Getting inked for the sake of your religious beliefs is a large cross to bear, if you will.
It is a commitment that subjects the tattooee to more judgment and possible controversy than any other tattoo choice. Wearing your religion on your skin takes resounding faith, unshakeable conviction, and yes, balls. But it is refreshing and in fact admirable in these days of the prolific slut-stamp and lifeless tribal sleeve to see folks stepping out of the ink herd and choosing to physically profess their religious devotion … loud and clear.
Luckily for religious tattoo enthusiasts of today, the artistry of time-honored religious imagery has made leaps and bounds from our forefathers chiseling petroglyphs onto stone. Expressive, beautiful and subjective, check out the incredible artwork that makes up the top 30 religious tattoos.
Jesus: The central figure of Christianity, Jesus, aka Jesus of Nazareth, Jehovah, the Messiah, the Christ, Savior of man, the Son of God, was a prophet and teacher born in Bethlehem and crucified to bestow eternal salvation among mankind.
Mary: Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ, and is also referred to as the Virgin Mary, the Blessed Virgin, the Holy Virgin, the Holy Mother and the Mother of God. Mary is especially honored in Roman Catholicism and is considered the most elevated of the saints.
Cross: The cross is one of the most recognized symbols in the world. It is the primary religious symbol of Christianity and represents the crucifixion of Jesus.
Rosary: Traditional in Roman Catholicism, the rosary is a set of beads that provides a physical method of keeping track of the number of prayers said, as the fingers can move along the beads as prayers are recited.
Angels: In Christianity, Judaism and Islam, angels are believed to be messengers from God who are sent to guard over subjects (hence, Guardian Angel) and carry out the tasks of the Divine. Superior or higher-ranking angels are known as archangels; famous archangels include Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel.
Crucifix: A crucifix is a cross with an accompanying image of Jesus’ crucified body. It is a principal symbol of Christianity and Catholicism.
The Last Supper: In Christian Gospel, the Last Supper (aka the Lord’s Supper) was the last meal Jesus of Nazareth shared with his Twelve Apostles and disciples before his death.
Praying Hands: The held-together, praying hands image is a traditional gesture in Christianity and Catholicism. This photo is from RankMyTattoos.com user Rod Fam.
Krishna: While many Hindu groups recognize Krishna as the incarnation of Vishnu, some consider Krishna to be the Supreme God. Krishna is the speaker of the Bhagavad-Gita, and is often depicted as a baby or as a youthful prince playing a flute. Krishna is believed to personify the loving relationship between God and humans.
Sacred Heart: A traditional symbol in Roman Catholicism, the Sacred Heart represents Jesus’ physical heart. The Sacred Heart is usually depicted as a flaming heart surrounded by a crown of thorns and bleeding. The crown of thorns alludes to Jesus’ death, while the fire represents his love for mankind.
Scripture: Although “scripture” is generally defined as the sacred writings of religious texts, it has been traditionally associated with the writings of the Bible.
Triquetra: The Triquetra is used by Christianity as a symbol of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), but is also used in Neo-Pagan religions.
Star of David: The Star of David is a six-pointed star emblem, commonly associated with Jewish culture and Judaism. It is named after King David of ancient Israel and is also present on the state flag of Israel.
Pentacle: Neo-pagans, especially Wiccans, use the pentacle as a symbol of faith, similar to the Christian cross or the Jewish Star of David. As a representation of the elements, the pentacle is an amulet used in magical evocation, summoning the spirits of the four directions (with the spirit as five) at the beginning of Wiccan ritual.
Triple Moon Goddess: In Pagan and Wiccan tradition, the Triple Moon Goddess represents the three stages of life: Maiden, Mother and Crone, as well as the three phases of the moon.
Baphomet: The Baphomet was first depicted by nineteenth century occultist Elipas Levi as a symbol of harmony, redemption, and union with the Divine. A simplified version of the symbol (the Sabbatic goat) was adopted as the emblem of Anton Lavey’s Church of Satan in 1966. These two figures are now both synonymous with Satanism.
Pentagram: Traditionally a symbol of a 5-pointed star, an inverted pentagram with two points up, often inscribed in a double circle with a depiction of a goat head in the middle, is referred to as the Sigil of Baphomet among Satanists. It is used as a sign of rebellion or religious identification; the three downward points symbolizing the rejection of the holy Trinity.
The Devil: The Devil, aka Satan, Lucifer, the Beast, the Antichrist, Beelzebub, etc., is a fallen angel in Christian and Catholic tradition who rebelled against God and was cast down into the pit of Hell. The Devil is usually depicted with horns and a serpent’s tongue.
666: The Bible’s Book of Revelation asserts 666 to be “the number of a beast.” In modern culture, 666 has become one of the most widely recognized symbols for the Antichrist, and a symbol for Satanists.
Upside down cross: The reversed cross is traditionally the symbol of St. Peter’s refusal to be crucified in the manner of Christ, preferring to be hung upside down, as a gesture of humility. In modern times, the reversed cross is most commonly associated with Satanism and a rejection of the Christian doctrine.
Brahma: Brahma is regarded as the creator of the universe in Hinduism, and was believed to be self-born in the lotus flower which grew from the navel of Vishnu. Brahma is traditionally depicted with four heads, four faces and four arms, representing the four directions.
Shiva: Shiva, the God of destruction, is the supreme God in the Shaiva tradition of Hinduism. He is generally represented as immersed in deep meditation, and has a third eye. Shiva is often depicted as blue, referring to when he drank poison churned up from the earth’s ocean.
Vishnu: Vishnu is regarded as a major God in Hinduism, and is believed to be the preserver of the universe.
Ganesh: Ganesh is one of the best-known and most worshipped deities in Hinduism. Ganesh’s elephant head makes him easy to identify, and his reverence extends to Buddhists and beyond India. He is regarded as the Remover of Obstacles and Lord of intellect and wisdom.
Buddha: Siddhartha Gautama (563 BC-483 BC, approximately) was an Indian spiritual teacher and the founder of Buddhism. He is generally recognized by Buddhists as the Supreme Buddha.
Kuan Yin: In Buddhist culture, Kuan Yin is known as the Bodhisattva of Compassion. It is generally accepted that Kuan Yin originated as the SanskritAvalokiteśvara, which is her male form.
Yin and Yang: Although found throughout Chinese culture, the Yin and Yang symbols are often associated with Taoism, as they represent the dynamic force of the Tao – two energies constantly interacting with each another: the sun and the moon, femininity and masculinity, birth and death, etc.
Rastafari: Rastafarianism isa religious-cultural movement that began in the 1930′s in Jamaica as a reaction to the European colonialism and slavery of Africans. Central themes of the religion attempt to explain the future of the African race by looking to Ethiopia for an African King.
Atheist: Atheism is defined as the disbelief that deities exist and/or the lack of belief in gods.
Darwinian Fish: Charles Robert Darwin (1809 -1882) was an English naturalist who taught that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through the process he termed natural selection. His theory of natural selection came to be known as the primary explanation of evolution in the 1930′s, and now forms the basis of modern evolutionary theory.
Good vs. Evil Duality: These images represent religious duality.
Angel/Devil tattoo from RankMyTattoo user DeadGirl666
Whether denying the existence of God(s), altering the perception of God(s), or embracing God(s), religious tattoos encapsulate a personal and cultural honor that no other artwork can match.