Sunday, November 27, 2011

Circumcision of Infants is Ethically Wrong. Period.


Nearly all religion is potentially dangerous. By dangerous I mean harmful to our well-being and often times with adverse side effects which don't help to improve the quality of life any. Well, maybe with the exception of a small few amiable religious faiths like Jainism--which is not harmful, but religions such as this are the exception and not the rule. Most world religions, it seems, are more or less dangerous.

When I say *all religion is dangerous, I don't mean all religion is evil. 
I feel I should clarify exactly what I mean by making an obscure Star Wars analogy. ;p

What I mean is... it's like the Jedi vs. the Sith. The Jedi and Sith both prescribe to the same religious belief in The Force , only the Sith follow their own emotions and desires, thus distorting the faith and corrupting it. But in the real world religion doesn't have a Jedi sixth sense. Religious acolytes can't tell when they are going over to the dark-side. Thus all religion is potentially dangerous.

[Note: Mainstream (i.e., Orthodox) Christians claim the Holy Spirit acts as their sixth sense, and guides their moral decisions, and helps them understand the will of God. Even so, there is absolutely no evidence for the Holy Spirit/Ghost as described by Christian theology. The Holy Spirit has never been proved, and until evidence is forthcoming it can only be treated as a Christian fancy--and hence imaginary.]

I should add that different religious values vary according to different religious modes of thought... so all religion is different in terms of scale of harm and threat.

To come back to the Star Wars analogy, people don't usually fear the Jedi council, because they act within reason. The Jedi work to serve the public. The Sith work only to serve themselves. 

Religion in the real world functions similarly. The religions which work to serve the people are more or less amiable. Whereas the religions which work to serve themselves grow corrupt and more often than not are extremely harmful--both to the individual and to society.

Not every religion will be harmful, I know. But even the harmless ones can have harmful elements, mind you. This is why Obi Wan is always telling young Padawan Anakin Skywalker to "Be mindful of the Force."

The moral Obi Wan is trying to instill in his novice apprentice is that if you take too many liberties with your religious beliefs--then you are distorting it to fit your needs--and this is when it becomes something dark and twisted. It is using religion as a means to an end--usually to fulfill your own desires--instead of following it because it is your desire to do so. 

Coincidentally, this is why I think people usually have a difficult time distinguishing between a religious cult and a mainstream branch of religious faith. Even religious people cannot usually tell how much they are following religion because it suits them or how much they are following it because it fulfills some other desire. 

If the religion seems to be fulfilling some other form of desire that is not approved by the mainstream religious orthodoxy, it is seen as a competing ideology. Usually these religious offshoots are decried by the mainstream as false religions. 

Just to cite one example, a Christian friend of mine who attends a Baptist church became offended when I cited that the cult of the Hephzibah House is a Baptist organization. I did not mean to offend her. I did not designate that classification. The Hephzibah House cultists call themselves Baptist Christians and the "school" is officially recognized by Richmond County, Indiana as a Baptist school. 

That cult is NOT Christian, she affirmed. They do evil things that aren't sanctioned by the Bible or God, she insisted. While all that may be true, most Christians do things that aren't sanctioned by the Bible or God. Most Christians eat ham at Easter and Christmas. Most Christians put up a Christmas tree every year, even as both of these activities are things which the Christian God explicitly prohibits. So simply stating a group isn't "Christian" because they don't adhere to the exact same guidelines of the Christian faith as you do is not evidence enough to claim they aren't sincere Christians.

Meanwhile, the Hephzibah cult practices and adheres to all the same doctrines and tenets as the mainstream Baptist faith. The only difference, as far as I can tell, is that most cults add additional practices, rules, and regulations--in other words, they have done what Obi Wan has warned Anakin not to do--they have 
distorted their faith to fulfill their own personal desires, and in so doing have created something dark and twisted. 

The problem is, however, the cult derives its practices and ideologies from the very same doctrines and tenets as mainstream Christianity. Its the ideology which is harmful. Because minus the ideology there would be no ritualized practice to derive from religion--therefore all religion is, at minimum, potentially dangerous.

Its only when religion has a negative impact--on the individual or on society--that we can say it has crossed the line. The problem is, religion always crosses that line--and most religious people habitually turn a blind eye to it either 1) out of devotion to their faith, or 2) because they don't feel it's causing any real harm, or else 3) because they don't equate any of the negative aspects with their particular branch of faith. It's not our religion that is corrupt, they'll remind us. No, indeed, it is the very ideology behind it which is.

Recall that I warned that even seemingly harmless religions can prove to be harmful. I want to examine one case to help crystallize the seriousness of the risk religion as an ideology poses. In the real world, not eating pork isn't a harmful religious practice in and of itself. Nobody was ever injured because they abstained from eating pork (as far as I know).

But circumcision--for example--is injurious. It's a form of bodily mutilation, and if done incorrectly it is entirely damaging. Babies die from Herpes when it is done, even in the 21st century. This just boggles the mind at how such a grotesque and odious religious practice can be continued for reasons of faith when it is known to kill hapless infants! However, just because Jews and Christians practice circumcision doesn't mean the people themselves are evil. They're not.

But they are misguided, if not entirely deluded. 

Misguided because they think they are entitled the right to continue to practice a harmful religious custom precisely because it is an inbuilt part of their faith! That sort of reasoning is not okay.

They are deluded because the believe that this secures a covenant between them and their God. Which supplies them the excuse to inflict this kind of harm and believe it is okay to do so. Like I said, this sort of reasoning is not okay.

Circumcision is a religious practice with hardly any proven medical benefit (at least not enough to warrant infant circumcision). The obvious danger is the act of actually hacking away at a child's genitalia and thereby cutting the flesh off of his or her reproductive organ. 

Think about this for a moment. 

To actually sever the flesh off of another human being without their full understanding or permission--because God wants you to show your faith in such a way--is a blatant act of harm against another human being--usually defenseless infants and small children. This not only makes religious circumcision entirely harmful--but also ethically wrong.

The only reason religious people practice such traditions in the first place, however, is because it is built into their faith--as a covenant with God (the revealed religion part). Without this peculiar religious belief though, it stems to reason that this practice of severing flesh from the human body for no good reason would not likely exist.

So even good, well meaning, religious believers can still be enacting great harm on others because of their peculiar religious held beliefs without even realizing it. 

That's why I feel almost all religion is harmful, for all of the above and similar reasons also.
[Note: Notice I say religion, singular, as in a religious system of belief and not religions, plural, as a cultural form of observance predicated on those prescribed to religious beliefs. Jainism as a belief system, and so too a cultural observance, is quite harmless. The same cannot be said of religions which practice circumcision, or other weird rituals, such as honor killings, stoning and caning as punishment, arranged marriages, withholding their members a proper education, withholding their members proper health care, disavowing their children because they are gay, disowning family members because they adhere to a different belief system, etc. etc. Even though many religious people are themselves good people--their religious practices can often times prove to be harmful.]

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist