Circumcision of Infants

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Reading an article in The Spectator The latest anti-Semitic cry: ban circumcision by Brendan O’Neil, this part defending circumcision as exerting parental rights over non existent child rights stood out:

the European warriors against circumcision are driven by some very backward thinking. They, too, elevate the so-called rights of the child above adults’ freedom of religion, in the process denting age-old liberties and giving further succour to that most poisonous and fatalistic idea of our therapeutic era: that what happens to us in childhood determines our future character, personality and fortunes. And they also promote some pretty anti-Semitic thinking. New atheist types have rebranded circumcision ‘genital mutilation’ and even ‘sexual assault’

The article itself makes clear the anti-Semitic nature of the cartooned blond blue eyed superhero Foreskin Man – not coming to a child’s lunch box anytime soon. Maybe O’Neil thinks this Rabbi is being anti-Semetic:

“I cannot support circumcision with any conviction, just because it has always been held in high regard. It remains a barbaric, bloody act, which fills the father with anxiety and subjects the mother to morbid stress. The idea of sacrifice, which once consecrated the procedure, has certainly vanished among us, as it should. It is a brutal act that does not deserve continuation. No matter how much religious sentiment may have clung to it in the past, today it is perpetuated only by custom and fear, to which surely we do not want to erect temples.” – Rabbi Abraham Geiger, an influential Rabbi in the early Reform movement of Judaism. [Source]

Yet attempts to prevent circumcision as “backward thinking” as Brendan O’Neil states deserves also a hitchslap retort from Christopher Hitchens as in God Is Not Great:

In more recent times, some pseudosecular arguments have been adduced for male circumcision. It has been argued that the process is more hygienic for the male and thus more healthy for females in helping them avoid, for example, cervical cancer. Medicine has exploded these claims or else revealed them as problems which can just as easily be solved by a “loosening” of the foreskin. Full excision, originally ordered by god as the blood price for the promised future massacre of the Canaanites, is now exposed for what it is — a mutilation of a powerless infant with the aim of ruining its future sex life. The connection between religious barbarism and sexual repression could not be plainer than when it is “marked in the flesh.” Who can count the number of lives that have been made miserable in this way, especially since Christian doctors began to adopt ancient Jewish folklore in their hospitals? And who can bear to read the medical textbooks and histories which calmly record the number of boy babies who died from infection after their eighth day, or who suffered gross and unbearable dysfunction and disfigurement? The record of syphilitic and other infection, from rotting rabbinical teeth or other rabbinical indiscretions, or of clumsy slitting of the urethra and sometimes a vein, is simply dreadful. And it is permitted in New York in 2006! If religion and its arrogance were not involved, no healthy society would permit this primitive amputation, or allow any surgery to be practiced on the genitalia without the full and informed consent of the person concerned.

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The video below talks about the foreskin (there is some enthusiastic swearing in praise of it) and circumcision, by sex educator Laci Green

The issue is an irreversible surgical procedure which is about religious identity of parents being forced for all time on a child’s body. An eight day old boy has no religious opinions let alone ability to consent or practise but neurologically feels pain – do not be mistaken no such thing as a child’s right exists unless you will equally argue parents may commit infanticide as well as mutilation for a similar reason. Child sacrifice as reported in The Daily Mail in India.

Are we going to claim circumcision is important because of ancient holy scripture such as mentioned in The New Statesman Circumcision is not a barrier to an individual’s religious freedom by Nelson Jones:

In one incident recounted in Exodus, God threatens to kill Moses, apparently because the prophet’s (non-Jewish) wife has not had their son circumcised. He is only saved when Zipporah takes the knife to her son’s foreskin herself. The message is clear: so much does God care about circumcision that’s he’s prepared to kill the man without whom there would be no Judaism (nor any Christianity or Islam) at all rather than see one Israelite child in possession of a foreskin. It’s that serious.

It is backward thinking to take this seriously. Yet the argument Jones makes is that Judaism would cease to exist with a ban, whilst Islam has no prescribed date for circumcision to happen. The article neglects the change that is already happening within Judaism.

Reform and Humanistic Judaism are being honest about circumcision, and covenant ceremonies are done without it. The medical evidence is use condoms not hack part of the penis off. I would rather that within Judaism this custom is recognised for what it is today and it becomes more honoured in the breach and than in the observance with secularised covenant ceremonies.

Previous article on Female Genital Mutilation here.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

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6 Comments

Filed under Hitchens, Religion, Uncategorized

6 responses to “Circumcision of Infants

  1. muggleinconverse

    I was so disgusted when the AAP released their last recommendation on circumcision. After their attempts to whitewash FGM, I’m surprised anyone takes them seriously on the issue.

  2. Excellent response to @brendanoneal. Many thanks.

  3. There is no way to excuse the forcible reduction of a non-consenting healthy normal person’s genitals. Foreskin feels REALLY good. Circumcision alters sex dramatically – when it goes as planned. Infant circumcision has absurdly haphazard outcomes.

    Informed adults can decide for themselves at a rational age.

  4. To be against circumcision would be antisemitic if all Jews circumcise and only Jews circumcise, but neither is true. In fact worldwide only about 5% of circumcision is Jewish, and in the USA only about 3.6%. In Europe, perhaps as many as 40% of boys in Jewish families are left intact.

    Oddly enough, in the USA, real antisemites such as the KKK and the American Nazi Party are not against circumcision, because they are mainly circumised men themselves.

    This is just an ad hominem (personal attack) argument anyway, because people’s motives for opposing non-therapeutic infant genital cutting don’t change the fact that it is a human rights violation, and who says it doesn’t make it any less true.

  5. Nan Parkinson

    Thanks, John, for this excellent post. Both FGM and infant circumcision (for non-medical reasons) are horrendous. Stopping FGM is more urgent because it appears to be more harmful and more traumatic as it tends to occur at a later age, when the child is more acutely aware. However, both should be banned immediately.

  6. Great article on the secular, social reasons for routine circumcision in English-speaking countries, especially USA, during 20th century. The comments just add to the insights.

    [Edit: link shows penises – you have been warned]

    http://closetprofessor.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/routine-secular-circumcision-case-of.html

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