Monthly Archives: May 2012

Religion and Circumcision

Yes, this post has been promised for a long time, and unfortunately, I’m only going to briefly touch on the subject tonight.  I intend to write more later.

Circumcision is essential to Judaism.  A brit milah is a covenant between the Jewish People and G-d.  Yes, it’s recognized as removing a piece of important tissue, if it wasn’t a sacrifice, G-d wouldn’t have asked for it.  There are very limited circumstances in which having a brit milah is allowable – having a medical condition that precludes it, and having had previous son(s) die from it.  Brit shalom is a made-up ceremony, and is not acceptable as a replacement for the bris.  Without a bris, a boy cannot be called to Torah, and cannot participate in any religious facet of Jewish life.  All movements of Judaism state unequivocally that a bris is a must for a boy born into a Jewish family (unless under the outlined circumstances).  Some differ on adult converts, but none on an infant born into a Jewish family.   Neglecting to perform a bris puts a boy and his family (and sometimes community depending on interpretation) at risk of kares, a spiritual excision from the Jewish community.   The brit milah is the second most important mitzvot, after the command to be fruitful and multiply.

I have more to write about it, but not tonight.  I will add in a little information on Christianity and circumcision below, however.

Christianity does not require circumcision.  It is only a commandment for Jews, because they do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.  Christians believe he was, and therefore fulfilled the Old Law and brought the New.  That is why Christians don’t have to keep kosher, for instance.  As a matter of fact, many interpret the New Testament to specifically warn Christians against  circumcision.  Especially members of the LDS faith.  So it’s definitely unnecessary for Christians to circumcise, and might actually be considered wrong.  Unfortunately, there are many parents who believe it is necessary to circumcise for a Christian, but unlike a Jew, it is not.


I find it extremely arrogant for people who know next to nothing about Judaism to make pronouncements about how unnecessary it is for a Jewish person to circumcise their child.  To compare that to ‘religious’ child rape is completely inappropriate.  It doesn’t help that intactivism often has subtle (and not-so-subtle…Monster Mohel?) anti-Semitic tones to it, but the fact that their so unapologetically ignorant about the topic while making concrete statements about it is almost mind-blowing.  Even in countries where circumcision is very rare, they recognize the importance of circumcision to the Jewish faith/people.  For a group of people who wish to model the mindset of other countries, why is it that is so thoroughly ignored?

“No Medical Organization In The World Recommends RIC”

This comment always stirs a little something inside me.  Is it technically true?  I suppose.  However, it does make it sound as though every medical organization in the world actively recommends  against circumcision, which simply is not true.  Now, obviously that’s not what’s directly being said, but I believe in many cases, that’s exactly what is meant.  Many medical organizations keep a relatively neutral position on circumcision, including the AAP, who believe that it should be left up to the parent to make an informed decision.

Is that what intactivists are doing?  Trying to give out information so that parents can make an informed decision?  They will tell you yes, that’s what they’re doing.  I disagree.  What they are doing, in my opinion, is trying to tell you what to do.  Sometimes trying to force their opinion on you.  I’ve seen many examples of intactivists bragging about berating soon-to-be-parents, overloading them with ‘information’ and just plain ol’ bullying.  Including berating a grieving woman who had just lost a son.  Talk about low.    Here are some of the comments from that particular incident:

“My heart sure doesn’t break for her. On the contrary, she got exactly what she deserved. If every baby who was mutilated died, it might put a stop to the practice. This so-called tragedy is good publicity for outlawing genital mutilation. I hope she feels guilty for the rest of her miserable life & my sympathy for her is ZERO.”

“They didn’t care. It was more important that his penis be cut up than he live.”

“The doctors are trying to feed them the lie that the circumcision didn’t kill their son. This is why, even though it doesn’t seem ‘compassionate,’ people need to let’er rip on her. No, people should not be silent and ‘compassionate.’ While everyone is feeling sorry for the mother, what about the child?”

This right here is a very extreme example, but it does really show the zealotry of this group.  This is not education, this is not helping someone make an informed decision.  Neither is posting a link to a study, and discouraging people from reading it by posting their  ‘interpretation’ of it (most of the time I wouldn’t call this lying, as intactivists take it on faith that the other intactivists’ interpretation of the study is accurate…in other words, they didn’t even read it themselves).  They’ll also make statements that come across as fact, without any evidence to support the assertion.  Most of the time, if you make something official-sounding, many people won’t think critically enough to question it (unfortunately).  This happens on both sides of the aisle.  Many intactivists state something factual sounding, and then others repeat it (or parrot it, if you will).  For instance, the continuing assertion that circumcision has a drastic and negative effect on men’s sexual pleasure.  There’s no study that supports this assertion.   There is a study that shows that intact men can detect a few tenths of a gram more pressure on their penis, but nothing about sexual pleasure or sensitivity.

