Religion is the Opiate of the Masses and Central to the Body

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There are many ways in which the body central is the place of religion in contemporary society. In this paper, I will discuss ways in which religion affects the kind of clothes people can wear, body art and dietary restrictions. These are ways in which the body is used to express the kind of religions people practice and believe in.

There are many religions in which clothing is a very important symbol within their identity. I will discuss the different religious clothing in Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism and the way they use them to practice their religion. In Christianity, it is believed that the body is a gift from God and it must be treated with respect, it must be clean and pure. A type of clothing that some Christians may wear is a veil and a cloak. Nuns wear a form of veil that covers their hair. Religious leaders, such as priests, wear a cloak which is a type of robe that covers their body on a daily basis. Many Christians today still wear these types of clothing because they believe that is what the characters had worn in the bible. Apostolic Pentecostalism is the teachings and early followers of Jesus Christ. This movement taught that women should not cut their hair or wear makeup and that they should dress in full-length skirts. This was because they believed that holiness starts on the inside and should be reflected on the outside. Even though this may not be considered a clothing item, this is an object that is worn every day by many Christians. This object is a necklace of the cross. This shows the commitment to the Christian faith and some even wear crosses to protect them from evil.

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In the religion of Sikhism, Sikhs wear turbans to show respect for God. They wear turbans to protect their hair, that they cannot cut, it promotes equality among social classes, and it shows their Sikh identity. In the religion of Jainism, many devout Jains wear white masks covering their mouth to prevent them from swallowing living creatures, such as flies, by accident. They do this because Jains believe in nonviolence. If they do accidentally swallow a living creature, that would be considered a violent act, so protecting their mouth with a mask prevents this from happening.

In the religion of Islam, some Muslim women wear a hijab, which is a headscarf. They begin wearing hijabs starting around the time of puberty, it is worn as a symbol of modesty and religious faith. In Muslim culture, most women are advised in The Quran to dress modestly. The Islamic legal systems defines this as having to cover everything except for the face and hands in public. Another type of clothing some Muslim women wear is a niqab, which is a kind of veil that has an open area around the eyes. Out of all the Muslim veils, the most concealed is the burka. It is a one-piece cloak that covers the face and body, leaving just a mesh screen to see through. For Muslim men, during worship, prayer caps are worn to be reminders of respect, humility, and faith. Though, unlike the women’s head coverings, the Quran does not require men to wear prayer caps during worship or when in public.

In the Valentine and Sporton article, they talked about how “Community ‘norms’ in Sheffield served as regulatory regimes, circumscribing gendered identities in particular ways. Young women, therefore, described wearing the hijab and behaving in modest ways in public space in order to maintain their own and their families’ reputations within the neighborhood. However, Layla and Zeinab describe how Somali European migrants’ different interpretations of the subject positions available to young women (which included dress, use of language, smoking and drinking alcohol) meant that their identities were read as not ‘proper’ Muslims by the local Sheffield Somali community” (Valentine and Sporton 745-746). With that being said, Zeinab described her experience in Holland and how felt freer and could go and do what she wanted. She also did not have to wear her headscarf there, but since she has moved to the UK she had started to wear her headscarf. This is because when she saw the Somalian community she thought she’d respect them by wearing it.

From this example in the article, it shows how influential and impactful the headscarf is in the Muslim community. We see this woman, Zeinab, who seems to be stuck between how she felt about the life she lived in Holland where she didn’t have to wear the headscarf, and her life now that she is in the UK and lives in a Somalian community where most people are Muslim. This is a big change for her as she now has to be more respectful of what she wears and needs to be aware that she is living in a community where religion is very important.

In the religion of Judaism, Jews wear Yarmulkes, which are small, round head coverings. They usually wear these during prayer or some wear one all the time. Wearing this shows great respect and humility, and to acknowledge that God is above us. In the religion of Buddhism, Buddhists wear robes to reflect the simple life they’ve vowed to live.

Having body art and not being able to have body art plays an important role in many religions. In the religion of Hinduism, wearing a nose piercing is a popular custom most women wear in India. This is a symbol of beauty and social standing and to honor Parvati, who is the Hindu goddess of marriage. Some Hindu men and women wear a tilaka, which is a paste or powder that is marked in the middle of their forehead. This indicates a particular religious dedication to a Hindu sect. When a Hindu woman is married, they wear a bindi on their forehead. This is a colorful dot and it is also a symbol for the third eye.

Many people who are religious and some who are not religious do get tattoos of religious symbols. In Christianity, it could be a cross, the Virgin Mary or verses from the bible. In Judaism, it could be the star of David and in Hinduism in could be the buddha or the lotus flower. There are religions that do allow tattoos to be apart of their faith, whereas, Orthodox Judaism, Christianity, and Islam do not allow it. The reason why Christians would not be allowed to get a tattoo because there is a bible verse that says,” Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:28).” Some Christians take this verse from the bible literally and think it is forbidden to have any markings on your body, that being said, tattoos are not allowed.

Orthodox Jews view the same way about tattooing as the bible verse mentioned before. The reason for this is because they believe the body is a gift from the Lord and having permanent marks on the body shows disrespect. Orthodox Jews also forbid any permanent changes to the body, with the exception of circumcision for boys. In Islam, not only is it forbidden to get tattoos, but it also can prevent someone from being at peace with God. For many Muslims, they aren’t allowed to make any changes to their body or to enhance their beauty in any way.

Food can be an important part of religious culture and in many religions, there are dietary restrictions. Within Catholicism, there are holy days and periods in which a Catholic will fast. For example, during lent Catholics are not allowed to eat meat on Fridays. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. Most Catholics give up a certain luxury during lent to replicate on account for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s journey into the desert for 40 days.

Hindus are considered lacto-vegetarians, they do eat dairy, but they do not eat eggs, fish or meat. There is a class of Hinduism called Brahmins, who have special restrictions on how their food is prepared and stored. Diwali is the most famous Hindu holy period, which lasts 5 days and many Hindus fast mainly the last two. In Islam, Halal is what is allowed under traditional Islamic law. There are many restrictions, but mainly, foods that are kosher are acceptable under Halal. Something that Halal does not permit is alcohol. Ramadan is an important holiday in Hinduism, it’s a holy period that is associated with food tradition and dietary restrictions.

Lastly, Judaism is another religion that has dietary restrictions as well. Kosher is what must be consumed by practicing Jews. Foods that are kosher are prepared under strict guidelines, they must be pure, proper, or suitable for consumption. Two foods that are not allowed as well are pork and shellfish. Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur are some of the more famous Jewish holy days. Dietary restrictions and food traditions are very influential and important on these holy days. 

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