Male circumcision

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For more information, see the Wikipedia article:

Male circumcision is the surgical removal of some or all of the foreskin (prepuce) from the penis. It is widely practiced by Jews and Muslims. It is widely practiced in north and central Africa and throughout the middle east. While Christians are not required to be circumcised, it is widely practiced in some denominations.

It is often conducted on infants who cannot give consent and is therefore child abuse. There are limited health benefits and some risks to the procedure. While accusations have circulated that it negatively affects sexual function, current understanding indicates there is no effect.

Female genital mutilation or female circumcision is discussed in a separate article.


Religous motivation

Pre-jewish circumcision

From archaeological evidence, it can be inferred that circumcision occurred before the Jews adopted it. Cave paintings shed light on this practice being common in pre-historic times. Egyptian temple drawings, for example, show that this was common even before 4000 BC. Thus it is not unique to the Jews who adopted it around 2000BC (Genesis 17 Bible-icon.png). It is plausible to take an accommodation view to support why Jews adopted this practice. Applying this view, God wanted to give them something to be a sign of his covenant with them. He thus used something they were aware of already because of common cultural practice in the Ancient Near East, circumcision, and applied it to the promise to Abraham.

It is interesting to note, however, that although the practice holistically wasn't unique to the Jews, how specifically they practiced it was. For example, the Egyptians merely made a dorsal incision upon the foreskin. The Hebrews, however, completely amputated the prepuce.


Jewish law states that circumcision is a 'mitzva aseh ("positive commandment" to perform an act) and is obligatory for Jewish-born males and some Jewish male converts. It is usually performed by a mohel on the eighth day after birth in a ceremony called a Brit milah (or Bris milah, colloquially simply bris), which means "Covenant of circumcision" in Hebrew. It is considered of such religious importance that the body of an uncircumcised Jewish male will sometimes be circumcised before burial.


Islam is currently the largest religion that practices male circumcision. Circumcision is strongly encouraged but not mandatory or enforced. [1] It is considered beneficial for ritual purification. Circumcision is not mandated in the Qur'an but is often undertaken because it follows the example of Muhammad.

"Every Muslim is expected to follow the way and the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Therefore, all Muslims - devouts, liberals or seculars - observe this ritual. Muslim are obliged to follow not only Allah's message in the Holy Qur'an but also what the Prophet said or did, as proof of their dedication to Islam. [1]"


For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Bible article:

Circumcision is not practiced in most Christian denominations. Circumcision was controversial in the early church but it was eventually decreed that circumcision was optional. Acts 15 Bible-icon.png Circumcision is currently widely practiced in Coptic Christianity and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.


  1. 1.0 1.1 [1]

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