I think one of the things that we far too often overlook in this country is that fact that genital mutilation of newborn boys is common practice, if not standard. Why isn't there more of a cry against this? Do the benefits of circumcision (if any, and I don't see any valid argument that there are any) outweigh the cost and mutilation of a boy?

Of course circumcision isn't the only genital mutilation in the world, but it's the only type in practice in the United States. Female genital mutilation is just as barbaric, if not more so. Americans, and Europeans in general, ban female genital mutilation of babies, but why the hypocrisy in not doing the same for males?

Tags: Christianity, God, Judaism, circumcision, clitoral, covenant, genital, mutilation

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It seemed to me that there was too much emphasis on the child having a choice in having his foreskin removed. I am circumcised and as an adult have never seen any obvious benefits or complications from not having a foreskin.

Too much emphasis on the child having a choice?
The child is the person that has to live with a disfigured sexual organ for the rest of their life but has no say in the matter. If you do not know any obvious benefits from having a foreskin you should investigate more about what the foreskin function is.

the circumcisions I've seen in person in hospitals didn't seem informed by any desire to mutilate a baby for religious reasons.

Neither do Somalian women that perform Female Genital Mutilation on their own daughters, they have no desire to mutilate their child instead they think that they do it for the benefit of their child.

It's not the intention that counts, it's the effect and the manner of the procedure that makes it mutilation.

Because circumcision is a simple medical procedure the complications seem far removed from possibility.

It's not the medical procedure that is the problem, it's the effect of the procedure on the persons sex life as well as the fact that their body is not longer intact.
The benefits of RIC are at best dubious, we're talking about very small percentages of children that have problems with UTI. However fully 100% of the victims of RIC have had part of a sexual organ removed that has a function in providing pleasure and comfort to them in their sexual life.

You might not consider yourself mutilated or a victim of circumcision. Regardless of how good your sex life might be, the fact of the matter is that you do not know what you are missing, and that to accept that RIC is unnecessary and a violation upon the rights of the infant would mean that you would have to agree that your parents violated your rights, and scarred you for life.

Hypothetically speaking, would you be able to accept such an outcome of this discussion?

the idea that parents would act with the best of intentions and circumcision is an extension of that thought process indicates that a community of interest is being fostered.

Best intentions don't mean anything at all if the outcome is that the rights of the infant are being violated and the body of the infant mutilated.

Rights are accompanied by duties and it is understood that infants cannot fulfill any of the burdens that accompany their assertion of rights, so their position in society is subordinate to their parents unless the community of interest standard is not being fulfilled.

And how would this compare to Female Genital Mutilation? What exactly do you mean by the community of interest standard?

it is understood that, especially in the hands of experienced doctors, the risks are very low.

The issue is not about the immediate effects (infections and such) of the procedure that might occur. The issue is the removal of a body part that has a function in human sexual activity.

The science is still out, so the atheist community should take the philosophical stance until better evidence for or against circumcision arises.

The science is not out on the fact that removal of the foreskin has an effect on sexual experiences in later life This is one of the reasons why I am opposed to RIC. The medical benefits do not outweigh the consequences in later life.

At this point it is scientifically established to have neutral effects on the individual and ideally reflects the interest of the parents in a child's well being.

No it has not been established to have neutral effects on the individual. Circumcision removes the foreskin which in an intact adult provide pleasure and comfort during copulation.

As for voluntary breast tissue removal in infants I know little of the matter

I believe that the example was mostly given as a hypothetical situation. So for the sake of argument; "If the removal of breast tissue in infants would decrease the number of instances of breast cancer in adults, would you approve of the practice?"

while both are sex organs it seems that the situation would be disanalagous on account of the social role of foreskin being very different from the role of breasts.

The foreskin can have a social role as well, just imagine the only intact or circumcised kid in the shower after a football match. Besides that, the foreskin has a role in human sexuality, which is not to be neglected.

Marred breasts for example are more easily perceived in the general public compared to a man's circumcision status.

