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Circumcision, Male or Female:

A comment to an earlier post raised the question of circumcision more broadly:

Whatever the free excercise clause might mean, I don't think it meant that people could do irreparable physical harm to their children. Likewise, if you have legal guardianship of a child, do you have a legal right to perform other kinds of unnecessary cosmetic surgery? Why stop at circumcision? What is the limit on what harm a parent can do to a child?

We would not accept the mutilation of young girls, no matter how strong the religious convictions of the parent. Why would we accept the mutilation of young boys?

I agree that female circumcision (or, if you prefer, female genital mutilation) should be banned, but that's because it's pretty clearly and severely harmful to the child -- unless I'm mistaken, there's a near certainty of substantial loss of sexual pleasure plus (I think) a substantial risk of other problems.

The matter as to male circumcision, I think, is different. While some people claim that it causes a loss of sexual pleasure, there's a hot debate about this, and there's little reason to think that the loss approaches the loss caused by female circumcision (though it's of course not easy to compare such hard-to-measure matters). There is apparently some evidence that it has health benefits, perhaps modest and perhaps quite substantial. And there's apparently little reason to think that it has significant purely medical risks. Given this uncertainty about (purely secular) costs and benefits, it seems to me that parents should remain free to make this decision themselves. At the very least, the balance is not nearly as stark as it is for female circumcision.

This leaves the argument that the procedure, even if harmless, is an improper imposition on the child, because it's an irreparable (or at least very hard to repair) change to his body, done without his consent. Yet that strikes me as too abstract an objection to be helpful.

Parents do lots of things, physical and otherwise, that can't be easily undone and that the child doesn't consent to (or can't meaningfully consent to). They may perform cosmetic surgery to correct small abnormalities, surgery that they may think is valuable but that the child might one day resent. They may give the child growth hormone to counteract what would seem to be his abnormal shortness. They may decide to get the child's tonsils removed, to avoid recurring but non-life-threatening infections. They may decide to get the child braces, over the child's strong objections.

If these steps seem likely to create significant harms, I can see the need to protect the child from them. But I'm not persuaded that a child has a freestanding right to be free of unconsented-to physical changes by his parents, independently of the harm the changes can cause.

David Hecht (mail):
Oh, brother. One of the things that made me give up Andrew Sullivan's blog was when he started writing about this sort of thing; indeed, started agitating for the state's intervention to prevent boys from being circumcised (so much for the Government's being booted out of the bedroom).

Frankly, if I wanted to read about such things I'd probably look somewhere else than a law prof group blog. But what do I know?

Please...keep it short, sweet, and to the point. And no gratuitous anatomical details, pleeeeeeeeze!
8.31.2005 4:13pm
allen:
Eugene,

I suspect you've pulled the cart before the horse by bringing forward such a specific situation. More fundamental is the very nature of the parent and child relationship. For several thousand years, parents effectively owned their children until they reached the age of majority--barring minor acquisitions of rights that children would acquire at particular ages.

Interestingly, we have so many lingering vestiges of this system. For example, children were not liable for crimes because their parents were liable on their behalf. Just as women were often not liable for crimes because their husbands were liable on their behalf. Therefore, the discipline of children became principally a parental concern. The state intervened only when parents repeatedly failed to control their children and then essentially on behalf of the parents. Thus the courts are not concerned by mere crimes by children but by juvenile delinquents--those who are repeatedly failure to uphold their duty to their parents.

I'd say most people have now rejected that concept just as we've rejected involuntary servitude, but we haven't exactly replaced it with an equally cogent idea. Just what is the relationship between parent and child?
8.31.2005 4:45pm
magoo (mail):
"MAY THE FORCE(kin) BE WITH YOU"
8.31.2005 6:09pm
Crane (mail):
There have been lots of arguments posted over on Slate ever since they brought up the subject. Quite a number of people were calling circumcision "mutilation" and "a barbaric practice", and while the pro-circumcision group was fairly free of rants there were a few who claimed that opponents were motivated more by anti-semitism than by a true concern for infants.

