Religion and culture

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Non-therapeutic circumcision is often performed on consenting adults and on non-consenting children for cultural or religious reasons. In the cultures and religions where it is practiced, circumcision may be a norm, recommendation or even a requirement. This page analyzes how circumcision is viewed in different cultures and religions.


In some cultures, non-therapeutic circumcision is a social norm, recommendation, or even a requirement. In some cultures, circumcision is viewed as a rite of passage, and a male may not be considered a privileged adult until he has undergone circumcision. In others, it is seen as "unclean" not to be circumcised, and consider the circumcised penis to be more aesthetically pleasing.


Circumcision, particularly male infant non-therapeutic circumcision had become entrenched in American culture, because of promotion by the Circumcision industry, but now is in a declining pattern. Beginning in the Victorian period, men and children were circumcised to make masturbation difficult, because masturbation was seen as the root of many diseases. Circumcising newborn infants grew into a trend which peaked during the 60's and 70's. Movements to end circumcision began in the late 70's, so the incidence of genital intactness has increased significantly. Medicaid unlawfully provides third-party payment for medically-unnecessary, non-therapeutic circumcision in many states[1] and that keeps the incidence high. Be that as it may, at 62%[2] the American male population remains largely circumcised in most states and about 900,000 male newborns receive non-therapeutic circumcision every year.

Despite the financially self-serving promotional efforts of the Circumcision industry, the incidence of non-therapeutic circumcision of infant boys in the United States was reported to have continued its slow decline to 52.1 percent in 2016.[3] Further gradual decline is expected.


Non-therapeutic circumcision is seen as a rite of passage in many African tribal traditions.[4][5][6][7][8] In some African societies, a man who has not been circumcised is seen as a child, and unfit to take on the duties of a "man" (IE, someone who has been circumcised), such as positions of office and authority.

Boys and men are circumcised at different ages depending on the African society. Practices obviously vary. Among the Ehing of Senegal, the major idea of the ritual is to "spill sexual blood," and with the very young just the tip of the skin is considered sufficient for them to have entered the initiation. Children whose wounds have closed too completely were subjected to repeat operations, with the second cutting being much more extensive.[4] Among the Gisu of Uganda, only youths aged eighteen to twenty-four are eligible for circumcision, which is perceived as a crucial test of masculine bravery and endurance. The youth must stand absolutely still while first their foreskins are being cut and then stripped from around the glans penis. They are required to display total fortitude under the knife, betraying no signs of fear, not even involuntary twitching or blinking. The Gisu describe the pain as "fierce, bitter, and terrifying."[5]


Subincision is practiced by native Australians. This involves slitting open the underside of the penis, revealing the urethra. The wound may be reopened and extended to cause renewed bloodletting, making this possibly the most dramatic of all male genital mutilations.[9] [10]

Among Australians of European origin, the incidence of circumcision in Australia is reported to have declined to about 4 percent of newborn boys. Intact males have been in the ever-increasing majority for many years. Prevalence of circumcision is steadily declining and was reported at 30 percent in 2010.[11]


The practice of non-therapeutic circumcision in Canada has been declining for decades. The medical trade associations do not support the practice, most hospitals usually do not provide non-therapeutic circumcision, and the fourteen health insurance plans do not pay for it. Statistics have not been collected since 2006-7,[12] so do not reflect the current reality.. The incidence of circumcision varies widely by province and ethnicity, so it is difficult to produce a statistic for all-Canada. Foreskinned males are in the majority in all provinces and territories.

New Zealand

The native Maori people of New Zealand do not circumcise. The European population of New Zealand formerly practiced non-therapeutic circumcision of boys but that practice has been generally abandoned. The Pacific island minority practice dorsal slit, which is part of their culture.[13]

United Kingdom

Non-therapeutic circumcision of boys was a practice in the United Kingdom prior to about 1948. The National Health Service did not then and does not now offer non-therapeutic circumcision of boys,[14] so the practice was abandoned. Abandonment of non-therapeutic circumcision was encouraged by Douglas Gairdner whose landmark 1949 paper pointed out the lack of benefit and risks of non-therapeutic circumcision.[15] Dave et al. (2003) reported a declining prevalence of circumcision in Britain.[16]



In some religions, circumcision is a religious mandate and it is marked as such in holy Scripture. Some people mistakenly hold the belief that circumcision is a requirement of their religion, even though it may not actually be mentioned in the pertaining holy scripture, or even forbidden by it. This page analyzes different religions and what their holy scriptures actually say in regards to circumcision as a religious requirement.


Of all of the commandments in Judaism, the brit milah (literally, Covenant of Circumcision) is probably the one most universally observed. It is commonly referred to as a bris (covenant, using the Ashkenazic pronunciation). Even the most secular of Jews, who observe no other part of Judaism, almost always observes this tradition.[17]

However, in In the 613 mitzvot, Jews are commanded:

"do not mark your skin with tattoos." (Lev. 19:28) "you shall not cut yourselves." (Deut. 14:1)
"Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh. (Lev. 19:28)

Halacha provides for the ceremony of hatifat dam berit (shedding of a token drop of blood) for babies who can not be circumcised due to health reasons. This is deemed to be completely valid in marking the Covenant.