That is a difference, but I don't see why it matters. We're not supposed to mutilate the appearance of an infant if it can be noticed by others, but if the chances of it being noticed by others is smaller or negligent, it's alright?

I would advice you to investigate the purpose of the foreskin, so that you might actually know what it's supposed to do. You seem to think that the medical benefits that you state (which are still disputed) are all that there is to RIC, it is not.

It's incomprehensible to me that circumcision is considered normal in some countries, it's as incomprehensible for me as the acceptance of Female Genital Mutilation in other countries. I know that there are differences between the two, but the comparisons are so obvious to me that I just can't understand why it's not obvious to you.

Community of interest standard? What is this babble? Are you saying that a person or entity must be of use and service to us if we are to afford it the concept of rights and treat it with respect and dignity? I suppose then severely disabled and diseased people have no rights. The elderly and invalids and animals who may have nothing to contribute to society can just be discarded and treated with impunity?

You give the possibility of credence to the Bible regarding circumcision and yet make no mention of other religious sources on the subject such as the writings of Maimonides. You defer to reason and yet you do not reason through the notion of cutting healthy functional erogenous tissue from men's genitals.

The penis is an acute sensory organ and, like all such organs, is partly internalised. Just as the eyes have eyelids and the tongue is inside the mouth, the glans penis and muscosal foreskin are pseudo-internal structures. This allows these organs to remain moist and sensitive. If you were to remove the eyelids or permanently expose the tongue then there would undoubtedly be an affect on sight and taste. This is also true of the penis.

Amputation of the foreskin removes thousands of specialised nerve-endings, the frenulum, the ridged band, the mucosa, and permanently exposes the glans, a biologically internal organ. It also removes the only mobile part of the penis. Reason would lead us to believe that this must needs have an effect on sensation and function.

As an intact male I have never had a UTI. I don't know any intact men who have. From my understanding promiscuous women are most likely to contract UTIs, and even then they are readily treated. It's a simple problem with a simple solution. What are you talking about 'potential kidney damage'? By your reasoning we should be circumcising girls too.

How are the "benefits of circumcision" best realised in early childhood? I am intact and never had any problems in early childhood with my penis. Surely with the majority of the world's male population intact hospitals would be full of boys with penile problems. Yet this is just not the case.

There are hundreds of doctors actively and openly advocating against routine infant circumcision, and yet you with your "passing interest in the topic" seem to be quite the expert. But how "objective" is it of you to have made no study of the functions of the foreskin and done no serious investigation into intact genital anatomy and sexual dynamics?

I see in your comments a lot of rhetoric and pretense but very little awareness of the core issues at hand. Circumcision is more so a psychological, sexual, and emotional issue than a medical one. As a medical person (I assume) your interest is largely medical, but if you are working with people, as most doctors do, then you cannot deny or neglect the other aspects of this issue. People are not merely machines. Healing is as much a matter of the heart as of the head; it is not only of the body but of the soul.

To Anthony Hordern

I wish to congratulate you on the depth of knowledge and the high relevance of the many comments that you have made on this vexed subject of genital mutilation.  

Thank you :)
The ancient Jewish elders might also have opted for circumcision in an effort to curb the masturbatory and inappropriate sexual activities of young unmarried males. The reduce pleasure, reduce use theory. I think this is more likely than the medical explanation because they didn't exactly have access to statistics on venereal diseases.

Anyway, my vote: Infant circumcision = bad. Adult circumcision = their choice.
You have the classic stamp of a man who is so insecure about his own circumcised state that he must believe in the 'panacea of circumcision'. And you are a classic example of the kind of medical professional that really has no business working in the medical industry.

Funny how you don't consider female circumcision as a "surgical vaccine". I wonder what the difference is. I would say that circumcision actually increases the risk of infections as it is performed in hospitals which are dangerous places and then the wound is left to heal in a dirty diaper. And how infant circumcision could have been hygenic in Bronze Age Palestine I really do not know. They did not have modern surgical equipment or antiseptics. Exposing your newborn son to penile surgery leaving an open wound would have been one of the most risky and least hygenic things they could have done.

