Chaplains begone!

I'm impressed. Usually, a blunt statement of religious belief can be remarkably offensive, but in this case a Harvard chaplain used weasel words to magnify the appalling nature of his remarks.

Harvard Islamic chaplain Taha Abdul-Basser '96 has recently come under fire for controversial statements in which he allegedly endorsed death as a punishment for Islamic apostates.

In a private e-mail to a student last week, Abdul-Basser wrote that there was "great wisdom (hikma) associated with the established and preserved position (capital punishment [for apostates]) and so, even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human rights discourse, one should not dismiss it out of hand."

One could argue with the interpretation that he "endorsed death as a punishment" since he didn't actually say that outright. Instead, we got implications.

  • He says death for apostasy is an "established and preserved position". This is probably the least ghastly of his claims, since it is at least true in some places.

  • There is "wisdom" in murdering people who reject your beliefs? Where? So, if I said Abdul-Basser was betraying an important academic tradition of open thought, would I be wise to suggest he deserves execution? I think not, and I add, I definitely would not under any circumstances endorse such an evil proposition.

  • He thinks killing people who leave Islam might make "some uncomfortable." Uncomfortable? Uncomfortable? If my neighbor suggested that they were thinking of painting their house in green and pink stripes, then I might reply that that made me "uncomfortable". If he seriously suggested that it might be a good idea to execute registered Democrats who didn't vote for Obama in the last election, I think I'd be calling the police and the hospital…and freaking out just a little bit.

  • If pushing human rights for all people is hegemonic, who is being oppressively dominant? Do we really need to respect the right of a priestly class to dictate what others are allowed to believe?

I have a suggestion: dismiss Abdul-Basser out of hand. To be fair, fire every single one of the university chaplains, and send them packing. Universities should not be in the business of pandering to student superstitions; it's not as if there is a dearth of churches and chapels and religious organizations already surrounding and intruding upon the campus — remove the official endorsement of the administration and banish them all from the secular business of running a university.

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Janger,
we dont fancy this "first" shit.

even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human rights discourse

That to me just sounds like he is not a big fan of this whole fancy schmancy human rights stuff.

By Rorschach (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

*sigh*

I dream for a world when clergy only gets to work in their local church, and nowhere else

It amazes me that someone would actually try to justify murder (er, excuse me, religiously mandated killing) for someone taking a purely religious position.

It may make some Muslims uncomfortable, but killing people for speaking their conscience is one of those things that Western civilization tends to frown on. It's up there with virgin sacrifice and genital mutilation.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

If my neighbor suggested that they were thinking of painting their house in green and pink stripes, then I might reply that that made me "uncomfortable".

Whine: But you have to respect my color choices. Boo-hoo! You're so mean.

By Margaret's Cat (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

He's just expanding the implications of "teach the controversy."

I mean, gee, do we really have a right to reject killing people for their beliefs out of hand? Surely we should discuss, say, killing Muslim converts.

I wonder how much money Harvard should pay to keep this "controversy" alive?

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

Good luck ridding Harvard of its sky-fairy-god intermediates, regardles of their particular brand of sky-fairy-god.

Harvard was originally founded as a Christian college.

Their priviledged position in the realm of higher education will be intact for quite awhile I'm afraid.

By SaintPaddy (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

A frequent defense is that the quotes were taken out of context. To forestall that here is the whole email:

Wa-iyyakum.

I am familiar with these types of discussions.

While I understand that will happen and that there is some benefit in them, in the main, it would be better if people were to withhold from _debating_ such things, since they tend not to have the requisite familiarity with issues and competence to deal with them.

Debating about religious matter is impermissible, in general, and people rarely observe the etiquette of disagreements.

There are a few places on the Net where one can find informed discussions of this issue (Search ["Abdul Hakim Murad"|Faraz Rabbani" AND "apostasy"]) . The preponderant position in all of the 4 sunni madhahib (and apparently others of the remaining eight according to one contemporary `alim) is that the verdict is capital punishment.

Of concern for us is that this can only occur in the_domain and under supervision of Muslim governmental authority and can not be performed by non-state, private actors._

Some contemporary thought leaders have emphasized the differing views (i.e. not capital punishment) that a few fuqaha’ in the last few centuries apparently held on this issue, including reportedly the senior Ottoman religious authority during the Tanzimat period and Al-Azhar in the modern period. Still others go further and attempt to elaborate on the argument that the indicants (such as the hadith: (whoever changes his religion, execute him) used to build the traditional position apply only to treason in the political sense and therefore in the absence of a political reality in which apostasy is both forsaking the community and akin to political treasons in the modern sense, the indicants do not indicate capital punishment.

I am not aware of `Allama Taqiy al-Din Ibn Taymiya’s position on this issue but much is attributed to him by both detractors and supporters so one should be wary of accepting things attributed to him without asking experts. Perhaps you can ask Ustadh Sharif el-Tobgui or Shaykh Yasir Qadhi (I am copying both), both of whom are Ibn Taymiya specialists.

I would finally note that there is great wisdom (hikma) associated with the established and preserved position (capital punishment) and so, even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human rights discourse, one should not dismiss it out of hand. The formal consideration of excuses for the accused and the absence of Muslim governmental authority in our case here in the North/West is for dealing with the issue practically.

And Allah knows best.

Wa s-salam.
Taha

I disagree, dismissing it out of hand is the only moral action. Even Christians have (mostly) stopped stoning or burning people.

Godbot to English translation in four words: It's tradition, so there.

By Alyson Miers (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

Hey now. I think everyone is being a little too touchy here. I mean come on. How else are they supposed to control what everyone thinks? I mean if people disagree, shit, kill 'em. One less dissenting opinion to spread doubt, disrespect, and *gasp* offensiveness. Let's face it, they're not too good at supporting their bat-shit insane ideas about reality with evidence. And constantly trying to convince people using their dogma's frail reasons is a lot of work requiring constant vigilance and maintenance. Such labor is not well suited for leaders of great vision and provenance anyway. Kill the dissenters and let god sort 'em out.

/sarcasm

Harvard is known for getting the top notch, first draft picks of every field so they get this guy? This is apparently the intellectual, as well as moral, powerhouse, their maven Muslim, and he's no better than a two bit, cave dwelling, camel fucker from Afghanistan.

He makes the tool at the Catholic League look a bit more sensible. Just a bit though.

Oh, and the email just makes him sound like even more of a creep.

By Alyson Miers (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

Debating about religious matter is impermissible, in general, and people rarely observe the etiquette of disagreements.

O RLY...

here are examples from the Quoran where Mohammed says to kill apostates (or where that is what is meant):

Sura (4:89) - "They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them"

Sura (9:11-12) - "But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then are they your brethren in religion. We detail Our revelations for a people who have knowledge. And if they break their pledges after their treaty (hath been made with you) and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief - Lo! they have no binding oaths - in order that they may desist." This verse is speaking of infidels (ie. "slay the infidels wherever you find them" 9:5) who obviously became Muslim to escape the sword, but the Hadith make no distinction of how a Muslim came to be a Muslim. Apostasy is always punished by death.

this is from the Hadith:

Bukhari (52:260) - "...The Prophet said, 'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.' "

Bukhari (89:271) - A man who embraces Islam, then reverts to Judaism is to be killed according to "the verdict of Allah and his apostle."

I am sick of atheists being apologetic of this religion or its tennants

By robotaholic (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

Allah Knows Best

Didn't that star Robert Ben Young?

@ #3: Amusingly, we practice genital mutilation on a daily basis on people who cannot possibly give consent *or* be informed as to the risks such operations entail.

I'm proud to be one of those individuals who've never undergone such a procedure.

By Kiyoshi Aman (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

Odds are there are one or two xians turning green with envy and bitterness that their 'belief' is so wishy washy in how it relates to atheists...

By Strangest brew (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

I am sick of atheists being apologetic of this religion or its tennants

I was with ya all the way up until this part.

Frankly, I don't recall atheists, here or elsewhere, being apologetic of any religion, especially those of the Abrahamic tradition.

@ 16 Amusingly, we practice genital mutilation

Having been mutilated, I am not at all amused.

Fecking weirdos, they think this behavior is NORMAL!