Further, being circumcised is not a condition of being Jewish. Girls do not need to be circumcised to receive the gifts of covenant, i.e., receiving bat-mitzva. A boy is considered to be Jewish if his mother is Jewish from the moment he is born. In fact:

  • A boy may be excused from circumcision permanently if his health would be endangered by it (for example, hemophilia).
  • Jewish boys in countries where non-therapeutic circumcision is not common, such as Holland, may be left intact and yet remain Jews in good standing.
  • In Sweden, 60% of Jewish boys are intact.
  • Many Soviet Jews, left intact for fear of communist persecution, have chosen to remain so, even though communism no longer exists.
  • Some Jewish parents are electing to have a non-cutting, harmless naming ceremony, frequently called "Brit Shalom" instead of a ritual circumcision.
  • Contrary to popular opinions, an intact boy may have a Bar Mitzvah. As one rabbi simply put it, “We don’t check.”
  • Since many American Christians practice circumcision, it does not distinguish the Jewish boys from the non-Jewish.[18]

Modern Jewish scholars have found that circumcision is not even mentioned in the earliest, “J”, version of Genesis nor the next three rewrites by other authors. Most importantly, the story of Abraham is there in its entirety, except the part about the Covenant being “sealed” with circumcision. So do not be afraid of divine punishment. God did not mandate circumcision. Brit Shalom offers an alternative free of cutting, pain, and trauma.

Bruchim was founded in 2021 by Lisa Braver Moss and Rebecca Wald with a goal of making non-circumcision acceptable in American synagogues.


The Christian Fathers considered the question of circumcision at the Council at Jerusalem in 49 A. D. Guided by the Holy Spirit, they omitted circumcision from the list of requirements to be Christian.[19]

Circumcision is expressly forbidden to gentiles. Whereas Jews adhere to 613 laws and commandments, called "mitzvots" in Hebrew, Christians are supposed to be saved by the blood and grace of Christ, hence the name "Christ-ian." At various points in the New Testament[20], Christians are told to either follow the law, or be saved by the grace of Christ alone.

"Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you be circumcised, Christ will be of no advantage to you." – Gal 5:2
"And even those who advocate circumcision don’t really keep the whole law. They only want you to be circumcised so they can brag about it and claim you as their disciples." – Gal 6:13
"For there are many who rebel against right teaching; they engage in useless talk and deceive people. This is especially true of those who insist on circumcision for salvation. They must be silenced. By their wrong teaching, they have already turned whole families away from the truth. Such teachers only want your money" – Titus 1:10-11
"Watch out for those wicked men – dangerous dogs, I call them – who say you must be circumcised. Beware of the evil doers. Beware of the mutilation. For it isn’t the cutting of our bodies that makes us children of God; it is worshiping him with our spirits." – Phil 3:2-3
"And I testify again to every male who receives circumcision, that he is in debt to keep the whole Law. You who do so have been severed from have fallen from grace." - Gal 5:3
"As God has called each man, in this manner let him walk. And thus I command in all the churches. Was any man called in the circumcision [Old Covenant]? Let him not try to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in the uncircumcision [New Covenant in Christ]? Let him not be circumcised! Circumcision is nothing. And uncircumcision is nothing but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let each man remain in that condition in which he was called." - 1 Cor. 7:17
"And some men came and were teaching the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.' But Paul and Barnabas together had great dissension and disputing with these men. . . Then Peter stood up and said to them 'Why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?" - Acts 15:1-2, 7, 10
"But if I still proclaim circumcision. . . then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished." - Gal 5:11
"I wish that those who are pushing you to do so would mutilate themselves!" - Gal 5:12

The Roman Catholic church condemned the practice formally and ordered against its practice in the Ecumenical Council of Basel-Florence in 1442.[21]

The New Testament has many passages that are quite anti-circumcision.[22]

The Christian Bible contains two sections. The first section, called the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. It was the Jewish Bible and contains passages that may favor circumcision. This requirement has been abolished for Christians by the New Testament.

The second section, called the "New Testament", is the Christian addition to the Holy Bible. It contains the correct information for Christians. Some new or ill-informed Christians may be confused by the differences in the two sections.


Although circumcision is never mentioned in the Qur'an, male circumcision is deeply rooted in the Muslim tradition. Muhammad is reported to have prescribed cutting the foreskin as a fitrah, a measure of personal cleanliness. Modern Muslims see circumcision as essential to their faith, although they have also come to lean on arguments of "medical benefits." A conference of Islamic scholars in 1987 stated that modern circumcision studies “[reflect] the wisdom of the Islamic statements”.[23]

The prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) is not circumcised in the Qur'an, or if he is, no mention is ever made in the 67 times that his name is written. A covenant sealed with circumcision is also never mentioned.[24] Despite never being mentioned in the Qur'an, it is still widely practiced among followers of Islam in the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia, who interpret it as an Islamic ceremony.[25] The Muslim code of religious law (AKA Shariah) recommends performance of circumcision at the age of seven days. In practice, however, Muslim boys are circumcised at varying ages before puberty.[26][27][28][29] According to Genesis 17, Abraham circumcised Ishmael, who is supposed to be the the ancestor of Arab peoples, at the age thirteen, which is why this age is generally taken as the latest acceptable date.

