The popular image blog Big Picture features photos of Christian believers around the world preparing for and celebrating Holy Week--the last week of Lent and the week leading up to Easter. Rituals vary widely, but what is striking about the set of photos displayed at the Big Picture is the number of people (referred to as 'penitents') who are undergoing some sort of self-punishment--From the skinned knees of someone kneeling on paving stones, to the bloody backs of self-flagellation, to the horrific view of a man's hand punctured with a nail in simulation of Jesus' crucifixion.
Many of these images would no doubt seem normal or even exalted to those familiar with the culture in which they are seen, but to outsiders they appear strange, even bizarre. Such is the way. As Robert Heinlein said, "One man's religion is another man's belly laugh."