Infant and child mutilation in abrahamic systems

Discussion in 'Abrahamic Religions' started by Pookarian, Aug 18, 2006.

  1. Pookarian

    Pookarian New Member

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    All this looking to "GOD" for moral certainties is a confusing thing for me. Can't people look to themselves for moral guidance? Is it really neccessary to have someone responsible above you?

    Genesis 17 in the bible is the covenant of circumcision, it has this terrifying passage in it:

    "For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or those brought with money from a foreigner"

    So do all followers of the abrahamic systems advocate slavery and child disfigurement?

    What sort of higher being says "right, you've got slavery, and although I'm omnipotent and am making a covenet between you, mankind, and me, God, I'll let that particular issue slide as it's only human beings having their liberty and freedom denied to them for financial gain, and instead of that, I would like you to agree to mutilate the genitals of all males over eight days old. Is that OK? Good, now get to mutilating, because even though I made man in the image of myself, I never was really happy about the design of the foreskin, which although I am, as I said before, omnipotent, I can't actually fix by letting you all wake up one morning without the offending design oversight rectified, but would rather that you take a sharp, and sometimes not particulary clean knife to the gentials of children and each other, because I really want a child to have as their first experience of their gentials, extreme pain."

    Hardly a Good God.

    I have a cosmogonic scheme that works very well for me and others whom believe in it, and what is more, there is no subjugation of women and no mutilation of infants... However, it is only a cosmogonic scheme that I have chosen to believe as the truth because my personal experience of it, as you have chosen to follow your infant cutting belief systems.

    However, our faiths have one thing in common, they cannot be proven scientifically, and are, therefore, only belief systems that we have subscribed to to comfort the human mind when presented with the vastness of the universe and the fleeting flash of life that we have. It stops us, quintessentually, from feeling so frighteningly alone in this world, even with family and friends around us. A psycological thumb to suck, so to speak...

    However, I have to ask, is infant mutilation an acceptable practice for those on the supposed moral high-ground?
     
  2. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    Hi Pookarian. Welcome to CR. :)

    Sure. But either choice is a subjective one, isn't it? Some people feel better trusting the established laws instead of trying off and create something new. How much free will do we really have in these matters, and how much is determined based on where and when we were born and to whom? Do you believe that there is a universal natural law that guides the choices of individuals?

    You know the answer to that. Slavery is not something that is advocated. Each religion has its reason. Child disfigurement isn't either. That is a strong term applied subjectively to reflect your disfavor of certain religious practices, but according to the subjects who do practice circumcision, it isn't child disfigurement at all. You know how in law they have different terms to reflect different degrees of things? The same is true with all language. If you are able to get into the space of someone who sees circumcision as holy, then you realize that for them it really is. There's no confusion.

    The question can be asked, where do we draw the line? Good question. I'm glad you asked it. Well, no real damage is being done. You, subjectively, are offended, but they are not hurting you. And the majority of people who've been circ'd aren't complaining.

    I'm starting to get the feeling this is more of a rant against another religion than an opening for dialogue, which is unfortunate. I like dialogue. I have a question for you: As a general rule do Abrahamic religions subjugate women? Also, for those cases where women are in situations you may not want to be in, do they feel subjugated?

    Do you think that this explains why all people turn to religion, or do you think there could be other reasons, psychological or otherwise, why people turn to religion?

    Are we discussing male circumcision or the (primarily cultural) removal of the clitoris from women which inhibits their enjoyment of sex? The distinction here is that the removal of the clitoris does have a significant, lasting, negative effect while the removal of the foreskin is mostly harmless.

    Dauer
     
  3. Pookarian

    Pookarian New Member

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    Hi Dauer,

    Let me go through the many points you raised...

    I do. But it is not personified in to the form of a humanoid, but stays as an abstract concept.

    Firstly, I don't know that answer to that. Slavery is still present in many parts of the world.

    You say that child disfigurement isn't advocated, and then go on to dress it up with the word 'holy'. Taking a knife to a child, of either gender, for purely religious reasons is wrong.

