Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Agreeing with Hitchens on Religion?

I have these love-hate feelings for Christopher Hitchens. On one hand I love his hawkish, common sense position on the war. He had a brilliant must read on the war earlier this week. That being said, Hitchens is terrible whenever he approaches the issue of religion. He does not Believe and that is his right and choice; however, his writings on religion turns my stomach and I avoid reading the stuff.

So you can imagine my surprise when I agreed with nearly an entire column of his titled Another Disgusting Religious Practice. Recently in New York some infants have been harmed and one died as a result of an old Jewish tradition that Mayor Bloomberg supported rather than upset one of his voting blocks. Here's a sample:
Where to start with this? I could wish that Bloomberg were always so careful about keeping out of other peoples' business: He has made it legally impossible to have a cigarette and a cocktail at the same time, anywhere in the city. But I'll trade him his stupid prohibitionist ban if he states clearly that it is the government's business to protect children from religious fanatics. Female genital mutilation, for example, is quite rightly banned under federal law, and no religious exemption is, or ever should be, permitted. The Mormons were obliged to give up polygamy and forcible marriage before they, or the state of Utah, could be part of the United States. A Christian Scientist who denies urgent medical treatment to his or her children may well be hauled up for reckless endangerment, as may those whose churches teach redemption through violent corporal punishment. The First Amendment does indeed forbid any infringement of religious freedom, but it is not, as was once said, part of a suicide pact, let alone a child-abuse one.

Let's by all means hear from Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organization in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who emerged from his meeting with Bloomberg to inform us that: "The Orthodox Jewish community will continue the practice that has been practiced for over 5,000 years. We do not change. And we will not change." You can preach it, rabbi, but you have no more right to practice it than a Muslim imam who preaches the duty of holy war has the right to put his teachings into effect. And Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer, the 57-year-old man who ministered to the three boys in question, is currently under a court order that forbids him from doing it again—pending an investigation by the health department. What "investigation?" If another man of that age were found to be slicing the foreskins of little boys and then sucking their penises and their blood, he would be in jail—one hopes—so fast that his feet wouldn't touch the ground. If he then told the court that God ordered him to do it, he would be offering precisely the defense that thousands of psychos have already made so familiar. Preach it rabbi. Preach it to the judge.
Absolutely correct. Nearly the entire column. For those of you who do believe, just skip the last paragraph and you'll be fine. Just one or two bad phrases there, but enough to skip - IMHO.