The Morality of Circumcision

If circumcision is so beneficial then why is there no campaign to extend it to more people?

I am no doctor but it seems that a useful default setting for deciding whether to carry out an invasive medical procedure on vulnerable humans who are at the mercy of other humans – this must surely include babies – would be, “don’t permanently remove parts of the body, especially from sensitive areas such as the genitals, unless it’s medically vital”.

It is for this reason that I object to infant male circumcision.  Until convinced otherwise (by doctors, not by religious leaders) I will consider circumcision an unnecessary and harmful procedure.  And a crime.

Not only would I not allow my own son to be circumcised unless medically necessary, but I also feel morally obliged to speak out against this practice in order to protect other baby boys.  That’s because I care about my own son, of course, but I also care about other people’s sons.  A sense of morality which only extends to one’s immediate family or to one’s own “community” isn’t much to be proud of.  Quite the contrary: it’s probably something to be ashamed of.

If I had grown up within, say, a Jewish community, and if I had also been brought up to believe that circumcision had clear medical benefits, then no matter how much my own personal judgment would have been clouded by that upbringing and no matter how misinformed it had made me, I like to think my sense of morality would be broadly similar to what it is now: that is, it would hopefully be a morality which extended beyond my immediate family and beyond my immediate community.

What would I be doing now if I had had a Jewish upbringing?  Well, apart from having a different-shaped penis, skipping the bacon and not driving on a Saturday, I like to think I would be campaigning for widespread circumcision, for all.


To counter the risk of encouraging God’s little helpers to come knocking down my front door, let me be clear what I am not calling for.  I am not calling for Jews and others who practice circumcision for religious reasons, such as Muslims, to actively seek to convert others to their faith.  The world desperately needs a lot of things but more preachers definitely isn’t one of them, thanks very much.  No, they could quite easily leave others to practice a different religion or no religion whilst campaigning for a “secular” version of circumcision which was for all children, no matter what their background.

If Jewish and Muslim organisations believe circumcision has medical benefits then isn’t it slightly odd, in moral terms, that they’re not calling for others to be circumcised?  It’s almost as if they don’t really care about the medical welfare of boys born outside their communities.

What kind of half-baked, selfish morality is that?  I’ll tell you: it’s a religious morality.

And if the argument of Jewish and Muslim organisations isn’t that circumcision has medical benefits, then remind me again why they are doing it, and why they are being allowed to do it?  Oh, that’s right: religious freedom.

Well I say that a freedom that has to manifest itself by cutting off perfectly healthy sections of helpless babies’ genitals is really not worthy of the term “freedom”, and it is really not worthy of anyone’s respect.

It is worthy of the term “violent crime”.

And it is worthy of intolerance by anyone who thinks that every single human body is an unimaginably precious thing that has to be protected from harm.