Jeez, you can't even mention killing people over doctrine these days because it is so un-PC.

By Andrés Diplotti (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

'Tis Himself said:

Western civilization tends to frown on...genital mutilation.

Not really. As Kiyoshi @16 said, Western Civ, and the US in particular, whole heartedly support genital mutilation.

They get queasy about _female_ genital mutilation, but routinely skinning fully half the male sex organ is kosher.

People who practice and defend male genital mutilation insist that isn't mutilation -- it's circumcision.

Guess what the muslim doctors in muslim countries call female genital mutilation.

Same thing they call male genital mutilation.

You can check out http://www.mgmbill.org/ for a round up of American politician's responses to male genital mutilation bills.

I wonder if a mass coming out/apostasy and insulting of Islamic idols would work to desensitize the Muslim world once and for all. Maybe a concerted world-wide multi-target approach can diffuse the ire of the masses due to the lack focus. Sort of like zebra stripes serve to distract the predator from picking one member of the herd. After a couple of such attacks, the currency of insulting Islam thru cartoons and such would be so devalued. Just blasphemously throwing an idea for debate, y’all

Personally, I don't care what people do and believe in their private home (unlike some institutions), as long as they keep their BS to themselves. But alas, they don't. They insist on shoving their poison down everyones throat and can't even agree on which poison to use.

Poisoners begone!

To be fair, fire every single one of the university chaplains

Even the Humanist one?

By Meg Kribble (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

If getting religious morons (including Christians) to follow civilized precepts of human rights is considered hegemony, so be it.

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

14#

I am sick of atheists being apologetic of this religion or its tennants

Actually methinks that it is the Christian religionists that do the apologetics...maybe because if they condemn it they leave themselves open for condemnation...so it is all brothers together plying the nightmare of fictitious supernatural gobbly gook...and really it is not so long ago that Christians were quite righteous in their desire to smite the ungodly...

Must be something to do with the Abrahamic roots...apples not falling far from trees and all that!

They are more alike then they admit!

By Strangest brew (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

Not surprising at all. Islam seems to be the least tolerant of the unbeliever.

But then what else do you expect from a bastardized version of Judaism and Christianity?

In my post #3 I was thinking of cliterotomy rather than male circumcision*. No, I am not interested in a discussion of circumcision.

*Like most American men my age, I was circumcised as an infant. It's not something I lose any sleep over.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

I am still scratching my head over "hegemonic" -- was that a little snivel of cultural relativism, there? As if somehow, "imperial" human rights don't count because they're, uh, not part of how our poor benighted tribe used to behave?

Theist = idiot.

While I understand that will happen and that there is some benefit in them, in the main, it would be better if people were to withhold from _debating_ such things, since they tend not to have the requisite familiarity with issues and competence to deal with them.

Yeah. Can you believe those dilettantes? They're just like those who decry the Stalinist purges without having ever read Das Kapital or the Communist Manifesto.

By Andrés Diplotti (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

People imply things all the time they don't want to come out and say. Presidents do it everyday, we just went through an election where no one would really said anything. This guy shouldn't be at Harvard. He's an embarrassment to both the University, and the country, as Harvard is considered to be our best academic institution. Speaking of education, did anyone see that Texas (shocking) isn't going to teach it's children the age of the universe or the Earth??

Here is the story..

http://tinyurl.com/d76ljb

@ 28 No, I am not interested in a discussion of circumcision.

'Tis, there's really nothing to discuss. It's just another example of the bizarre being thought normal because GOD SAID SO.

'Tis Himself said

Like most American men my age, I was circumcised as an infant. It's not something I lose any sleep over.

Ignorance is bliss. I guess you can be grateful to live in a culture that actively supports this particular lack of knowledge.

Might be nice if someday our country was interested discussing MGM, then maybe fewer babies would be cut for God.

Frankly, I don't recall atheists, here or elsewhere, being apologetic of any religion, especially those of the Abrahamic tradition.

There is an apologetic atheist right now on Richarddawkins.net saying:
Is it really fair to describe Mohammed as perverted? After all, we know so little about him. The fact that he had a very young wife could well reflect more upon his society that upon him. We may not agree that what he did was acceptable, but it's not easy to claim that he was motivated by perversion.

I don't think describing Islam as a "cesspool" is particularly fair either. While the cancer metaphor is appropriate for a number of reasons, the Islamic Near East was fairly productive in terms of culture and science (for a time at least). Furthermore, up until around the time of 'Abd al-Malik the Islamic ruling elite did not enforce their religion upon their subjects. While Persia operated in a similar fashion, we cannot be so generous to the pagans of the Roman Empire or the Christians of the Byzantine Empire. I don't think that we'd be describing either of those cultures/religions/empires as "cesspools".

By robotaholic (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

Actually, it'd be interesting to investigate how circumcision came about - it strikes me as particularly strange that, at some point, a guy looked at his penis and thought, 'hey, you know what? Maybe if I strip the skin of the end off this thing it'd make my god happy.'

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

I suspect robotaholic has taken too seriously the right-wing meme that the Muslims, atheists, communists, gays, and animal rights activists are all in cahoots against the poor, beleaguered conservatives.

oops per my previous comment everything should be italicized from IS

and I was just showing you Ichthyic

By robotaholic (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

We may not agree that what he did was acceptable, but it's not easy to claim that he was motivated by perversion.

so...

the debate about whether a religious character was perverted or not suffices for you to claim atheists are apologetic towards Islam??

really?

I don't think describing Islam as a "cesspool" is particularly fair either.

can i label you apologetic now, for the same reasons?

you should stop while you're behind.

oops per my previous comment everything should be italicized from IS

ah.

still, same argument.

it's like you are implying one can't observer larger traditions and cultures without being an apologist.

I can fucking abhor Islam without ignoring that there is cultural history involved.

In fact, I've been on the opposite side of that argument wrt to xianity's influence on culture and art before (i.e., I disagreed that it was a beneficial effect in and of itself), but wouldn't have called those extolling the influence of that religion on culture to be "apologists".

nope. Don't recall seeing any atheist apologists for Islam round these parts.

You seem to be overly concerned.

noted.

Actually, it'd be interesting to investigate how circumcision came about

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14069-male-circumcision-is-a-weap…

Circumcision and other forms of male genital mutilation have always been a puzzle. The ritual mutilations can leave the man vulnerable to infection and even death. So why do some societies insist on such a risky ritual for their men?

There may be an evolutionary explanation, according to Christopher Wilson, of Cornell University in New York, US. It could function to reduce a young man's potential to father a child with an older man's wife, he says.

Sperm competition theory predicts that males will evolve ways to ensure that their sperm, and not another male's, fertilises a female's eggs. Genital mutilation, in this view, is just another way to win the sperm war.

In some forms of mutilation, the handicap to sperm competition is obvious. There is subincision, for example, where cuts are made to the base of the penis. This causes sperm to be ejaculated from the base rather than the end, and is performed in several Aboriginal Australian societies, says Wilson.

In some African and Micronesian cultures, young men have one of their testicles crushed.

Male genital mutilation makes it less likely that a male will manage to father a child with another man's wife, Wilson says.

Guys, you've got it backwards. He's not arguing for the right to murder apostates so that he can actively defend his religion - he's actively defending his religion which happens to promote a right to murder.

He can not imagine/admit his Holy Book(TM) might be wrong, so when it mentions "death to apostates", he has to defend that right.

Nor should we pick on Islam just for this - Christianity has this in both the Old and the New Testament, and Judaism of course has it in the Torah. The Spanish Inquisition was this logic writ large.

You'll never convince him that the book doesn't argue for murder. It does, and the imam is probably uncomfortable with that. All that we can try to do is introduce the idea that the book might be, you know, wrong.

Male genital mutilation makes it less likely that a male will manage to father a child with another man's wife, Wilson says.

hmm, to refine that, I would say that a more basal hypothesis is that it prevents competition with the alpha male.

Haven't a clue if it originated more commonly in authoritarian tribal cultures, but if so...

Harvard has the institution of teaching the brain dead applicants the tenets of insane religion, the Harvard divinity school, which has been puking out graduates of abject nonsense since 1816. A great university involved in teaching the knowledge of so many disciplines has also sunk beneath it's greatness to teach a nothing on the lowest depths of useless nonsense. And now they have the added pox of an islamic moron haranguing the necessities of death to apostates and infidels. A scary future for higher education.