Then, of course, there are the support groups for adult "victims" of circumcision, who feel that they were violated by a greedy and uncaring medical profession. (here) I showed this article to a Jewish guy I used to date, and he didn't understand why men would get so worked up about the subject either.
8.31.2005 6:35pm
Crane (mail):
And, of course, since said Jewish guy's identity as a Jew was very important to him, he was planning to have all of his future sons circumcised. I don't think he would have taken kindly to the notion that a procedure that had been a major part of his ancestors' faith and that in his opinion had done no harm to him, his male relatives, or indeed anyone he knew should be banned just because some non-Jews don't like it.
8.31.2005 8:30pm
Penta:
Especially since a lot of non-Jews are circumcised too. Say, for instance, an area with a high Jewish population. Or a high Muslim population (since Muslims also circumcise).

I mean, dammit, do we need to make gym class in middle school and high school even harder for the adolescent male?

(This post includes a substantial tongue in cheek.)

With that said, just what percentage of boys in the US are circumcised, anyway?
8.31.2005 9:11pm
DanB:
There is no serious scientific basis for the claim that circumcision has significant health benefits. There are plenty of cultures wherein circumcision is rare, and they do just fine. We would see much greater health benfits by forcibly giving all women breast reductions -- anyone want to advocate that?

And enough with the claims of anti-semetism. The majority of practioners and victims of circumcision aren't Jewish. This is about mutilation of children, not Judaism. The legal standard in this society is that you aren't allowed to carve bits off of people without their permission unless it is absolutely necessary. We make an exception for circumcision only because it is mentioned in Leviticus.
8.31.2005 9:27pm
DanB:
With that said, just what percentage of boys in the US are circumcised, anyway?

Around 75%. The popularity of the procedure peaked in the 1960s; today a little over half of newborn males are circumcised.
8.31.2005 9:36pm
TheCuriousKitten (mail) (www):
Look at the studies that "show significant health benefits".

They are all statistics. No experimental data, no controls, not even a study making certain that they were comparing apples to apples.

Then look at the studies showing significant harm from circumcision. All experiments, all with controls, most double blind.

The quality of the science is what sold me, that and working in a daycare. I saw little boys pre-circumcision and I saw them post circumcision. I saw happy little boys turn into fussy little boys. I also saw the operation with their little faces frozen in horror and pain.

Now I won't try to ban it. I think it is mutilation. I think it is morally reprehensible, but I don't think a ban will be effective until we've got more evidence.

A ban will probably just stir up resentment from the pro-circumcision groups and they'll do it in secret.

I will argue against it whenever I hear about it though. I will correct misconceptions, and try to talk people out of it. It is not a good thing, and I hope that people will eventually realize this.
8.31.2005 10:44pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
So, you would forbid a procedure that has thousands of years of history behind it because you don't have the double blind tests yet?

The problem is that the apparent health benefits are not for the man, but rather for his female partner. So, you have a bunch of male pediatricians worrying about the harm it does to male babies, and and a bunch of female ob/gyns worrying about the harm the lack of male circumcism does to their female patients.

And I think the emotional trauma issue is ridiculous. I had it done at birth, and don't remember either, and if I did, I am sure I would remember my birth long before I remembered my circumcism. I cannot believe that a ritual circumcism performed eight days later can be any more traumatic. I agree with Ann Althouse. I have been to bris, and the trauma to the boys seems less than that of many shots. At least the boys scream less.

But then, again, that may be because the Mohel performing Jewish circumcisms are typically better trained to do such than are the pediatricians who typically do so on us gentiles. One such (Rabbi Yehuda Lebovics) suggests that a Mohel can do it in 20 to 30 seconds, whereas pediatricians take a couple of minutes. He also points to the use of differrent apparatae.
9.1.2005 12:08am
Lynn Gazis-Sax (mail) (www):
"The legal standard in this society is that you aren't allowed to carve bits off of people without their permission unless it is absolutely necessary."

