The Abrahamic religions, which include Judaism, Islam and to a lesser extent Christianity have enshrined circumcision in their doctrines and belief systems. It’s not mandatory for Christians to be circumcised, but it is for Jews and Muslims. Indeed it’s quite clear that the God of the bible doesn’t want men to keep their foreskins…but it needs to be pointed out though that religion is a man made construct and the ‘word of God’, is actually the word of man uttering what he thinks God would say. For whatever the reasoning, it seems that quite a long time ago in antiquity, certain powerful Jews dictated that the Jewish people could no longer have foreskins in their culture and society. So the ‘word of God’ was then made up into stories which became enshrined in the old testament, and thus became immune from being questioned and challenged.
Criticism of religious circumcision inevitably results in cries and retorts of religious persecution and of being attacked for their beliefs, but the circumcision of babies, infants and children nevertheless appears to look like sexual torture. It would seem that the religious right to cause actual physical harm to male babies, infants and children overrides their fundamental human right to be intact the way they entered the world, with foreskins.
Jews circumcise their males because God commanded Abraham, who is the ancestral father of both Jews and Muslims to circumcise himself and his sons. He was also told that all his male descendants had to also undergo this command.
(Genesis 17:9-14) says: –
“(9) And God said unto Abraham: ‘And as for thee, thou shalt keep my covenant, thou, and thy seed after thee throughout their generations. (10) This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised.
(11) And ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt me and you. (12) And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any foreigner, that is not of thy seed. (13) He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised; and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. (14) And the uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.'”
In his book ‘The God Delusion’, Richard Dawkins describes the God of the old testament as “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully”. Erm, indeed…well said Mr Dawkins…Bravo!!!
The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ is a religious celebration on the eighth day after the birth of Jesus. It observes the day that Jesus was circumcised, showing by tradition his descent from Abraham. To believers, it is a feast celebrating not only Jesus consenting to submit to Jewish Law, but also the first time that he spilled his blood for mankind, thus demonstrating not only his obedience, but also foreshadows the Crucifixion. Jesus’ circumcision is mentioned in the gospels of St Luke, and the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, still celebrated by many churches, falls on January 1. The first reference to the survival of the severed foreskin comes in the second chapter of the apocryphal Arabic Infancy Gospel which contains the following story: – [1. And when the time of his circumcision was come, namely, the eighth day, on which the law commanded the child to be circumcised, they circumcised him in a cave. 2. And the old Hebrew woman took the foreskin, and preserved it in an alabaster-box of old oil of spikenard. 3. And she had a son who was a druggist, to whom she said, “Take heed thou sell not this alabaster box of spikenard-ointment, although thou shouldst be offered three hundred pence for it.” 4. Now this is that alabaster-box which Mary the sinner procured, and poured forth the ointment out of it upon the head and feet of our Lord Jesus Christ, and wiped it off with the hairs of her head]. Supposed foreskin relics began appearing during the Middle Ages and there were at least 18 different holy foreskins in various European towns during this time. These relics began to disappear during the Reformation Iconoclasm of 1566 and by the end of the French Revolution (1799) most of the Holy Prepuces were lost or destroyed…Thank heavens for that then.
Moses Maimónides (1135 – 1204), known as the “Rambam”, was a medieval Jewish rabbi, physician and philosopher who stated unequivocally that the real purpose of circumcision was to reduce sexual gratification…”In my opinion, the wish to bring about a decrease in sexual intercourse and a weakening of the organ in question, so that this activity be diminished and the organ be in as quiet a state as possible…In fact this commandment has not been prescribed with a view to perfecting what is defective congenitally, but to perfecting what is defective morally. The bodily pain caused to that member is the real purpose of circumcision. None of the activities necessary for the preservation of the individual is harmed thereby, nor is procreation rendered impossible, but violent concupiscence and lust that goes beyond what is needed are diminished. The fact that circumcision weakens the faculty of sexual excitement and sometimes perhaps diminishes the pleasure is indubitable. For if at birth this member has been made to bleed and had has its covering taken away from it, it must indubitably be weakened.” This is a straight from the horse’s mouth account of the reasoning behind Jewish circumcision.
