I think one of the things that we far too often overlook in this country is that fact that genital mutilation of newborn boys is common practice, if not standard. Why isn't there more of a cry against this? Do the benefits of circumcision (if any, and I don't see any valid argument that there are any) outweigh the cost and mutilation of a boy?

Of course circumcision isn't the only genital mutilation in the world, but it's the only type in practice in the United States. Female genital mutilation is just as barbaric, if not more so. Americans, and Europeans in general, ban female genital mutilation of babies, but why the hypocrisy in not doing the same for males?

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Ever since I have discovered that that circumcision was only just a religious practice I have felt bad for doing it to my oldest boy. At the time I was still extremely religious and I thought it was the right thing to do. Now that I'm not apart of a religion I feel horrible. I should've never done that too him. I know he will still enjoy sex, but not as much if he hadn't been circumcised. If and when I have another boy, I am going to choose not to sexually mutilate him.
I continue to fail to understand the defence that some correspondents put up as regards the infant mutilation that is circumcision.

Millions of years of evolution led to babies being born with foreskins as a normal part of their penises because evolution judged it to be necessary and useful.

And yet insenstive intervention by men with knives [flint or obsidian stone knives in the desert Bronze Age (or earlier)?] led to the tribal rite of slicing away part of the male body.

Another Atheist Nexus thread on this subject—which was chiefly discussing origins of the practice—may be found in the “Origins” discussion group at



“The Unkindest Cut (Circumcision): Origins of Religion, Part 15” — as first posted by Prof. John Radford in April 2009.
To address an inappropriate invocation of evolution: "because evolution judged it to be necessary and useful." Evolution is not an intelligent designer but an efficient human device to explain natural change. One of the premises that constitutes the theory of evolution is that some changes never come about because it is neither advantageous or disadvantageous. This becomes what is called a vestigial trait. It can be an efficient cause that residual skin on the penis did not inhibit mating success and therefore survived but the circumstances to lose the foreskin never arose. This is not to debate the merits of circumcision but to point out the anthropomorphic misuse of evolution as a semantic device. As atheists we must be very careful to not erect other statues- i.e. evolution- but to acknowledge that uncertainty is a part of existence we must deal with and then proceed to do so in a reasonable, just manner. That is what theoretically separates us from the theists after all.

In this same vein, calling a facilitated medical procedure mutilation is disingenuous to the actuality of the situation. It is an example of biased language. In lieu of wearing our superstitions on our sleeves we ought to acknowledge that the depth of our feelings in the matter reflects something besides the externality of the situation and rather reflects an internal prejudice disproportionate to the consequences of the procedure to ourselves as a community. This zeal waxes religious fervor and ought to be checked, what we discuss and how we talk about issues should be markedly different from those whom we apparently differ from- the theists.
^^ a vestigial trait ^^

It's ok to do a thought experiment and postulate reasons for the specific anatomy, development, and function of body parts. But we must recognize that every single mammal evolved a prepuce for both male and female. There is zero evidence that the protective, lubricating, and richly pleasure-receptive male foreskin is just hanging around for yucks, and plenty of evidence that we have foreskins because they make sex great. Foreskin feels REALLY good.
You're starting to sound like a broken record player. In stead of repeating previous statements in a different fashion it would be nice if you would actually address the points that came up in response to your "objective" post.

In this same vein, calling a facilitated medical procedure mutilation is disingenuous to the actuality of the situation

