Hitchens not amused at circumcision

Here’s a discussion where a group of theologians (with Hitchens there to provide the atheist perspective) are trying to answer the question: why do bad things happen to good people? Hitchens has a very simple explanation: “religion compels people to do wicked and unforgivable things”.

The best part of the video is the argument between him and Rabbi Harold Kushner about circumcision. Hitchens tries to use it as an example of people doing terrible things out of dogmatic faith, and it’s interesting to watch the quiet outrage of his Jewish adversary who wants to convince him the practice of cutting off the foreskin of an infant without the use of anesthesia is somehow a wonderful and beneficial practice. There are lots of misguided people who think the aesthetic of the penis is somehow augmented by it, but in truth it is a highly irresponsible and dangerous mutilation that puts the lives of babies at risk, and causes a tremendous amount of suffering on their part.

There’s this ridiculous notion the babies in question don’t feel any pain, but that’s usually because they are actually in shock, and are unable to cry. Now, before some of you get your panties in a twist and try to tell me it’s also a health issue (and the evidence is pretty weak on that front), consider the fact the cutting off of the tip of the penis is not a decision left up to the person being mutilated.

Comments (10)

  • avatar


    I’m glad you brought it up. It’s not ok too cut a bit of a baby’s body off. I can’t believe this actually is hard for people to understand. I would like to see this become illegal. Everywhere.

  • avatar


    Nipples are useless. Why not cut them off too?

  • avatar

    Le Steak

    If you can get it (try bitTorrent) watch Penn & Teller season 3 episode 1. It’s all about the BS of circumcision and it will make you cringe.

  • avatar

    Ron Low

    I’m not too compelled by the pain argument or even the disfigurement argument.

    What matters to me is that the foreskin is the MOST pleasure-receptive part of the male anatomy. Revered rabbinic scholar Maimonides knew this 800 years ago. He also said a woman who was with an intact man would never again settle for a circumcised one.

    Foreskin feels REALLY good. HIS body HIS decision.

  • avatar


    People of all faiths or non-faiths are trying to end circumcision:


  • avatar


    As a female, I understand the aesthetic argument, but its a bit sad that so many males lose sensitivity in their sexual lives over this.

    And if its supposed to be a sacrifice, it really should be a consenual sacrifice for it to count. Having it forced on you isn’t really a self sacrifice…

  • avatar

    Reverend Clint

    Doesn’t bother me, having already been circumcised, and I don’t remember the event nor is my penis currently in pain. Plus according to recent research it can help prevent HIV and Herpes Type 2 and dreaded HPV http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/27/health/27std.html?bl&ex=1238299200&en=40ab6d677c5bac74&ei=5087

  • avatar

    An Atheist

    Reverend Clint, I’m sorry to hear about your loss. No, I’m not being sarcastic, I really am. However, just because someone did something to you that clearly makes you edgy does not give people the right to mutilate their children’s genitals. I can understand your need to support the practice, because if I had parts my genitals cut off without my consent I would probably feel I needed to block out the truth about it to make it easier on myself. However, you may feel different about it if you knew you could restore some of what was lost. Google foreskin restoration. It’s worth looking in to.

    And to those reading this: I’ve run into this kind of sentiment over and over and over again. That HIV study is bullshit, read it and critically think about it for yourselves. I really do think the #1 reason that circumcision continues to occur in this country is (unfortunately) because of the great amount of circumcised men.

  • avatar


    Religion brought this barbaric flesh sacrifice from the remote past to the present day. Ignorance, greed and religion keep it going.
    Saying that it’s ok since you don’t remember it is like saying the entire first year of life (which you don’t remember) is not important. Memory is only a small part of brain function.
    Let’s face it: boys have been tortured at birth for centuries and it matters!


  • avatar


    As a man who had his foreskin cut off 65 years ago, I can confirm that the loss of sensitivity is real, it may start off mild but as I became older I realised that sex was becoming less pleasurable, until at the age of 60 I could no longer feel anything whether in intercourse which I can do for an hour and never orgasm, or oral which does absolutely nothing for me. I loathe people who blindly dismiss the foreskin as unimportant, and willingly inflict the mutilation on people they say they love, their male children.

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