Do any religions prohibit bathing?

In response to this post in a different thread, I got to wondering.

When I was in high school we had a custodian who did not bathe regularly. His body odor changed and became more pungent as time went on. The halls of my high school were very wide and you could smell him around the corner, long before you saw him. After a couple months without a bath you had to hold your breath as you would gag withing 10 feet of him.

The rumor among us high school kids was that the custodian didn’t bathe because it was against his religion. I’m sure all of us heard, believed and spread rumors in high schol that turned out to be completely false, and I suspect that this is one of them.

I googled “religion prohibit bathing” and all I found were muslim and christian prohibitions against nude bathing and coed swimming, stories about the middle ages, etc. so I’m bringing it to the dope. Does anyone know about any religions that prohibit bathing, and why they would prohibit it?


I’ve never heard of any such prohibition and I’ve got a reasonable base knowledge of world religions. Even the most ascetic traditions, such as Jainism tend to emphasize physical cleanliness and daily bathing rather than forbidding it. I don’t know every religious practice in the world, so I can’t absolutely say that no such proscription exsist but it doesn’t exist in any of the traditions I’ve ever studied. The closest thing I can remember reading about is a book on Tibetan Buddhism (pre-China) which talked about the filthiness of the monks due to lack of bathing, but that was due to the circumstances of being stuck on a frozen mountaintop with no running water, not a religious proscription.

Your story sounds like a classic case of a schoolyard lgend. It might have even started as a joke. “____ is against my/his religion” is sometimes said sarcastically. Kids, being kids, might miss the sarcasm and start to perpetuate it literally.

If you consider the Church of Satan (founded by Anton Lavey in 1966) a religion, then yes… at least one religion is against the idea (mainly because it disguises natural pheremones IIRC).

Do you have a cite for this? I’m not a member, but I thought I knew most of the doctrine, and I missed this. Understand, I’m not calling you out. It does sound like something LaVey would say, at least pre-1980, I just don’t think I’ve come across it before.

It was at one time common for Christian monks to forego bathing as an ascetical exercise, and Orthodox monks still do this. They bathe, though, before leaving the monastery or receiving visitors – the point is to mortify the flesh, not to repulse other people.

I guess there’s this:

By Anton Szandor LaVey

I never thought to take the Church of Satan into consideration. I either didn’t know about this or didn’t remember it. I’ve read The Satanic Bible but don’t remember this. It doesn’t surprise me, though. It’s in keeping with everything else I’ve read from LaVey.

Thanks! Your link doesn’t work for me, but googling the title and author of the essay led me to the Amazon listing for his book of essays, Satan Speaks!. I guess it’s in there, and I haven’t read it, so that answers that. Doesn’t surprise me, either.

Unlike most of Stan Levee’s writings that I’ve read it isn’t an even more melodramatic regurgitation of Crowley’s earlier writings.

Althoug it isn’t impossible, it’s so improbable that I’m pretty sure Ross wasn’t a member of the Church of Satan in early 80’s, lime jello mormon culture Utah. Besides, he didn’t have the smug, superior vibe that I’ve come to associate with self-described “satanists”.

Hmmm…the link works for me now, and having read it, I don’t think it counts. First of all, it’s one of LeVay’s “this is how I do things” essays, not one of his “this is what right-thinking people should do” essays. There’s a subtle difference, but a real one.

He also doesn’t lay out any sort of *religious *reasons for his refusal to bathe. His reasons are the same ones we hear from naturalists and hippies of all religious stripes: bathing is bad for the skin because it strips away natural oils, bathing makes you smell worse because it imbalances your natural scent production, as well as some evolutionary reasons: tribal identity is formed around scent, and by removing natural scent markers, genetically unfit people may find mates who would otherwise have not because of their unfit smell.

Finally, he doesn’t *not *bathe. Sure, sure he starts by saying, “I never bathe. It is against my religious principles.” But then he immediately contradicts himself, saying, "When discomfort, stickiness, outside heat and itching become insurmountable, immersion in cool water is a blessing. " and, “If I stink in certain areas of my body, I wash those areas. I leave the rest alone.” So apparently “immersion in cool water” and “washing” are not bathing. Uh-huh.

So, I’m chalking this one up, once again, to LeVay starting out by saying something shocking, backtracking, presenting some pretty good arguments that don’t support his initial statements, but rather some more moderate version thereof, and people never reading the whole thing, only the first line. This is why Satanists and anti-COS Christians alike give me a headache.