    You aren't aware of the growing number of people who have been circumcised in infancy and whom are now in the process of forming support groups around the world? [You will have to gogle for them as I cannot post the links to: foreskin.net & huluhae.com/against-the-cut.html] There is at least one based in Australia, and many more than one in the US. They all advocate the end of child mutilation for religious and 'social fashion' reasons.

    No, I'm trying to understand the generally male dominated nature of the religious hierarchy of the three abrahamic schemes and their relation to women. I'm confused by the apparent lack of gender equality.

    There are no female Catholic priests, no female Jewish Rabis, no female Imams. Why are females prevented from teaching these faiths? Sure, there are female vicars and soon there will be female Bishops too, but the is still dividing the anglican synod.

    If they are not subjugating women by making sure they do not teach the religious values of their faiths, then what are they doing?

    Psycologially speaking, yep.

    We are talking about taking a knife to a child of either gender and cutting away a part of that infant for supposed religious or cultural fashions. Where ever in the world, under whatever flag, banner, name or higher being, child mutilation is just plain wrong.
     
  4. Karimarie

    Karimarie Live without fear

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    OK... What's your point with this?

    This is an unfortunate fact. People with low morals, regardless of faith, have found some sort of distinct desire to own other human beings, a concept that strikes me as nonsense.

    I disagree. I don't see there being anything wrong with a child

    There are two religions in the world that I am aware of that prescribe circumcision, Judaism and Islam. I have not heard of any male Jews or Muslims that are proud of their faith complaining about circumcision because they realise that it's something God called them to do either in the Torah or in the Hadith respectively.

    I would imagine for you that your complaint is that many people are circumcised against their will when they are not a member of either of the above religions or peoples. Perhaps that is a practice that should be abolished as, excepting the argument of hygiene, there is no valid *reason* to circumcise such individuals.

    It is true that there are no female Catholic priests and I'm not sure about Imams, but there are plenty of non-Catholic priests in Protestant movements and a great number of female rabbis in the non-Orthodox movements that make up the bulk of the Jewish people. Of the three rabbis at the Reform synagogue I've been going to as of late, two are female.

    I know the Episcopal church ordains women. Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionst Judaism all grant s'micha (Rabbinic ordination) to women. I hope that some day the Catholic church and other Protestant denominations as well as Islam and Orthodox Judaism eventually accept egalitarianism into their practice.

    Still, though, I think you're lacking all of the information about the roles and statuses of women in the Abrahamic faiths.
     
  5. Pookarian

    Pookarian New Member

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    In infancy having part of your body cut off is not going to something you will not have been able to agree to.
     
  6. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    One doesn't have to go back 2000 years to find texts with archaic language and ideas....try just over 200 and read the Declaration and Constitution if you'd like to discuss slavery, women's rights, and even defining people as unequal. We've grown much since these documents were written.
     
  7. Karimarie

    Karimarie Live without fear

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    You're missing the point. It's not about "agreement". At least in Judaism, you can't "agree" to be a Jew (unless you convert). Even if you don't practice the religion, even if you practice another religion, you're still a member of the Jewish people and still subject to said people's covenant with God. One of the symbols of that covenant is the circumcision of males.
     
  8. Pookarian

    Pookarian New Member

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    As I said before:

    Taking a knife to a child, of either gender, for purely religious reasons is wrong.
     
  9. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Even if there are potential health benefits?

    Circumcision of males was practiced across the Middle East for Millenia. Seems that living in or around deserts requires a certain practical approach to certain issues?
     
  10. Karimarie

    Karimarie Live without fear

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    Thus, we're at an impasse. You've asked why it's done, you've received the answer, twice, both times continuing to maintain that it's wrong. What that tells me is that, like dauer said above, you don't want dialog, you just want to rant and get your opinion out there.
     
  11. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    I'm guessing in the past hundred years 90% of all males in the US were sumarily circumcised for health reasons...

    I also note that the majority of religious tenents or laws somehow relate to health or protection of society as a whole...
     
