Two Religious Customs Which Should Be Illegal

In this country we have freedom of religion like all other secular countries and it is a freedom which is supposed to entitle people the freedom to believe what they want, and practise what they want without interference from the State.

But some religious groups abuse this freedom and act in ways which we would usually call inhumane. We sometimes refrain from calling these acts inhumane just because they are the acts of a religious group.

The two religious customs I believe should be explicitly illegal, based on the harm they inflict on the individual and the individual's interests they ignore, are circumcision (or genital mutilation) and the koshering of meat. The technique of killing in producing kosher meat is basically the same as the technique used in producing halal meat, so they can be equally compared.

I'll first start off with why circumcision should be prevented in this religious context. About a year ago my cousin had a son and being Jewish it was natural for him to call in a 'Mohel' and have his son circumcised. I was invited to the bris (Jewish ritual of circumcision) and I was interested to see what the ritual involved. During the hour long process, however, my curiosity changed to disgust. I felt like stopping this scalpel-wielding stranger hacking the skin off this baby's genitals. Imagine for a second that this practice never existed amongst an organised group. Now imagine an individual being in someone's home slicing off the foreskin of someone else's newborn infant. We would either send that person to jail for child abuse or to a psychiatric ward if they pleaded insanity.



The Children Act of 1989 gives the NSPCC statutory powers to protect children when they're at risk, but the NSPCC would not be allowed to prevent circumcisions. Why? Well there is no reason, except that it is expected of politicians and the general public to respect what religious groups do in private. But when one individual harms another, without consent, then this calls for State intervention.

Removing the foreskin of an infant violates that infant's freedom, as well as the infant's interest in not being harmed. Its also worth noting that the Mohels who do the circumcising are not trained in anaesthesia, nor are their implements sterile, considering that the bris happens in the home and not in a hospital. So I think under the Children Act (1989) the practice of circumcision on non-consenting boys or girls should be considered child abuse and warrants the State to condemn it, just as it condemns child molestation, neglection and other forms of abuse. The only way in which circumcision should be allowed to exist, in a religious and non-medical context, is by the individual deciding to have it done as a consenting adult.

I'd wager that if this is how circumcision really worked, by individuals consenting at a mature age, there would be increasingly fewer people being circumcised on the basis of faith.

It's also worth a reminder that the foreskin, or prepuce, exists for a reason and serves several biological functions. Some include: preventing chafing, increased sexual pleasure, (the prepuce has the most nerve endings compared to the rest of the penis), prevention of infection during early age. And the list goes on

Also, here is a fascinating article on common misconceptions and myths surrounding circumcision. Circumcision, without anaesthesia, is a painful form of mutilation which carries many health risks and long-term psychological problems.

On a quick side note, it is worth mentioning that the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act was passed in 1985 and makes it a criminal offence for one to remove or mutilate a female's genitalia for cultural or religious reasons. There is no act, however, which says it is a criminal offence to mutilate the genitals of a boy for religious reasons. This is nothing short of a double standard.

The second religious custom which I think goes against a good conscience and should not be protected by law, is koshering. Kosher food is any food which is prepared in conjunction with certain requirements stated in the Torah (or the Koran). It does not matter why kosher meat is holy and non-kosher meat unholy; all that matters is the process by which kosher meat is produced.


For example, some pious Jews ironically claim that koshering is a much more humane process than the normal method of stunning the animal so it is immediately unconscious. The exact opposite is the case. In both Jewish and Muslim practices the cow will first be paralysed before it is killed to ensure that it cannot resist the mutilation about to come. The next step involves making a deep incision into the cow's throat and then it is left to writhe in pain for about 20 minutes before it finally dies. This method of killing is called exsanguination and translated from the latin it literally means "bleed to death."


The Animal Weflare Act of 2006 clearly states that a person commits a legal offence if they cause unnecessary suffering towards an animal, either from action or inaction. The Act also states that any responsible person working within the meat industry has a duty to promote the welfare of animals and to reduce suffering at all costs. I recently found footage of a kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa and it is clear from it that koshering animals is not more humane than other industrial methods. In order to make your own judgement watch the video yourself.

The reason kosher slaughterhouses still exist, despite their breaking the law, is because faith in a 'holy' book can be used to justify almost anything. Imagine a baby having its throat cut and then left to die for 20 minutes as it chokes on blood. There is no justification for this. And yet both human infants and mammals over the age of 1 have the same pain threshold and feel the sensation of pain in the same way. Therefore, it is irrational to say a baby slaughterhouse is inhumane, whilst a kosher slaughterhouse is not. Since all sentient mammals have the interest not to be harmed, and since this interest is protected in the Animal Weflare Act (2006), kosher slaughterhouses should be boycotted with the goal of shutting them down.

12 comments:

  1. I never particularly understood where circumcision comes from, or why people feel the need to do it. And I know a few circumcised people who have weird issues derived from it. One of them cannot use condoms, because it dulls the sensation enough that he can't reach orgasm-- probably due to the decrease sensitivity from the bulk loss of nerves. The other guy I know can get intense discomfort from an erection, where the skin gets so tight that it puts causes uncomfortable pressure, and it has the added bonus of easily tearing the skin and bleeding. Neither of these things sound all that fun..

