German court: circumcising a child is bodily harm

Well, that's the end of that thread.

I am still not clear what a contemporary german court ruling has to do with 1930s Nazi anti-Semitism.

Funkenpants wrote:
Seth wrote:

Funken I think you might be letting a bit more emotion than normal into your posts. I don't know if you're wrong (haven't thought about the topic critically yet), but...well, you don't usually use the f word so generously. :)

I have been arguing a point in what I consider a rationale way. I do not intend to personally insult anyone, but when we talk about German control over Jewish rituals, and people suddenly want to invoke Godwin's law, or start talking about what a court in Japan might say, we're no longer dealing with a debate. It's just snark.

Contemporary Germans aren't Nazi's, so unless we are seriously considering that anti-semitism is inherited could we put this aside and actually considering the content of the arguments for and against circumcision.

For one thing;
If one considers circumcision to be tantamount to bodily harm should that override someone else's cultural practice?

Seth wrote:

Funken I think you might be letting a bit more emotion than normal into your posts. I don't know if you're wrong (haven't thought about the topic critically yet), but...well, you don't usually use the f word so generously. :)

I have been arguing a point in what I consider a rationale way. I do not intend to personally insult anyone, but when we talk about German control over Jewish rituals, and people suddenly want to invoke Godwin's law, or start talking about what a court in Japan might say, we're no longer dealing with a debate. It's just snark.

DanB wrote:

I am still not clear what a contemporary german court ruling has to do with 1930s Nazi anti-Semitism.

When do you cut off the relevance of history to an issue? 60 years? 10 years? 1 year? A month?

Maybe the Germans are just trying everything to leave this image behind?

IMAGE(http://www.tridentmilitary.com/new-photos11/bgs-helmet-b.jpg)

But lots of people are going 'after' kosher slaughter. From what I've read - which isn't indepth - I don't agree with it. Yet, I'm not allowed to say anything because of what the Nazis did.

I'm not a Nazi. I'm pro-book, the arts and science. I believe that men and women should be treated equally and that homosexuality is natural and nothing to be punished. You can't get further away from Nazi politics than that.

My God, man; humans should be allowed to question anything. It's the priviliege of monarchs and tyrants to punish curiosity and strangle discourse.

By the way, the ruling on circumcision isn't accepted without question, since there are some Europeans - who are Muslims and Jews - that are questioning it.

Also, I suggest that the mindset that leads to challening circumcision is actually one of questioning. They're questioning the morality, the safety of it and more. Conversely, the act of relying on a religious text and tradition is precisely a social more.

Look at some of the discussions in this forum - and what is happening around the world - to see how deference to religious texts leads to all sorts of things being justified.

Funkenpants wrote:
DanB wrote:

Contemporary Germans aren't Nazi's, so unless we are seriously considering that anti-semitism is inherited could we put this aside and actually considering the content of the arguments for and against circumcision.

This was covered and answered in an earlier post when I pointed out that the same would be applied to issues of white resistance to civil rights issues. Some people will say history doesn't matter, whatever black people went through in the past, it doesn't matter because we decided not to be racist anymore. Clean slate. If you're consistent in that argument, okay. Some people are. Not everyone agrees.

Well we haven't decided not to be racist any more but the German people and state definitely aren't Nazis anymore.

And again; "This is a centuries old practice" isn't a rebuttal of the core assertion that circumcision is bodily harm.

DanB wrote:

Contemporary Germans aren't Nazi's, so unless we are seriously considering that anti-semitism is inherited could we put this aside and actually considering the content of the arguments for and against circumcision.

We're not talking about ancient history here. There are Jews alive who were put into camps by the German government, and now the German legal system, which did nothing when they were being killed, is telling them that they can't engage in a ritual that occupies a pretty central place in their religious practices. I see that as wrong. Leave them alone, I say, when the ritual involved is something that I went through myself without any particular harm.

1Dgaf wrote:

But lots of people are going 'after' kosher slaughter. From what I've read - which isn't indepth - I don't agree with it. Yet, I'm not allowed to say anything because of what the Nazis did....My God, man; humans should be allowed to question anything. It's the priviliege of monarchs and tyrants to punish curiosity and strangle discourse.

I'm not questioning anyone's ability to question anything. I'm suggesting that the moral right for Europeans to prohibit this religious practice, given the history of repression of the Jewish culture in Europe, is lacking.

