Monday, August 29, 2005

Circumsizing Faith

Proud infidel Christopher Hitchens lobs more "subtle" broadsides at faith and its discontents in Monday's Slate. This time Hitch looks on in horror as religion coincides with blood and blowjobs. Quoting the NYTs, Hitch reproduces this tidbit from the Aug. 26 Metro section:
A circumcision ritual practiced by some Orthodox Jews has alarmed city health officials, who say it may have led to three cases of herpes—one of them fatal—in infants. … The practice is known as oral suction, or in Hebrew, metzitzah b'peh: after removing the foreskin of the penis, the practitioner, or mohel, sucks the blood from the wound to clean it.
Hitch goes on to gleefully attack NYC's Mayor Bloomberg for not stopping this practice immediately. But what's more disconcerting, although in no way surprising, is a local rabbi's response to the practice.
Let's by all means hear from Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organization in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who emerged from his meeting with Bloomberg to inform us that: "The Orthodox Jewish community will continue the practice that has been practiced for over 5,000 years. We do not change. And we will not change."
Hitch's response:
You can preach it, rabbi, but you have no more right to practice it than a Muslim imam who preaches the duty of holy war has the right to put his teachings into effect. And Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer, the 57-year-old man who ministered to the three boys in question, is currently under a court order that forbids him from doing it again—pending an investigation by the health department. What "investigation?" If another man of that age were found to be slicing the foreskins of little boys and then sucking their penises and their blood, he would be in jail—one hopes—so fast that his feet wouldn't touch the ground. If he then told the court that God ordered him to do it, he would be offering precisely the defense that thousands of psychos have already made so familiar. Preach it rabbi. Preach it to the judge.
Isn't it funny how if you belong to an established religious sect, criminal acts become relative and open to interpretation according to "theological" taste?

This reminds me of a time I had dinner with a young lady that identified herself as a "liberal" concerned with human rights. By the end of our conversation I had wished she never opened her mouth as she had defended the hideous act of female circumcision, admonishing me not to judge another's culture. How dare I indeed, considering the U.N. has supported the right to grant asylum to those courageous young women who flee this devilish practice. How is this relevant you might ask? While her opinion wasn't theology per se, her multi-cultural relativism travels in its auspicious company due to the loss of critical thinking and the absence of the most human of traits -- empathy. Apparently she didn't even have the prejudice to defend her own team. Regardless, neither tradition nor culture grants anyone the right to violate, especially violently, another's human rights.

As Hitchens concludes:
Jewish babies exposed to herpes in New York, thousands of American children injured for life after the rape and torture they suffered at the hands of a compliant Catholic priesthood, prelates and mullahs outbidding each other in denial of AIDS … it's not just your mental health that is challenged by faith. Anyone who says that this evil deserves legal protection is exactly as guilty as the filthy old men who delight in inflicting it. What a pity that there is no hell.
What a pity indeed.