Monday, August 24, 2009

Circumcision - Mutilation or Perfection?


[Christopher Hitchens expresses the atheistic point of view on circumcision to Rabbi Harold Kushner 1/29/2009]

The Torah introduced the practice of circumcising all male infants.

Atheists have long denounced circumcision as child abuse and in fact it was illegal in the Soviet Union. Circumcision was viewed as being barbaric genital mutilation based on primitive superstitions.

However now public health officials are considering promoting routine circumcision for all baby boys born in the United States to reduce the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. New York Times 8/24/2009

Genital perfection, not mutilation.

We may perhaps wonder: How much more wisdom does the Torah contain which has yet to be recognized?

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

I notice they don't promote suction, perhaps because they want to reduce the spread of herpes.

jewish philosopher said...

Until recently, all circumcision was illegal in Russia, apparently because it offended militant atheists.

http://articles.latimes.com/1990-11-24/entertainment/ca-4585_1_traditional-jewish

Now atheists would like to mandate circumcision to fight HIV.

About the oral suction thing, wait another twenty years. You never know.

Anonymous said...

The Torah did not invent circumcision, nor were the Hebrews the first to practice it. Many ancient Near East people, and Egyptians did it, well before the Torah was written.

Abe said...

That's right. Circumcission has proven to be effective as a deterence to HIV transmission.
That, however, doesn't provide provenancial legitimacy to the torah nor does it bestow any palliative benefit via use of a mohel. On the contrary, it is much better to use a good doctor who will limit pain employing a good anesthetic, than enduring agonizing mutilations of halachic code.

jewish philosopher said...

The belief that circumsion in Egypt predates the Torah seems to rest mainly on the dating of this engraving

http://pro.corbis.com/Enlargement/Enlargement.aspx?id=CJ003734&ext=1

in this location

http://www.ancient-egypt.org/index.html

The question is, was this practiced in ancient Egypt as a religious obligation, or was it merely a folk remedy which was occaisionally used to treat some infection? That would seem likely considering that the engraving is together with others depicting various crafts and medical treatments.

Incidentally, according to rabbinical tradition, Joseph forced Egyptians to circumcise about 1516 BCE.

http://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/339271/jewish/An-Order-to-Circumcise.htm

jewish philosopher said...

Pediatricians don't anesthetize babies for circumcision.

Anonymous said...

"Pediatricians don't anesthetize babies for circumcision."

They don't use general anaesthesia, but I suspect that they use novacaine/lidocaine

jewish philosopher said...

I depends on the doctor.

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/453637_4

Abe said...

From PersonalMD,
http://www.personalmd.com/news/a1998060404.shtml

Call For Anesthesia During Circumcision
NEW YORK, Jun 04 (Reuters) -- Less than half of US doctors administer anesthesia when circumcising infant boys, researchers say, despite growing evidence that the pain induced by the procedure can produce long-term emotional harm...
Furthermore, the authors say a growing body of research is proving that babies are as sensitive to pain as older children and adults, and "recent data would suggest that a painful experience in the newborn has an effect on how pain is perceived later in life."...

Maybe thats why orthodox fundamentalists are so enamored by and obsessed with suffering.

jewish philosopher said...

Until now, anti-Semites like you would have said circumcision of any sort was criminal child abuse. Now you are backing up a little and agree that it's a good thing, but we should use anesthesia.

I guess this is "anti-Semitism of the gaps".

By the way, a drop of wine is placed in the child's mouth.

http://www.jewfaq.org/birth.htm

Abe said...

No, never said it was criminal, just stupid. (This isn't Russia or Meah Shearim.) Because it was never shown to have any medical benefits until the emergence of HIV.
Now that it has a prophylactic effect, it should be performed, but in my opinion, by a MD with local anethesia, the reasons for which, I have already indicated.
However, circumcission's usefulness in preventing HIV doesn't validate fundamentalist orthodoxy. Its just a fluke that the torah was a proponet of that ancient mutilation.
You wouldn't expect any thinking person to extract crediblity from persons like yourself who believe the torah divine and infallible, do you? I mean anyone who believes the dopey midrash that the black race was the product of fornication between Ham and a dog on Noah's ark is hardly a representative of trustworthiness.

Anonymous said...

Let's assume your premise at the moment. Circumcision is a healthy practice, introduced to Jews by God because of his infinite wisdom.

He did so knowing that this practice, given to the Jews, would help prevent the spread of AIDs among gentile Africans 3500 years later. Yet this same God must have also created the AIDs virus, which has killed millions of heterosexual and homosexuals world wide.

So the question is, which is God's wisdom; the circumcision to help save the goyim or the creation of the virus that killed millions?

The bottom line is that if your assertion is that God is responsible for everything, then logically you can't just pick an example of something "good" as proof of God's wisdom, while ignoring the bad, which disproves His wisdom. You could just as easily say that man is wiser than god because he actually came up with treatment for AIDs. (In case you aren't up to date--drug treatment, for those who can get it, means that AIDs is no longer a death sentence)

jewish philosopher said...

"You wouldn't expect any thinking person to extract crediblity from persons like yourself who believe the torah divine and infallible, do you?"

Of course not. We should instead listen only to alcoholics like Christopher Hitchens who believe worms became people.

"the circumcision to help save the goyim"

Circumcision is a perfection of man's body. Genesis 17:1 reads in Hebrew

הִתְהַלֵּךְ לְפָנַי, וֶהְיֵה תָמִים.

meaning "walk before me and be perfect". Rashi quotes a midrash which states "Walk before Me refers to the precept of circumcision and as a result of this you will become perfect."

http://www.tachash.org/texis/vtx/chverse/+cwwBmespKRXeIrwwwxFqrHnDn5o5qFqAgrwpBnGaWsmFqMeR8qxG5neWykDXWeuxww/search2.html#hit1

One small aspect of that perfection is perhaps reflected in yesterday's Times.