The definition and scope of human rights and morality are not fixed. They alter over time. This isn't a problem in a majority culture because the legislature and court system simply alters the laws and mores of society to suit the new ideology. There will always be a potential tension between the current human rights doctrines of a majority culture and the rituals of religious minorities, because unlike the majority, the religious minority doesn't have the ability to write laws and don't control the definition of "human rights" like the majority culture does.

So if you put yourself in the Jews' place, for hundreds of years Europeans decided they didn't like jews because Jews didn't acknowledge Jesus Christ. Then they had a change of mind, and now they don't mind that. They've just developed a problem with circumcision because they've decided that keeping the body completely intact is critical to their morality. So now it's "stop that, you jews, because we don't like it, and we're the ones who determine what is wrong and what is right in this country."

At some point, religious rituals can be incompatible with majority culture, but I don't see that here.

Funkenpants wrote:
1Dgaf wrote:

But lots of people are going 'after' kosher slaughter. From what I've read - which isn't indepth - I don't agree with it. Yet, I'm not allowed to say anything because of what the Nazis did....My God, man; humans should be allowed to question anything. It's the priviliege of monarchs and tyrants to punish curiosity and strangle discourse.

I'm not questioning anyone's ability to question anything. I'm suggesting that the moral right for Europeans to prohibit this religious practice, given the history of repression of the Jewish culture in Europe, is lacking.

The definition and scope of human rights and morality are not fixed. They alter over time. This isn't a problem in a majority culture because the legislature and court system simply alters the laws and mores of society to suit the new ideology. There will always be a potential tension between the current human rights doctrines of a majority culture and the rituals of religious minorities, because unlike the majority, the religious minority doesn't have the ability to write laws and don't control the definition of "human rights" like the majority culture does.

So if you put yourself in the Jews' place, for hundreds of years Europeans decided they didn't like jews because Jews didn't acknowledge Jesus Christ. Then they had a change of mind, and now they don't mind that. They've just developed a problem with circumcision because they've decided that keeping the body completely intact is critical to their morality. So now it's "stop that, you jews, because we don't like it, and we're the ones who determine what is wrong and what is right in this country."

At some point, religious rituals can be incompatible with majority culture, but I don't see that here.

Which brings us back to maq's well reasoned point on the previous page

Maq wrote:

Can someone tell me what Judaism has to say on the matter of conflict between Jewish sacred laws and local secular laws? That German ruling doesn't say circumcision is wrong, it says doing it to an 8 day old baby is wrong. I'm willing to bet it's entirely consistent to interpret the religious circumcision requirement to "as soon as practicable" and if the law of the land prohibits it until the child is of age then that's a compromise that can be reasonably made.

The very existence of reformed judaism suggests that jewish religious practice isn't deaf to changes in the society around it.

Funkenpants wrote:

They've just developed a problem with circumcision because they've decided that keeping the body completely intact is critical to their morality.

No. They've developed a problem with circumcision because Human Rights trump cultural traditions and Germany recognizes that Children need that protection most. Your ancestry should not determine whether someone else chooses for if you get to keep your clitoris, foreskin, front-teeth, or have other painful, scarring, permanent changes inflicted upon you. German laws now protect male children from having that choice made for them before they can understand the consequences and weigh the benefits for themselves, no matter who their parents are.

Funkenpants wrote:

I see that as wrong. Leave them alone, I say, when the ritual involved is something that I went through myself without any particular harm.

If people came around and started trying to mutilate female genitals as part of their religion, people would be going crazy. Why is this different for males? How can people look at this and not see that it is outright mutilation and a complete violation of a person's rights? It is barbaric. And the people that do it should be jailed.

FUnken you're mixing all sorts of stuff into a pot and recipe isn't working.

For hundreds of years Jews were persecuted because they didn't worship Christ. But as gentiles started to question religion, as they thought critically and independently, as they challenged their own views, the reasons for persecuting people because of it fell away.

Ergo, part of the reason that circumcision is being questioned, is related to the thing that stopped Jews being persecuted. Yet you are fighting for the adherence to faith and saying that the law mustnt be allowed to challenge it.

Think about how some of the religious bigots would have justified their attacks on Jews.

You are correct that human rights are changing, at least in how they are applied by governments. But, and I.ll use woolly language here, I think progression of true human rights, that is one concerned with people and not power, is a movement towards equality and fairness and trying to protect people. And, it seems, when you want to protect people you have to be ready to challenge doctrine and tradition.

Funkenpants wrote:
Rezzy wrote:

They've developed a problem with circumcision because Human Rights trump cultural traditions ...

Human rights are created by cultures. They include whatever the culture deems important at the time. In effect, they are a competing set of traditions.

That's a dangerous argument to make in a discussion where you're bringing up Jews living in Nazi Germany.