What does this have to do with the title of the post?  Again, I find that statement misleading for the reason outlined above.  Of course, it doesn’t look as good for them just to show the AAP’s position on circumcision, which is that there are risks and benefits and should be decided by the parents.   Here’s the statement:

Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision; however, these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision. In circumstances in which there are potential benefits and risks, yet the procedure is not essential to the child’s current well-being, parents should determine what is in the best interest of the child. To make an informed choice, parents of all male infants should be given accurate and unbiased information and be provided the opportunity to discuss this decision. If a decision for circumcision is made, procedural analgesia should be provided.

Well, that sure doesn’t sound as obviously against circumcision as an intactivist would want it to.  Unfortunately, the issue of circumcision isn’t nearly as black or white as they would like to portray it.  Yes, there are risks (though not as many and not as drastic as they’d like you to believe) but there are also benefits (despite their claim that there is absolutely no benefit).  Though many intactivists have their Google M.D., they’re still not doctors.  Even doctors, however, can look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions.  Intactivists don’t want you to know that.  They want you to think there’s overwhelming support for their position, and absolutely none for the opposition.  Or maybe they truly believe that.  That just shows either a lack of ability to understand research or ignorance on the subject or both.  The benefits may be small, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, for example.

So until intactivists actually start educating people, which is what some honestly believe they’re doing, then I’m going to call them out for their behavior.

Oh, and Ron has a product to sell, and therefore a vested interest in wanting people to believe that circumcision causes irrevocable harm.  It makes me rather cynical of his actual belief in the harm of circumcision.

Is There A Possibility That You Are Wrong?

I’ve continued to receive comments after my break.  Many people were actually rather supportive, which I appreciate.  I took an almost 6 month break, because I had quite a few big events in my life, some wonderful, some not so wonderful.  But I’m back.

First of all, I get a lot of comments from people who seemingly can see nothing beyond the fact that I have called out many inappropriate tactics, statistics and assumptions by the self-labeled intactivist crowd.  Further,  I got quite a few comments from people who were kind enough to actually read my blog, and who understood what I was saying.  I am not attacking the position against circumcision, but I am very thoroughly against the accepted method of trying to end the practice.  Unfortunately, a lot of intactivists tend to regurgitate (sometime verbatim) things that other intactivists said, and eventually it becomes accepted as fact, with no backing evidence.   Because of the emotional way the subject is discussed, very real people can be hurt.  One commented on a post I wrote, wracked with guilt because of the rhetoric used by zealous intactivists.  I find that very, very unfortunate.  People are people, and they make the best choice they can at the time with the information they have available.  I’d say by far, the vast majority of parents who circumcise are doing it because they believe it is a good choice for their son.  That they are helping him.

There are widespread misconceptions and myths in the circumcising community…just as there are in the intactivist community.  Yes, to have someone say the foreskin is ‘disgusting’ is offensive.  Why would you counter that with something equally offensive?  You’re not going to get people to change their minds by beating them over the head with your opinion.  I think that many of the intactivists who disagree with me think that’s what I am doing.  I don’t think it is, but I’ve been accused of it.  If so, do you see how effective it is?

I have a  question for you, Intactivists.  Is there a possibility that you are wrong?  If the answer to that is no, then there is no point for you to engage in any discussion about this whatsoever.  None.  There is always a possibility that you (general you) are wrong.  I believe that there is a possibility that I am wrong (however minute) and that’s why I’m willing to have a conversation about this.

If you wish to post links to studies on my comments, you are welcome to.  However, be aware that I have seen most of the ‘studies’ in this area, and so  I am familiar with what they say.  I have actually read them, and I do not rely on any one else’s interpretation of what they say.  So if you want to post a study, please do so, but read it, and explain your interpretation of it when you do.

I am also looking for guest bloggers, no matter what your stance.  Pro-Circ, Rabid Intactivist, Neutral….I would like to hear from you and offer you an opportunity to have your words posted on my blog.  So please let me know through the comments section if you are interested, and I will send you an email.