In Jewish tradition there’s the practice of Metzitzeh B’peh whereby the mohel (circumciser) performs oral suction on the newly circumcised penis after he’s sliced off that baby boy’s foreskin. Whatever the origins and reasoning for this rite, its practice today must surely be questioned as whether this is a religious rite or morally abhorrent. In current day awareness of child sex abuse practices, does this practice not seem like a violation thereof? Why isn’t this practice being challenged as such? This isn’t something that’s occurring behind closed doors, but is openly being practiced in public in front of hoards of people in Synagogues. Why isn’t there an outcry of outrage about this practice then? There are known cases of Jewish baby boys who have died after contracting Herpes from having this oral suction performed on them by the mohel. How do the parents of these boys cope with the way that the death of their infants occurred?
Muslims systematically practice ‘Khatna’ or ‘Khitān’ (circumcision) although it is not mentioned anywhere in the Qur’an. It is alleged that Muhammad was born with Aposthia, which is a rare condition of being born without a foreskin. It was eventually deemed that all male followers should likewise not have foreskins, to be like Muhammad. Thus circumcision became one of the man-made laws, rituals, traditions and practices of the “Hadith and Sunnah” whereby it is demanded that all Muslims must have their foreskins cut off as a directive from Muhammad, although this is not officially required by the god of the Qur’an. It is the human authors of these man made laws and traditions who are responsible for the practice of this sexual torture. The unfortunate tragedy of this situation is that no negotiation is possible because the faithful must adhere to this tradition.
Muhammad was supposedly born without a foreskin and so for the rest of eternity all Muslim men must likewise look like him, but however they must undergo this painful ritual which is forced upon them as children. Circumcision is rigorously enforced by all Muslims in Islamic cultures all around the world. Male circumcision which is universally practiced tenaciously throughout the Islamic world is thus seen as a ‘normal’, required and routine ritual, whereas female circumcision is widespread but not universal.
Female circumcision (the other side of the circumcision coin) or Female Genital Cutting (FGC) is seen to be a blatant violation of human rights and outrightly banned in Western societies. It is practiced in many Muslim countries with an estimate of 100 million women worldwide having undergone genital cutting. It is usually performed on girls by adult women to prevent earthy desires, carnal pleasures, sexual enjoyment and fulfilment. It’s a means of dominating women in patriarchal societies where a man can have more than one wife and to sexually bind her to him and to control who is the father of her children. The victim is either an infant, toddler or young girl and is usually cut without anaesthesia whilst lying on her back, legs kept wide apart by helpers or by one lying under the young girl to anchor the ankles. To immobilize a 7 year old, sometimes requires up to 5 women to restrain the head, arms and legs. When the girl is a toddler, one assistant alone can manage body and thighs at the same time, while holding her in a sitting position.
Clitoridectomy, the operation of choice in Egypt is the surgical removal of the clitoris, the hood of the clitoris and the most important parts of the labia minora. Infibulation or pharaonic circumcision is practiced in Sudan and Somalia and involves the complete ablation (surgical removal) of the clitoris, labia minora and part of labia majora. The two sides of the vulva are then sewn together with silk or catgut stitches (Sudan) or with thorns (Somalia) in order to close the vulva, except for a very small opening for the passage of urine and menstrual flow. On the wedding night, the groom has to open his bride, more often than not with a double edged dagger. In some tribes, the woman is sewn back each time her husband goes travelling and is opened again each time he comes back. In case of divorce, the woman is sewn up to prevent any possibility of intercourse.
The worldwide number of circumcised men is estimated to be well over one billion, which also includes non-religious circumcisions. Some estimate that up to 40% of the global male population is circumcised.
There is a difference between the Jewish and Islamic traditions in that Jews circumcise their male infants on the 8th day after birth in a ceremony called Brit Mila (Hebrew = covenant of cutting) while Muslims circumcise pre-pubescent boys as this is a pre-requisite to read the Qur’an. A number of documentaries which have showed this practice say just how violent, frightening and deeply upsetting it is to witness this trauma. Often it is done en mass in public, where dozens of boys are circumcised at the same event. Often the boy has to be physically restrained by adult men because of their struggling whilst their foreskins are cut off. The crying and screaming from the excrutiating physical pain is something that many men vividly recall and many try to forget. But there are also psychological signs and symptoms which can manifest as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). See the Psychological Implications page.
