By EA Blair: In June, I posted an essay railing against the unnecessary invasive surgery known as circumcision. I argued that having parts of new-born babies’ genitalia sliced off was an unnecessary cruelty which violates the medical oath to ‘first do no harm’ and is an over-reach of parental privilege.
Sitting down to write, I believed an effective way to criticize circumcision is illustrating that, far from being a necessary, beneficial medical procedure it is actually a hold-over from the Bronze Age, where early followers of Yahweh entered into a “flesh covenant” with their sky god. Essentially, these desert shepherds were making a sacrifice of the top of their penises in exchange for favors from their deity.
Circumcision began with early Judaism, and no lengthy article on the subject should omit that historic fact. All the junk spoken in favor of it: hygiene, AIDS prevention etc, are excuses made after the fact. Circumcision exists because of Bronze Age batshit.
The right and wrong of circumcision divides people most sharply along religious lines, so I wasn’t surprised by when several reader comments flirted with calling me a bigot. That’s what religious people do: seek to silence opinions they don’t like, usually by flinging out terms like “God-fearing American”, “Islamaphobic” and “anti-Semite”.
Mostly, I answered these critics in the comments sections. But when I was forwarded the following email from Banter editor Ben Cohen I was moved to publish a fuller retort.
The full reader email is pasted below; I omitted the name of the correspondent.
I am concerned about the homophobia and anti-Semitism in the article entitled:
The Cruelest Cut of All: Why Male Circumcision is Wrong.
I understand to the objection to circumcision, but the author just goes off on a tangent randomly equating Jewish mohels with "homosexual pedophile". There was no need to mention statistics of infants dying due to STDs. That has nothing to do with the practice of Jewish circumcision. Neither was it appropriate to use the term "homosexual" in front of the word "pedophile, equating pedophiles with being gay.
The following paragraphs illustrate my point.
"Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. After a mohel (Hebrew for man who circumcises) cuts away at the newborns genitals he performs “metzitzah b’peh” which is the part of the ritual where after removing the foreskin, he puts the bleeding penis in his mouth and sucks the blood from the wound to clean it.
Even allowing for the mythical properties Monotheist place upon the humble alcoholic grape drink (“blood of Christ” and all that bullshit), I hope we can all agree that there are more effective antiseptics available to us in the 21st century than wine and old-man spit. The risk of infection is astronomical, and a baby’s undeveloped immune system is completely ill-equipped to handle exposing an open wound to an adult mouth.
The Center for Disease Control’s figures show 13 babies born in New York City since the turn of the Millennium have contracted herpes from this homosexual pedophile practice. It is important to note the CDC suspects many more cases go unreported but, of the 13 confirmed, two babies died and two more were left brain damaged for life. Two of the younglings were infected as recently as this year, according to Jay Varma, the deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City Department of Health, who added it was too “early to tell” if these two most recent victims had been left mentally handicapped for the rest of their lives."
I hope you take my concerns into consideration before allowing E.A. Blair to continue to write commentary for your website. I have seen these wild arguments being made before on conspiracy sites. I would hope the Daily Banter would not want to be associated with such unfounded and cruel theories.
My reply was as follows:
Thank you for your jaw-dropping illustration of just how easily the skin of the religious is pricked these days; and your apt demonstration of the favored tactic of your ilk, to decry a critic as a bigot and call for them to be driven into the desert like they did to scapegoats in Leviticus 16:8.
If you re-read my essay, or even the very passages you cut and pasted to your communication, you will see I clearly cite both the Center for Disease Control and the New York City Department of Health explicitly avowing that the deaths in question were due to exposure to herpes during the metzitzah b’peh ritual.
Your suggestion, then, that these fatalities had “nothing to do” with Jewish circumcision and are “wild arguments” fit for “conspiracy sites” is therefore demonstrably absurd.
And I, obviously, did and do feel plenty of “need” to cast light on how these poor wretches met their painful end, mere days after being born. Despite the heroic efforts of the New York based “Jewish Week” (which, again, I cited) this outrageous practice continues to put kids’ lives at risk. I am more than “concerned” that these children’s lives were so needlessly ended – I am outraged and I want something done about it.
Let’s see: I weep for dead Jewish kids and fret about the safety of others, and there stand you anxious to silence anyone who brings this scandal into the light. If there's an anti-Semite on this email chain, I can't see how it is me.
You are making the same anti-human mistake Mitt Romney did when he laughably asserted “corporations are people too”; you are saying that faith concepts in themselves deserve protection from criticism, lest its feelings are hurt. Well, that’s one view. Another is the one enshrined in the American Constitution and no concept, no theory, no opinion and no belief is ring-fenced off from criticism. At least not outside of the deserts of the Middle East.
This is a subject I plan on tackling in a future column on The Banter, but there’s a world of difference between attacking, or even hating, a religion and attacking and hating the individual who happens to be a believer. In the context of circumcision I don’t care about upsetting dogma, tradition or faith, I care about the well-being of children who happen to have been born to ultra-orthodox Jewish parents.
And let me entertain for a moment, and against my better judgment, your facile accusation of homophobia. There’s a distinction between stating an act – in this case a grown man placing a baby’s penis in his mouth and sucking on it – is “homo” (ie male to male) and “sexual” in nature and any implication that male to male acts between adults are somehow wrong or that I disprove of such acts. And a grown man placing a child’s penis in his mouth is what, exactly, if not pedophilia?
Your accusation there was a homophobic subtext in any line in my essay is so thin is cannot disguise the true intent of your communication – to silence someone daring to critique those who follow the Bronze Age teachings of the Big Book of Jewish Fairytales.
If there was a subconscious subtext or implication encoded within my term “homosexual pedophile acts”, it was perhaps to invite a comparison between a man who seeks a career sucking natal penises and the well documented horde of Catholic pedophiles.
There seems to be a heck of a strong correlation between the more pronounced forms religion and sexual child abuse; enabled and abetted, I may add, by people like yourself who hold religious belief higher and above the well-being of children.
Aka EA Blair.