But that isn't the legal standard we live under, not by a long shot. Parents get their infant girls' ears pierced. Parents can have minor cosmetic surgery performed, tonsils removed, etc., as Eugene has pointed out. Heck, the genitals of intersex children have been operated on to make them look more plausibly like one sex, without anyone bothering to wait till they were old enough to consent (and that's a much bigger deal than circumcision, and one more worth questioning). The actual legal standard we live under is that you're not allowed to carve bits off people without consent from either the person in question (if the person in question is of age and mentally competent) or the next of kin (if the person is not of age or not mentally competent).

It's hardly a standard I'd like to have changed as a general rule, since families in conjunction with their doctors are usually in a better position to decide what's in their child's interest than distant legislators. So it's best that the government prohibit only what's clearly harmful, rather than allowing only what's clearly necessary.
9.1.2005 1:43am
Mark Brady:
I remember Thomas Szasz cited a study which claimed that in the United States two hundred male infants died each year as a result of routine neonatal circumcision. I think you can find the reference in the endnotes to his Sex by Prescription (1980). Many years later Szasz stated that this medical procedure violated the rights of the infants concerned but that it should not be made illegal becase prohibition would require a massive government intrusion into family life. See his "Routine Neonatal Circumcision: Symbol of the Birth of the Therapeutic State" in the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 21 (1996): 137-48.

You might also wish to consult Robert Darby's A Surgical Temptation: The Demonization of the Foreskin and the Rise of Circumcision in Britain (University of Chicago Press, 2005). I have yet to see a copy of this book but the subtitle makes it sound worth reading. Many years ago I read that, when in 1948 the National Health Service was established in the UK, the authorities resolved routine neonatal circumcision was an unnecessary surgical procedure and would not be available without payment, and consequently demand collapsed. When I'm teaching economic principles, I use this example to illustrate the law of demand. Since then, I understand, infant circumcision in the UK has been pretty much confined to boys born into orthodox Jewish families. (I don't have the reference to hand but I guess Darby's new book also discusses these events.)
9.1.2005 2:21am
TDPerkins (mail):
TheCuriousKitten writes (and shows his misunderstanding of statistics):

"They are all statistics."

Unless you can show the statistics are biased, then they are experimental data in a very large experiment, the sample size of which provides validity. Before they can be disregarded, you have to show the grounds on which they should be disregarded.

As the perspective of benefits for later female partners shows, the entire population is taking part in this experiment--that's a large sample size.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
9.1.2005 7:09am
Ben Pincus (mail):
The Jewish religion forbids any mutilation of the body and regards one's body as God's property, not that of the temporary user (the self). Circumcision is only regarded as permitted through God's direct command according to Jews. If it were not for that, it would also be considered mutilation by the Jews themselves, so it is no wonder that non-Jews or those unfamiliar with Jewish law and its practice would regard it as such.

In this particular case, a little medical research on Google will show that the largest single cause of cases of infant herpes occurs when the mother has active sores during the delivery. The accepted medical practice, if the sores are noticed is to deliver the babies by Caesarian section which avoids the problem completely.

The problem of infant herpes which is eminently treatable, is that it is so often misdiagnosed and therefore mistreated. By the time it is recognized, it is often too late. In this latest case, BOTH of the twins had herpes infections. Another possible source of infection is the infant nursery in the hospital. It is far more likely that the babies got these infections from a source other than the mohel.

Did anyone read ANYTHING in the news about the incidence of herpes due to vaginal delivery? Conspicuous by its absence were any questions of the obstetrician or the hospital workers or officials. No reports seem to show anyone attempting to question the pediatrician who treated the children after they became ill. Why didn't some perspiring young reporter seek to interview the ObGyn on this case to ask if he/she examined the patient for any vaginal herpes sores before the delivery (this should be routine!)? Why wasn't the pediatrician questioned about what medications or treatments were tried on the child who died?

