Provocative article on corporal mortification at GodSpy.
In our society, it’s considered perfectly normal to mortify our bodies so long as the reason is secular and the goal is physical. No one bats an eye at cosmetic plastic surgery, Botox, tattoos, and body piercing. Even physical fitness taken to extremes is looked upon as almost de rigeur. I’m all for staying in shape, but when I see joggers here in Florida sweating in 95 degree heat during their run at lunch hour, I have to wonder: Are you trying to have a stroke?
... But if you perform corporal mortification for religious reasons, to achieve some spiritual good, you’re an oddball. To borrow an analogy from Boston College professor Peter Kreeft and give it a twist, if I were to announce at a cocktail party that I just got my tongue pierced, I would be surrounded by an eager crowd of spectators. But if I were to announce that each morning before work I take a cold shower as a religious ritual, I would soon be talking to myself.