Coda to the MC discussion on

It looks as if the comment thread of the MC post on is permanently closed, so I’ll use this roundabout way to clarify my point once more.

A user named macavitykitsune replied to me:

You know what, it’s possible to be anti-circ and not be anti-Semitic. I posted a fairly strongly worded comment on the anti-circ side and no one said it was anti-Semitic or Islamophobic.

You, on the other hand, got on your failtrain and chugged down that failroad. Congratulations.

And yet he or she gets their facts wrong.

What happened was that Donna L and Safiya Outlines decided to set the terms of the discussion bright and early and threw out the blanket accusations of anti-semitism and islamophobia in the 2nd and 5th comments.

After I wrote my post in which I stated that I have a problem with parents’ religious believes overriding a child’s rights, Donna L then claimed that

Germany, of all places in the entire world, to try to make infant male circumcision for religious reasons illegal?

(which it didn’t) and told me that she couldn’t have a discussion with me. What she did not do, what in fact no one had done so far and I greatly appreciate that, is accuse me personally of being anti-semitic. In fact, macavitykitsune’s come closest with:

You know what, it’s possible to be anti-circ and not be anti-Semitic.

The main difference between my post and macavitykitsune’s is the following: she or he gives religious reasons a very slight benefit of the doubt:

I don’t feel substantially more comfortable about religious reasons for circumcision than non-religious ones. (

(my emphasis) which means that different strawmen were used to ignore the main points of his/her position than in my case.

Whereas my position is pretty much the opposite of hers/his: if something is done for reasons of religion, tradition, customs, ideology or similar unfounded believes, this is always a stupid reason.

  • You’re not eating meat on Fridays because your religious authorities tell you so? Stupid!
    You’re not because you think eating less meat is healthier and environmentally more sustainable? Now we can discuss.
  • You don’t eat beef because your religious authorities tell you so? Stupid!
    You don’t because cattle are bad a converting energy and produce methane? We can discuss.
  • You advocate all utilities and services be privatized because the “market is always more efficient than the state”? Stupid!
    You have data that shows that for certain sectors privatization improved quality and/or brought prizes down? We can discuss.
  • You oppose GMOs because we shouldn’t mess with nature? Stupid!
    You worry about genetic transfer and seed monopolies? Let’s talk.
  • You think the US brings democracy wherever it goes because of Manifest Destiny? Stupid!
    You give examples in which the US chose a democratic movement over a strongman? Let’s examine the case.
  • You think acupuncture should be reimbursed by medical insurers because vital energy is somehow released and aligned? Stupid!
    You think that for some conditions such as chronic pain the best treatment is a placebo response and well-trained acupuncturists can elicit such a response? Let’s talk medical ethics.
  • You perform MC because your religious book tells you so? Stupid!
    You claim there are medical benefits? Let’s look at the data and find out.

If you do things to yourself, I don’t mind if you do it for stupid reasons. As soon as it affects others, especially ones that can’t consent, the bar is raised.

The discussion we should have about MC, the only discussion, in my opinion, is the one in the preceding sentence. And that’s the one I wanna have, because I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re looking at a case of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” here.
But we don’t get to have this discussion because the pro-MCers can count on religious exceptionalism. Which is why I made it very clear in my post that I find arguments from religion highly problematic.

This entry was posted in belief systems, health benefits, health care, health care policy, Hypocrisy, religion, secularism. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Coda to the MC discussion on

  1. Rock on! MC is not a sound tradition. It kills more children than are saved by MC every year. It is elective and has no net benefit to the recipient. It is not dissimilar to saying lets remove breasts from women at age 8 to prevent breast cancer… and because god like it that way.

    • tokugawa98 says:

      Erm…it is dissimilar:

      1. Removing the breasts would be a bigger intervention than removing the foreskin.
      2. Women without breasts are stigmatized in just about any society currently in existence, men without foreskin are not – in places like the US it’s actually even the other way around.
      3. Breasts serve a pretty clear purpose in raising children – now I understand that some women don’t nurse and I haven’t looked into the literature of the purpose of the foreskin but it’s my impression that there is not loss in functionality when the foreskin is removed while there is one with breasts.

      Apart from this – when it comes to medical interventions, these should always be backed by risk-benefit assessments and so far I don’t see those turning out in favor of MC.

      And once again – religion and tradition are always the wrong reasons. There also no “sound” traditions – if it’s a tradition that’s not doing harm or accidentally doing good, this doesn’t make the reason, i.e. the tradition, sound reasoning.

      • It is similar in that it is not necessary and removes a part of the body that has function in favor of a tradition. We don’t remove the appendix of young children just in case…

      • tokugawa98 says:

        But that’s the thing – it’s similar on one dimension but dissimilar on a couple of others. Furthermore, afaik, there is no tradition of removing the breasts of female children, so the example feels made up for the shock value.

        Fact of the matter remains, of course, that removing parts of the body for traditional/religious reasons is plainly stupid, and that those reasons should never be considered a valid defense.

        A valid argument could be made in terms of medical benefits but as you show with your second example, the reasoning in defense of MC (even if the medical benefits are real, which I am still not convinced of) is overshooting the goal by far.

        The entire discussion typically also shows the contortions pretty nicely: when objections are raised because religious reasons are stupid reasons, defenders claim medical benefits, when it is pointed out that those medical benefits are dubious at best and don’t require cutting at a very young age, it’s all “But…thousands of years or tradition!”.

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