As many of you know, a German court recently ruled that circumcision of infants abrogated the right of infants to be protected from bodily harm, and therefore was illegal until the child became old enough to give informed consent. According to CBS News:
“The religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their child would not be unacceptably compromised, if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised,” the court added.
The ruling has now set a precedent that anyone in the future who performs a circumcision on a child not old enough to consent could potentially be breaking the law. Experts say that the decision would not be enforceable in other jurisdictions but because of the legal limbo and possibility of charges brought upon them, doctors may decline to do the procedure, according to the New York Times.
The Jews will be outraged, of course, but this is the decision of a regional court, in Cologne, and would have to be upheld by higher courts before it became German law. I don’t have strong feelings about this issue, but I know some readers do.
But I do have strong feelings about a piece in the Torygraph that blames this ban on—who else?—atheists. Yes, those atheists who are constantly battling religious “freedom,” including the freedom to mutilate one’s child. In the paper, Brendan O’Neill weighs in in a piece called, “The rebranding of circumcision as ‘child abuse’ echoes the ugly anti-Semitism of medieval Europe.” That title says it all: he plays the anti-Semitic card for all it’s worth:
Many secularist campaigners are cock-a-hoop about the ruling. They believe their description of circumcision as “child abuse”, as a cruel operation that ignores the UN-guaranteed “rights of the child”, is radical and caring. But in truth it echoes centuries’ worth of nasty anti-circumcision posturing by people who hate certain religious faiths. In Medieval Europe, as pointed out in the book The Covenant of Circumcision, Jew-baiters often depicted circumcision as “cruel and grotesque”. The “barbarous and cruel Jews” were slated for callously snipping off their own boys’ foreskins and for secretly desiring to do the same to Christian boys, too. These “merciless” creatures were described by one English writer as “foreskinne-clippers”. The modern atheist’s description of circumcision as “child abuse”, though used to attack both Jewish and Muslim communities, is only an updated, more PC version of the old anti-Semites’ description of it as “cruel and grotesque”.
The labelling of religious practices as “child abuse” is the most cynical tactic in the armoury of today’s so-called New Atheists. They are effectively using children as human shields, as a cover under which they and their beloved state might interfere in both family life and the realm of religious conscience in order to reprimand people for believing the wrong things and carrying our “cruel” practices. If you think they will stop with the banning of a physical practice like circumcision, think again. Richard Dawkins has argued that “bringing [children] up Catholic” is a form of “mental abuse”. Another New Atheist argues that children “have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people’s bad ideas”. What is being attacked here is the fundamental right of parents and communities to pass on their beliefs to their offspring.
History tells us that the rebranding of religious practices as child abuse can have terrible consequences. Many anti-Jewish pogroms in the past were justified on the basis that Jews abused children. The FBI’s insane invasion of the headquarters of the Branch Davidian religious cult in Waco, Texas, in 1993 was likewise justified on the basis of halting child abuse. That led to the deaths of 82 people – 28 of them children.
First of all, I doubt that New Atheism had anything to do with the judges’ ruling. Second, is it really a right to cut off part of your child’s penis because it’s a religious dictate? Is religiously-motivated female genital mutilation then a right? How much religiously-motivated cutting is permissible?
And people should think twice about what Dawkins said before rejecting it. It’s okay to teach your children truths about the world, and imbue them with some semblance of morality (“share your toys”), but atheists don’t think it’s okay to tell your children lies. (Further, no atheist is saying that such indoctrination should be outlawed, only that it’s wrong).
And it’s even worse to tell kids lies that warp and terrify them, a practice routinely applied to Catholic children. Many readers can attest to the harm that was done them by being filled with religious nonsense, guilt, and thoughts of eternal damnation. In contrast, few could claim, I think, that they were permanently damaged by being brought up without religion.