Of course, the doctors would have declined the interviews and that would have been reported--but that would have mitigated the impact of the whole story. In none of the recent herpes cases has it been shown compellingly that the mohel was at fault. Somehow the discussion of the danger of circumcision goes on, though the case itself has quietly disappeared.

The purpose of this story I submit, was not to protect the public, but to attack and injure the image of Orthodox Jews as uncaring fanatics willing to endanger their children, and to attack the religious institution of circumcision. This story is designed to play to the secular-humanist gallery and attack religion. It is not really about protecting children or public health.

If people were truly concerned about the legal ramifications of larger public health issues we would be discussing whether the rights of those wishing to get a tattoo should over-ride the compelling need of the public to stop the rampant spread of Hepatitis C, or about whether the rights of individuals to choose to have (even consenting) sexual contact should over-ride the need of the public to stem the tide of HIV infection, or the possibility of prosection and punishment of persons who do not reveal a known HIV infection to their sexual partner. Choosing to limit individual rights in any of these circumstances would save thousands of lives and billions of dollars, but we don't seriously consider them. I guess concern for public health has its limitations where personal pleasures are concerned, but when religion or children are thrown into the mix, we become so much more 'caring.'

Ben Pincus
Rockland County NY
9.1.2005 7:19am
Paul doson (mail) (www):
Intellectually drafted article. seems to grab attention at once.The writer has a good knowledge of the subject and makes reading interesting.
Mac
9.1.2005 7:59am
Sigivald (mail):
Danb: The problem with calling it "mutilation" is that the use of the term is subjective, especially in such a case as this. (Mutilation vs. Decoration is a matter of taste and cultural upbringing, much like Delicious Acquire Taste vs. Vile Filth No Decent Person Would Eat.)

Given that people also quite seriously call an earring "mutilation" (and that people in various cultures with equal sincerity and seriousness consider facial and body scarification a requisite for any adult, rather than the mutilation we would generally consider it), perhaps it would be best to drop the emotionally-loaded terms entirely, and attempt to convince people in some way with a more rational grounding?

I'm very much a moral absolutist, but we're talking about aesthetics here, and that's a different beast entirely. If you've got a moral or practical argument against circumcision, you should present it.

Calling it mutilation and expecting people to just run with your assertion isn't going to be very effective in terms of argumentation; surely you've noticed already that people plainly and flatly disagree with that assessment, and that no amount of repeating it is going to change anyone's mind?
9.1.2005 1:38pm
TheCuriousKitten (mail) (www):
Bruce:

Did I say I would forbid it? No. Did you read what I wrote? Apparently not, as I said I wouldn't ban it.

I will try to talk people out of it though. I will call it wrong. I will try to talk them into simply freekin' delaying it until the child is old enough to avoid nerve damage and liver damage from pain killers. This is a harmless precaution, and it satisfies both the male pediatricians and the female obgyns.

What kills me is that people cling to less reliable science and tout it as proof. It is not proof. At most it is an argument that more study is needed because their might be a benefit. None of these potential benefits give reasons that it must be done to an infant.

Then they overlook concrete studies which actually show compelling and irrefutable evidence of harm to an infant.

As a biologist this makes me want to bang my head against the wall and cry.

I never said I was in favor of a government ban. I am in favor of parents not doing it though. There is a huge difference.
9.1.2005 1:45pm
Rough Justice (mail):
You are 100% wrong about allowing parents and doctors to decide to circumcise male infants. Your 100% wrong. 100% wrong. Did I make myself clear enough. By the way, how DARE you do that to your own kids.
9.1.2005 2:05pm
TheCuriousKitten (mail) (www):
TDPerkins;

Would you please link to that study? There might be something to it, and that would be good, but off the top of my head I can think of the following things that might be wrong with a nation-wide study:

