Thursday, December 08, 2005

Circumcision and religion

had an interesting conversation with some colleagues at work today. As I work with mostly female muslims, we were talking about circumcision. In Malay culture, it's considered a ritual rite of passage for the father to carry the son to his circumcision. The father plays a major role in helping the son transition into manhood by leading him through a series of rites (except for the actual act of circumcision which is performed now a days by a doctor).

So here's my thought anyway, I always had a feeling that circumcision was a bad idea. The guy who got the ball rolling was Abraham. At his point in life, he was an old man living in the dessert and one day out of the blue he tells his family that God told him that to make covenant with him, all the guys had to cut their dicks... okay, basically cut part of their foreskin of. Personally, I think it was just an excuse he used, living in a dessert with all that sand and with little water... personal hygiene can be a little hard to maintain you know!

However, circumcision is also practiced in other cultures that before Abraham had the crazy idea. I flipped open my trusty Britannica and it says Ethopians, Arabs and also Egyptians practice it. I think I've seen on Discovery about how ancient mayan (or was it Incan?) cultures practice blood letting where they cut their foreskin to drip blood as a sacrifice.

There also seems to be a trend for those who have been circumcised at birth to try and grow back their foreskin. Seems that those who never had a choice are quite pissed that something was 'taken' away from them at birth. On ebay, people have been selling this tiny cone men can wear on their penis to try and make the foreskin grow back. Don't ask me how I came across the product, and no I don't use it.

Anyway, had some thought about Abraham and I have been thinking about the major religions of the world, especially Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Now basically, all these 3 religions have the same God. They just talk to him/her the same way. Most of their teachings can be traced back to that dude Abraham (some call it Abraham's God). I always find it amazing that this dude from the 2nd millenium BC was able to spread the teachings of this one single God down a few thousand years. Okay, so it broke into a few branches but most of the teachings like circumcision, 10 commandments and the covenant between man and God.

Now, how did his 'religion' survive till today will others have been forgotten? I think it was no divine act but simply religous evolution. The major religions that we have today were the 'strongest' religions that suited mankinds needs that help them flourish and event evolved and adapted through times. The Greeks and the Roman hardly pray to Zeus now and the Egpytians to Isis or the Swedish to Thor.

Those Gods were 'wiped' out with the arrival of the major religions either through force or subtle conversation. For Christianity, the turning point was probably Emperor Constantine. The first Roman Emperor to convert the whole known world then to Christanity. Gone were the old Gods of Mount Olympus and with that Jesus became everyone's saviour.

For Islam I guess it was their prophet Muhammad. I find it interesting to note that of all the civilizations on planet earth at that time, 'God' chose to spoke to this one dude in the Arabian peninsula. Why not the chinese, or the Mayans, or the Malays, or the Indians? Now at that time, the Arabs were just war like tribal people. Maybe God just gave up on his 'chosen' people in the Palestinian land and moved on to start afresh.... but not too far of. In the end, Muslim conquerors expanded their religion into former Christian stronghold and Saladin took Jerusalem. Now everyone just wants a piece of Jerusalem... the Jews, Muslims and Christians. Too much emphasis on holy sites, less emphasis on the message I say.

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