October 17, 2012


CircumcisionShould it remain legal for parents in the U.S. to have their infant sons circumcised for reasons other than medical necessity?

Should atheist parents ever consider having their sons circumcised, and if so, why?

I recognize that some in the atheist community have strong feelings about these questions. I have seen several people referring male circumcision as "mutilation" and characterizing parents who opt for the procedure as abusive. I don't believe I've written about this controversial subject yet, for what may strike some of you as a fairly strange reason. You see, I am not sure what to think about it. I have not yet made up my mind one way or another.

How can this be? As someone who is childfree (or not), circumcision is a decision I will never have to make. As a result, I haven't really had a reason to spend much time researching the pros and cons. Were I planning to be a parent, you better believe I would do so. Perhaps it is also relevant that I was circumcised as an infant, as were nearly all my friends growing up. I suspect this shapes my opinions on the matter to some degree.

Given that circumcision is associated with religion, why don't I oppose it simply on the principle that a parent should not have the right to inflict his or her religious beliefs on his or her children? While I do indeed believe that parents should not impose their religious beliefs on their children, especially in irreversible ways, I suspect that many parents today circumcise their sons for non-religious reasons.

I've heard that things are not settled in the medical community regarding the advantages and disadvantages of circumcision. I'm not sure if this is accurate or not, but I do see that the information provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics makes it sound like there are some advantages of circumcision. Thus, I suppose the key question for me boils down to whether there are any valid non-religious reasons for choosing the procedure that outweigh the risks involved.

While circumcision strikes me as somewhat barbaric, I have not closed the door on the possibility that there might be valid reasons for considering the procedure. If you feel strongly about circumcision, you almost certainly know more about it than I do because you've taken the time to research it. If so and if you'd like to share some of the information you've found, please feel free to do so. I suspect some readers would be interested.

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