Indeed a study of Turkish boys circumcised in late childhood found that a boy experienced a sense of powerlessness and felt a violent and an aggressive attack upon his body, which damaged and in some cases totally destroyed him. Ritual circumcision appeared to be associated with increased aggressiveness, weakness of the ego, withdrawal, reduced functioning and adaptation and nightmares consistent with PTSD. Many Muslims males don’t really know why they have to get their foreskins cut off. It’s been deemed that all of Muhammad’s male followers must be circumcised to be Muhammad-like (in that he was born without a foreskin). That seems to make this practice awfully unfair on all the millions upon millions of little boys who have to be held down by adults whilst their foreskins are sliced off without any anaesthetic. There doesn’t seem to be any negotiation on this situation because Muslims see any challenge to this practice as an attack on their right to practice their religion. But what about the fundamental human right to keep one’s foreskin? Or what about the right to not be sexually tortured?
The male phallus has been under religious attack throughout history and to this day circumcision is mandatory throughout vast areas of the world affecting hundreds of millions of people and both males and females are the victims of this practice. The pressure by those communities on anyone who challenges this practice is a major problem because being shunned, rejected, ostracised and possibly killed are usually the result of challenging circumcision. Is it hardly surprising then that many of the most violent societies and wars on the planet are perpetrated by those who ritually circumcise their males, torturing their penises by cutting off their foreskins, dulling their sensitivity to decrease their sexual pleasures and invalidating their right of maleness to possess a foreskin?
The Abrahamic religions have embedded circumcision into the bedrock of their culture, with no negotiation of altering this practice. How then is this to be challenged? There has to be a start somewhere, to begin the ending of religious circumcision. There’s a growing number of enlightened Jewish men and women who are now challenging the practice of circumcision and refraining from having their baby boys’ foreskins cut off. They are certainly not rejecting their religion, just simply the brutal torture of their sons’ penises. Dr. Jenny Goodman, a Jewish Medical Doctor and Psychotherapist says: “None of us do it for medical reasons. We do it because we fear being cast out from the tribe. But after having done it, we comfort ourselves with these medical myths … If we could progress from sacrifice through castration to circumcision, then we can continue to progress all the way away from any kind of physical injury.” The Brit Shalom is a surgery free Jewish naming ceremony (Hebrew = covenant of peace) which has nothing to do with circumcision. Their website is called jewsagainstcircumcision.org for further information. Islam however remains stoic in its tenacity to adhere rigidly to the practice of circumcision and demands the genital cutting of all males and depending on the nation, females also. Muslim men and women must begin to make a stand, take control of their genitals by rejecting the grisly practice of genital cutting and start preserving the most sensitive and precious parts of their bodies.
Ultimately, all religions are man-made constructions…devised, established and enshrined in beliefs created by humans under the guise that it is God’s voice. The harsh reality is that, it was ‘Man that created God’…at least the Abrahamic version in the Old Testament. And indeed if there was a God like creative force that created all of life, then surely this creative force via evolution, designed human beings to be perfect organisms, with no redundant or extraneous parts. The belief systems that humans devised to deal with the world thousands of years ago may have served them well, as the world was a very different place then. It would seem that the human hierarchy at that time enshrined their beliefs systems to appear like they were directives from God, with commands, instructions and punishments, in attempts to keep order among the population through stories, anecdotes and accounts, ultimately becoming the collective conglomeration of texts known as the bible. However, the world has now become a very different place with global civilization and a hopefully more holistic understanding of human beings, nature and the world . We no longer need to follow archaic sets of rules and directives that don’t serve humanity any longer. We need to collectively say a very loud no to this outdated and brutal practice of enforced circumcision in the name of religion because it is inhumane, cruelly harmful, dangerous and just simply wrong.