FGM is a facilitated medical procedure in some parts of the world, I guess that makes it alright then?
There are no good pragmatic reasons for FGM. Comparing the two is superficially appealing, but the comparison is superficial. I have no vested interest in my position on circumcision. I'm simply disturbed at how rational people like atheists don't recognize that their language in discussing this matter makes them sound like they belong to the cult of the foreskin rather than a group of people who are smart enough to recognize that they are debating a confusing issue. Yes circumcision has benefits, yes it has risks, yes there is anecdotal evidence saying there are long term disadvantages, yes there is empirical evidence saying there are long term advantages. The shape this discussion has taken is not shaped by reasonable discourse but by personal biases. Calling a western, clinical procedure mutilation makes it sound as if a person's mind is made up already without considering not only if there is evidence one way or another but that there certain kinds of evidence hold more merit than another. I stepped into this discussion not because I defend circumcision, but because I'm an atheist based on my desire to see a more reasonable world. Seeing people playing semantic games, making unreasonable assertions without adequate defense and not fully addressing the complexity of this issue provides clarity as to why the atheist movement has not been as successful as it should be. We cite christians as inconsistent hypocrites that use god to justify their biases on things. Without giving credence to solid, logical rhetoric, a serious inadequacy of atheism has been displayed here. Yes we are human just as christians are, but we are supposed to be different in that we recognize the fact of our humanity means we have to be more open and diplomatic in our discussion so that actual progress can come about.
This is my last post I swear. The position I've taken is a demand for solid evidence. I've been presented with anecdote and discussion of rights. The entire discussion has reeked of bias and I caught a whiff of some ad hominem attacks as well. Doctors are divided. There is a need for better quality discourse. There is a need for better evidence. So says the AAFP. These are the guys and gals who ultimately make the decisions about what doctors should be doing.
They don't want to hear about your foreskin. They don't want to hear about your misleading rights talk (which opens up a completely irrelevant can of worms). They care about maintaining the quality of medicine. In this article they point to all of the valid arguments that have been raised here: risks and benefits both short term and long term. The long term down side most mentioned (foreskin enhances the quality of sex for men) is pointed to as a topic where the jury is still out. These guys understand the high standards we need to hold for knowledge we make decisions with. If circumcision turns out to be simply cosmetic what's the harm? If circumcision turns out to have more downsides than upsides I will gladly come off the fence to your side. Until that point I advocate staying on that fence with me. It's better to be adamant about neutrality than to be adamant about a point where there is no solid knowledge.
If, (though I disagree) the jury is still out, then don't operate. First, do no harm. If a man (not a child) decides that he wants a part of his body sliced off, let him. Doctors who took a vow to "Do no harm", should not participate. Let the tatoo artists, the piercers, those paid to perform cosmetic mutilation perform this. Doctors promised not to harm us.

Which jury would this be? I mean seriously if you want to know the sexual benefits of intact genitals then you need to have them or have sex with someone who has them. Aside from that there is the famous study entitled 'Fine-touch pressure thresholds in the adult penis' by Sorrells et al published in the British Journal of Urology in 2007, which concluded:

"The glans of the circumcised penis is less sensitive to fine touch than the glans of the uncircumcised penis. The transitional region from the
external to the internal prepuce is the most sensitive region of the uncircumcised penis and more sensitive than the most sensitive region of the circumcised penis. Circumcision ablates the most sensitive parts of the penis."

And yet you maintain there is "no solid knowledge". The function and value of the foreskin is something that has been known for thousands of years. Aristotle wrote about it in his masterpiece, Maimonides wrote about it in his guide for the perplexed, and 18th Century American physicians knew about it when they introduced circumcision into medicine to punish and prevent masturbation. (Which is in fact why you guys even consider circumcision to be a valid medical prophylactic.)

Personally I didn't really need the writings and research of others to convince me of the pleasures of the foreskin since I have an intact penis and the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I'm sure alot of men and women would agree with me on that :)

And by the way if rates of disease are anything to go by then the 'quality of medicine', as you put it, is in sharp decline. Chronic illnesses are on the upsurge, obesity is on the rise, and we are witnessing an epidemic of strange disorders such as autism. The abuse of antibiotics has led to the creation of superbugs, and the abuse of psychiatric medications is almost standard medical practice, especially in the USA. When it comes to diseases like cancer, it can be hard for patients to tell if their suffering is due to the illness or the treatment!

And for those of us with eyes to see, it is obvious that the medical industry is just that: a business, and indeed a racket in many cases. Big Pharma pressure and cajole doctors, turning them into legal drug-pushers. Cutting and drugging are the limitations of allopathic medicine which takes an very egoical and almost totally wrong perspective of disease, in my opinion.

Don't get me wrong, cutting and drugging are excellent ways to handle Injury, and modern medicine has almost mastered helping people heal from acute problems such as serious accidents and emergency situations. But its mishandling and misunderstanding of Disease is undoubtedly the dark side of medicine.

And like every institution of knowledge, whether it be secular or religious, there is an Establishment which determines what is orthodox and what is quakery. Could be that cures and natural remedies are shut down because they are not as profitable as treatments and drugs?

Now, I'm sure most doctors are mostly decent with mostly good intentions, just as most pastors and priests are. But it's the Institution that insidiously resists change and caters to the commercial and financial mindset that we have created. This is true in almost every field of human endeavour, especially those pertaining to knowledge.

The result of this is that medicine ain't medicine and science ain't science. True science is free enquiry but how can a researcher be truly free to pursue the free truth when he needs to get that grant to put food on the table? How can the scientific method be incorruptible when humans can be so fallible? I know I'm fallible, and so are others, even men in white coats.

