The Case Against Religious Circumcision

Circumcision is essential to Judaism or Islam. One often wonders why a divine being is so interested in the foreskins of believers rather than their actual well being.
The argument that circumcision is a painless (relatively speaking. It’s pretty painful. Ask anyone who has been circumcised as an adult if they would do it without anaesthetic) surgical removal of an unnecessary (it acts as a lubricating sleeve and protective layer for the penis) piece of skin. There are no benefits to circumcision that cannot be gained by proper hygiene.

If a religious practice is inherently harmful then that practice must be stopped no matter how much of a core belief the practice is. There is no difference from the lack of vaccination or use of medicine of the Christian Science sect and the unwillingness to accept organ and blood donations of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and this.

The difference between us and religion is very simple. We are willing to ask “Why”?

A brit milah is  the covenant between the Jewish People and God. Why? Because he says so? Because he gave a list of proper reasons? There is no explanation for this unnecessary piece of aesthetic surgery to the male genitals. It’s not on the scale of Female Genital Mutilation but it is not necessary. Without a Bris a boy can be called up to Torah, you just have to tell him. There won’t be any lightning or thunder or divine ninjas. It will just be a guy who follows the teachings of judaism with his foreskin intact. So far the risk of Kares doesn’t seem to be divinely ordained as a direct message from Jehovah/Yahweh/Allah.


I will you know!

It’s something practiced by jews as people. It’s a shunning. It’s a disconnect. It’s losing your street cred. It’s being ostracised. And it’s no different from any other sort of bullying. It’s not divinely ordained, it’s done by people. I suspect because that they are irritated that you won’t follow the rules of the club and are willing to make a stand on this. No man or woman will encourage me to circumcise my children unless they reach the age of majority and make the decision to do so and even then I am fully within my rights to go “WHHHYYYY” or “NOOOOO!” really dramatically.

Circumcision doesn’t make you Jewish anymore than liking Matzoh. Neither does some mythical tribal affiliation that transcends 2000 years of history. It’s a religion just like any other. People can marry out, people can convert. And people can chose to not get circumcised and still be Jewish. If all the movements of Judaism think that circumcision is necessary but secular society thinks otherwise then secular society wins out. It’s the same way that we don’t care much for all those Old Testament/Torah lines on the posession of slaves. Remember secular society also doesn’t care much for how a lot of Orthodox Jews treat women. It’s not anti-semitism. It’s common fucking sense.

I find it arrogant that people think that their almighty god with insane magical powers cannot tell the difference between Jew/Muslim and gentile unless through penis mutilation. That they think the most important part of being a Jew is a pointless procedure created by a bunch of people who would consider us gods for our technology. The only reason circumcision is necessary in Judaism is because Jews think it’s necessary. If all the Jews decided to not circumcise, Judaism will not suddenly vanish. It will just be an entire group of people who used to do something stupid but now don’t. There is no arrogance in pointing out the Emperor’s Nudity. It is not anti-semitism to suggest that the medical procedure of circumcision should be the only one practised.

The truth remains as such. For most of us there is no need for circumcision. There are certain medical conditions but the majority of us do not need it.

So far there is no actual reason except for peer pressure, cosmetic and religious reasons to circumcise in the way that people do. Because it makes the penis look nice is a stupid reason to do so. Because a unknown, unprovable entity that can willingly break the laws of physics said so is actually more stupid than cosmetic because atleast “it looks nicer” is actually a slightly more valid reason for doing something. Just not to your own kids.

The other main reason it is done is because it’s “what everyone else is doing”. If your kid isn’t circumcised he would be laughed at in the gym. Guess what? Guys don’t look at each other’s penises and don’t comment on them. I have never been involved in a scenario where the appearance of my penis has brought derision and laughter to those around me.

We routinely tell our children and teenagers to not subject themselves to peer pressure. We even say such things like “If Everyone Else jumped into a Well, would you?”. And we fall for it ourselves. Except this isn’t a fancy barbecue grill or a nice car. This is a medical procedure done to your children when they cannot have any say in the matter.

Let them make their own idiotic decisions when they are 18 or even 16. Until then? Leave their foreskins alone unless there is a pressing medical need.

And if a god declares this as vital to recognition, one would have to question why this god demands such a bizarre sacrifice.


  1. says

    If a religious practice is inherently harmful then that practice must be stopped no matter how much of a core belief the practice is.

