It just so happens that I came across a passage in Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great today that talks about circumcision, and it is worth quoting at length. While he speaks more broadly of the history of circumcision, this passage seemed to be appropriate given our earlier discussion of the topic.
In more recent times, some pseudosecular arguments have been adduced for male circumcision. It has been argued that the process is more hygienic for the male and thus more healthy for females in helping them avoid, for example, cervical cancer. Medicine has exploded these claims or else revealed them as problems which can just as easily be solved by a “loosening” of the foreskin. Full excision, originally ordered by god as the blood price for the promised future massacre of the Canaanites, is now exposed for what it is — a mutilation of a powerless infant with the aim of ruining its future sex life. The connection between religious barbarism and sexual repression could not be plainer than when it is “marked in the flesh.” Who can count the number of lives that have been made miserable in this way, especially since Christian doctors began to adopt ancient Jewish folklore in their hospitals? And who can bear to read the medical textbooks and histories which calmly record the number of boy babies who died from infection after their eighth day, or who suffered gross and unbearable dysfunction and disfigurement? The record of syphilitic and other infection, from rotting rabbinical teeth or other rabbinical indiscretions, or of clumsy slitting of the urethra and sometimes a vein, is simply dreadful. And it is permitted in New York in 2006! If religion and its arrogance were not involved, no healthy society would permit this primitive amputation, or allow any surgery to be practiced on the genitalia without the full and informed consent of the person concerned.
Hitchens also talks about, and quotes, Maimonides on circumcision, who saw it as a means of lessening sexual pleasure, and therefore regulating morality. Maimonides also has a good argument for why it is performed on babies (basically because they can’t protest).
In any case, an interesting read.
This post is a follow up of a previous post: Circumcision and the Barborous Bris