Religion – Freedom for Who?

Prompted by this news story, about Germany’s ruling banning male circumcision on children which has outraged Jewish and Muslim religious leaders. One called it the “worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust”.

Leaving aside my annoyance at the hyperbole(*), we really need to have a discussion about where the boundaries of religious tolerance lie. What’s permissible because religion says so, and what is not permissible even though some religions say so?

Female circumcision – not okay. Male circumcision – ? Forced marriage – not okay. Burkha – choice or oppression? Homophobia? Refusing to allow gay marriage? Refusing to allow gay people to stay in your B&B? Refusing to allow women to drive or leave the house without a man? Refusing to allow women priests? What about allowing women priests but banning women bishops? Privilege of clergy to deal with offences like child abuse? Schools that only allow members of one faith? Schools that only teach one faith? Schools that teach creationism? Schools that teach that being gay is a sin? What about only doing business with members of your own religion: is that okay if you’re in a minority? Is it still okay if you’re in the majority? What about refusing to allow a gay couple to adopt a child? What about refusing to allow a Christian woman to adopt a child because she’s vehemently against gays and we don’t know whether the child will be gay when it grows up?

We all have to live together on an increasingly crowded planet, and at some point we’re going to have to talk about this stuff. Even though it’s going to offend the hell out of some people. And we need to have the discussion without all sides screaming “discrimination!”.

(Incidentally, the fact the religious leaders DON’T want to have this discussion suggests to me that we’re allowing them a bit too much freedom right now. But maybe that’s just my suspicious, cynical nature.)

BTW, my view on the original article is that as far as I know male circumcision is largely harmless, so I don’t quite see why it’s being banned. But I’m not an expert, and happy to hear corrections.

(*) “Worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust”? Really? There’s plenty of antisemitic violence still happening, you know.

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