I was originally going to write about Chuck Norris’s latest screed about the Boy Scouts on the online magazine AmmoLand until I got my hands on this little gem. It’s a blog entry by Brendan O’Neill of the Telegraph, who is sad that nonbelievers are calling out some religious practices as foolish or, at worst, child abuse. I’m going to post the entire article and just throw in my comments as needed.
And before I begin, this post is about male circumcision only. I’m aware of female circumcision done in Muslim countries and it’s plenty barbaric in its own right … but that’s another issue and I’ll cover it another time. I just saw this article and couldn’t help myself.
Hmm. Almost a Godwin, but not quite. Continue.
There are many bad things about the modern atheistic assault on religion. But perhaps the worst thing is its rebranding of certain religious practices as “child abuse”. Everything from sending your kid to a Catholic school to having your baby boy circumcised has been redefined by anti-religious campaigners as “abuse”.
Yes, there are a lot of horrible things that we atheists are doing to religion and religious people, especially Christianity … like telling them they don’t run the place anymore, how their rules about who should and shouldn’t marry need to stay inside the walls of their church, and that they have no right to force their own scientific ignorance into the science classrooms to make the next generation as stupid as they are. Atheists stand with a great many believers in this opinion.
I also wouldn’t necessarily say that bringing one’s child to a Catholic school is “abuse”, but there’s certainly malice aforethought in taking a child – whose physical brain and way of perceiving the world are both still works in progress – into an environment where they’re told a story that has as much evidence behind it as the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, and then threatening them with an eternity of indescribable torment and anguish if they don’t live life exactly the way the god of these stories wants them to.
Sentence structure, primary colors, the Founding Fathers, ETERNAL TORMENT IN A LAKE OF FIRE, and adding fractions. One of these doesn’t belong.
And please tell me how an objective observer would describe the practice of taking a 8-day old baby and needlessly cutting off part of his genitals without his consent simply because a 2,000 year old Bronze Age manuscript written by desert nomads said so without the word “abusive” or “assault” finding its way into the conversation.
This use of emotionally loaded language to demonise the practices and beliefs of people of faith has reached its ugly and logical conclusion in Germany, where a court has decreed that circumcision for religious purposes causes “bodily harm”, against boys who are “unable to give their consent”, and therefore should be outlawed.
Yes it does, and yes it should. It’s barbaric, it’s medically unnecessary in the age of sanitation and modern medicine, and if the best justifications you can give for it is that “it’s part of my faith” and “we’ve always done it”, then that part of your faith is stupid and has no place in modern society.
This is an alarming attack on freedom of religion and on parents’ rights to initiate their children into their faith. The court case centred around a four-year-old Muslim boy who was given a very bad circumcision, but the precedent set by the case will of course affect Jews as well as Muslims.
… and many American Christians. I know circumcision in this country spiked significantly after World War II when doctors would simply perform the operation as standard practice without even bothering to inform the parents. What I personally see as far more alarming is the fact that we’re still doing it here in the 21st century in a first world nation and protecting it purely because it’s part of a religion.
And as Germany’s Central Council of Jews rightly said, the court’s ruling is “an egregious and insensitive measure”, which represents “an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in religious communities’ right of determination”. He points out that Jews have the freedom to circumcise their male children in every country in the world – but soon maybe not in Germany.
That’s an appeal to popularity. “Everyone else lets us do it, so you should too!” Not if what you’re doing is an artifact of an archaic practice that causes physical harm to another human being. Maybe I should start a religion that mandates all newborns get their pinky toes removed and that Mike Tyson tattoo on their face. It’s a sign of our belief! It’s part of our heritage!
And if you think it’s a foolish and pointless ritual from forgotten era, you obviously hate our people and everything else about us. It’s all or nothing.
Many secularist campaigners are cock-a-hoop about the ruling.
Yeah! In your face!! Insert bragging here!!