Rezzy wrote:

They've developed a problem with circumcision because Human Rights trump cultural traditions ...

Human rights are created by cultures. They include whatever the culture deems important at the time. In effect, they are a competing set of traditions.

ZaneRockfist wrote:

If people came around and started trying to mutilate female genitals as part of their religion, people would be going crazy. Why is this different for males?

That was addressed upthread. (not that anyone ended up agreeing, but the discussion went through that already and there isn't much to add).

As for jailing anyone who circumcises a male child, the thing to do if it was in the U.S. would be to get a law passed. And then we can have a debate in Congress about whether some exceptions should be carved out. This is far superior than having some judge someplace decide to extend the coverage of the laws of battery to a practice that a statute was never intended to cover.

1Dgaf wrote:

FUnken you're mixing all sorts of stuff into a pot and recipe isn't working.

The reason I'm mixing stuff into a pot is that human rights, and laws, don't exist in a vacuum. They are driven by culture and consensus, and you cannot separate history and the interactions of religious minorities with majority cultures.

Funkenpants wrote:
DanB wrote:

Contemporary Germans aren't Nazi's, so unless we are seriously considering that anti-semitism is inherited could we put this aside and actually considering the content of the arguments for and against circumcision.

We're not talking about ancient history here. There are Jews alive who were put into camps by the German government, and now the German legal system, which did nothing when they were being killed, is telling them that they can't engage in a ritual that occupies a pretty central place in their religious practices. I see that as wrong. Leave them alone, I say, when the ritual involved is something that I went through myself without any particular harm.

I'm not sure how you can claim "no particular harm," when you have no conscious memory of what you're missing.

There are also plenty of religious practices that were fairly central to other religions that have been eliminated in the name of human rights. There are also non-religious practices which were justified by religions that are no longer tolerated. I can't cite any specific instances, but I find it hard to believe that a 19th century plantation owner never quoted any one of the many Bible verses that discuss slavery as a justification for continuing to keep them.

Let's not even get into the usage of Leviticus 18:22.

Religions are a poor shield for defending any action, let alone one that involves physical harm.

Seth wrote:

Just for clarification: is the point being made that Jews get to circumsize babies because of WWII?

Not just WWII. Don't forget the pogroms (per Funken).

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:
Seth wrote:

Just for clarification: is the point being made that Jews get to circumsize babies because of WWII?

Not just WWII. Don't forget the pogroms (per Funken).

The think I don't quite follow about Funken's thrust is that he seems to be arguing that we shouldn't criticize Jews for circumcizing their children because of the history of persecution they have.

Following that logic then, it's perfectly fine to criticize non-Jews for circumcizing their children, because there isn't the same history of persecution.

It just doesn't hang right with me: "I'm allowed to chop the tip of my son's penis off because my great-grandparents were victims of ethnic cleansing". It's such a non-sequiter.

Speaking of Holocaust. I don't know if this goes to strengthen or to dilute the brand that is has become:

Israel crowns 'Miss Holocaust Survivor'

Current thinking is that circumcision reduces risk for penile cancer, possibly due to reduced rates of HPV infection. There were studies that suggested a reduced risk of HIV/STD in circumcised males, but meta-analyses have cast doubt on those ideas.

While penile cancer is relatively uncommon in developed countries, it is much more common in Africa, Asia and South America.

NSMike wrote:

I'm not sure how you can claim "no particular harm," when you have no conscious memory of what you're missing.

I enjoy sex. The tip feels fine. If there's more pleasure to sex than I'm already having, I'd probably be squirting in 15 seconds. Women have never told me the tip of my penis is funny looking. Nor can I detect any mental issues that would have been prevented by having a foreskin. I'm having some stomach problems, but I can't imagine that's resulted from being circumcised. So all in all, I can't say there was a lot of harm from a simple procedure done when I was an infant.

NSMike wrote:

There are also plenty of religious practices that were fairly central to other religions that have been eliminated in the name of human rights.

Certainly. There is a constant tension between the values/practices of the majority population and the will of religious minorities. In prior centuries, declaring certain practices barbaric, indian tribes in the U.S. and Canada, and aborigines in Australia, were forced to adapt to Anglo cultural norms. Today we consider some of the forced changes to be wrong, and others reasonable. It just depends on how far the minority practice diverges from the majority.

Further, I can guarantee you that by the time you reach 50-60 years of age, you will have witnessed some kind of reversals in cultural norms that overturn your existing belief systems. These things aren't fixed, and when you're dealing with religious freedom, you have to decide to what extent a given practice is incompatible with existing majoritarian social norms.

