London, England - There are many bad things about the modern atheistic assault on religion. But perhaps the worst thing is its rebranding of certain religious practices as "child abuse". Everything from sending your kid to a Catholic school to having your baby boy circumcised has been redefined by anti-religious campaigners as "abuse". This use of emotionally loaded language to demonise the practices and beliefs of people of faith has reached its ugly and logical conclusion in Germany, where a court has decreed that circumcision for religious purposes causes "bodily harm", against boys who are "unable to give their consent", and therefore should be outlawed.
This is an alarming attack on freedom of religion and on parents' rights to initiate their children into their faith. The court case centred around a four-year-old Muslim boy who was given a very bad circumcision, but the precedent set by the case will of course affect Jews as well as Muslims. And as Germany's Central Council of Jews rightly said, the court's ruling is "an egregious and insensitive measure", which represents "an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in religious communities' right of determination". He points out that Jews have the freedom to circumcise their male children in every country in the world – but soon maybe not in Germany.
Many secularist campaigners are cock-a-hoop about the ruling. They believe their description of circumcision as “child abuse”, as a cruel operation that ignores the UN-guaranteed “rights of the child”, is radical and caring. But in truth it echoes centuries’ worth of nasty anti-circumcision posturing by people who hate certain religious faiths. In Medieval Europe, as pointed out in the book The Covenant of Circumcision, Jew-baiters often depicted circumcision as “cruel and grotesque”. The “barbarous and cruel Jews” were slated for callously snipping off their own boys’ foreskins and for secretly desiring to do the same to Christian boys, too. These “merciless” creatures were described by one English writer as “foreskinne-clippers”. The modern atheist’s description of circumcision as “child abuse”, though used to attack both Jewish and Muslim communities, is only an updated, more PC version of the old anti-Semites' description of it as “cruel and grotesque”.
The labelling of religious practices as “child abuse” is the most cynical tactic in the armoury of today’s so-called New Atheists. They are effectively using children as human shields, as a cover under which they and their beloved state might interfere in both family life and the realm of religious conscience in order to reprimand people for believing the wrong things and carrying our “cruel” practices. If you think they will stop with the banning of a physical practice like circumcision, think again. Richard Dawkins has argued that “bringing [children] up Catholic” is a form of “mental abuse”. Another New Atheist argues that children “have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people’s bad ideas”. What is being attacked here is the fundamental right of parents and communities to pass on their beliefs to their offspring.
History tells us that the rebranding of religious practices as child abuse can have terrible consequences. Many anti-Jewish pogroms in the past were justified on the basis that Jews abused children. The FBI’s insane invasion of the headquarters of the Branch Davidian religious cult in Waco, Texas, in 1993 was likewise justified on the basis of halting child abuse. That led to the deaths of 82 people – 28 of them children.