They believe their description of circumcision as “child abuse”, as a cruel operation that ignores the UN-guaranteed “rights of the child”, is radical and caring.
It is. Name one other part of the body you can lop off from a newborn that wouldn’t land you in prison. The worst you’ll face after circumcising your child is being forced to sit next to some potentially boring relatives later on at the seudat mitzvah.
But in truth it echoes centuries’ worth of nasty anti-circumcision posturing by people who hate certain religious faiths. In Medieval Europe, as pointed out in the book The Covenant of Circumcision, Jew-baiters often depicted circumcision as “cruel and grotesque”. The “barbarous and cruel Jews” were slated for callously snipping off their own boys’ foreskins and for secretly desiring to do the same to Christian boys, too. These “merciless” creatures were described by one English writer as “foreskinne-clippers”.
Boy, now who’s engaging in “emotionally loaded language”? The fact that these people from centuries ago were anti-Semitic scumbags doesn’t make their claims about this practice any less true, at least with regard to what they did to their own children. In this particular instance, the medieval “Jew Baiters” were right. Who’d have guessed?
The modern atheist’s description of circumcision as “child abuse”, though used to attack both Jewish and Muslim communities, is only an updated, more PC version of the old anti-Semites’ description of it as “cruel and grotesque”.
No … it’s used by both non believers and believers alike to attack the practice … not the people. And again, it’s accurate. Hell, the Nazis were the first to successfully carry out a nationwide anti-smoking campaign on the basis that consuming tobacco products was harmful and was linked to cancer. The fact that they were also a horde of rapacious, homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic lunatics bent on world domination and genocide doesn’t change the validity of their research in this field. (Does this count as a Godwin? It does have historical relevance …)
The labelling of religious practices as “child abuse” is the most cynical tactic in the armoury of today’s so-called New Atheists. They are effectively using children as human shields, as a cover under which they and their beloved state might interfere in both family life and the realm of religious conscience in order to reprimand people for believing the wrong things and carrying our “cruel” practices.
It’s more the carrying out of cruel practices, not necessarily about believing anything in particular. And it’s funny, the “cynical” comment was what I was going to say about your entire article. Calling the right to cut off bits of your newborn baby a “religious freedom”, attacking anyone who feels this is outdated and wrong as cynical, and associating that position with anti-Semitic propaganda from the Middle Ages is pretty ballsy, to say nothing of intellectually disingenuous. Suggesting we’re using the fact that children can’t consent to this practice as “using children as human shields” is more pathetic than anything else, and takes away from what little argument you may have had to start.
If you think they will stop with the banning of a physical practice like circumcision, think again. Richard Dawkins has argued that “bringing [children] up Catholic” is a form of “mental abuse”. Another New Atheist argues that children “have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people’s bad ideas”. What is being attacked here is the fundamental right of parents and communities to pass on their beliefs to their offspring.
Homework assignment: What beliefs so thoroughly transcend oral or written word that they can only be passed along by cutting off part of your newborn son’s penis?
History tells us that the rebranding of religious practices as child abuse can have terrible consequences. Many anti-Jewish pogroms in the past were justified on the basis that Jews abused children.
History also tells us that reconsidering the wisdom of our ancestors – especially when it relates to absolute rule, subjugation of women, punishing of “sinners” and the treatment of our children – and replacing it with secular moral philosophy combined with rational discussion is the only way progress as a society. Wringing your hands about how this spells the end of freedom as we know it is nothing more than fear mongering, and ignores all of the times throughout history we’ve realized that we are better off leaving our old religious mandates in the past … and benefited greatly as a result.
The FBI’s insane invasion of the headquarters of the Branch Davidian religious cult in Waco, Texas, in 1993 was likewise justified on the basis of halting child abuse. That led to the deaths of 82 people – 28 of them children.
Great way to wrap up … with something completely irrelevant, but intended to appeal to the fear, anger, and an unjustified sense of persecution. Just like the rest of your little opinion piece.
I hope you don’t have any sons.