Melanie Phillips has been labelled "bonkers" and "5,000 years" out of touch over a column she wrote for The Times calling David Beckham 'a pagan god' because of his extensive tattoo collection.
Phillips, in a piece headlined 'These awful tattoos show we're turning Pagan', said Beckham's inked arms look more like "artefacts" than human limbs, and pondered why such a gifted athlete "should want to mutilate himself in this way".
The 40-year-old has two full sleeves of tattoos, as well as inkings on his hands, chest, torso, back, neck, and most recently, his ankle. Most are in homage to members of his family and feature religious imagery.
Of his 40-plus tattoo Beckham has said: "They’re about the important people in my life, who I want to have with me always."
Phillips, who on Twitter has been accused of having a world view not far removed from that described in "Enid Blyton books", conceded in her column that tattoos had been "fashionable for years" and were no longer the "preserve of sailors, navvies and criminals".
Even David Cameron's wife had a tattoo of a dolphin on her ankle, she added.
Alex von Tunzelmann, who said she actually has a tattoo of a pagan, wrote on Twitter that she "loves her tattoos even more now I know they might irritate Melaine Phillips".
Phillips hypothesised various reasons why people get tattoos, such as rebellion and narcissism. For those with poor language skills, it was a way to express themselves, she said.
The columnist then dug a little "deeper", noting tattooing had been around since the earliest societies and was "heavily associated" with pagan cultures.
Beckham's tattoos, she wrote, while revealing his "love for his family" also show the former footballer can "manufacture a desired reality, to keep his family always with him and even to become literally part of him".
Phillips: "Regardless of the Christian themes pictured on his skin, is pagan."
Continuing on the pagan theme, Phillips said it was "no coincidence" that the surge in interest in tattoos and piercings had taken place at the same time as an increase in popularity of paganism.
“When it comes to the image of himself he chooses to project, he would appear to have become a pagan god for our desacralised age"”
The numbers of people identifying as pagan jumped from 42,000 in the 2001 census to 56,000 in 2011, Phillips noted. She then continued to flag other examples of paganism becoming more mainstream - like Cornwall deciding to teach witchcraft and druidry in school religious studies.
Tattooing, Philips noted, is prohibited in the Bible, as it seen as a pagan practice.
She said tattoos "denigrate humanity" and embody the "repudiation" of moral codes.
"If bodies can be instrumentalised, mutilated and turned into objects, so too can people."
Phillips said she was sure Beckham was a "splendid fellow", and she doubted he was a pagan, however, "when it comes to the image of himself he chooses to project, he would appear to have become a pagan god for our desacralised age"