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm not sure if you just wrote this for a bullshit school paper or something, but go ahead and take a look at your average slaughterhouse and read up on the pros & cons of circumcision.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're a typical internet coward. You post nonsense without a shred of proof and then hide behind "anonymous" because you know you are wrong. The article provides proof of the position taken. Why don't you? Could it be you already know you are wrong?

      Delete
  3. To Anonymous - What a typical cowardly response. How about you respond to the actual content of the article? Mutilating babies is indefensible except through the distorted and ignorant eyes of a religious convert.

    Would you cut off your ear voluntarily if we found an old jewish text that stated it was compulsory? Of course you would not. If you saw a foreign culture that cut off the left hand of all children at birth, would you protest? Or would you argue that it is their right to proceed, as it is in accordance with their religious beliefs?

    If you would argue that they have this right, that a religious argument is all that is needed to justify any action, regardless that it physically mutilates an innocent child, you must also agree that Hitler, as he was acting on his belief that god wanted all Jews dead, was acting appropriately and should not be condemned.

    I agree with the position stated in this article, and the reasons given are clear and reasonable.

    Yours Sincerely
    Michael Treadgold

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh and as the youtube video was removed, here is a link to a slaughter. I can only assume the content is similar.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6jV_7Q9RhQ

    Michael

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find it funny how a video could be removed for "shocking and disgusting content", yet the practice is not banned for those very same reasons.

      Delete
  5. I noticed the author excluded the part where the mohel draws blood during the "circumcision". Lovely, yeah? An infant male has a wounded penis 8 days after entering this world, and if he's lucky enough to be the first born then the family has a redemption ceremony where they "buy back" his soul. (Look up "golden calf" and the the "levites").

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's really sad how little you understand about either of these topics. The point of kosher animal slaughter is to provide the most humane and painless death to an animal. If the animal suffers, it was clearly not done correctly. The point is for the animal to have as instantaneous a death as possible from as calm a point as possible.

    As far as circumcision, you obviously have been paying too much attention to the American Pediatric Association, who make most of their statements from a political and not from a scientific viewpoint. Talk to urologists instead. That will give you a better view. If you actually did witness a circumcision, it clearly was from a ridiculously biased viewpoint. I've seen and performed plenty. I've also seen the repercussions of not having a circumcision. There is clearly more discomfort at the time by cleaning the area than from performing the circumcision, which the baby usually has absolutely no reaction to, whatsoever. The medical problems involved with not having it done are surprising extensive. As far as the change in sexual pleasure, probably minimal to non-existent. Worst case scenario, you might actually last long enough to pleasure your partner. Best case scenario, you avoid infection and cancer. An adult circumcision and a newborn circumcision are completely different procedures. Trying to compare them is stupidity.

    Yes, I am a doctor. Yes, I was raised Jewish but know how to think for myself. Sadly, on these topics, you are a misinformed fool. Stop talking about what you know nothing about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kosher is definately not the most humane or painless death, the standard method used by normal slaughterhouses is for sure the most humane and painless. The main method used is to shove a bolt through the brain destroying it and instantly killing the animal. The proper kosher method actually requires the animal to be alive and awake when its throat is slit, and it typically takes very little time for the heart to stop beating (2 seconds or so) if done right but the brain and nerve endings will actually work for much longer when done that way(over 30 seconds before brain would lose consciousness), and a brain will actually still survive for about 6 minutes with no bloodflow.

      Delete
  7. My wife and I had a son 6 months ago, and the decision to circumcise him was one of the most difficult choices I have ever had to make. I am atheist; my wife is agnostic. So, the only religious motivation involved is my strong compulsion to avoid anything overtly religious in nature or origin. I am circumcised, and we live in a part of the country where most men are. How was I going to handle him asking why he is different from daddy? or from the other boys? or when a special girlfriend who has never seen an uncut penis sees his for the first time and does not like it? Would he even ask me or would he just internalize feeling different or rejected?

    I considered that those could be growth experiences and could improve self-image and confidence when resolved. But they could also cause damaged self-esteem and sexual insecurity he could carry throughout his life. In principle, I disagree with circumcision, but that's MY principle and my reasons, not his. My choice was: do I possibly damage him psychologically so that I can avoid conforming with a religious tradition I don't like? or do I allow a very common, minor surgical procedure (with no religious ceremony) which would benefit him socially but goes against my atheist grain? I believe I made the right choice; I hope he agrees.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your perspective on this. It sounds like as an atheist you really struggled with this decision, so I can appreciate that at least you didn't make the decision blindly on faith, but thought about the risks and benefits carefully. Can I ask where you're from just out of interest? I know that circumcision for non-religious reasons is very common in the US. I can understand the social pressure of circumcising your son if that's the custom of the country, but I don't know if that would be reason enough for me. It's a tough call.

      Delete
  8. Both practices are barbaric and stem from Judeochrislam, a horrid disease that's plagued humanity for 4 millennia.

    If we're ever to move forward as a race, we have to stop mutilating both children and animals, and the practice of killing our fellow Earthlings for food, sport, or religious nuttery has to end. We're in the Sixth Great Extinction and there will almost certainly come a day when we'll wish that we'd stopped this practice long ago.

    Religion is poison; truth is the antidote.

    ReplyDelete

About Me

My photo
I'm a freelance writer who is interested in a variety of subjects, especially those which are philosophical, complex and involve a multitude of perspectives. I created this blog in order to share my thoughts, and to encourage debate and discussion about the most fascinating topics I can think of. Get in touch: samwoolfe@gmail.com