  12. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    first of all, i accept that you are entitled to your opinion, but if you want to have a civil discussion about this, i suggest you adopt a less "have you quit beating your wife?" tone.

    second of all, there is a BIG difference between circumcision and the varying types of thing done to women - don't dignify it with the name "female circumcision". for them to be equivalent, most of the penis would have to be removed entirely. the object of "FGM" is to prevent the woman feeling sexual pleasure and thus removing a supposed threat of adultery. it's all about male "honour" and is not even a religious custom, but a cultural practice from africa and the middle east which is not sanctioned by islam; in fact i believe muhammad condemned the practice. it has never been even been a custom in judaism, so let's get our facts straight first of all.

    on the contrary, having a sacred text to follow does not mean you are absolved from your own moral guidance. if your text says, like mine "thou shalt not kill", or whatever, that isn't really sufficiently clear. does it mean always? in every circumstance? so one should never kill, even to prevent another death, or to prevent my own? to protect my loved ones? religious guidance in primary texts usually fails to be specific or all embracing, thus necessitating, as is the case in judaism, human interpretation. the Torah says that it is "not in Heaven", which is interpreted to mean that we have our own responsibility for interpreting it correctly. thus, human moral responsibility, regardless of the ultimate Source of authority and obligation, is never out of the picture.

    secondly, as you are no doubt aware, it is entirely possible for people without a sacred text, or a god, or anything like that, to derive a self-evident moral system which is normally given the name of something like "natural law". this is all very well and self-evidently can result in moral behaviour and a society based on morality. the essential difference remains in the source of authority concerned. in other words, i might not steal a car for any or all of the following reasons:

    1) G!D will punish me
    2) my co-religionists/neighbours/fellow citizens will disapprove
    3) i have determined philosophically that it is not conducive to the maintenance of civil society
    4) i believe in respect for private property
    5) i am scared i'll get caught and punished

    the point is, i don't steal it. *why* i don't steal it is not necessarily related to whether i am religious or not and can function effectively either way.

    abstract concepts don't have any effect unless they are somehow activated by human application.

    now, to circumcision:

    wow, cynical much? it may surprise you to know that i don't consider this to be the case. in fact, because of my religion, i am entirely free from work for 25 hours a week. no phone calls, no missed dinner, no reason i have to be away from my family. who has more liberty, freedom or slavery to finance?

    of course, many comedians have pointed out the penis as evidence of G!D's sense of humour. but, in terms of the actual issue at hand you'll note G!D doesn't seem overly concerned with the design of, say, the appendix, so that's never been an argument that was used. as the proud non-possessor of a foreskin, i've never missed it, felt traumatised about it, or felt or been informed that i was underperforming without it. however, i agree it is in most cases medically unnecessary, so what we're dealing with here is not a case of rational requirement but one that is faith-based.

    some two and a half months ago i had my son circumcised, as is my religious obligation. i supervised the procedure from close up. it was done by a mohel (religious circumciser) who is also a doctor and an accident & emergency specialist. at no point was anything unhygienic done. very few mohelim these days are not also doctors, because parents won't stand for it, nor will they stand for anything dangerous or unhygienic. aftercare was superb and comprehensive and at no point was the baby at risk. at no point was there evidence that the baby was in pain. i've heard him give a cry of pain (when he was so cruelly vaccinated with a giant needle) and this wasn't it. two and a half months later there is no sign of mental or physical trauma. he is a happy little baby like he's supposed to be. furthermore, i can really say is that i've never felt personally, or met anyone that admitted to being harmed in any way by being circumcised. and if we're not talking about medical necessity, i can't see why anyone would put themselves or their child through it, unless there's another very good reason. it is traumatic, but for the parents rather than the child, particularly the mother, which is why it is not the mother's obligation, but the father's. my wife of course found it hard but would not dream of not going through with it.

    look, that doesn't give us with much room to discuss anything, any more than some guy arriving here and telling us we're all going to hell or something does. personally, i don't accept that taking a knife (not that it is actually a knife) to my son for anything *else* apart from purely religious or medical reasons would be right. if you are at all interested in hearing about the religious symbolism, which i can assure you i find tremendously meaningful, or can accept the possibility that they can be valid, i am happy to talk about them. without that, you're just here making accusations without the benefit of knowledge or understanding. top-line is that being a jew is something you are. the word for "circumcision" is the same as the word for "word"; this is a sign that you will carry out G!D's commandment and make it part of you. it is an intimate sign that you carry with you, that you can never forget and never reverse. it is part of your flesh and marks you in a way that is both private and public. you cannot forget you are jewish even when you are in the most intimate of situations, nakedness.