Jonman wrote:

The think I don't quite follow about Funken's thrust is that he seems to be arguing that we shouldn't criticize Jews for circumcizing their children because of the history of persecution they have.

I'm saying that they are a religious minority in Germany, and that the Germans are imposing your own values on them. I'm also noting that given the level of persecution they suffered in the past, people should not be screwing with their cultural traditions without a very good reason. Prohibiting circumcision does not meet that threshold.

Edit: I believe I've now written the same thing, with minor variations, about 3-4 times. I get that people disagree with me. But why do I have to keep saying the same thing to different people?

Further, I can guarantee you that by the time you reach 50-60 years of age, you will have witnessed some kind of reversals in cultural norms that overturn your existing belief systems.

Go against what I believe? Certainly, I can accept that. Overturn? It's possible, but only if there's a rational, logical, evident (meaning provable by evidence, not just noticeable) reason to overturn it.

These things aren't fixed, and when you're dealing with religious freedom, you have to decide to what extent a given practice is incompatible with existing majoritarian social norms.

I certainly agree that majority opinion does influence social norms, but sometimes there is no rational reason why it should. Because it already existed? Because it's traditional? Because Jews were murdered by the millions?

There are medical conditions that necessitate it, but here's the baseline:

You are born with it. It is scientifically demonstrable that the procedure can and does harm those upon whom it is performed. There is no compelling scientific evidence that removing it is a valid preventive procedure for any medical condition that affects a majority of the population. Certainly nothing that justifies it as a default practice. Humanity is far older than any cultural or religious practice of removing it, and it has survived. If the only reason we are continuing to allow it is not to hurt some practitioners of a particular religion, that is no reason at all.

Funkenpants wrote:
Jonman wrote:

The think I don't quite follow about Funken's thrust is that he seems to be arguing that we shouldn't criticize Jews for circumcizing their children because of the history of persecution they have.

I'm saying that they are a religious minority in Germany, and that the Germans are imposing your own values on them. I'm also noting that given the level of persecution they suffered in the past, people should not be screwing with their cultural traditions without a very good reason.

I don't know why I keep having to make the same arguments over and over and over again. I've now written the same thing, with minor variations, about 3-4 times.

There's the key thing bolded right there. If you accept that circumcision is bodily harm inflicted on an individual unable to consent to it, then that's a pretty darned compelling reason. Not saying you should accept that, but if you do, we're all on the same page.

Taking a step back, what we're really discussing is the rightness or wrongness of a society's culture trumping a religion's culture. And maybe we shouldn't be. Circumcision isn't a strictly Jewish practice, by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, Jews are the group that most likely circumcises more of it's children than any other, but that's by the by. Germany is saying that circumcision is wrong, regardless of what religion you practice. It's not a pot-shot at Judaism, it's a pot-shot at a non-medically-motivated surgery.

Funkenpants wrote:

Edit: I believe I've now written the same thing, with minor variations, about 3-4 times. I get that people disagree with me. But why do I have to keep saying the same thing to different people?

Because you're attacking the idea of human rights at the same time you're basing your argument on human rights. You can't have it both ways, at least without a more satisfying explanation.

People are balancing human rights like "you don't get to harm children" with human rights like "majorities should be careful in how they handle minorities." You're banging the drum for the human rights involved in majority/minority relations while arguing that human rights don't really exist when asked about the treatment of children.

Never mind.

NSMike wrote:

Go against what I believe? Certainly, I can accept that. Overturn? It's possible, but only if there's a rational, logical, evident (meaning provable by evidence, not just noticeable) reason to overturn it.

And then you will be one of those elderly people who refuse to change or accept the change in norms. I don't expect you to believe me. The world will change around you, and you'll either alter your beliefs in accordance or you'll stick to your guns and feel like something has gone wrong in the organization of the universe. All I can tell you is that the culture will change, and not always in what you might think is a good way.

Humanity is far older than any cultural or religious practice of removing it, and it has survived. If the only reason we are continuing to allow it is not to hurt some practitioners of a particular religion, that is no reason at all.

It's not about humanity, but rather about the practices of a religious minority that formed it's belief structure and traditions while being partially excluded from mainstream German society, much in the way black culture in America evolved. As I said earlier, it's very easy to discount the ideals or rituals of other people. So you think there is no good reason for it, but clearly they do.

Jonman wrote:

There's the key thing bolded right there. If you accept that circumcision is bodily harm inflicted on an individual unable to consent to it, then that's a pretty darned compelling reason. Not saying you should accept that, but if you do, we're all on the same page.