You will note that hygiene is not mentioned once in the Torah or the Talmud or the Bible as a reason for circumcision. In fact no circumcising society has ever given physical hygiene as a justification for the practice. What has been given as a reason from many sources including the famous Rabbi Maimonides is that circumcision is for moral hygeine by the denuding of the penis and reduction of sexual sensation.

And this is an issue that is not suprisingly lacking from all of your comments. Not once do you even consider the *possibility* of the foreskin as an erogenous organ with biological and sexual functions. This despite the fact that studies have been performed on the subject and many intelligent intact men actually vouch for the sexual benefits of their foreskin. Never having experienced one yourself, I can see how you would be totally unaware of this; however the mere fact that you don't even bother to make mention of this possibility shows me very clearly that this perspective of yours is largely a psychological one fueled by your own issues.

Circumcision is a very insidious meme in that sense. The idea that we could have been wounded like that, as helpless infants in our most sensitive sexual parts, and that we have been robbed of our birthright and lost a significant part of our penises and sexuality, is a very hard thing to accept. Circumcision is more of a psychological phenomenon than a medical one.

Interesting. I have not got the time to read 26 pages now, but I get the impression that it is a common practice in the US, which is news to me. I don’t know any circumcised men myself. It is really not an issue where I live. I don’t think anyone considers it ‘normal’, either.
Ever since I have discovered that that circumcision was only just a religious practice I have felt bad for doing it to my oldest boy. At the time I was still extremely religious and I thought it was the right thing to do. Now that I'm not apart of a religion I feel horrible. I should've never done that too him. I know he will still enjoy sex, but not as much if he hadn't been circumcised. If and when I have another boy, I am going to choose not to sexually mutilate him.
I continue to fail to understand the defence that some correspondents put up as regards the infant mutilation that is circumcision.

Millions of years of evolution led to babies being born with foreskins as a normal part of their penises because evolution judged it to be necessary and useful.

And yet insenstive intervention by men with knives [flint or obsidian stone knives in the desert Bronze Age (or earlier)?] led to the tribal rite of slicing away part of the male body.

Another Atheist Nexus thread on this subject—which was chiefly discussing origins of the practice—may be found in the “Origins” discussion group at



“The Unkindest Cut (Circumcision): Origins of Religion, Part 15” — as first posted by Prof. John Radford in April 2009.
To address an inappropriate invocation of evolution: "because evolution judged it to be necessary and useful." Evolution is not an intelligent designer but an efficient human device to explain natural change. One of the premises that constitutes the theory of evolution is that some changes never come about because it is neither advantageous or disadvantageous. This becomes what is called a vestigial trait. It can be an efficient cause that residual skin on the penis did not inhibit mating success and therefore survived but the circumstances to lose the foreskin never arose. This is not to debate the merits of circumcision but to point out the anthropomorphic misuse of evolution as a semantic device. As atheists we must be very careful to not erect other statues- i.e. evolution- but to acknowledge that uncertainty is a part of existence we must deal with and then proceed to do so in a reasonable, just manner. That is what theoretically separates us from the theists after all.

In this same vein, calling a facilitated medical procedure mutilation is disingenuous to the actuality of the situation. It is an example of biased language. In lieu of wearing our superstitions on our sleeves we ought to acknowledge that the depth of our feelings in the matter reflects something besides the externality of the situation and rather reflects an internal prejudice disproportionate to the consequences of the procedure to ourselves as a community. This zeal waxes religious fervor and ought to be checked, what we discuss and how we talk about issues should be markedly different from those whom we apparently differ from- the theists.
^^ a vestigial trait ^^

It's ok to do a thought experiment and postulate reasons for the specific anatomy, development, and function of body parts. But we must recognize that every single mammal evolved a prepuce for both male and female. There is zero evidence that the protective, lubricating, and richly pleasure-receptive male foreskin is just hanging around for yucks, and plenty of evidence that we have foreskins because they make sex great. Foreskin feels REALLY good.


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