    of course i am aware of them. and, of course, those that object on the grounds that it was a matter of social fashion or aesthetics have a point, but those objecting from within judaism are, as you will well be aware, an infinitesimally small number. it is well established that no matter how assimilated or non-religious a family becomes, circumcision tends to be one of the very last things that remains. i don't really agree with people who do it because "it's tradition" - that's not a good enough answer for me, but that is the way it is for them. the answers are available if you look for them.

    quite right. incidentally, karimarie, there has been at least one woman given orthodox semicha in israel, which i suppose is a start. personally, i don't consider women's semicha to be a big issue, compared to women's education, which definitely needs to be much much better and more widespread. fortunately there are many orthodox people, both men and women who are committed to making that so.

    one big difference between my outlook and yours, possibly, is that i don't consider rabbis and shuls and the paraphernalia of public prayer to be the be-all and end-all of participation in judaism. perhaps you wouldn't mind starting a thread in the judaism section and then you, dauer and i can all discuss it from our different perspectives?

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  13. Pookarian

    Pookarian New Member

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    I would be more than happy to hear the full religious context for cutting a bit off a baby.

    Please, explain it to me.
     
  14. Karimarie

    Karimarie Live without fear

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    I read something on another forum a few weeks ago and I was inclined to agree. Paraphrased: 'How do we know circumcision must be from God? Jewish mothers would never let their sons go through it if it wasn't.'

    Indeed, it's a start. I'm curious--Do you know the name of said rabbi?

    I don't really care about women's s'micha either. I mean, I have an opinion on the issue, but it doesn't really affect me one way or another whether or not the liberals in Orthodoxy start granting s'micha to women or return to mixed seating. (Perhaps "Conservadox" may become a real movement someday?) I agree that women's education is a far more important issue worldwide.

    I think you've mistaken my opinion--I don't either. I was simply making the acknowledgement that Pookarian is appparently misinformed regarding the existence or lack thereof of female rabbis.

    I could, but what would we be talking about?
     
  15. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    I'm Jewish. We don't personify God as a humanoid either, at least not in the sense I think you mean. Small world. :) In my case I'm a pan or panentheist. I don't make much distinction between the two. But I have to ask, what support do you have for a universal natural law, if any? As I've said before, my opinion is it ethics is extremely subjective.

    Well, the answer is that none of the Abrahamic religions support it.

    I'm not dressing anything up. There's a big difference between, say, cutting off a child's finger and removing an ancillary piece of skin. Your subjective approach to the issue, is, according to my subjective take, incorrect. Can you prove that removing the foreskin for religious reasons is wrong?

    I am aware of them, and they are still just a vocal minority.

    That's not really being open for dialogue, because it begins with an assumption.

    There are female rabbis. Even in the Orthodox community a woman has received smicha now. In the Orthodox community, there are also learned women who simply haven't received the title of rabbi. There are also soferets, female scribes. Women are not prevented from teaching in Judaism, in any denomination. The title of rabbi is not needed to teach. Futher, there are some progressive Jewish feminists trying to reclaim the laws regarding the use of the mikvah, the ritual bath, after the end of a period of time following the end of a woman's period each month, for reasons of ritual purity. So I think it's fair to say that you're walking on territory you're unfamiliar with, and might want to approach with more questions, fewer assumptions.

    I don't think there's much to say. Mine BB, probably doesn't differ much from yours, except in regard to universal Jewish obligation.

    As Yoda said, iirc,

    "So much anger..."

    Seems you've already elected yourself judge, jury, and executioner, and you've already pushed the button. Maybe that comes with your belief in a universal natural law. It seems like such a belief would cause you to believe that any ethical belief you hold must be Truth, which is just as dangerous as holding for dear life to any such Truth, makes you very similar to the group you are generalizing based on your assumptions and attacking right now.