1. Women who are more prone to infection tend to be "Sensitive". They tend to go for partners who are "sensitive" as well, and more gentle. Perhaps the group that gets more yeast infections and urinary tract infections has a greater tendency to choose partners that are circumcised
2. Are they checked so that no part has disproportionate cultural groups? Different groups have different attitudes towards hygiene. For instance, Jewish people have a very strong cultural incentive towards hygiene, so are more likely to be clean anyway. My white-trash family is less likely to circumcise, and they are not overly fond of baths. *grins*
3. Are the statistics weighted so that no part of the study contains disproportionate ethnic groups? Ethnic groups have different genetic predispositions, perhaps a predisposition to cervical cancer and yeast infections.
4. Have we taken into account age groups? Different age groups act in different ways. Sex without condoms was the rule of the day for my mother and grandmother. Not so for my generation even after marriage. Different age groups are also more likely to have sex, which increases your risk factors.

There are countless others. Think I am being anal-retentive?

In a study of 1st through 4th graders nationwide, you can find a correlation between shoe-size and scores on a particular test. All of the elementary students of the nation is a big ole' sample size. This is proof that people with big feet are smarter, right?

Wrong. Because the children with bigger feet tend to be in higher grades. Children in higher grades tend to score better. Unless we can account for all of the variables, you really can't use statistics as "proof". You can only look towards them as showing trends.

Now if they account for all of these variables, I might be interested. Even then, though, these statistics do nothing to prove the case for infant circumcision. They also don't show how effective circumcision is as opposed to simple hygiene.
9.1.2005 2:22pm
TheCuriousKitten (mail) (www):
Rough Justice;

Has that really persuaded anyone? Ever?
9.1.2005 2:23pm
jonzyx (mail):
TheCuriousKitten:
You wrote "Look at the studies that "show significant health benefits". They are all statistics. No experimental data, no controls, not even a study making certain that they were comparing apples to apples".

I don't claim to be an expert about medical research, but I recently read in the WSJ that circumcision reduced AID's risk to such an extent that

"The circumcision findings were so dramatic that the data and safety monitoring board overseeing the research halted the study in February, about nine months before it would have been completed, on the grounds that it would be immoral to proceed without offering the uncircumcised control group the opportunity to undergo the procedure"

Study Says Circumcision Reduces AIDS Risk by 70%
Findings From South Africa
May Offer Powerful Way
To Cut HIV Transmission

By MARK SCHOOFS, SARAH LUECK and MICHAEL M. PHILLIPS
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
July 5, 2005; Page A1


From your statement I don't think you were aware of this. If your interested in the full article I would be happy to email it to you.

John
9.1.2005 3:24pm
Rough Justice (mail):
I'm not trying to persuade anyone, today. There is overwhelming medical and moral evidence that it is plain wrong to force a circumcision on an unwitting baby. The repercussions are lifelong and it is an absolutely appalling thing to do. The parents and doctors should be SUED and JAILED for what they've done. The doctors make big bucks for performing the irreversible procedure. Have I convinced you yet, Curious Kitten? Do your own research this time, and lay off the scapel on your baby. Your own kid may hate you in the future for what you've done to him.
9.1.2005 3:28pm
Rough Justice (mail):
The argument to circumcise to prevent some disease is so bogus as to not be worthy of responding to, but here I go anyway. Most men in Europe, Latin America, Asia, etc. are uncircumcised. Are they complaining in large numbers about not having been circumcised as an infant? They can rush off to their urologist tommorrow if they want to have the procedure done. So they'll be sore for a week. If all women had their breasts surgically removed then they would never have to worry about breast cancer - a big killer of women in their prime. Can't you hear how ridiculous that suggestion sounds? I told you it wasn't worth responding too.
9.1.2005 4:17pm
Tom Perkins (mail):
RoughJustice, you are blue on blue, dude.

Not that I don't think it's hilarious, fire away.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp

PS. Thank you, John
9.1.2005 4:25pm
TheCuriousKitten (mail) (www):
jonzyx;

Yes, I was aware of that. I was also aware of the fact that the sample groups contained overwhelmingly disproportionate numbers of differing tribes, and thus cultures within the groups. There are also great genetic differences between the tribes as the tribes tend to not intermarry.

