Why circumscision and Halal / Kosher?

If you reject the idea of “god speaking through his prophets”, the bible / qu’ran / Torah is then written by man.

Accepting this, you then come to the idea that whatever is in there is a man-made construct.

My personal theory is that, for whatever reasons, the authors had a vested interest in the practises of circumscision and dietary restrictions (or at least they were codifying what was already being done).

So my question is - rejecting “the word of god” as a reason, why would circumscion and halal / kosher requirements have come about?

Circumcision - Hygiene reasons
Halal - It establishes that you must ask god for permission before taking the food he has provided so ingrains the idea of depndence on god, and creates a sense of respect towards the god. They also thought ti was nicer, less cruel.

Both things: if you just do something because you were told, without understanding the reason, you have accepted that person/being who told you as an authority.

the prayer part of halal is straigthforward - but how about the can’t eat this, can’t eat that part?

And hygiene for the snip? How did that idea arise? (it was common before people even understood stuff about germs?)

Well hygiene has been a popular part of Islamic culture long before the idea of germs arose. Doctors/physicians whatever may have noticed increased rates of infection if you weren’t circumcised, considering Muhammad interacted with many foreigners during trade it may have been something another culture had discovered.

The eating not eating part: just establishes who’s in charge. You have to have faith. (with things like alcohol it was the inability to make a reasoned decision, losing inhibitions etc)

Interesting fact: to decide where to build a hospital the muslims would put meat on a stick and leave it in various locations outside. the meat that rotted the least in a given time was where they built the hospital.

The purpose of tribal customs is to differentiate your tribe from other tribes. The specifics of the customs are pretty much arbitrary.

AND if you want to make sure people keep doing a ritual you can’t go wrong with genital mutilation, both male and female feel a strong compulsion to continue it with their own children. Ancient people may not have used academic terms but they did have a strong grasp of human psychology.

I was under the impression that Kosher/Halal, while not entirely so, was often for health reasons as well. I’ve been told that back in ancient times many of the things prohibited (such as pork) had higher rates of infection and disease than other foods before modern food processing advancements – while things like storing meat and dairy together are generally unsanitary. Granted this is taken to somewhat of a logical extreme with the amount of effort one has to go through ritually purifying things that have gone awry, but oh well.

Naw. In the environments in question, pork is definitely one of the safer possible meats to eat. The idea that it was dangerous to eat pork is an after-the-fact attempt to justify these rules, not a plausible origin for them.

Fair enough, come to think of it I probably heard that on the History channel, and we know their track record with things that don’t involve WWII.

Cir cumcision was a widely practiced custom in many socities around the world, not just among the Jews and Muslims. Regardless of the reason (I suspect that, ultimately, hygiene is a big part), it is long establisahed by custom and not by decree of God or gods.
As for diretary laws, those exist elsewhere, as well, without obvious Divine imposition. Eating of pig is not only against Kosher laws and Halal, but was proscribed by the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Sumerians.
Yet in Polynesian societies, eating of [pig is not only allowed, in some places it’s practically a religious duty. It must surely be a coincidence that on many of these islands the pig is the only large land meat animal. This sort of thing again suggests some practical reason for the ban in the Middle East. As I’ve mentioned before on this Board, cultural anthropologist Marvin Harris suggests that many foodways – especialy the kosher laws – are the result of practical considerations.(Not all of the, though). His book Good to Eat (AKA The Sacred Cow and the Abominable Pif) is entirely devoted to such things, although he discusses the ideas in his other popular books, too.
Put bluntly, he doesn’t blame trichinosis, but the cost/benefit of raising pigs in a location where most of the food they can eat is in direct competition with human food (Pigs don’t eat grass and other leafy plants, as cows, sheep, and goats do – they eat tubers and roots and nuts, which people do), so it makes more sense to eat the food you’d feed the pigs and cut out theinefficiency loss you incur by dfeeding the pigs. In addition, pigs overheat easily in desert climates – they don’t sweat. They require water-filled (or mud-filled) wallows to keep cool, and if they don’t get them, they will use their own urine and feces – NOT because they’re filthy animals, but because without some such means of regulating body temperature, they’ll die. But the practice certainly isn’t good for the pigs’ reputation. Pigs also can catch and transmit a lot of the same diseases people have, so raising them in tough conditions can be hazardous.

On the other hand, if you can let your pigs run wild in a place where they can dig their own roots and wallows are plentiful (or can hunt wild swine, like boars, that do this already), then pigs are a boon – they reproduce at a phenomal pace and put on weight rapidly, and have a large percentage of edible meat. Queen Isabella pressured Columbus to bring pigs to the New World, where they immediately became a prime food source(and may have helped infect the native population with European diseases). American farmers found the combination of pigs and corn a perfect way to get food to market in the 18th and 19th century, as Harris documents. But in the Americas, as in Polynesia, the pigs could find a lot of their own fare, and didn’t need constant tending. You COULD raise pigs in the Holy Land – the story of the Gadarene swine shows that SOME people did. But, goes the theory, people who didn’t had fewer problems. Pig was an extravagant luxury there.

I’m not sure I agree with the idea of calling male circumcision “genital mutilation”.

Female circumcision, on the other hand, absolutely is.

If you disregard the ‘G-d told us to’ idea, you’re left with this.

Say you’re a Jew living in Hellenic Rome. You can’t exercise nude like your gentile friends- and if you did, they’d all laugh at your circumcision. You can’t eat food prepared by your gentile friends or drink their wine. You end up being able to have gentile friends, but with a strong cultural barrier between you. This keeps you closer to other Jews and maintains your Jewish identity.

My dad likes to tell this story: 1966, first week of college, one of the leading campus Christian fundies comes up to him in the cafeteria and says, “So, I hear you’re of the Jewish persuasion…” To which my dad answered, “Yeah - I was persuaded when I was eight days old.” The fundie backed off.

That was interesting CalMeacham; thanks.

Wordman I have Gardner’s Cows, Pigs, War And Witches- The Riddles Of Culture. I agree that his explanation for the ban on pigs is the best of the secular ones.