I'm saying it isn't compelling reason. It could be because I do not have a foreskin that I am more sympathetic to German Jews on this issue, because I do not see it as a big deal to be without one. I haven't bothered with the additional concept that parents are assumed to stand in the shoes of their children in acting on their best interest. I make all kinds of decisions for my kid that violate his rights- he lives where I tell him to live, eats what I give him, would go to church with me if I was religious, goes to the school I'd send him to. All of these have a long-term affect on his health and well-being that go far beyond whether or not his foreskin is removed. I assume a court would not have a problem with that, because that's something that society assumes parents are supposed to do.

CheezePavilion wrote:

Because you're attacking the idea of human rights at the same time you're basing your argument on human rights. You can't have it both ways, at least without a more satisfying explanation.

I never said human rights didn't exist. I said they are social creations, and that majority culture has the ability to impose its version of human rights on religious minorities. With that asymmetry in mind, you don't restrict the practice of religious freedom without meeting a high threshold.

Funkenpants wrote:

And then you will be one of those elderly people who refuse to change or accept the change in norms. I don't expect you to believe me. The world will change around you, and you'll either alter your beliefs in accordance or you'll stick to your guns and feel like something has gone wrong in the organization of the universe. All I can tell you is that the culture will change, and not always in what you might think is a good way.

I already acknowledged that there will likely be shifts in popular belief that may start to uphold an idea that isn't based in a rational world view. That happens all the time. How often that affects truly important things changes the more and more we move towards a values system that is equitable and reasonable for all. Genital mutilation does not fall under that category.

It's not about humanity, but rather about the practices of a religious minority that formed it's belief structure and traditions while being partially excluded from mainstream German society, much in the way black culture in America evolved. As I said earlier, it's very easy to discount the ideals or rituals of other people. So you think there is no good reason for it, but clearly they do.

There's more here than perceptions of reasons. "My religion tells me I should" is tissue-paper thin reasoning. Granting an entire religious subset of the culture the right to stand behind that tissue paper and forbidding the rest of the world from piercing it is a far greater rights violation than forbidding them from performing genital mutilations. Religious freedom is not an absolute guarantee, and never has been, even in the US.

Funkenpants wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

Because you're attacking the idea of human rights at the same time you're basing your argument on human rights. You can't have it both ways, at least without a more satisfying explanation.

I never said human rights didn't exist. I said they are social creations, and that majority culture has the ability to impose its version of human rights on religious minorities. With that asymmetry in mind, you don't restrict the practice of religious freedom without meeting a high threshold.

Why not? If human rights are only a social creation, then the threshold for imposing your version of human rights on religious minorities is itself only a social creation. You're arguing against people who think it meets that higher threshold by saying things like children's rights are only a social creation, while not realizing the effect that has on the idea that minority protections are a human right.

Like I said above, I'm not even sure you can make the argument that minority protections are a human right if human rights are just social creations.

NSMike wrote:

Granting an entire religious subset of the culture the right to stand behind that tissue paper and forbidding the rest of the world from piercing it is a far greater rights violation than forbidding them from performing genital mutilations.

Whatever the rationale basis of religious beliefs are, the modern definition of human rights includes religious freedom. It allows parents to force their children to go to church before the age of consent, to feed them a religiously-based diet, to send them to special religious schools, etc. These are ideas we have all agreed on. So it's not fair to suddenly act like it's a tissue paper that can be pierced at will. Religious freedom is a bedrock principle of modern enlightened society. It's more of a big leather blanket.

The only question is to what extent the majoritarian group can impose its system of beliefs on a religious minority. You can argue about where the line should be drawn, but you seem to be rejecting the idea that there should be any line at all.

CheezePavilion wrote:

Why not? If human rights are only a social creation, then the threshold for imposing your version of human rights on religious minorities is itself only a social creation.

Exactly. There are two socially created morality systems co-existing in the same space- one is held by the vast majority of people who write the laws. The other is held by a religious minority. Working through the conflict is part of modern society, particularly in the case of religious judiasm, whose morality overlaps with modern enlightenment morality in many areas.

We can certainly have a society in which religious minorities have no rights. In fact, we've had such societies in the past. For now, that approach has been rejected.

Genital mutilation should not be protected by religious freedom.

I would be happy if religion did not exist, but that's untenable right now. It seems clear to me that genital mutilation should not be behind any protected line. I happen to think that the mental anguish imposed by the guilt-inducing practices of many major religions should be examined in the same light, but that's straying from the topic.