This study didn't compare apples to apples. People raised in the same tribes, people raised with the same cultural expectations, and similar sexual behavior. Until you do that, you can't even begin to use it as proof.

And on top of this, they do not make the case for infant circumcision. With male infants, the glans is still attached to the foreskin, so you have a greater chance of nerve damage to the developing penis when you are severing it. You also can't use strong anesthetic without risking liver damage, and when you don't use strong anesthetic, you risk developmental disruption, and harm to developing synaptic pathways.
9.1.2005 5:09pm
TheCuriousKitten (mail) (www):
Rough Justice;

It is hard to tell if a person is being sarcastic online, as the use of tone of voice is very important in detecting it. As such, I will assume you are serious, and not making fun of people who are anti-circumcision.

As it is, imagine that there is a person who is borderline. A person who is pregnant and about to have an infant. They are thinking of circumcising, and they do a search for it. They see our arguments on this thread.

Your vitriol without showing supporting evidence, your hostility might scare them into mutilating their child without considering your point of view.

Yes, I agree that circumcision is wrong. It is horrible—I've seen it. But we don't persuade people by calling them monsters, when really they think they are doing it out of concern for their child.

So ask yourself this: Do you really care about children? Because if you do, and you want to save them from this, I would cut back on the venom. If not, then enjoy being venomous, because your joy is the only benefit that will come out of it. You do can more harm for the cause then good.
9.1.2005 5:17pm
Dean Esmay (www):
It is quite clearly the case that most forms of female circumcision (not all of them but most of them) are more damaging than male circumcision.

However, the "debate" on male circumcision is only "red hot" for people trying to justify a primitive and cruel procedure which has very little support either in medicine OR, for that matter, in Christian or Jewish scriptures.

For the medical "benefits" of mutilating boys' penises, sorry--just look closely and you'll find that they're very minor, on the order of reducing the risks of certain things by 1 in 100,000 or less. By comparison, the evidence for the function of the tissues torn away--which is not, categorically not merely a "flap of skin"--see, just for example, the numerous peer-reviewed papers publshed on the Ridged Band site. This is peer-reviewed science by medical researchers, folks.

It's a lousy practice. If someone wants me to point out why it's scripturally questionable for Christians or Jews, let me know and I can do that too.
9.1.2005 10:37pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
Liberal theory is invariably based on the idea of equal competent adults bargaining out the social contract unconstrained by history or identity. Everyone in the liberal system is an identical atom devoid of any characteristic that is not mutable. This has been true from Hobbes and Locke through Kant to Rawls.

The theory has its virtues -- it destroyed the divine right of kings -- and its intellectual triumphs, such as the Declaration of Independence. But, the theory also has severe limits. It is absolutely useless in understanding or resolving ethno-religious conflicts like Israel and the Palestinians. Nor can it find a way to deal with a historic injustice such as the slave system of the American South.

In general any issue that is existential is insoluble in Liberal Theory. So it is with circumcision. Liberal theory would hold that it is a violation of a child's autonomy to make as permanent a change in his body without his free and rational consent, which cannot be given until he is of age to make a rational decision.

On the other hand, my son did not choose to exist. My wife and I summoned him into being. Nor did he choose to be Jewish. We imposed that on him. Is that unjust? I do not think so. It is an existential fact. He had no choice and it was the only condition under which we would give him birth. As far as we are concerned it is as basic part of his endowment as are his blue eyes and his brown hair.

We are also of the opinion that we have covenanted with the Eternal One, the Creator of the World, to circumcise our son on his 8th day and to raise him as a Jew (Ex.24:7-8). So that is what we have done and what we have continued to do. It is not something that our son choose, just as he did not choose to be born to us. But it is part of his existence and is fundamental to his identity.

Now to somebody trapped in the liberal mindset, this sounds like tyranny. But, it is not, it is love. If we had not acted as we did we would have deprived him of something very precious and we would have failed and he would be rightly angry with us.