Haven't a clue if it originated more commonly in authoritarian tribal cultures, but if so...

It was a Hebrew practice documented in the Old Testament (authored approximately 500 BC, iirc). Was circumcision practiced by the Classical Greeks?

Just a data point, FWIW.

SaintPaddy #7,

That is not correct.

Although many of its early graduates became ministers in Puritan congregations throughout New England, the College was never formally affiliated with a specific religious denomination.

Of course, PZ's post here did not happen. It's all a figment of your imagination. Because, as the Christians keep telling us, he is too scared to EVER criticize Islam.

By Lee Brimmicombe-Wood (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

In some African and Micronesian cultures, young men have one of their testicles crushed.

I am now not quite so upset at the loss of skin, sensitive bits gone or not.

By Nanu Nanu (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

Was circumcision practiced by the Classical Greeks?

No, definitely not. It was considered a bizarre Oriental practice. Clearly in the Greco-Roman age, this posed a bit of an issue for early Gentile proto-Christians and other godfearers. Some Jews insisted that the rite was central to purity. Clearly, Paul disagreed.

Incidentally, while you might imagine that the, um, discomfort of adult circumcision might have been the barrier to Greek's adopting the practice, in reality it had more to do with the oppsed views of the body in the Jewish and Hellenistic cultures. To a Hellene, body modification, tattooing, piercing etc. were things that could be imposed on an animal or a slave, not something that a free-born man should accept as doing to his body. Adornment for beauty, yes. But permanent modification wasn't just kinda icky, it was making oneself as chattel.

Ichthyicnope. Don't recall seeing any atheist apologists for Islam round these parts.
noted.
I have and I gave you an example.

By robotaholic (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

robotaholic #49

I gave you an example.

Some guy saying that Mohammad may not have been a pervert is hardly apologetics. Try again, this time with a real example that'll stand up to inspection.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

I have said it before and it bears repeating:

From the filthy, perverted Mohammed at the beginning, and ever since, Islam has been a cesspool and a cancer on humanity.

Sam Harris had it right in "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason"

By NewEnglandBob (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

From the filthy, perverted Mohammed at the beginning, and ever since, Islam has been a cesspool and a cancer on humanity.

So what are you trying to say? You have a problem with killing a 9-year-old rape victim as a self-admitted adulteress?

OK, doing the stoning in a crowded stadium was a bit over the top...

haha newenglandbob

you have said it before lol!

By robotaholic (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

Sam Harris had it right in "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason"

To me, Harris' argument is greatly weakened by his selective aim. He seems to be a fan of the jains (religious non-productive social parasites) and does a neat little skip-and-jump around the obvious stupidity of judaism. And then he does the buddhism shuffle - it's not a religion, it's just feel good woo woo - never mind the whole wheel of karma afterlife recycling stuff.

He shelters his own sacred cows a bit much for my taste.

"Harvard was originally founded as a Christian college."

yes, it was founded by Puritans with the primary aim of training people for ministry. Early Harvard students were taught to place Jesus at the foundation of all legitimate learning and knowledge. The original Harvard Motto was something like Veritas christos et ecclesias - the truth of Christ and the Church. It has now been shortened to Veritas.

Now to the substance of the Muslim gentleman's assertion. Actually, there is a way of unpacking the assertion so that it does make sense, but one would have to be willing to buy into the theistic belief. From a secular viewpoint one would have to effect a suspension of disbelief.

If one is engaging in apostasy or heresy, the end result is to lead others away from the faith which would be the most serious sin one could commit. He would be instrumental in causing another to lose his immortal soul for all eternity. If you simply robbed another of his goods, that would have no eternal consequences for the victim. Even if you were to kill another, it would not necessarily impact his salvation if he died in a good state. Leading another away from the faith is the ultimate evil that can be visited on the other.

Again, whether one buys into this mindset depends on one's wit, but even if you don't, it would be a simplification to write it off as totally lacking in reason and cogency.

By Silver Fox (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

Early Harvard students were taught to place Jesus at the foundation of all legitimate learning and knowledge. The original Harvard Motto was something like Veritas christos et ecclesias - the truth of Christ and the Church. It has now been shortened to Veritas.

Fortunately for them they've managed to learn they can do without the excess baggage of nonsensical beliefs holding them back.

Pity you don't seem capable of doing the same.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

Ah look, SF the fool is trying to lead us away from atheism. What should his punishment be? Lock him in a room with various missionaries? Ban him from Pharyngula? Or just treat him like the idiot he is?

SF, I don't think PZ has cooled down yet. Look at the last entries to the dungeon and why they were plonked. Your crimes would read the same. How smart are you? If you were a smart as me, you would just fade into the bandwidth, never to return. Since you are less smart than me, you will be back, eventually to grace the dungeon. Your cell awaits.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

the end result is to lead others away from the faith which would be the most serious sin one could commit

Except, of course, there's no such thing as 'sin'...

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

If one is engaging in apostasy or heresy, the end result is to lead others away from the faith which would be the most serious sin one could commit.

"Priests will pardon thieves but not philosophers." - Lemuel K. WashburnThanks for being to the point as usual Silver Fox.

Again, whether one buys into this mindset depends on one's wit, but even if you don't, it would be a simplification to write it off as totally lacking in reason and cogency.

I'm sorry, but I think that is nonsense.

His statement is indeed completely lacking in reason. What he says is directly contradictory to the Universal Human Rights irrespective of his religious beliefs.

There's absolutely no way to excuse, or justify, his moronic comments.

By siddharth (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

SF:

From a secular viewpoint one would have to effect a suspension of disbelief.

No worries.

If one is engaging in apostasy or heresy, the end result is to lead others away from the faith which would be the most serious sin one could commit.

My disbelief is suspended; but man, that is just sick.

He would be instrumental in causing another to lose his immortal soul for all eternity. If you simply robbed another of his goods, that would have no eternal consequences for the victim.

Sick.

Even if you were to kill another, it would not necessarily impact his salvation if he died in a good state.

Eeew.

Leading another away from the faith is the ultimate evil that can be visited on the other.

Really. So, when one becomes an apostate, one visits ultimate evil on some other person thereby. Uh-huh.

That's your explanation? Wow.

You guys exhibit severe moral deformity.

By John Morales (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

No, Silver Fox's comment this time is actually sensible and on topic.

From the theistic point of view, your eternal soul is more important than this worldly life. Endangering that soul is worse than theft or even murder - after all, the longest possible lifespan is barely a fraction of eternity.

As such, if you sincerely believe this, you take acts of heresy and apostasy very seriously. Which is why both the Koran and the Bible prescribe the death penalty for heresy and apostasy.

Siddharth, you're right - this directly contradicts the Universal Human Rights declaration. But from a theistic viewpoint, that doesn't matter - the Word of God outweighs the word of man.

This is one reason why I'm very glad this is not a theistic world. The only way you can believe this sincerely is to be so arrogant that you can not concede the possibility you are wrong. You have to be 100% convinced of not one, but several propositions (that there is a God, that of all the various faiths out there, yours is the 100% correct one, that God is so strict that your soul can be endangered by others so easily, that God won't punish you for the presumption of doing His work, etc, etc, etc). All of these beliefs can only be backed by the holy book-of-choice, and blind convinction.

The difference between a theist and a rational skeptical atheist? The theist assumes his/her views are right, and uses logic and evidence to prove that. The rational atheist starts with the assumption that his/her views are wrong, and uses logic and evidence to attack the weakpoints.

Cosmas#22: I wonder if a mass coming out/apostasy and insulting of Islamic idols would work to desensitize the Muslim world once and for all.

There are no Muslim idols. It has been an emphatic part of Islamic law from the beginning that there should be no idols at all. Perhaps this was done as a further differentiation from Christianity which icons by this time and from pagan religions that had lots of idols. This idea led to one of the worst examples of cultural destruction in our time - the destruction of the Buddhist sculptures at Bamiyan by the Taliban in 2001.

