My Christian Tattoo


Prior to my first deployment to Iraq I was still held in the thralls of religion and was questioning it without much in-depth research or analysis. In response I felt like I was sinning for my attempt to step away from God so in an attempt to convince myself that I was still a true believer I went out and got two tattoos on my right forearm.

At a time when my cognitive dissonance was at its highest I tried to ignore the rumblings of reason and opted to cling to my errant beliefs in a supreme being.


So I figured out that tattoos are actually permanent. Fucking bummer, right?! One bad decision that’s going to last me a lifetime. It’s very unfortunate I made the decision to get these tattoos. Had I delayed only 3 or 4 months I never would have gotten them at all.

Needless to say when I’ve shown up to freethought events I’ve gotten some odd looks due to my tattoos but I’ve been pretty well received…especially once I announce Rock Beyond Belief II. Even beyond that I have found individuals at these events to be much more open to accepting me than I have some of the churches I have visited, though not all of them.


I looked into removing the tattoo but it’s going to cost me somewhere in the $3000 range to get rid of them both. As much as I wish I had that much cash lying around to waste on tattoo removal it just doesn’t seem prudent considering long sleeves can temporarily fix the problem while I continue to pay my bills.


Unfortunately there are new regulations concerning tattoos in the Marines that prohibit me from getting additional tattoos. I have been grandfathered in without any repercussions but can get no further tattoos and expect to stay in service so I have decided to take my bulk issue of straws and “suck it up.”


It’s a good thing I never got any tattoos that I would completely regret such as a girlfriend’s name or a drunken adventure. Although I have altered my beliefs on the afterlife (and the current one) I am not ashamed to have once been a believer. But I do feel it is my duty to rebut the claims they make upon the case for morality in the world. I am proud to have always taken a stand for whatever it is I have believed in…whether it be my inaccurate and ridiculous belief in a supernatural being, my patriotism to serve my country, the honor of voluntarily deploying to combat, or the intellectual pursuits to which I now devote my life I will not regret that I have lived and followed a path that has led me to where I now am. That includes the permanent mistakes I have made; the friendships forged and lost, the scarring of my body, the experiences that brought me to understanding compassion, and the memories I shall hold always.

Besides…I never got one of these.

-Paul Loebe


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  • Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

    As the owner of some pretty stupid tattoos, although none quite as obvious as this (oops), I just see them as points in my life. Removal will screw the skin up anyway… can’t win! Just do something with them after you leave the service.

    I’d still love to get Leviticus 19:28 put somewhere though: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.”

    Hate the gays but got a tattoo? Idiots.

  • Brad

    I’ll bet it wouldn’t be too hard to change the cross-with-wings to a sword-with-flaming-wings, which would not only lose the religious connotation, but would be hecka badass. 🙂

    No ideas for altering “AGAPE”, though.

  • Paul

    In true DOD form, maybe it could be an acronym. A. G. APE = Another Great Ape. 😀

  • T

    Removal will eventually be an option, but for now you can look at them as a reminder of what you overcame. May you never forget. You did great, man!

    I LOl’ed at the last sentence in your post. WOW.

  • danielq

    I don’t know about the Marines, but the Army will authorize tattoo removal through TriCare if there is enough justification for it. The only reason most tatto removal is not covered is because many of the practises do not conform to the standards of the medical community. But as an artist who has done tattoo work, and I as well know many excellent tattoo artists. I can tell you that to cover up those tats is not that complicated. The artist just has to have a good imagination and an understanding of the person being inked.

  • furtivezoog

    I like Paul’s at #3 of A Great Ape; I had thought to somehow modify it to AN APE. Perhaps, instead of periods to make it an (probably non-obvious) acronym, you could add work horizontally to make it say A(or Another) Great APE.

    All said, though, it might be just best to leave it as a marker of where you have been and what you have become. Plus, it will likely give you extra ‘cred’ when talking to those who still believe as you once do, or those who are questioning and making a transition.

  • Morgan

    Soldier to Marine, I’d say leave “AGAPE,” as it fits well with the military credo of taking care of the Marine next to you, without any Christian connotations… one of its definitions: “unselfish love of one person for another without sexual implications; brotherly love.”

  • left0ver1under

    There is the story of Bryon Widner a “former” white supremacist whose tattoo removal was paid for by others after he claimed to no longer believe in white supremacy. He’s still a hard-core christian, so I don’t see him as having changed.

    Too bad there’s no group that would help remove “christian” tattoos for free.

    It might sound like I’m telling you to panhandle, but perhaps someone on FtB could collect donations for the removal of the tattoos, much like donations were collected for Jessica Ahlquist’s scholarship. I’d be willing to send cash to help.

  • Julie

    I don’t know if you will find it amusing or not, but I had no idea what the tattoo on your right arm said. I read it is ABAPE (and cannot see how anyone couldn’t see the B as a G). If the second letter is supposed to be a G then you got a really bad tattoo!

    Look at them as a chance to open a conversation – starting with “I was really stupid” :).

  • lorn

    I’ve a friend who got a number of tattoos removed at a discount after he hunted down a legitimate low-cost laser clinic. He found out about it from a counselor who worked with gangs. His treatments were about half the cost of what other doctors were charging. He said they had a regular production line of ex-gang members getting lased and bandaged. The clinic and treatment were considerably less plush but the doctors and staff had a huge amount of experience and know-how.

    Worth ask around if anything like that is available. The other possible good news is that your tattoos are black. Black is perhaps the easiest color to remove. I hear lighter colors, particularly yellows, are much harder to laser off.

  • mutt50

    I only have one tattoo. It’s a very old “USMC”, after a violent gang I was in once.

    Thankfully, it is very faded. I wish my memories were.

  • Justin Griffith

    I like these tattoos. It’s like a rite of passage, a merit badge, and a No True Scotsman fallacy defeater all in one!

    If some XIAN ever says ‘you weren’t a true christian’ you just roll up your sleeves.

    If worse comes to worse you can make it a cross-buster by simply drawing a red circle around it and putting a diagonal line through the middle.

  • Ped

    Let me say that the cross looks pretty badass, and lot of non-christians who use the cross necklaces etc, I know a necklace isn’t the same as a tattoo, but still… It doesn’t necessarily need to have a religeous meaning.

    And yeah, the ugliesttattoos site makes me cringe a bit, I honestely don’t understand why would anyone do this

  • Paul Loebe

    I’m probably going to keep it. I’ve gotten attached to my tattoos. Besides…I did mean it when I got it. No one can take that away from me.