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Is Circumcision in America Really “Deeply Religious”?

November 24, 2013

Things have changed considerably in just the last few years with respect to mass media and the topic of circumcision. Several articles are published every month now – if not every week — in major newspapers and websites here in the U.S. and abroad.

Is Circumcision a Progressive Issue?As a result, it’s somewhat of a luxury to find myself being critical of a piece written by an author who self-identifies as a “Humanist” and presents his personal views as “progressive” on the topic of circumcision.

In his report on a recent intactivist street protest where he interviewed several of the demonstrators, he states, “… my own feeling is that we should not be surgically altering the genitalia of our children without their consent, and that consent can only be given when the child is of legal age.”

What more could you ask, right?

But in an attempt to identify the root cause of the inertia that stands in the way of the real progress made to end circumcision in this country, the author relies on an unsubstantiated claim that conflates notions of American progressivism with unwavering support for religious freedom.

He says, “Circumcision has a deep cultural and religious meaning, and asking people to give up on that practice will be a long, uphill battle.”

The truth is that in the United States, only a tiny fraction of infant circumcisions are conducted as religious rituals. Jews constitute just two percent of the U.S. population. Of those, only a few say religion is very important in their lives.

While no study I’m aware of has been done to uncover current attitudes and thinking specifically about circumcision among American Jews, it’s clear from the number of Jewish intactivists, from the Jewish physicians I know who have refused to have their own sons circumcised, and from information gleaned over the years I’ve been involved with this issue, that many, many Jews forgo the bris, which is the only way of achieving a religiously valid circumcision. And, it’s well known among health professionals that American Muslims have their sons circumcised by the doctor, before they leave the hospital, rather than as part of any religious or “spiritual” ritual.

The author also ignores the much more interesting and inherent conflict between a commitment to human rights and a knee-jerk “progressive” reluctance to condemn a religious practice that violates those rights – all of this while buying into the fallacy that circumcision’s “deep cultural and religious meaning” is the major roadblock to ending its practice in the U.S.

Except for misplaced anxiety about whether siding with the rights of the child will brand one an anti-Semite,  circumcision in America has almost nothing to do with religion. Yet doctors and hospitals exploit this myth in order to sell an unjustifiable but money-making surgery.

Georganne Chapin

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Gianluca permalink
    December 3, 2013 12:51 am

    In Switzerland, a mother from a Westafrican country has been fined for circumcising her son against the will of the Swiss father. In the canton of Zürich, both parents must each provide their signature if the son has to be circumcised in a hospital. Here is the article (in German):

    http://www.zol.ch/blaulicht/standard/Nach-Beschneidung-Bestrafung-wegen-Koerperverletzung/story/30415106

    The fine is relatively small (around 1350$) and, ironically, it will probably be the father who will have to pay it (assuming that the mother is unemployed) since they are still married according to the article. The article does not mention any consequences for the surgeon who performed the circumcision. It is interesting that laws regulating infant circumcision are so hard to enforce.

  2. Gianluca permalink
    November 26, 2013 1:26 am

    The thing is that even those Jews who still practice circumcision might not do it for religious or spiritual reasons. If you ask Jewish parents why they decided to circumcise their son, the answer will most likely be: “Because we are Jewish”. So, it’s less about religion and more about cultural/ethnical identity. It has no spiritual meaning.

  3. November 25, 2013 6:15 pm

    Ritual circumcsion is religious but not the Islamic, Jewish, or Christian religions that are the main victims of the religious sacrificial punishment covenant/law/sunnet. The religion is a type of deeply secretive witchcraft/witchdoctor medicine, I think of as originating from cabbalah, an ancient feminism. They use intuitive psychological warfare against the patriotic religions, convincing their sons to believe in lies and fear a false heavenly godfather who will curse them if they choose not to allow themselvs to become circumcised, at the same time the witchdoctors/nurses have learned how to use circumcision as a form of population control, a weapon of mass sexual dysfunctions, causing excessive nerve dammage, botched, and traumatic circumcisions on the sons of undesireable men.They want it done in infancy because it is difficult to tell how much dammage was done until after puberty.
    After all, in the long run, the only people who have benefited from religious circumcision has been the Jewesses, not the Jews. Geneticists have discovered a larger than normal amount of women world wide with the askenazi genetic marker. They aren’t Jewish but are in every walk of life. The theory is that circumcision deminishes the natural ratio of men to women in a circumcising culture, through increasing accidental deaths, mental illness, depression, sexual dysfunctions, suicides, anger issues leading to genocides, wars, Holocaustings, allowing/forcing the women to breed outside their cultures preventing inbreeding within the false god worshipping religious culture. Righ now in the USA many women are choosing intactMexicans as lovers because the American men are all psychologically messed up from their ritual infant sexual trauma.
    It’s like the powerful Bene Gesserit Nuns/witches in the movie Dune, who have been manipulating genes for miilenia for control of the Universe. Or, this all could be my own circumcision induces paranoid delusions.