TisHimself#28: Female genital mutilation is not part of Islamic law. It is a cultural practice almost exclusively limited to parts of central Africa and northeast Africa, by both Muslims and non-Muslims. It has been common in Egypt, but it is now illegal - but still practiced anyway in many parts of that country.

Killing heretics lasted as a common practice in the West until the 17th century. So, to be generous, they may only be 400 years behind. One of the central ideas of Islam is that it is The One True & Perfect FaithTM. Any schism is beyond the pale, hence the tension between the Shi'a and Sunni versions. They each *know* that the other branch is soooo wrong. Alas, they never got the clue that they are both wrong.

By natural cynic (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

His point is right, but his understanding of our objections isn't. It's irrational because religion is irrational. Religion is irrational because religion is built on faith. Who cares if it's the rational conclusion? Of course we can see that someone would say that. It's the rational conclusion of irrationality - and if Silver Fox hasn't noticed, this is the main objection of people like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. These irrationally held beliefs have consequences, because they rationalise breathtaking cruelty.

I don't buy into the theistic viewpoint at all, but it's not sick from their point of view.

Let's paint a picture:

Imagine you are playing a high-stakes video game. If you get above a certain score, you will be rewarded with a life of luxury. If you don't get that score, you'll be made bankrupt and life a life of poverty.

Various actions you take can either gain or lose points. We'll assume you start the game on the borderline.

You don't know your score during the game, but you do have a manual that tells you what to do to gain points, and what to avoid doing so that you don't lose points.

Now, let's make this a multi-player game. But every player has a different version of the manual. As you realise this, you, and maybe some like-minded others, believe that your version of the manual is correct. When somebody then takes action that will cause you to lose points, you and your friends will probably get a little pissed off - there's a lot riding on this game, after all.

Your manual doesn't prohibit ending another person's game early. So you get it into your head that to defend your score, it's okay to end somebody else's game. (Ending your own game is a no-no). So, the next time someone tries to make you lose points, you pull out your virtual weapon and blow them away. Heck, if they were ahead on their score, you've probably even done them a favour!

Once the game is over for you, you then get to go on with your life - either in luxury or poverty. The game only goes for a few hours at most, so on the scale of a lifetime, it doesn't matter what happens in the game as long as you win.

The theistic viewpoint is like the videogame player's - they believe that this life is insignificant compared to the next, but it's their only chance to affect what happens afterwards. With this irrational belief buried in their psyche, it starts becoming rational for them to defend themselves, and their friends and family. Which is why apostasy - or any other act that threatens the afterlife - is such a big deal.

You don't have to like it, you don't have to respect it, and you don't have to think it's valid. I certainly don't. But if you don't understand what motivates the sincere theist, you can't begin to understand them, let alone change them.

You don't have to like it, you don't have to respect it, and you don't have to think it's valid. I certainly don't. But if you don't understand what motivates the sincere theist, you can't begin to understand them, let alone change them.

A very good point.Though it pretty much means by that understanding that there's no way one could change them being that changing them is the worst possible thing you can do.

Silver Fox's bit about "causing another to lose his immortal soul for all eternity" is expressed in the Christian Bible by Paul, something about not eating meat if it offends someone else's religious sensibilities. I'm not bothering to look up the verse number, but I have used that argument here against some of the loonier Christians. If their blatant fuckwittery causes me to lose all respect for Christianity and to continue my slide to Hell, they can be punished for that. And since the loving God has only one punishment, they end up in Hell.

As for someone giving up religion causing others to do the same, just by example, we can see parallels all over. It's a serious problem and something that religious conservatives are pre-loaded to both do and to deal with. They hate folks who are different, they fear being led astray, they are sheep-like followers, they regard every change as the first step on the road to Hell. Big Mo didn't need to tell believers to kill apostates, Jesus had to try really hard to get them to stop.

Silver Fox gets a point for that part, at least.

By Menyambal (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

It's the members of a small minority in every faith tradition who actually believe what all of them claim to believe that form the actively dangerous element. People who read Pascal's Wager as a double-dog-dare.

Islam seems to be the least tolerant of the unbeliever.

I dunno. Frankly, the worst thing I've ever read came from the Torah. It's not enough to kill unbelievers, or people who worship a different god. No, if they're so much as trying to convert other people to their (obviously false) religion, you have to murder the entire town. You also have to kill all the livestock, burn all the possessions, and leave the town a smoking cinder that will never be rebuilt.

My religion of Peace and Brotherly Love says murdering non-believers is wise.

Goddamned ass-backwards religions.

By MadScientist (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

From the theistic point of view, your eternal soul is more important than this worldly life.

Which is why, of course, abortion is approved of so heartily, since it sends innocent souls immediately to eternal bliss, rather than risking them engaging in mortal sin.

Tell me again about their consistency?

#63
There are no Muslim idols?
What do you think the Qur’an is?

By SinSeeker (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

"leave the town a smoking cinder that will never be rebuilt"

Good thing gOd didn't know anything about Cobalt-60.

By Robert Thille (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

PZ is acting very intolerant and bigoted towards Muslims. While I personally disagree with the muslim in this case, I think he should have free speech about his views on whether it is moral to execute apostates.
Should people fire Dawkins for his odd views on human sexuality and his skepticism of faithful monogamy?
http://richarddawkins.net/article,1926,Banishing-the-Green-Eyed-Monster…
No. Whatever crazy ideas on moral humanists like Dawkins have they should express them freely. Similarly when Muslims express their views they should have freedom.

By Ineffable (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

Should people fire Dawkins for his odd views on human sexuality and his skepticism of faithful monogamy?

because Dawkins words are morally equivalent to calling for the murder of apostates...

Freedom of conscience is the very cornerstone of modern civilization. The history of the Renaissance is the history of the struggle to free people's minds from the tyranny of priests, allowing the scientific method to develop and flourish.

Killing people for following their own convictions instead of yours is now anathema (pun intended) to civilized minds, as evidenced by the healthy disgust and disbelief of most of the comments here. This chaplain and those who seek to defend him are barbarians.

Is this imperialist rhetoric? Perhaps, but a hegemony of freedom is one I can live with.

Incidentally, there is strong evidence that male circumcision was an Egyptian practice foisted on the Jews by Moses (possibly Egyptian himself).

Well, it is not just Universities that suffer from religion and the religious. It is all aspects of life. I live in Greece, and to make a point, I have 3 churches within 10 minutes walk, but no libraries!!! If I wanted to go to the nearest library, I need to use a car...

I agree though. Take all chaplains and priests and what have you away from Universities. Take religion out of schools.

By Darkchilde (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

It has been an emphatic part of Islamic law from the beginning that there should be no idols at all

except Muhammad.

...and the Qur'an itself.

I'm probably missing a few other things.

24
Yes fire the humanist chaplin. The the hell is a humanist chaplin anyway? A Chaplin for the non-religious. Totally pointless. At least a religious chaplin ministers to people who think the magic trick is real.

By teammarty (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

Tulse@71:

Which is why, of course, abortion is approved of so heartily, since it sends innocent souls immediately to eternal bliss, rather than risking them engaging in mortal sin.

Don't take my videogame analogy too far. Most variations of Christianity believe you aren't saved until you are baptised. As such, abortions result in denying the fetus' soul a chance at Heaven (though not necessarily damning to Hell - that's one reason for the concept of Limbo or Purgatory in some of the sects).

There is a degree of consistency in that mess of insanity. There is also of course a great deal of inconsistency. Besides, something like abortion is mostly emotional arguments anyway (on both sides, and yes, I support the right to abortion, with some caveats. I prefer better use of birth control)

@RobertDW #41

You'll never convince him that the book doesn't argue for murder. It does, and the imam is probably uncomfortable with that. All that we can try to do is introduce the idea that the book might be, you know, wrong.

Admitting his own discomfort might be a good introduction to the idea that the book is wrong.
However, his "great wisdom" statement leads me to believe that he not at all uncomfortable with the idea of murdering apostates. He even states that others may be uncomfortable with the idea, you know, those 'human rights' woosies, oops, I mean hegemons.
My reading of his email is that he's an ignorant, intolerant fuckwad.

By Equisetum (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

My reading of his email is that he's an ignorant, intolerant fuckwad.

ditto.

