Religious rituals: German circumcision

07/09/2012

This was the headline of a BBC report on TV a couple of weeks ago: “German circumcision” – as if the problem would be German. Because a Cologne court tried to outlaw the circumcision of minors (boys), verbal attacks from my fellow Jews were heard all over the world. Whereas the Muslims would be able to postpone their religiously motivated circumcision (of boys) due to an unclear passage in the Quran (although they prefer to do it to the age of 5-13), Jews feel required to cut the foreskin of their male babies on the eighth day after his birth (Brit Mila). It was disgusting to hear arguments of their rabbis on German TV, culminating in a hint to Germany’s nazi-past (thereby saying that Germans should not tolerate any suppression of the Jewish religion), thus quasi justifying a (minor) violent act on a baby with one of the most horrible events in men’s history.

For all the barbaric ideas that humans created in regard to the penis have a look here. I remember rather clearly when I was treated myself due to a phimosis at the age of five. Fortunately it could be done without any cuts and I kept my foreskin but the horror of a possible circumcision that was discussed as a possibility and the treatment itself (a “stranger” meddling with my cock) was highly unpleasant. In no way do I wish any Muslim boy something like that. When it comes to babies one might argue that they will forget. Nevertheless we know that even very early experiences can be imprinted on the mind of a baby. To make an ethical point, I will give a drastic example of what the Jewish community is pressing our parties to do (namely to create a law that allows exceptions for religious communities).

Once I read that in certain ethnic minorities (like on islands in Oceania where circumcision is also prevalent) mothers suck on infant’s penises to comfort them and make them asleep. In the US a mother was sentenced to 17 years in prison for a rather similar act not so long ago. Anyway, if such a deed would come to the attention of German authorities, there would be trouble. We widely believe that we should not impose our own will on the genitals of minors, be it for pleasure or for pain. Indeed by far not all Jewish circumcisions (by the mohel in their own community) are done under anesthesia. So how could anyone in their right mind accept a religious tradition, a rule given thousands of years ago, to trump his instinctive urge to protect his own child from any physical harm? Well, here you see the power of religion and make-belief at work. Religion can really turn one into a kind of child molester (a circumciser), and as a parent you become a conniver. Imagine for a moment another religious minority that still sucks on boy’s penises to quiet them, now asking our courts to permit it. Who would agree? Even less than those who are still defending Jewish kosher and Muslim halal slaughter that is prohibited in a couple of European countries.

Initiation in Buddhism is usually just done by spending a few months in a monastery (where of course homosexual monks may lie in wait). Luckily we don’t feel the need of any covenant with a God which would only make us feel exclusive, although “taking the precepts” has a similar sad effect on adepts of the dhamma. My parents let me choose my religion, and I opted rather for spirituality to avoid any organized nonsense. My foreskin is still giving me a lot of pleasure, and as we all guess, boy’s circumcision is as much rooted in the fear of lust as is the circumcision of girls. Buddhism has invented other hindrances out of that fear which will be dealt with later in this blog. If I’d believe in praying, I’d pray for a wise decision of German’s Federal Supreme Court that leaves the sensuality of babies and young children intact, without exception. Any religion advising otherwise should be ashamed and requires reform.

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