(Disclaimer: this post won’t go into much depth on the origins of circumcision. That’s too lengthy a discussion and can be read about on Wiki. My focus is on its purpose in Judaism, which by proxy explains its purpose in Christianity and Islam)
Religious circumcision seems to have a number of purposes and effects, all of which were either intended from the beginning or noticed afterward and kept. Though I’m aware circumcision was traditional in Kemet well before Judaism existed and is most likely where the Jews got it from (remember they were slaves in Kemet, as the Bible makes sure they don’t forget!), it’s inarguable that circumcision’s prominence in the 21st century is primarily through this religion and its offshoots Christianity & Islam.
Yes the early Christians had their male members circumcised exactly as Jews. Christians later stopped the practice to distinguish themselves from Jews, and show their affiliation to the Greco-Roman world who thought cut dicks looked ugly. This was just one example of Christianity being just a watered-down version of Judaism to please European Gentiles.
(However, Christians later took the sex-hatred thing so far men started getting themselves castrated. Some even went totally DIY.)
Moshe ben-Maimon, better known as Maimonides or Rambam (1135-1204), explained it in his book The Guide of The Perplexed. In short, he says circumcision was intended to:
- cause pain,
- make men have sex less often (while keeping reproductive function intact) so they don’t do it “too much”,
- make sex less pleasurable for both men & women,
- make their dicks weaker,
- stop women getting “addicted” to their dicks,
- force men to focus on spirituality instead of material pursuits (possible evidence of Judaism’s Zoroastrian influence, the belief that spirit = good and matter = bad),
- be a physical proof of tribal/ religious unity – not very different from other forms of African scarification (each word is a separate link)
Also according to him, the reasons it’s performed on the 8th day after birth are:
- the parents won’t have had much time to emotionally bond with the boy and therefore are less likely to object to the procedure,
- the boy is old enough and strong enough to withstand it, whereas any earlier would be akin to abortion,
- babies don’t feel pain, at least not as much as adults*,
- he can’t refuse because he’s not old enough or intelligent enough
* which contradicts the point above; if they don’t feel pain what’s there to withstand? But those are Moshe’s words not mine so let him resolve the contradiction
He also seems to imply that the foreskin is an “excess” that has to have measures taken against it, as if Yahweh made a mistake…? Western medical arguments of increased health & physical cleanliness are part-lies, part-conflation of moral “purity” and physical “purity”, and only came about as post-hoc justifications after the Anglophone world was introduced to it in the 1800s. Thus they cannot be claimed as purposes of the procedure.
Also note this procedure is performed by men. So is circumcision a form of ancient masculine self-hate…?