In the full article, the imam does issue an apology/clarification:

Abdul-Basser wrote in a later e-mailed statement that he “never expressed the position that individuals who leave Islam or convert from Islam to another religion must be killed. I do not hold this opinion personally.” He explained that he was not advocating for the positions mentioned in his e-mail, but rather “addressing them in the context of the evolution of an Islamic legal doctrine.”

So it's more that he's saying that Islamic law, derived from the Koran, says apostates can be killed, though he believes they don't _have_ to be killed. Not all the time.

If anything, this apology is even worse. It's no surprise that a strict reading of the Koran says apostates should be killed, and it's not surprising that an imam would say so. It's not even suprising that an imam would provide a strict legal opinion that he doesn't agree with.

However, if he's going to issue an apology where he states his own personal opinion, he really should put it on the line and at least rule out the death penalty as a valid punishment for apostasy in all cases. In fact, he should really say what he thinks the punishment should be (hint: NONE, other than getting kicked out of the club)

If you listened to the Christopher Hitchens:
Was Todd's approach...
Out of 5048 people surveyed:
6% said: A) Just right.
90% said: B) Terrible.
3% said: C) Could have used more apologetics.

Meg Kribble @24

Even the Humanist one?
Especially the humanist one! The university has trained, properly secular (as in religiously neutral) counsellors, presumably. I can't think of any job description that would make me less want to go to someone for emotional support or moral guidance than "Humanist chaplain"

natural cynic@63

Female genital mutilation is not part of Islamic law. It is a cultural practice almost exclusively limited to parts of central Africa and northeast Africa, by both Muslims and non-Muslims. It has been common in Egypt, but it is now illegal - but still practiced anyway in many parts of that country.

Indeed not part of Islamic law, and certainly not any central part of Islam, but I know of at least anecdotal evidence that it has been spread as far as Iran by imams who heard about it and thought it a jolly good way to control women's sexuality

By Matt Heath (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

PZ is acting very intolerant and bigoted towards Muslims. While I personally disagree with the muslim in this case, I think he should have free speech about his views on whether it is moral to execute apostates.

So, the guy who said “killing people who leave our group is OK” has the right to say that (nobody said he didn't), but the guy who said “no, that's wrong, you shouldn't kill people on that basis” is “intolerant and bigoted”?
Moron.

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

To all of you equating female genital mutilation to male genital mutilation, please consider the following: The female version is for the expressed purpose of making her chaste since sex hurts for her in that configuration. The male version protects him from STDs: google "foreskin" and "HIV" and you'll find that the foreskin has antigen presenting cells that actually increase the risk of transmission of infection. The Jews weren't wrong when they said that an uncircumcised male was less likely to be clean - they just didn't know why they were right. So don't go equating the two. One is for control the other is for protection.

Furthermore, by making the logical fallacy of equating the two, i.e. control==protection, you make this abhorrent man's argument for him, in that he must control his followers with the fear of death in order to protect them. From what, I haven't the foggiest, since I'm a heathen.

By Dr.FabulousShoes (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Hey, I was told in primary school that circumcision was a hygienic issue. If you live in the desert and don't wash regularly it gets a bit dirty under your foreskin. You don't want an awful lot of bacteria dwelling on your little friend, do you? I was also told that this was the reason for not eating ham.

In an English debate class I had, we talked about this issue of apostasy. One girl said: "Well, it's their culture and who are we to tell them that it's wrong." That really hurt my brains...

"Hey, I was told in primary school that circumcision was a hygienic issue. If you live in the desert and don't wash regularly it gets a bit dirty under your foreskin. You don't want an awful lot of bacteria dwelling on your little friend, do you? I was also told that this was the reason for not eating ham."

Ham is uncircumcised? I guess if you're talking about Ham in the Torah (shamelessly plagiarized in the Old Testament) that makes sense - no one would eat Ham because he was uncircumcised.

By MadScientist (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Why should we be surprised when Muslims, Christians or Jews exhibit some kind of despicable behavior in the name of their religion? The 'Holy Books' of these people all portray God and his profets as not only condoning but actually encouraging the most gruesome actions (stoning, genocide, etc.). These religions are all evil at the core, and that will never change.

Sorry, I mixed two trains of thought in my head. ^^

You weren't supposed to eat ham for health reasons. In the desert heat, it doesn't stay fresh for too long. Same idea with circumcision: Health reasons.

Not sure if that's true, though. It's just the explanation I was given as a child.

"Well, it's their culture and who are we to tell them that it's wrong."

The Fore people of New Guinea think (or used to think quite recently) that eating dear old Uncle Fred is a neato spiffy-keen idea. Who are we to tell them differently, other than it's actually injurious to their health. Google kuru for an explanation.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Well, while on the subject of religious intolerance, one of the best expositions I have found on some issues involved is here:

http://www.zipperfish.com/yaafm/yaafm-12-muslims/

It was extremely embarrassing when so-called 'leaders' of the 'free world' got in front of the TV cameras to tell their people that they were shocked and offended by - you got it - mere cartoons (and not terribly good ones either) and that the citizens of their nations should not draw such cartoons. This all happened a few years ago but the cartoon in the link still makes me fall over laughing. I guess I must be one of those freedom and fairness bigots.

By MadScientist (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

@92

The ham thing was likely due to the fact that, at that time you kept your farm animals in your house, and since pig cell surface proteins are similar to humans, zoonoses (infections from animals) can pass freely between the two. It's the same reason that porcine valve replacements work.

Of course now that we know the germ theory of disease and don't keep our animals in the house, the point is largely moot. But it wasn't absurd.

By Dr.FabulousShoes (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

The male version protects him from STDs: google "foreskin" and "HIV" and you'll find that the foreskin has antigen presenting cells that actually increase the risk of transmission of infection.

No, Google "foreskin" and "HIV" and you'll find a lot of sites touting health benefits and the complete opposite. There is not, by any means, a consensus.Even if there are health benefits, they are very marginal indeed, hotly disputed, and only accrue in adulthood. Amputation is for averting imminent death or, at the very least, life-threatening illness or infection; it is not for conferring speculative future health benefits. By the same rationale, we should pull all your teeth out, since eating through a straw is a small price to pay for the guarantee of never getting a dental abscess, right?
When the child grows up and reaches the age of consent, he may then decide for himself that he wants a bit of his cock chopped off for whatever reason he wants — religious, cosmetic, or supposed health benefits. I've never heard a European man say “Oh, I wish my parents had mutilated my dick when I was a baby!”, but you need not go very far to find large Internet groups of circumcised American men who bemoan the involuntary loss of their foreskin.In short, the individual's right to decide for himself as an adult should be respected, and the routine mutilation of children's genitals is indefensible and obscene.

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Emmet,

I'll grant you the adult decision point... since I feel I have dominion over my own body, then it is only right that a child be granted that right as well. However, what is under question is not that foreskin is a risk factor for contracting HIV, it's that we don't completely understand the immune interaction with Langerhans cells (the antigen presenting cells I was referring to before). Yes, Langerhans cells should do their job and present to TH1 cells, but the very act of presenting both increases the risk of seroconversion AND the likelihood that the body will rid itself before seroconversion. That paper is like saying, well, if I have a gun in the house, I don't need to lock my door, which is absurd.

Since it is an indefensible child's genitals, and people feel (rightly) strongly about the issue, the "hot debate" is not the health benefit but if that benefit is worth a public health policy to promote circumcision.

And your tooth extraction scenario is at best a absurd. Teeth are useful in proper nutrition and extracting them does not decrease the risk of a mandibular abscess. You have a point with the closing statement, but the rest is gibberish.

By Dr.FabulousShoes (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

I'm going to make a huge assumption here, this guy is a MODERATE Muslim, right? He's not one of those hook-handed, wildly bearded, fire-breathing, terrorist-coddling Muslims, he's one of the GOOD Muslims, the religion of Peace Muslims, right?

So, why is it so hard for him to say that KILLING EX-MUSLIMS IS WRONG? Wrong now, wrong then, always and everywhere Wrong, Wrong, WRONG!

Religion, even in Moderate doses, kills your brain.