    • Bettie permalink
      April 9, 2014 12:36 am

      No, Frederick, you aren’t having paranoid delusions. There is indeed more going on than meets the eye at first glance.

  4. November 25, 2013 4:53 pm

    I have contended for quite some time that MGM is the actual religion. It has nothing to do with conventional faith issues of non-Jewish people, especially those claiming to be Christian. The New Testament clearly states that circumcision is of no value.. Since there is no valid reason to circumcise a newborn infant, people do it just because they have bought into the belief that it’s the right thing to do because they have always done it. It is a blood ritual through which the baby boy is accepted into the organization, nothing more. It makes no sense, and that alone is good enough reason to prevent it from happening. If parents wish to sacrifice something in the name of their religious beliefs, they should not be sacrificing body parts of their sons.

  5. Petit Poulet permalink
    November 24, 2013 10:59 pm

    I think the “Humanist” has made the mistake of confusing liberalism (as defined by John Rawls), in which we must find a way for people of multiple belief systems to co-exist in a modern secular society, with cultural relativism, in which all cultural practices, no matter how harmful, are equally valid because of tradition. Not all cultural practices are acceptable in a modern, liberal, secular society. These practices would include slavery, exposure of female infants, honor killings, and the genital cutting of minors.

    This not to deny that this is not tension. Male infant circumcision is considered by some to be an essential feature of their heritage and belief systems, but is also a clear violation of child’s basic human rights. For Progressive, Humanists, and Rawlsian liberals, the human rights of the individual trumps harmful cultural traditions. Freedom of thought is primary right, but religious practice is not. That is why we don’t allow honor killings or slavery. Remember that slavery was clearly morally wrong, but it took a bloody war to eradicate it.

    • Gianluca permalink
      November 26, 2013 4:26 pm

      Thanks Petit Poulet, this is a very nice thought.

      There is also the concept of tolerance. We need to be tolerant towards other religions and cultures. However, there is a limit how tolerant we can be. How can you be tolerant when you see (or think of) a baby that is screaming in pain and is being subjected to an unnecessary ritual and is totally defenseless? This is asking a lot from us. We also condemn corporal punishments like spanking and slapping. Why is it then ok to inflict pain onto a newborn infant who has not committed any fault?

  6. November 24, 2013 3:39 pm

    The problem with human species is that they mimic the events they see in humans around them, they copy the good or the bad or even outright stupid. When many do something the individual that see it will mostly do the same. This ability to copy others made humans what they are, all the technology and what. 10 years ago when I started to write to my future wife I was already upset about America because of this genital mutilation stuff. No magazines, no medical books would explain what damage it do to a future man and his mate as well. Growing up in central Europe under the communist I admired America but never did I realize that the very founding documents that made this place the way it is, that its constitution is being stepped on, When almost half of new Americans were violated on by doctors and and the protection of the reproductive organ was cut of in almost all new born boys without even asking the parent, something even the communist would not do,, America is not what the constitution say. The cult print behind all this is the American doctor. how can a person study all about the human body but never ask for what Nature evolved the protective covers, plus the anti- friction mechanic and so much more? It seems like the average USA doctor lack the right intellect compared to the European one? Some must know but do not want to rock the boat or loose profit? If the human ape survive its own stupidity and do not destroy itself in time the future generations will look at the genital mutilation of boys and girls in disbelieve.

  7. November 24, 2013 12:26 pm

    The number of American Jews might be even less than 2%. The U.S. Census says that 1.2% of American adults describe their religion as Judaism, down from 1.8% twenty years ago. As Georgeanne mentions, not all circumcision performed by Jews are truly religious. According to a Rabbi I spoke with, only circumcisions performed on the 8th day by a mohel fulfill the religious requirements of the bris. All others are simply secular in nature. By my estimation, only 1 in 1,000 circumcisions in the United States are religious circumcisions.

    Yet, when I’ve talked with people about stopping circumcision the response I hear most often is, “But it’s religious!” Naturally, I hear this from Jews, but also from converts, Christians, and ironically even Atheists. When I hear this I ask them what percentage of circumcisions in the U.S. do they think are religious? Their reply is almost always 20%. Twenty percent! That works out to be 200 in 1,000.

    What this means is that there is a HUGE hyper-political correctness surrounding Jews and circumcision. This mass mistaken belief is a significant challenge to Intactivism, which not only wants to protect that one baby boy born to devote Jewish parents, but the other 999 baby boys who aren’t.

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  1. Is Circumcision in America Really “Deeply Religious”? | END ROUTINE INFANT CIRCUMCISION

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