that was, or is, done by pagans, constitutes their main objection to the practice.

As Catholics believe that the Old Testament is as relevant as the New Testament, the general Catholic negativity toward the subject is covered by such Scripture passages as Leviticus 19:28, which reads "You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead, nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves..." For most Catholics, though, it is still usually considered to be more a matter of personal interpretation and personal choice. The usual modern-day Catholic interpretation of the subject is that while tattooing is indeed wrong by Biblical standards, it is not necessarily sinful.

The Jewish faith takes the subject, and negativity about it, even further. As the Books of the Old Testament are taken to be the word of God, and commandments to be adhered to, in the Jewish faith tattoos are something which is simply not done. This commandment against any desecration of the body has been proported to be one of the main reasons tattooing was done on observant Jews at the concentration camps during the Holocaust; it was not merely a means of identification as many people assume. It was an attempt to separate observant Jews from their God, albeit unwillingly.

In the Jewish faith, desecrating the body with tattoos is considered to be such a violation of the commandments that a person who has tattoos is sometimes denied burial in Jewish cemeteries. While this used to be the standard practice, modern times reflecting fewer prohibitions has resulted in this being less of a concern than in the past. Although today few but the most orthodox consider it to be a serious issue, it is still indeed an issue.

The general consensus amongst these three major Biblically-based faiths is that it is wrong to get tattoos, although each one's reasons and points of view certainly differ. Whatever one's personal faith may happen to be, the two main factors involve both what one's religion teaches about tattoos, and what their specific reason is for it. These are important factors regardless of how observant an person is of his or her particular religion; and makes it clear that one should consider both factors in order to make an informed decision on whether or not to get a tattoo.

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