Locke began by proving that the rule of kings cannot be deduced from the parent child relationship, but the obverse of that is also true. The limitations on rulers are utterly irrelevant to the obligations and rights of parents and children, and liberal theory can have no part in resolving existential issues.
9.1.2005 10:58pm
Kowboy (mail):
All:
I am an expert, having undergone this proceedure nearly fifty years ago. I have no traumatic memories, in fact all of my memories regarding my penis are very happy ones indeed. No complaints whatsoever.
9.1.2005 11:06pm
DanB:
So, you would forbid a procedure that has thousands of years of history behind it because you don't have the double blind tests yet?

The act of carving off bits of another person's body is wrong until proven right. Which is why I can't just walk up to you in the street, carve "Circumcision is morally wrong" into your face with a knife, and escape jail time by saying that I was just acting on my religious beliefs.

And by the way, the length of time that a practice has been around has nothing to do with whether that practice is right or wrong. There is no grandfather clause for morality.
9.1.2005 11:08pm
TheCuriousKitten (mail) (www):
Robert Schwartz;

I would like to understand your theory better.

Do you have the right to beat your son and break his legs? Do parents have the right to have sex with their children? Do parents have the right to lock their children in a dark room, and never let them out, as long as they get food?

If parents aren't allowed to do anything they want with their child, then where do you draw the line?

I don't believe that a children belong to their parents. Certainly children do not have the same rights to liberty that adults have. Our children are born helpless, and require a great deal of guidance and protection. The duty to protect does not equal slavery, though. A parent has the duty to do everything in their power to ensure that this creature will grow into a healthy, competent, and productive member of society. If a parent fails in this the child should be taken away.

I know you aren't abusive, you obviously have great love for your children. The thing is, though, that I have met my fair share of abusive parents and nearly all of them use some version of the line of reasoning you've just outlined. I've know parents that used your line of thought to sell their 12 year old to her forty year old uncle (She wouldn't exist if it weren't for us, so we can do what we want with her. God wouldn't have put her in our hands if he didn't think we'd do right by her) I can name worse examples, but I'd rather not horrify you. I have the feeling that you would probably not condone these things, so I am curious as to how you justify your beliefs. What overrriding principles would you use?

Please, expand on your reasoning for me.

Also, I am curious as to why Jewish Theology does not allow the circumcision to be delayed at all. Is it anything like the fear of limbo that Catholics have for unbaptised babies? Or is it something that will bring punishment on the father?
9.1.2005 11:20pm
DanB:
Now to somebody trapped in the liberal mindset, this sounds like tyranny. But, it is not, it is love.

Actually, it is both. Love doesn't grant you the right to violate other people without their permission. For example, there are plenty of Christians in the world who are genuinely heartbroken that, from their perspective, you're dooming your child to Hell by raising him as a Jew. Would it be morally right for one of them to kidnap your son and raise him as a Christian, so long as they did it out of a loving impulse to save his immortal soul?

I'm also curious how you could know, in advance, that your son would choose to be religiously Jewish and view obedience of divine commandments as important. There are plenty of atheists who are ethnically Jewish. Aren't you really saying that obedience of those commandments is important to *you*? That's all you really know for sure.
9.1.2005 11:27pm
TheCuriousKitten (mail) (www):
DanB:

If old is good, isn't the foreskin older than circumcision?

I mean, if you believe in literal creationsim, then it's existed for 6000 years and God made us that way, so he had to have a reason. If you believe in evolution that it's existed for millions of years, so it probably shouldn't be chucked out lightly. I mean, we don't remove an appendix unless it gets inflamed, and we are almost completely certain that serves no purpose.

I have the feeling this would lead to a flame war, so I won't argue it. I just felt it was an interesting thought.
9.1.2005 11:32pm
TDPerkins (mail):
"The act of carving off bits of another person's body is wrong until proven right."

