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Around 40 years ago, I strongly advised a friend not to get tattooed. I had no objections to tattoos as such, and actually thought them rather cool, if well executed.

In this instance, Gavin wanted to declare his everlasting commitment to Susan in the form of an inked bicep linking their names. I advised that a period of cool reflection was needed — if not
a formal engagement to the love of his life — before he pootled off to a local parlor.

He ignored my advice and went ahead with the tattoo. As soon as the dressing came off, he proudly displayed it to his beloved. She was horrified.

Unbeknownst to Gavin, the young woman he thought would soon become his wife had found Jesus when the two were separated for a three-month period. Susan had gone abroad on an “ethnic studies” course run, as it turned out, by an evangelical outfit of some sort, and while in Kenya her lukewarm Christianity erupted into full-blown fundamentalism and she became a missionary.

So when she saw the tattoo, she threw Leviticus 19:28 in his face:

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

Thus dumped – and quite unable to find a substitute Susan – Gavin was left with the choice of having it removed or covered over with something less embarrassing. That’s how he acquired a rather imposing black panther.

I was reminded of the Gavin episode after recently seeing a guy on a beach with a crucifixion scene inked on his back. It wasn’t pretty. Crucifixions never are, but in this case it was extremely badly done.

I then got to thinking about the problems devout, inked Christians may run into should they ever come to their senses and decide, as so many people do these days, to move into an atheist or humanist camp.

In such instances, designs like these are bound to be extremely embarrassing.

Then a question arose in my mind. If Leviticus condemns tattooing, why do religious folk have the damn things done in the first place?

Because they have found a loophole.

The Leviticus prohibition, according to Religioustattoos.net, sadly now off-line, has been widely “misinterpreted”.

Leviticus 19:26-31 deals with pagan practices and God’s prohibitions against adopting those practices. In verse 28, God is warning the Jewish people about a pagan practice at funerals, where pagans would mutilate/mark themselves to appease their false gods.

The pagans hoped that by cutting themselves and marking images/symbols of idols on their bodies, that they would obtain favor in the afterlife from their false gods, both for themselves and for those who just died.

The website then declared:

It is beyond doubt that tattoos are NOT sinful and that Christians expressing their faith with some ink under their skin have NOT succumbed to Satan’s wiles (at least, not because of the tattoos).

Yet, let us remember that just because we are allowed to be tattooed, doesn’t mean
that this is what is best for everyone … Finally, it’s important that Christians realise that Jesus doesn’t want us to hide our faith or keep our faith to ourselves. Just the opposite. He commands us to do everything within our power to let our brothers and sisters know the one true Word, the Good News …

So, whether we choose stone tablets or tattoos, God, through the Holy Spirit, lets us discover the different and dynamic ways we let others know about Him.

Pretty much the same is said on many other Christian, tattoo apologetics sites, some of which point to the fact that there is no shortage of evangelical preachers who are inked. One is Nadia Bolz-Weber, founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints, an evangelical Lutheran Church in Denver, Colorado.

Image via YouTube

Well, if what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, is now not the time to for us to
encourage people to start sporting antireligious tattoos? Or, at the very least, begin wearing T-shirts and button badges with atheist messages or symbols?

The trouble is that slogans — particularly aggressive, in-yer-face declarations of impiety
— are not conducive to engagement with the opposition. Just as I would cross the road to
avoid someone with Jesus inked on his chest, the same person, I imagine, would shun me for
sporting a T-shirt saying “Democracy, not Theocracy!” or “Education, not Indoctrination!”

This is where the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster comes to the rescue. On its website’s “propaganda page” there are many amusing images that can easily be turned into tattoos or used for proselytizing via leaflets or posters. It’s possible, but not guaranteed, that these may open the way to sensible debates between believers and nonbelievers.

Ok, not all, as the image below shows.

Artwork by David Armstrong courtesy of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

The church explains its existence thus:

With millions, if not thousands, of devout worshipers, the Church of the FSM is widely considered a legitimate religion, even by its opponents — mostly fundamentalist Christians, who have accepted that our God has larger balls than theirs.

Some claim that the church is purely a thought experiment or satire, illustrating that Intelligent Design is not science, just a pseudoscience manufactured by Christians to push Creationism into public schools. These people are mistaken — The Church of FSM is legit, and backed by hard science. Anything that comes across as humor or satire is purely coincidental.

A few years ago the church backed its position as a “legitimate religion” by publishing this testimonial written by Pastafarian Sebastian Wren, Ph.D.:

At one time, I believed as the Aztecs did, that the universe was created by two gods, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca who attacked and ripped apart Hungry Woman to
create the universe.

Then I believed, as the Moriori do, that the universe was created when Papa and her husband Rangi hugged and bore children, and were subsequently separated by their son Tane who let light shine between them.

However, my views have been swayed by the substantial evidence that the earth and universe was actually created relatively recently by the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I am firmly convinced that the evidence supporting this depiction of the origins of life, the universe, and everything has many of the trappings of science, and I therefore support the inclusion of FSM creation evidence in the Kansas science curriculum and standards.

Pastafarianism has a friendly rival in the form of The Church of the Invisible Pink Unicorn, (IPU) but because the beast is invisible there’s no way of depicting it, except by using a pretty symbol that, to my mind, is too cryptic to spark any meaningful debates.

Image via free image site FAVPNG

Nevertheless, the IPU has an important role to play in the battle between faith and fact. This is confirmed by Serah Eley, the primary author of the Invisible Pink Unicorn manifesto:

Invisible pink unicorns are beings of great spiritual power. We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time.

Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can´t see them.

The IPU, according to Unicorns Rule, is a parody religion created by a group of atheists with the sole purpose of discrediting the beliefs of other organized religions.

Its core message is that believing in something you cannot see or prove exists is a form of delusional thinking that besets followers of all religions. The group contends that worshiping an invisible pink unicorn makes as much sense as belief in God.

Invisible Pink Unicorn followers satirically suggest that no one can prove their Unicorn God does not exist because she is invisible, and furthermore cannot prove she is not pink because no one can see her.

One thing is certain: whatever differences exist between IPU believers and FSM devotees,
these will never lead to the sort of vicious doctrinal schisms and often bloody skirmishes that typify “real” religion.

Veteran journalist and free speech activist Barry Duke was, for 24 years, editor of The Freethinker magazine, the second oldest continually active freethought publication in the world, established by G.W....