A reader writes:
My son, who was not circumcised at birth had to undergo the procedure as a medical necessity at the age of two. He was anaesthetized, etc, and we were sent home from hospital with painkillers, ointments and instructions. Nonetheless, I still get chills at the memory of him hysterically screaming out "No, Daddy. No. No. No. Don't. Don't. Don't!" while I had to physically pin him down to change the dressing in the days afterwards. Maybe it was my inexperience at parenting. Clearly the painkillers we were initially provided weren't doing the job (fortunately the doctor provided a better solution when we complained). All I know is it reduced me to tears.
I believe that to give religions a pass on this procedure because it's a "core conviction" is to duck the issue like the New York Times. Please call it what it is and be consistent. It's evidence that some religious beliefs are just not compatible with what we know about the world.
The logic of my readers is pretty overwhelming; and my position is obviously a defensive and largely pragmatic one.
It seems to me that parents have every right to bring their children up in a religion without asking the child's consent because at some point the child will be an adult and be able to assess the faith for himself. But no man can get part of his body back, a part that was surgically removed from him without his consent as an infant. It is not as barbaric as female genital mutilation - but it does change a penis for ever and cover its most sensitive parts with scar tissue. I'm all for people deciding to do this for themselves, if that's what they want. But forcing people into mandatory permanent mutilation?
The reason I don't follow this to its logical conclusion is that I just cannot imagine trying to enforce a total legal ban on it given the religious outrage among Muslims and Jews it might provoke. And I do make exceptions for religious liberty that I don't for other issues, because I believe very deeply in the right of people to figure out their ultimate purpose in life without the intervention of the state. So I restrict myself to mere venting about what seems to me to be an irrational and barbaric relic.
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