All religions invite their practitioners to affirm their religious affiliation through their bodies. Religions try to master the body and make it a tool for entering into dialogue with the divine.

There are religions that accept the body and others that despise it, but none ignore it. Generally, religions try to control its main functions—sexuality and food—to give them sacred significance. Sometimes the divine even takes possession of the practitioner’s body, thereby transforming the body into a veritable seat of the divine.

Here we have a collection of photographs illustrating the subthemes of purifying, dressing, mastering, using, marking, and feeding the body.

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Christ’s Crucifixion re-enacted

Philippines — Donald Rexford, a carpenter and son of a U.S. soldier, is nailed to a cross. Christ’s Crucifixion is re-enacted every year by Catholics in the Philippines.

© Bettman/CORBIS 1984

Tattoos of the Marquesas Islands

Marquesas Islands — The tattoos of the Marquesas Islands in Polynesia are famous for their decorative motifs. Originally, however, they represented a means of winning the protection and favour of the spirits.

© Dave G. Houser/CORBIS 1991

Whirling dervishes

Istanbul, Turkey — Whirling dervishes performing an ancient rite on stage. These Muslim mystics use music and dance to attain states of grace and ecstasy.

© Hans Georg Roth/CORBIS 1995

Theme of the Day


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Tell us about a religious holiday that is significant to you.

    • joe
    • August 22nd, 2012
    Christmas, because it brings family together, whether religious or not.
    • Sam
    • June 20th, 2012
    Even though I'm not sure God exists, I celebrate Easter and Christmas. These two holidays are an affirmation of how God really does love all of us. I have prayed many years but still have had no inspiration. I guess some people just have to wait. I hope I'll get a sign soon.
    • Anurb
    • April 15th, 2012
    The trees, the birds, the grass, the sun...nature in all her beauty. She is my God(dess).
    • GMD
    • April 10th, 2012
    April 21 Ridvan commemorating the day in 1863 when Baha'u'llah declared His Mission to the world. Since then His followers have encircled the earth with His love and unity.