    The whole argument about “Religious Freedom!!!!!!” is always an argument about the parents’ religious freedom to treat their children like property and to force a marker of a certain religion onto them.
    Not only is it NOT about the religious freedom of the child, it goes directly against his religious freedom, since her cannot decide to become uncircumcised again the way he could just leave a church.

    When the debate about circumcision flared up a few years ago in Germany*, I read an interesting article in the newspaper by a jewish doctor. A few years ago his sister had announced that she would not circumcise her son and the family was up in arms. He was researching the question, trying to give her arguments, trying to convince her that this was 100% essential to being jewish and he was surprised at his own failure to find those arguments. He had to challenge all those things he always believed about circumcision. While staying within the realm of judaism, I should remark. He did not turn atheist and decide that yeah, fuck that shit. He came to the conclusion that as a jew, he could not defend neonatal/infant circumcision.

    *yes, a judge had the audacity to prosecute a case where a child had suffered harm from a non medically indicated circumcision

  2. says

    a pointless procedure created by a bunch of people who would consider us gods for our technology

    If they didn’t throw rocks at you for being a servant of eeeeeeevil!!!

    When I think of iTunes sometimes, I wonder.

  3. Pa Forba says

    Thanks for the spirit of this post. I think this is how life should be lived; that is, to always ask why otherwise one will just passively follow the crowd like a sheep. On second thoughts, I understand why Christianity calls christians sheep. I used to be a sheep but no more.

    Unfortunately like the commentor above said I cannot uncircumcise myself or my kids. Am I going to live with this regret for the rest of my life? Religions should stop the persecution.

  4. sugarfrosted says

    I was always unsure of the original reason behind circumcision. I know in some Mizrahi Jews (Middle Eastern descended Jewish populations that didn’t migrate out of the middle east.) there is a relatively common heritable disease that can lead to calluses forming on the foreskin which can lead to pain as well as eventually infertility(is that the word for men?) but then I thought maybe that wasn’t the reason and it’s just circumcision eliminated any selective pressure against this. You did actually mention that medical reasons do exist in some cases which I liked. Usually posts about circumcision don’t mention they exist. (*coughPZcough*)

    My 5 year old cousin did require this procedure and he’ll probably have to have his kids circumcised as well, admittedly not for religious reasons.

  5. Ysanne says

    Imagine you’re a male nomad living 3000 years ago in a desert-like environment. Your access to fresh water is pretty limited, you probably don’t have soap, and antibiotics don’t even exist yet, so it’s pretty difficult to maintain a reasonable standard of hygiene or deal with the consequences of not keeping your foreskin clean. Maybe you’re from a population with a genetic tendency for phimosis, so your foreskin is inflamed and sore relatively often.
    Your people have kind of noticed that dirt is not great for you and have all kinds of religiously grounded rules about not combining meat and milk when cooking, avoiding the meat of certain animals, and washing yourself for prayer etc. The idea to cut that tricky bit of skin off (and do it as early as possible, before you’ve invested too much in a kid who may or may not survive anyway) is not all that far-fetched.
    Combine this with the apparently ubiquitous fascination for demonstrating masculinity by doing something with one’s penis, and the desire to go “snip” becomes even clearer.

    Fortunately, those times are past, we have running water, soap and antibiotics, so this argument is simply dead.

  6. says


    You did actually mention that medical reasons do exist in some cases which I liked. Usually posts about circumcision don’t mention they exist. (*coughPZcough*)

    I don’t think anybody ever denied that circumcision is a medical procedure that greatly benefits a number of people with certain conditions.
    PZ’s latest posts on that subject deal with bullshit bogus made up pseudo scientific arguments in favour of routine circumcision.

  7. says

    I was always unsure of the original reason behind circumcision.

    Irreversible tribal identity – huge numbers of tribes do it. It enforces conformity because you’re going to look “weird” if you leave your tribe and try to blend in with another (imagine having Maori-style tattoos on Wall Street) it limits the tribe’s member’s mobility for the good of the tribe and its elite, though not necessarily for the good of the individual.

    Put differently, circumcision used to keep ancient jews from saying “FUCK THIS SHIT, I’M EGYPTIAN YOU ASSHOLE!”

  8. says

    How can one say genital cutting is essential to Islam? There is not one mention of it in the Qur’an?

    Circumcision alters sex dramatically. Only the rational informed patient has standing to request an amputation.

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