Intact existence is actually favored by the Qur'an: "We have indeed created man in the 'best of moulds'." (Qur'an 95:4) The idea that Allah has created everything in perfection is repeated in 27:88, 32:7, and 40:64. "Allah is the One who made the Earth a habitat for you, and the sky as a structure, and He designed you, and has perfected your design." "You will not see any flaw in what the Lord of Mercy creates." (Qur'an 67:3)

"Let there be no change in Allah's creation." (Qur'an 30:30) This verse specifically prohibits practices such as circumcision.

Finally, according to the Qur'an, circumcision may be seen as an act of evil: "(Satan said), 'I will lead them (mankind) astray and fill them with false hopes. I will command them and they will cut off cattle's ears. I will command them and they will change Allah's creation.' Anyone who takes Satan as his protector in place of Allah has clearly lost everything. He makes promises to them and fills them with false hopes. But what Satan promises them is nothing but delusion." (Qur'an 4:119-120) [24]


There are no guiding books for pagans, but in general, there are a few guiding principals. Mainly, the worship or love of nature in its natural form is a connection between different types of pagans. However, Wicca has a guiding rule called the Rede: "An ye harm none, do as thou wilt." One can certainly see the ritual removal of a functioning part of the human anatomy for no purpose as 'harm,' particularly given the risks involved. Thus, it would be anathema to a pagan who follows the Rede to submit their child to circumcision.

Other religions

No other religion is cited as encouraging circumcision, though many cultures practice it. [This information needs a citation or reference.]


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  2. REFweb Moore, Peter (3 February 2015). Young Americans less supportive of circumcision at birth. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  3. REFjournal Jacobson, Deborah L., Balmert, Lauren C., Holl, Jane L., Rosoklija, Ilina, Davis, Matthew M., Johnson. Nationwide Circumcision Trends: 2003 to 2016. J Urol. January 2021; 205(1): 257-63. PMID. DOI. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
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  5. a b REFbook Heald S (1989): Controlling Anger: The Sociology of Gisu Violence. Manchester: Manchester University Press. P. 60.
  6. REFbook Bloch M (1986): From Blessing to Violence: History and Ideology in the Circumcision Ritual of the Merina of Madagascar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  7. REFbook Beidelman TO (1997): The Cool Knife: Imagery of Gender, Sexuality, and Moral Education in Kaguru Initiation Ritual. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
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  9. REFbook Gould RA (1969): Yiwara: Foragers of the Australian Desert. New York: Scribner’s.
  10. REFbook Ro´heim G (1945): The Eternal Ones of the Dream: A Psychoanalytic Interpretation of Australian Myth and Ritual. New York: International Universities Press.
  11. REFweb Anonymous (2017). Incidence and prevalence of circumcision in Australia, Circumcision Information Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2024.
  12. REFdocument What Mothers Say: The Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey PDF, Public Health Agency of Canada. (2009). Retrieved 6 February 2024.
  13. REFbook McGrath K, Young H (2001): Review of Circumcision in New Zealand, in: A Understanding Circumcision: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to a Multi-Dimensional Problem. George C. Denniston, Frederick M. Hodges, Marilyn Fayre Milos (eds.). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. Pp. 129-146. ISBN 978-0306467011. Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  14. REFweb (20 November 2018). Circumcision in boys, National Health Service. Retrieved 6 February 2024.
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  17. REFweb Jew FAQ "Birth".
  18. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Britshalom
  19. REFweb Acts 13:1-30.
  20. The Holy Bible
  21. REFweb Eugenius IV (4 February 1442). Bull of Union with the Copts. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  22. REFweb Hill, George (29 August 2004). The Holy Bible, Circumcision, False Prophets, and Christian Parents Icons-mini-file pdf.svg, Circumcision Reference Library. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
    Quote: The falseness of those who advocate circumcision is a recurrent theme in the New Testament.
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    Quote: modern Moslem practice the rite is performed generally between the ages of two and seven years... as late as the thirteenth year.
  27. REFbook Mehta, Depak (2000): Circumcision, Body, Masculinity, in: Violence and Subjectivity. Veena Das, Arthur Kleinman, et al. (eds.). Berkeley: University of California Press. P. 82.
    Quote: ...two to six years.
  28. REFbook Peletz, Michael G. (1996): Reason and Passion: Representations of Gender in a Malay Society. Berkeley: University of California Press. P. 240.
    Quote: [Among Muslims in Negeri Sembilan, West Malaysia, boys] are usually circumcised when they are about twelve years old.
  29. REFbook Crapanzano V (1992): Rite of Return: Circumcision in Morocco, in: Hermes’ Dilemma and Hamlet’s Desire: On the Epistemology of Interpretation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.