    Dauer
     
  16. Pookarian

    Pookarian New Member

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    It isn't anger, it's more confused bemusement that people consider it perfectly acceptable to consider something a perfect as an infant child to have 'an ancillary piece of skin' (it isn't ancilliary, it does serve a very important function), that needs cutting off.

    I really have spent years struggling with the concept that a deity would command people to cut bits off babies. I used the language in that fashion simply because that is what circumcision is, cutting a bit off a baby.

    Anyway, wasn't it Rabbi Moses Maimonides in the twelfth century who promoted the current style circumcision?

    "Teach thy tongue to say I do not know and thou shalt progress."
     
  17. Karimarie

    Karimarie Live without fear

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    What important function does it serve?

    As far as the way it's done? Possibly. Rambam was a doctor, after all.
     
  18. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Perhaps I'm being naive and ignorant here, but I always presumed that living in areas in or around deserts, or subject to desert winds, that sand could be a real problem for men in terms of irritations and infections through sand getting into the foreskin.

    In which case, removing the foreskin as a basic health practice for the peoples of the time and place, that has continued as a tradition even where not utterly necessary for the same reasons, at least in part because there's no apparent harm done to the child.
     
  19. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    Actually quite correct. The issue was one of health for the child, and for future offspring. Unlike other life forms that tend to stay within certain environes, man goes everywhere. So, man had to adapt to the new environement they were in. The foreskin was a detriment to the health of the male, and caused many infections and death. So the simple cure was to cut away that which harbored infection.

    I will point out that in the US military, lesson is being learned in the middle east today. as time went on, most American males have had circumcision observed, and have no problems, but many that did not, for what ever reasons, are having to deal with health issues, not normally dealt with back in the states. Quite a few of them are opting for late life circumcision, as a means to keep from developing health issues in a foreign environment, where sanitation is not the best.

    v/r

    Q
     
  20. jiii

    jiii ...

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    Alright, first of all, the word "disfigurement" is a pretty strong term. Furthermore, it really seems like the attempt is being made here to paint those that practice circumcision in a most evil light, as if you, yourself, were the worlds authority on morality. Now, don't misinterpet, we are all entitled to our opinions, of course...we just ought to remember the difference between opinion and fact. It isn't as if people crowd around a baby with saliva dripping from their maniacal grins, all wielding scalpals and closing in to dice up the child with vigor. That's essentially an extension of the same exaggerated degree as what has been presented against circumcision here, but I would be equally as justified in calling it nothing more than a benign surgical procedure. I just think you're getting too hung up on the semantics here.

    I mean, if you would lash out against Judaism and Islam about something as simple as circumcision, I would hate to see what you would do if you took a little trip to Africa and saw the initiation rites employed by some of the native, tribal cultures to elevate a boy to manhood. With such an ethnocentric viewpoint as has been expressed, I wouldn't be surprised to hear you calling them "savages"...kind of reminiscent of the excuses used to validate genocide of the Native North Americans in the 1700's and 1800's.

    I am not an adherent of an Abrahamic religion, and I wouldn't be too happy about waking up to find my foreskin missing. I'm not trying to say that I'm "all about the idea." Is it a little weird? Sure. But it's only weird to people who haven't known that to be a part of their lifestyle and of their culture. It's also weird that Muslims, so I am told, forbid the use of alcohol, whereas Christians drink it down to the last drop. It's weird that in Eastern religions, people usually don't have a problem saying that they are the Godhead, whereas in the West, saying you're God winds you up in a mental institution. It's also weird that my grandmother goes to Church to eat the body of Christ. People do many strange things, this is for sure...but, strange to who exactly? Who gets the last word?

    I suppose you could say all of these things are much different than circumcision. But, really, it's only different in that it is physical rather than psychological or behavioral. There's more to life than having a foreskin, my friend. And although there will always be a person here or there that gets real hung up on it and forms an organization to protest it, it's a pretty widely accepted practice. People have formed organizations for everything from painting all cars blue to making the turkey the United States official bird. Name any idea, and somebody has formed a group somewhere to say it's bad. Organizations aren't proof that so-and-so is immoral, it just means that people want to complain about it in large groups rather than by their lonesome. (Never did like those special interest groups ;))

    -jiii
     

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