Jewish Atheist

An agnostic atheist perspective
from a once orthodox Jew.

Christopher Hitchens and R. Harold Kushner discuss bris milah [circumcision].

My ask box has been blowing up since I started TJA, and one issue raised the other day was circumcision.

I myself am circumcised and never really felt like I suffered or was missing out as a result. OTOH, I have no basis of comparison [and those extra nerve endings sound great!] and have simply been lucky to not have suffered as a result. Most importantly, I was raised with the practice so, much like the conservative rabbi, I don’t really see it as a big deal.

However, Hitchens does a good job of providing another perspective on the practice, and different perspectives are generally worth considering. Personally, I’ve found that an effective method of breaking out from one’s indoctrinated perspective is to explain traditions or ideas to those unfamiliar with them. Circumcision is pretty well known, so it’s not as easy to try this, but metzizah b’peh - yeah, try explaining that to someone and not feeling primitive.

As for my practical perspective: If someone is circumcising a baby that has no opinion on the matter merely for religious reasons, or traditional reasons, that does seem to be rather difficult to justify inasmuch as religion is difficult to justify. However, I could understand a parent choosing it for the health benefits of being circumcised, such as a lower risk of contracting AIDS. On the other hand, there have been health risks associated with the practice, including risk of contracting serious diseases because of the now less-practiced tradition of metzitzah b’peh.

All in all, it would seem that the moral option is to leave the decision of circumcision to the one getting partially dismembered when he’s old enough to contract STDs and old enough to make the decision. However, obviously, I don’t expect any religious Jews to endorse that; not because it doesn’t make sense, but simply bc their beliefs have a strict protocol. At the bottom of it, like many issues, it’s simply a matter of following the religious teachings regardless of other concerns.

  1. whynotscience reblogged this from jewishatheist
  2. jayaprada said: :( Hitchens. Used to be one of my favourite Marxists, though it was just offensive to what he said about women in Islam.
  3. jewishatheist posted this