"or the creation of the virus that killed millions"

The HIV epidemic was caused by the legalization of homosexuality, which the Torah prohibits.

http://www.conservapedia.com/Homosexuality_and_AIDS

Anonymous said...

"The HIV epidemic was caused by the legalization of homosexuality, which the Torah prohibits."

1. What "legalization" are you talking about?
2. The HIV spread among homosexuals was the prominent mode only in the US in Europe. The virus originated from chimps in Africa and spread from there via other means.
3. There are "Jewish" diseases, too, such as Crohn's, TaySachs and breast cancer. Shall Jews accept responsibility for their appearance and spread, as divine punishment? Or perhaps Jews should be all locked up or killed.

jewish philosopher said...

It is believed that HIV originated about 1940 when an African hunter ate a chimpanzee infected with a similar virus. Following that, a few isolated cases appeared in a few places. However apparently the large and, since the Stonewall Riots, increasingly open and liberated American gay community nutured the first large scale outbreak of AIDS, which then spread back to Africa. The Gay Liberation Front was established in New York City in July, 1969. It generally takes 10 years for HIV infection to develop into AIDS. The first cases of AIDS were reported in New York City in March, 1981.

http://www.avert.org/hiv.htm

http://www.avert.org/aids-history-86.htm


About Jews spreading diseases, tell me more about that. I know that Black Death was supposedly caused by Jews poisoning wells, however I think that's been pretty much discredited.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Well_poisoning#Accusations_of_well-poisoning_against_Jews

Abe said...

...Of course not. We should instead listen only to alcoholics like Christopher Hitchens who believe worms became people...

Lets not rehash your dislike of Hitchens and your false notions that worms became people.
We're addressing your credibility because of your belief in the
midrash that the black race was the product of fornication between Ham and a dog on Noah's ark.
You're not disavowing that belief, are you ?

jewish philosopher said...

About Ham, "Our Rabbis taught: Three copulated in the ark, and they were all punished — the dog, the raven, and Ham. The dog was doomed to be tied, the raven expectorates [his seed into his mate's mouth]. and Ham was smitten in his skin." {Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 108b}

http://www.come-and-hear.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_108.html#PARTb

Which of course you know is not true because there is no God and you know there is no God because if there was a God it would mean that you would have to stop visiting prostitutes when your wife isn't looking.

Now why don't we address the credibility of atheists, for example:

an alcoholic
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Hitchens#Use_of_alcohol
who dumped his pregnant wife for another woman
http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/media/features/868/index5.html

a whore
http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2009/05/rational-response-squad.html

a whore monger
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Maher#Personal_life

a cannibal
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Dahmer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjW7bezdddE

a mass killer
http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/12/famous-atheist.html

a drug addict
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lives_of_John_Lennon

a crackpot
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madalyn_Murray_O'Hair
http://www.amazon.com/LIFE-WITHOUT-GOD-William-Murray/dp/1565070291/ref=pd_sim_b_2

These geniuses are going to teach me how to live. I think I'll pass, thank you.

lmark75 said...

I actually wonder if circumcision would actually reduce the spread of AIDS in the US. There seems to be an inverse correlation between the spread of AIDS in Africa. However, correlation does not equal causation. Muslims (who circumcise) may be less promiscuous than non-Muslims in Africa. Also, in Africa, condoms are sometimes hard to come by (no pun intended), so people don't usually wear them in any case. However, the dulling of sensation caused by circumcision may cause people in the US who might ordinarily wear condoms (which often further reduce sensation) to have unprotected sex. Circumcision may prevent the spread of AIDS, but these issues need to be studied.

jewish philosopher said...

The official position of the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding circumcision is that parents should choose what is best for their child by looking at the benefits and risks.

http://www.aap.org/publiced/br_circumcision.htm

although I wonder if that will change if the Centers for Disease Control issues new guidelines.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/24/health/policy/24circumcision.html?th&emc=th

Alex said...

@Anonymous: "The bottom line is that if your assertion is that God is responsible for everything, then logically you can't just pick an example of something "good" as proof of God's wisdom, while ignoring the bad, which disproves His wisdom."
But for /you/, the bottom is that you can't ignore the good.

Alex said...

JewishPhilosopher, do you have a theory as to why circumcision is /not/ one of the Noahide laws?

jewish philosopher said...

Circumcision is a sign of the covenant (Bris) between God and Abraham.

jewish philosopher said...

I think the way this works is that the Jews are God’s chosen people and He has given us the entire Torah, which brings with it immense blessings, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and sometimes also practically and medically. This is why we say each day the blessing Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, Who chose us from all the nations, and gave us the Torah. Blessed are You, Hashem, Giver of the Torah.

The gentiles are nevertheless obligated to live within certain basic limits necessary to make life possible; they cannot just run wild like animals (although that often happens anyway). These are the seven Noahide commandments.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Laws_of_Noah

Alex said...

@Imark75: "However, the dulling of sensation caused by circumcision may cause people in the US who might ordinarily wear condoms (which often further reduce sensation) to have unprotected sex."

What's with this "may"? Are you making it up? Hey, I can make stuff up, too: "The dulling of sensation caused by circumcision, which goes unnoticed by people who are circumcized because they have nothing to compare it to, may get people in the US to wear condoms (which often further reduce sensation) so that they can last longer in the sack."

gatogreensleeves said...

Okay, I don't get it... Are you arguing that Yahweh created circumcision so that gentiles could have more unprotected sex without worrying about STDs?? And STDs that HE created at that??!! Is that the silver lining here for thousands of years of brutality?

jewish philosopher said...

It's not brutality, it's perfection. The health benefits are one sign of that.