You think that atheists taking the position of not abusing children makes us seem like we belong to a cult? Thinking rationally, like atheists sometimes do, we simply realize that there's no reason for circumcision. It has little to no benefits and many risks. MGM was originally introduced to prevent masturbation. There is no logical reason for masturbation especially when weighed against the immense damage. To call it mutilation is not semantics- it is, indeed, a textbook definition.

mu·ti·late (mytl-t)
tr.v. mu·ti·lat·ed, mu·ti·lat·ing, mu·ti·lates
1. To deprive of a limb or an essential part; cripple.
2. To disfigure by damaging irreparably: mutilate a statue.
3. To make imperfect by excising or altering parts.

There's not a single part of these definitions that don't describe circumcision, male or female. By the way, the US is considering legalizing female genital mutilation (oh, i'm sorry, female circumcision) again for religious and cultural reasons. The issue is not complex, it's barely even debatable considering the evidence.
residual skin on the penis did not inhibit mating success and therefore survived but the circumstances to lose the foreskin never arose.

It is not "residual" but richly innervated and highly functional. If such a unique structure, with its concentration of specialised nerves* concentrated in a ridged band inside the rim, with a unique rolling action, does not have sexual stimulation as its function, what was Evolution thinking of?+

*Similar to the nerves of the fingertips or lips: a kiss on the hand may be quite Continental, but I'd rather have a kiss on the lips, wouldn't you?

+This is a figure of speech.

Long words do not make one's writing more impressive. (What does it mean to say that circumcision is a "facilitated" medical procedure?) Short words are usually better than long ones.

You are correct in observing the provocative and controversial usage of the term 'genital mutilation' to describe male circumcision. I myself can find the term counter-productive at times. Although I think it can also be very useful in making people think.

'Circumcision' is a euphamism, in my opinion. When barbaric and harmful practices hide behind medical or theological euphamisms then we have a situation to the opposite effect. Calling the destruction of significant brain tissue by applying an ice-pick through the eye-socket and moving it around a "labotomy" is a prime example of this. I'm sure you can think of a host of examples in politics and law where words are manipulated to similar effect.

What I would ask of you is to look beyond the words to the reality of ripping and cutting off healthy functional erogenous tissue from the genitals of newborn male babies. Doing anything of the sort to a female baby is illegal in your country. You wouldn't even consider doing a trial to see if female circumcision had any positive medical benefits. And you seem incapable of addressing the issue that you, along with millions of other males in your country, may have lost a significant part of your penis which has had an effect on your sex life. Additionally, being an adult now, you were probably circumcised without anaesthetic. You must concede that this may have had a traumatic effect on your fragile infant psyche.

Concepts of objectivity and neutrality can be taken too far when a person seems almost robotic and totally cold towards a very human and emotional subject. In such cases I think it is a psychological defense against feeling pain. And that is understandable, but it cannot be passed off as "science". You obviously have a strong intellect and a good command of language, but I think your mind may be getting the better of you in this instance.

Being an scientist (or an atheist, for that matter) does not mean leaving feelings, emotions and passions at the door. It is after all the passion for truth that has fueled some of the greatest scientific discoveries. And many if not most of the great geniuses have given equal credit to intuition as to reason. As Einstein once remarked, "The intellect has big muscles but no personality". There is no legitimate scientific or philosophical principle which says that truth is the sole property of the head, and as humans and earnest seekers of the truth we must give due consideration to the workings and promptings of the heart.

From what I have seen and heard of stories of men who have had their lives destroyed or terribly damaged by this procedure, I find it a very serious subject indeed. From my knowledge of the mechanics of money and power in a consumer society which is epitomised in the USA, I find America's preoccuption with this practice very troubling indeed. And as a gay man who has an appreciation for the male form and who has seen first-hand how disfiguring and debilitating this surgery can be, I find this total lack of respect for the body and the genitals of others to be very disturbing indeed.

I speak from experience when I say that the foreskin is not in any way a vestigial organ, and I would presume to say that its sexual functions are known to many intact men and their partners. Anyone who would suggest otherwise has simply never had the opportunity to know. Now, sex and pleasure can be very personal things and so the foreskin is probably more important to some men and women than to others. But this in no way gives us the right to deprive people of all the parts they were born with. Surely this is plain.

I think it's quite simple: if you want to slit your dick you can but you have to be a grown up, either to do it to yourself or to give anyone else permission to do it. The fact that this even has to be stipulated doesn't speak well of our society.




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