Currently in Australia routine circumcision is not advocated due to the risk of hemorrhage and infection associated with the procedure.
The potential benefits of improved hygiene,lower risk of penile cancer and avoidance of phimosis and paraphimosis do not outweigh those risks.
As to circumcision and HIV,Im not aware that there is a consensus,and it does not play a role in the current recommendations.

By Rorschach (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Do we really need to respect the right of a priestly class to dictate what others are allowed to believe?

You're being way, way to nice, PZ! By extension, this "priestly class" have always been the lackeys of the ruling (leisure) class to shackle and confuse ignorant, uneducated slaves for eons. I say (rhetorically of course), off with their elitist, self-serving heads!

By Ranger_Rick (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Are they spitting in the wound, Rorshach? With the vascularization of the area, I've never heard of that wound getting infected (unless performed under non-sterile techniques). Bleeding can theoretically be a problem, but as long as it's medically supervised, it shouldn't get out of hand. I've routinely been involved in adult circumcisions, which have an average blood loss of aproximately 30mL and infant ones with >1mL. In the proper hands, the risks of hemorrhage and infection are mitigated to the point of now being less than the benefits you've accurately listed.

The whole point is still motive. Whereas female circumcision is about control and power (as is killing those that leave the faith), the male version is out of protection of a child (misguided or not).

By Dr.FabulousShoes (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

However, what is under question is not that foreskin is a risk factor for contracting HIV

So, let's chop it off instead of using condoms?

That paper is like saying, well, if I have a gun in the house, I don't need to lock my door, which is absurd.

You missed the point: I'm taking issue with your “google … and you'll find that …”, when in reality you can use Google to find whatever you want — Google “age” and “universe” and you might find people saying that it's 6,000 years old. I have no issue with “Google X and you'll find a lot of people saying X”, but I take issue with “Google X and you'll find that X is true” particularly when one Googles X and finds both X and ¬X.

And your tooth extraction scenario is at best a absurd.

Of course it is — that's the point of reductio ad absurdum. You never exaggerate to make a point?

You have a point with the closing statement, but the rest is gibberish.

Gibberish? I don't think that word means what you think it means; it's a particularly amusing charge given your preceding malapropism in the use of “indefensible”.

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Are they spitting in the wound, Rorshach? With the vascularization of the area, I've never heard of that wound getting infected

Then I have to conclude that you dont know as much about the topic as you are making us believe you know.

Male circumcision for religious reasons is accepted in western societies,and doctors will usually comply with the request after informing the patient's parents about the risks.
Im neutral to the whole thing,to be honest,it does not usually take any ability for sexual pleasure away,and might have health benefits in the long term.

By Rorschach (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Emmet:

Please forgive the quotes, html is not my strong suit.

"So, let's chop it off instead of using condoms?"

No, I believe in using every avenue of prevention at hand. Ergo, I will not only lock my door, but I don't live on the ground floor of a building and the build itself is secure. Using a condom and circumsicion are not mutually exclusive.

"You missed the point: I'm taking issue with your “google""

Fair point. If you google "autism" and "vaccines" you'll find a whole lot of non-sense. I figured you wouldn't have home access to PubMed. My apologies.

"You never exaggerate to make a point?"

Only when arguing with my husband, because he loves me anyway.

"Gibberish? I don't think that word means what you think it means..."

I think it means that most of your statements, with the noted exception of the "adult decision" and your deliberate misuse of google to prove a point, lack sense. As for my defense of your presumed "indefensible" position, that is your characterization, not mine. The protection of a child is just about the only thing that merits otherwise heinous activities in this world. We are arguing whether or not that perceived protection is medically supported, something to which you seem ill suited, despite your logical gifts elsewhere.

By Dr.FabulousShoes (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Thanks to Quidam for posting the entire message. I see that the chaplain has left himself some wiggle room by qualifying that the death penalty can only be used where Muslims control the state. Mind you, that doesn't stop him from sounding a bit wistful that they aren't in control in the "North/West".

Having seen how creationists quote mine, I think we do well to look at crazy statements from potential theocrats in full context.

By Whiskyjack (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

… your deliberate misuse of google to prove a point …

My deliberate misuse of Google???
LOL!
Me pointing out that you erroneously used Google to simultaneously support and refute your own point is not me misusing anything.

The protection of a child is just about the only thing that merits otherwise heinous activities in this world.

But it doesn't protect the child, unless children you know routinely engage in unprotected high-risk sexual activities. Rather, it may provide some benefit to the adult. Even if we stipulate that that's true, it's up to the individual to decide as an adult. Responsible medical practitioners don't support hacking pieces off children as speculative prophylaxis against an infection that might occur in 18 years when other prophylactic measures exist and are orders of magnitude more effective.

We are arguing whether or not that perceived protection is medically supported,

Says who?

something to which you seem ill suited, despite your logical gifts elsewhere.

Your condescension is noted.My point is that nothing is lost by performing the circumcision, if and when it is medically necessary, with the informed consent of the patient. What other bits of newborns do you think we should hack off “just in case”?

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

This discussion about circumcision reminds me of a joke told by Lt. Columbo (played by Peter Falk):

There was this Jewish lady walking down Beverly Drive and from the other way comes this flasher guy in his overcoat. When he gets up to her he rips open the coat. She looks at him and says: “You call that a lining?”

Me pointing out that you erroneously used Google to simultaneously support and refute your own point is not me misusing anything.

Does that fallacy have a name?

By Rorschach (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Does that fallacy have a name?

Argumentum ad googlum?

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Emmet,

What other bits of newborns do you think we should hack off “just in case”?

which function or part of your foreskin exactly are you missing?
As I said,Im impartial to the whole thing,but I cant see(as a mutilated individual myself)what you would be missing about it.

By Rorschach (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Emmet, OM #96:

I've never heard a European man say “Oh, I wish my parents had mutilated my dick when I was a baby!”

But it's not hard to find a European woman who wishes that.

By Equisetum (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

But it's not hard to find a European woman who wishes that.

Sounds like bullshit to me. Care to support that assertion?

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

But it's not hard to find a European woman who wishes that.

Although my sample size is somewhat limited,I would estimate that there is a 2/3 to 1/3 female preference
for mutilated bits.
LOL

By Rorschach (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

"My point is that nothing is lost by performing the circumcision, if and when it is medically necessary, with the informed consent of the patient."

Then your point was already agreed to and your prior condescension is noted. It appears we have been arguing over naught.

My point was that female genital mutilation!=male circumcision as I know of no benefits to the practice that an informed adult female would then consent to such a procedure.

Circumcision is not about power and control, which female genital mutilation is, as is killing those that left the faith. I am sorry I allowed myself to get off topic.

By Dr.FabulousShoes (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Posted by: robotaholic Author Profile Page | April 17, 2009 7:01 PM
I don't think describing Islam as a "cesspool" is particularly fair either.

Well, guess it is only part of the cesspool that is religion, but that hardly qualifies as 'unfair'.Just because you see the Islamic floater in the religious septic tank, it doesn't elevate the rest of the religious shit to anything above putridity.

which function or part of your foreskin exactly are you missing?

I reject the idea that one should have to justify retention of anatomical parts.

As I said,Im impartial to the whole thing,but I cant see(as a mutilated individual myself)what you would be missing about it.

I'm not sure self-assessment of the victims is entirely reliable, particularly when FGM victims seldom miss their own clitorises enough not to mutilate their own daughters, and male circumcision is so trivial in comparison. Perhaps you can't miss what you never had.
It's sensitive, and I'm glad to have been born in a place where mutilating children is the exception rather than the rule.

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Although my sample size is somewhat limited,I would estimate that there is a 2/3 to 1/3 female preference for mutilated bits.

Among females of what nationality? AFAIR (this has been discussed here before) there is a strong positive correlation between what women say they prefer and the local custom.

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

@#112:

Sounds like bullshit to me. Care to support that assertion?

Anecdotal, but my wife*. She says it cleaner. Sex is more fun. Blowjobs are more fun, and spontaneous blowjobs, without a shower, are out of the question.

She wants to know how many women you've talked to about this.

*Granted, she could just be saying all this to make me feel better, but judging from her reaction she's being honest.

By Equisetum (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

,blockquote>Among females of what nationality?