I think it's proven medically immaterial, and culturally and socially beneficial, and I think there are enough studies to show it has some definite medical benefits in trade for the risks--the decision is best left to the parents. I'll bet you're at a bigger risk eating a peanut for the second time.

'Course I presume you want to ban parents from feeding their children peanuts, too. Allergies kill, too.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
9.2.2005 7:07am
TDPerkins (mail):
"I mean, if you believe in literal creationsim, then it's existed for 6000 years and God made us that way, so he had to have a reason."

And if you're Jewish* you think he told you to cut them off too, where's your point?

*I presume there aren't any Christian sects that think it is religiously required, I'm not sure.

Yours, tDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
9.2.2005 7:10am
TheCuriousKitten (mail) (www):
TDPerkins:

where's your point?


I thought I made it clear that I didn't have a point in that particular post. It just struck me as funny so I posted it as a comment to another person, and stated quite specifically that I didn't want to get into a flame war.

I apologize if I was not clear. I assumed that by directing the post to someone who wasn't arguing with me, I could avoid argumentative responses to a light-hearted comment. I enjoy interacting without worrying about leaving openings for attacks. Not everything I say is an opening for an argument, so please read my responses with that in mind in the future.
9.2.2005 1:35pm
TheCuriousKitten (mail) (www):
TDPerkins;

What studies? As I've said earlier, I haven't seen any studies that show that infant circumcision is medically beneficial. I can send you several studies that show that it is harmful. Would you like me to send them to you?
9.2.2005 1:38pm
Mark Brady:
TDPerkins writes:

"I think it's proven medically immaterial, and culturally and socially beneficial, and I think there are enough studies to show it has some definite medical benefits in trade for the risks--the decision is best left to the parents."

First, if it's proven "medically immaterial", how come there are "some definite medical benefits in trade for the risks"? Second, what do you mean by "culturally and socially beneficial"? Are these benefits available to anyone outside of Judaism or Islam? I should be interested to read your response.
9.2.2005 4:39pm
Tom Perkins (mail):
"Study Says Circumcision Reduces AIDS Risk by 70%"

I know you did some handwaving about different ethnic groups and cultural practices that you claimed made the study invalid, and I think it was just that, handwaving. What, you think their immune systems are going to work all that differently? I think the biggest difference was the presenc eor absence of the foreskin.

It struck you funny because--I think--you haven't incorporated the bulk of the relevant religious documents into your worldview. I place no faith in them being the literal word of God, but it would never strike me as funny that people who believed it would obey a command from God found in them. It was a light hearted comment to you because you don't take the command at all seriously, not at any level. He made them, he said cut them off. Okay. End of story.

Infant circumcision vs. having it done when I could remember the pain. Seems like a feather on one side of the scale and a lead ingot on the other, in favor of infant circumcision.

Everything you say may be an opening for argument, this is the most public of forums, and honestly I do think the very fact you thought it lightheartedly reveals a part of your misperceptions of the motivations of (primarily) the Orthodox Jews involved.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
9.2.2005 4:51pm
DanB:
"Study Says Circumcision Reduces AIDS Risk by 70%"


Because as we all know, those newborn infants are constantly engaging in risky sex. That's why you have to circumcise them right away, without waiting until they're old enough to ask for permission.
9.2.2005 8:37pm
DanB:
Oh, and another thing -- how much does female circumcision reduce the risk of AIDS? I imagine few women engage in risky sexual behavior once you remove their primary source of sexual pleasure. So shouldn't we endorse female circumcision, for its health benefits?
9.2.2005 8:40pm
TDPerkins (mail):
DanB wrote:

"Because as we all know, those newborn infants are constantly engaging in risky sex."

But just before that I wrote:

"Infant circumcision vs. having it done when I could remember the pain. Seems like a feather on one side of the scale and a lead ingot on the other, in favor of infant circumcision."

'Nuff said.

I should clarify I am not, having no experience with it in any sense, speaking of female circumscision.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfp
9.3.2005 8:14am