Here at Tattify, we are a non-judgemental group of folks. And just as everyone has diverse reasons for wanting to get a tattoo, you may have very different reasons, such as religious ones, for not wanting them either. Perhaps you’re even curious as to whether getting a tattoo is considered a sin; we have a look at different religious perspectives on tattooing and help you find the answer you’re searching for.
Table of Contents (clickable)
What is Considered a Sin?
The concept of “sin” is a Christian-specific idea. Sin is defined as “an immoral act considered to be a transgression of divine law. The doctrine of sin is central to Christianity since its basic message is about redemption in Christ,” (Rahner, p. 1588, sourced from Wikipedia).
Christianity is the largest religion in the world, and, as such, the question as to whether tattoos are a sin according to Christian law may be at the forefront of your mind.
The Bible and Tattoos
The concept of tattooing is a relatively new one, and it is therefore not a word that is specifically mentioned anywhere in the bible While the Egyptians at Jesus’s time likely used henna tattooing as a way to adorn their skin, due to infection and health risks, the medical procedure of actually tattooing likely did not occur.
One particular bible verse tends to speak against the idea or concept of tattooing, despite this.
Leviticus 19:28 states, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you.”
This passage could be interpreted very differently depending on which particular sect of Christianity you speak to. Pagan rituals often included self-mutilation as an act of grief and mourning, and it is possible that this passage speaks to those acts being forbidden. Other sects may interpret this as meaning any mark on your skin, as your body is a gift from God, so this could include tattoos or even piercing.
The Old Testament Versus the New Testament
Some Christian believers say that the Old Testament, such as the statement in Leviticus, is not meant for followers of Christ but rather for the Hebrew people, and that the New Testament is where the truth and clear definition of sin now lies. This is because there are many other conflicting passages in the Old Testament that would make it difficult to adhere to in modern times, such as being banned from wearing clothes of different fabrics - a nearly impossible achievement in today’s mixed blend society!
Some New Testament believers do say that there are clear passages in the Bible’s New Testament that state that tattoos and body modification are still, in fact, a sin.
1 Corinthians 3:17 states “If any man defiles the temple of God, he shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” Christ told his followers that their bodies were created by God, were made in the image of God, and therefore were like God and are not meant to be tainted but cherished. As such, many sects believe to get a tattoo is to ruin God’s body, and this is sinful.
For many people, the tattoo itself is not a sin but the act of tattooing is associated with darkness and it is, therefore, guilty by association. Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil,” and since tattooing first began as a very underground practice, many involved in seedy or shady behavior, many Christians still associate this practice with darkness.
Romans 14:23 states, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin,” and many Christians believe that if you are questioning whether the act of tattooing is a sin at all, that doubt negates it and makes it sinful. Anything that is pleasing to God should not encourage any of this doubt.
For the Catholic sect of Christianity, these believers state that the Pope is the voice of God on earth. As such, in 2013, Pope Francis was asked about his stance on tattoos and he responded, “Don’t be afraid of tattoos,” and also stated moments in history where devout followers of Christ got Christian symbolism tattooed on them to declare their faith.
Tattoo Symbolism and Sinfulness
The Pope, as well as other more progressive Christians, often believe that the act of tattooing is not a sin, especially if you are tattooing dedications to your faith, community, or family. Sometimes, tattoos done in excess, containing dark imagery, or performed out of rebellion may be seen differently and as more sinful.
If you are Christian and are concerned about whether your tattoos will be considered a sin, perhaps speak to a spiritual advisor for guidance, and focus your tattoo choices on something tied more closely to you or your faith that will not blur the lines between “okay” and “questionable”.
Other Religious Stances on Tattooing
Since Judaism is founded on what Christians call the Old Testament, there is a pretty strong prohibition against tattooing in the Torah (Leviticus). In fact, many Orthodox Jews believe that getting tattooed means you do not have a right to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.
That being said, this law was adjusted following the horrific acts of the Holocaust and now states, "If it [the tattoo] was done in the flesh of another, the one to whom it was done is blameless" In addition, tattooing is also massively popular in the Jewish homeland of Israel and is not seen as an issue for both practice and burial according to modern or progressive Jews.
Paganism often embraces tattooing and encourages its members to use it as an expression of their beliefs and ties to their religious practices.
Many Buddhist monks can be seen sporting tattoos, as they are known as being protective in this religion. The tattoos are often mantras, symbols, or images that are meant to safeguard the person who has them. They are not frowned upon, but there are specific regions of the body where tattoos are allowed to be applied, and you cannot have images of the Buddha Himself on your flesh.
Tattoos are embraced in Hinduism, and whether they’re with henna or more permanent, they’re very common among the Hindu people.
Hadiths in the Islamic religion believe that permanent tattooing is certainly a sin, but henna tattooing is heavily practiced. In addition, some historical documents seem to indicate that tattooing was, in fact, an important part of various Islamic groups. That being said, the general consensus is that while they don’t violate the laws of Allah, they are still considered sinful and should be avoided as you are changing the perfect creation of God (your body).
The one exception to this rule is Shia Muslims who have no stance and make no mention of tattooing, but do worry that the ink entering “beneath” the skin may present some complications to Islamic law.
Our Final Thoughts
Just as tattoos are an extremely personal choice, so are your own feelings towards whether or not tattooing should be considered sinful. If you’re ever unsure, speak to a spiritual counselor that you trust and express your needs and wants clearly. It’s also important that, regardless of your religious affiliation, you should never judge someone for the choices they make for their own body.