Well,german,australian,and a few others LOL

So yeah,in males I really dont think its mutilation.

By Rorschach (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink
Care to support that assertion?

Anecdotal, but my wife…

That's as good as a “no”.

Granted, she could just be saying all this to make me feel better…

Which is exactly why anecdotes (either way) have no probative value — if you were uncut, she would hardly say “I'd prefer if you didn't have a foreskin” (it's never been said to me), so if we want evidence, we need a well-executed survey. Do you know of one?

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Since I was born at home, I managed to avoid circumcision yet I’ve never experience any advantage or disadvantage to having a foreskin. Although I’ve never undertaken a detailed study of foreskins, I’m pretty sure that the males of most mammal species are equipped with them, thus suggesting some sort of survival advantage. So I’m wondering what is the advantage and when will I reap the benefits my foreskin has so lavishly conferred upon me?

By C. M. Baxter (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

The whole point is still motive. Whereas female circumcision is about control and power (as is killing those that leave the faith), the male version is out of protection of a child (misguided or not).

Correction: male circumcision is more readily rationalized as being about "protection of a child."

Correction: male circumcision is more readily rationalized as being about "protection of a child.

True.
And I dont get this "protection' argument at all.

By Rorschach (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Although I’ve never undertaken a detailed study of foreskins, I’m pretty sure that the males of most mammal species are equipped with them, thus suggesting some sort of survival advantage.

Maybe neutrality is all that would be required for retention, rather than advantage per se. But that's still not what would be expected if lacking a foreskin in fact conferred the significant immunological and sexual-selective advantages that the pro-mutilation community contend exist.

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

But that's still not what would be expected if lacking a foreskin in fact conferred the significant immunological and sexual-selective advantages that the pro-mutilation community contend exist.

As a member of the "pro-mutilation community",I would deny the sexual-selective advantage,since courting usually occurs with the status of the male's foreskin-ness still unbeknownst to the female.

By Rorschach (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

if you were uncut, she would hardly say “I'd prefer if you didn't have a foreskin”

Oh, yes she would. Some couples don't need to lie to each other.

we need a well-executed survey. Do you know of one?

No, you need one. The issue is just not that important to me. My foreskin is long gone, and I don't have and never will have children.
And, by the way, how many women (or gay men) have you talked to about this? As it stands, my anecdote trumps your opinion.
(And just so you know, I agree with practically everything you've said in this thread.)

By Equisetum (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Some couples don't need to lie to each other.

Easy there,big fella.No need to get all melodramatic.

By Rorschach (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

I would deny the sexual-selective advantage,since courting usually occurs with the status of the male's foreskin-ness still unbeknownst to the female.

I would too, but not for that reason: in evolutionary terms, covering the genitals is probably a very recent innovation, and it's cultural, so it seems unlikely to be a factor in evolutionary terms. Even then, I'm not at all sure that such an appeal to evolution has much merit. Sure, a smaller foreskin, naturally selectable from variation in size, offers (at best) no advantage — if it had, the foreskin wouldn't have survived — but it could nevertheless be argued that a smaller foreskin offers no advantage, whilst complete absence does.FWIW, I don't think this is very important, or relevant to the issue of consent — it's fine for you, as an adult, to decide that he doesn't want his own foreskin for religious, cosmetic, or supposed health reasons, but it's not fine for one person, acting as medical proxy and in the best interests of another, to make such an irrevocable decision without an extraordinarily compelling and convincing reason. You might not mind that you were cut, but some men are very angry and upset about it indeed. What harm would it have been to have left them intact to make the choice for themselves?On the evo-devo side, I'd be interested to know how the structure comes about in the first place — a much more interesting and enlightening question.

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

"Harvard Islamic chaplain": My God, my fucking loving God!

Easy there,big fella.No need to get all melodramatic.

OK, maybe that was a bit much. But it's still true.:)

By Equisetum (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Some couples don't need to lie to each other.

I resent the insinuation in that remark.

No, you need one … my anecdote trumps your opinion.

No, it doesn't.You made a general assertion about “women”; I only asked for evidence of the assertion that you made. I asked because this subject has been discussed here before and it's been said that there's a strong correlation between what women say they prefer and the local practice. I said we need a survey because I was working on the assumption that you'd be as interested as me in finding out what the empirical evidence shows. If you consider yourself well-enough informed by an anecdote, that's your problem, I like a bit of evidence, and I'm open to being swayed by it. In any case, you can't expect me to agree with a random assertion that you've rustled up with your wife (or whoever) just because I haven't rustled up a contrary assertion with anyone.

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

You made a general assertion about “women”; I only asked for evidence of the assertion that you made.

Here is the full text of my statement:

But it's not hard to find a European woman who wishes that.

The evidence of my assertion is sitting two meters behind right this very instant. So, taken literally, I've proven my point.
Why is this so important to you?

(And I apologize for the insinuation. It really wasn't meant to be taken that way.)

By Equisetum (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Why is this so important to you?

It isn't. I just don't like the idea of children being mutilated, and I don't like to see unsubstantiated generalisations left unchallenged.
 

So, taken literally, I've proven my point.

Touché :)I understood you to be making a general point. My mistake.
 

And I apologize for the insinuation. It really wasn't meant to be taken that way.

OK

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Anecdotal, but my wife*. She says it cleaner. Sex is more fun. Blowjobs are more fun, and spontaneous blowjobs, without a shower, are out of the question.

I suppose you mean that they are out of the question for the uncircumcised. This is... surprising news?

@72 & 79

except Muhammad.

...and the Qur'an itself.

I'm probably missing a few other things.

True, if you think of Muhammad as a rockstar kind of idol. And qur'anolatry as an analogue to bibliolatry.

I was writing about icons - venerated paintings - and graven images - statues of Baal, Jupiter and The Mighty Favog. Islam started with with no portrayal of any faces which changed to faces of everyone are OK, except for Mohammed which was always a blank space.

The lack of a foreskin was probably important in OR times as an identification of Us Hebrews versus the Philistines and others who retained their foreskins. This could be analogous to many of the Mosaic Laws which separate the insular genocidal good guys from all those pagan bad guys.

As a wild? speculation, maybe Abraham had phimosis or some nasty smegma infection, got a clue, circumcised himself which made Sarah happy which then led to Isaac. And if Abe had to do it, then by golly, every male had to do it and was a jobs stimulus for mohels. But they caught a break by having it done in infancy. Thus are legends born.

By natural cynic (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

I suppose you mean that they are out of the question for the uncircumcised. This is... surprising news?

For that matter, just how fucking stupid do you have to be to need your foreskin surgically removed in order to manage to wash under it?

...and the Qur'an itself.

I'm probably missing a few other things.

should have been blockquoted in 135.

And other things might include the Kaaba and the black stone within it.

By natural cynic (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

For that matter, just how fucking stupid do you have to be to need your foreskin surgically removed in order to manage to wash under it?

Indeed. Given the choice — which, fortunately, I wasn't denied — I prefer soap'n'water to a scalpel.

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

As a member of the "pro-mutilation community",I would deny the sexual-selective advantage,since courting usually occurs with the status of the male's foreskin-ness still unbeknownst to the female.

I would argue that, at some point in human history, the female was very well aware of the male’s penis during courtship and that the human penis has become the extended phenotype (pun intended) it is today precisely due to sexual selection. I would further argue that if a male of that period had had the genetic misfortune of being born with a penis sans foreskin, most females would have summarily eschewed his sexual supplications.

Moreover, I would suggest that this thread, in moving from the original topic, i.e., Chaplain Taha Abdul-Basser, to the present discussion of foreskins is only fitting.

By C. M. Baxter (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Emmet,
you are clearly preputiophile !

By Rorschach (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Emmet, you are clearly preputiophile !

I'm intact, so I really have no dog in the fight, but fairly consistently, about 20% of circumcised men report being unhappy about it, while only 3% of uncircumcised men wish they'd been circumcised* — that seems like a good enough reason to leave it up to the individual adult than to routinely mutilate individuals. Amongst developed nations, the practice is pretty rare outside North America, and we're not exactly dropping like flies for the want of its supposed health benefits.

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Wasnt there some incident with foreskins in the bible?Like 200 of them for a hot virgin princess or something?That might be worth looking into....

By Rorschach (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

I'm intact, so I really have no dog in the fight, but fairly consistently, about 20% of circumcised men report being unhappy about it, while only 3% of uncircumcised men wish they'd been circumcised*

Well, not that I really care either way, but you want to be careful with arguments like this. Sour grapes rules apply; a certain percentage of people will be unhappy for irrational reasons ("Oh, if my prick wasn't cut, then my life would be so much better...").

The right way to study this would be to examine adults who were circumcised for actual medical reasons (e.g. infection, tearing of the foreskin, etc). I did see a writeup of such a study in the NY Times a few years ago which said that the majority of men in the study said sex was still as pleasurable ("different, but just as good"); the minority group was split equally between "no difference", "better" and "worse". The study apparently concluded that male circumcision did not reduce sexual pleasure, and thus shouldn't be avoided when really necessary (while not advocating it for infants).

Well, not that I really care either way, but you want to be careful with arguments like this. Sour grapes rules apply; a certain percentage of people will be unhappy for irrational reasons ("Oh, if my prick wasn't cut, then my life would be so much better...").

If you read the bits on the survey data itself (not the parts that report on other surveys), you'll find that the self-selected respondents (mostly unhappy circumcision victims) report a variety of reasons for being unhappy, some of them pretty awful. Yes, I'm sure there's some of the effect that you describe, a kind of scapegoating and confirmation bias, but it's clear that, for many men, it's more than that. Even if the negative physical effects reported were entirely imaginary, why inflict a psychological problem on so many men with an unnecessary and involuntary procedure?On your second point, if it's really necessary, then fine — I'm sure I'd learn to live with it too — but that's not, as you note, an argument for routine circumcision.

By Emmet, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

The puns have started Emmet. Jodie Foster thread. ;)

By Patricia, OM (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Equisetum @ #111

But it's not hard to find a European woman who wishes that.

Maybe so (though, like Emmet, I'm skeptical that this is the predominant attitude in Europe), but if someone cares that much what some fraction of women wants them to do with their bodies, then they can decide to get their own damn foreskins lopped off.

The only argument I've seen for routine circumcision that has any merit at all is that it has benefits as a prophylaxis against HIV. But even in that case, we have to weigh the costs against the benefits, and violating one's autonomy over one's own body is an important cost. There are certain cases where violations of autonomy over one's body is clearly a net good. Routine vaccines are the most obvious analogous case. But this is an unusually successful case in medicine, and I'm not sure (off the top of my head) that circumcision's benefits quantitatively compare.

^^ examine adults who were circumcised for actual medical reasons (e.g. infection, tearing of the foreskin, etc). I did see a writeup of such a study in the NY Times a few years ago which said that the majority of men in the study said sex was still as pleasurable ("different, but just as good"); the minority group was split equally between "no difference", "better" and "worse". ^^
- - - - -

That sounds like the Korean study. 3/4 of the men said sex was good enough before and after being cut for medical reasons. Of the rest, 3/4 said sex got worse and 1/4 said sex got better. The sex-getting-worse group will only increase with time as the glans and mucosa dry and callous. Men pursuing foreskin restoration typically get along fine for decades before they decide sensitivity has dropped to an unacceptable level.

HEY YOU GUYS! If you don't know something, don't just make it up as you go.

There are plenty of studies showing health benefits to female genital cutting, including reduced HIV incidence.

No national medical association on earth (not even Israel's) endorses routine male circumcision. Most of the US men who have died of AIDS were circumcised at birth.

The foreskin includes over half of a male's sensual nerve endings. The foreskin is exactly as vital to a male's full sexual experience as the clitoral hood is to a female's. Amputating either in infancy is a barbaric breach of human rights, and also often leads to horrendous complications. Google "circumcision damage" to see ugly stuff that never gets counted as circumcision complications by any health agency.

Nobody knows the true complication rate of infant circumcision. Any non-religiously-sanctioned medical treatment so poorly understood would be halted until more was known.

Foreskin feels REALLY good. HIS body HIS decision.

There are plenty of studies showing health benefits to female genital cutting, including reduced HIV incidence.

Did someone in all honesty just actually write that?I cant quite believe it.

By Rorschach (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

I suppose you mean that they are out of the question for the uncircumcised.

Yes, that's what I meant. I really should have proofread that better.

By Equisetum (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

Rorscach - I can buy a theory that says female circumcision leads to reduced HIV incidence. The rationale is that the women find sex unpleasant if not downright painful, therefore they don't sleep around with multiple partners. Reduced opportunity for exposure will definitely reduce incidence.

Of course, that doesn't make it right. After all, if we sliced the testicles off every male, resulting in artificial insemination being the only available method of reproduction, then we would reduce the incidence of unplanned pregnancy too.

Hmmm - I'd be very interested in why circumcision became so popular in English-speaking culture in the first place... Wikipedia mentions a theory that "In the view of many practitioners at the time, circumcision was a method of treating and preventing masturbation". If that's the case, it doesn't work. ;)

Reduced opportunity for exposure will definitely reduce incidence.

Yes,Robert,Im aware where that thought probably came from.
It is still unbelievable to say something like that though,because whether that commenter realized it or not,the line of thought from "cut their clit off-they fuck less-they get less HIV" is disgustingly fucked up.

By Rorschach (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

It is still unbelievable to say something like that though,because whether that commenter realized it or not,the line of thought from "cut their clit off-they fuck less-they get less HIV" is disgustingly fucked up.

He didn't endorse the idea. He's making a point that even if it reduces disease, it doesn't make it right.

Hm,I didnt get that impression windy,but I guess you're right...I hope so anyway

By Rorschach (not verified) on 18 Apr 2009 #permalink

I personally would say that Ron Low is either a Poe or a troll. I like this little snip:

Most of the US men who have died of AIDS were circumcised at birth.

Yeah well - most of the US men are circumsised - some 75% according to the WHO (according to wikipedia).

Also, most of the US men (and women) who have contracted AIDs were born prior to 1979. An Australian study (also on wikipedia) has an age-related gradient in prevalence, with the prevalence increasing as the cohorts grow older. Assuming the US is similar (likely), then the range of men who contracted HIV are even more likely to be circumcised, so it's not surprising that most of those who have died have been circumcised.

However, it's irrelevant; by far the most prevalent vector for HIV transmission is anal sex - transmitted from the guy on top to the guy on bottom, due to tearing in the anal passage. In this scenario, it's hard to see how circumcision can prevent or assist with HIV transmission.

It is still unbelievable to say something like that though,because whether that commenter realized it or not,the line of thought from "cut their clit off-they fuck less-they get less HIV" is disgustingly fucked up.

The way I read it, THAT'S THE POINT!

Incidentally, there is strong evidence that male circumcision was an Egyptian practice foisted on the Jews by Moses (possibly Egyptian himself).

And the evidence for the existence of Moses is…?

The male version protects him from STDs: google "foreskin" and "HIV" and you'll find that the foreskin has antigen presenting cells that actually increase the risk of transmission of infection.

That study had serious flaws. For example, while the wound was healing the patients had no sex whatsoever; did that decrease their risk? Duh!

Instead of searching all of the web for it, search ScienceBlogs.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 19 Apr 2009 #permalink

Why doesn't this man kill himself for apostasy? He has apostatized from the "religion of peace" by recommending killing of unbelievers, hasn't he?

By VegeBrain (not verified) on 20 Apr 2009 #permalink

I've always had a big problem with the existence of chaplains in general, both on college campuses and in the military where I work.

Its very irksome to know that not only does the government pay salaries for priests, but the fact that they are also OFFICERS; people who enlisted persons are required to salute and pay respect to, is a real kick in the teeth for anyone who has an issue with religion.

I can sort of understand the need to have priests and clergy available to troops who want that sort of thing, and the need to have them able to deploy with troops to combat zones is also understandable. But let the CHURCHES pay for their personnel (they certainly have plenty of money to do so) and do not make American taxpayers fund these hacks. And certainly don't make me salute some witch doctor just because George Washington had a thing about religion back in the day.

Anyway, that's it for my rant. This idiot at Harvard just takes it up a notch, and certainly deserves to be fired.