Friday, February 5, 2010

Nativity rites

Jean Sarkozy, the president's son, married his adolescent sweetheart, Jessica Sebaoun-Darty. The following photo shows the father and the son, accompanied by their respective wives.

A son, Solal, was born to Jessica and Jean on 13 January 2010. A few days ago, I saw in the press that the baby was subjected to the Jewish tradition of circumcision, which I find archaic and physically revolting. The Christian rite of baptism is less bloody, but just as stupid today, at the start of the third millennium. In both cases, an innocent child is being enthroned as a member of an elite body of religious believers, and this membership is being established solemnly at a time when the tiny creature at the heart of the ceremony is not yet capable of any degree of intellectual discernment. What utter nonsense, perpetrated by mindless adults!

In a recent article entitled Little gods [display], I mentioned my reading a book by the great atheist author Christopher Hitchens. On the question of circumcision, I was moved by the parts of that book in which Hitchens condemns "child abuse" in the form of "sexual mutilation". He even gives us the gory details of the way in which circumcision has been performed, as recently as 2005 in New York, by certain Hasidic fundamentalist foreskin-removers. Nasty stuff!

I predict a day in the not-too-distant future when a joyful nativity rite of a new non-religious kind will become, as it were, standard practice. The DNA of the newly-born individual will be examined and stored permanently (as permanently as possible) in a great database of the kind that would bring joy to the heart of a Mormon genealogist. And this rite would symbolize (literally, you might say, since the DNA sample is in fact a huge set of symbols) the baby's passage into the great planetary congregation of humanity.

For the moment, those who come closest to this nativity rite are the researchers in genealogy who get their DNA tested (like me). But it remains a relatively superficial affair, since only the Y-chromosome of males and the mitochondrial DNA of females are in fact examined. And it's a private firm that holds on to the DNA samples. So, I can't really count upon the hope—if ever that were my intention (which it isn't)—of my being cloned at some future time.

No sooner had I finished writing this article than I came upon a CNN story [click the baby photo to display it] indicating that US babies appear to have their DNA tested systematically, with medical reasons in mind... much to the distress of certain parents.

Insofar as humans seem to like ceremonies based upon rites of passage of various kinds (birth, marriage, death, etc), I can well imagine creative Americans (the sort of people who have transformed Halloween into a planetary event) who would find ways of transforming the baby's DNA test into a kind of celebration, with music, food and drinks, solemn speeches and even short readings from the books of Dawkins, performed by students of genetics. This new nativity rite could be called DNAtion (rhymes with creation, confirmation and ordination).


  1. I agree that it was wrong for Jean Sarkozy's son to be circumcised.

    Why should what happens to a boy's genitals depend upon his parents religious whims? If his mother is so religious (Jewish) why did she marry a non-Jew like Jean Sarkozy? And why did Jean Sarkozy allow his son to be mutilated?

    A boy should be allowed to choose whether or not he wants his body altered in the name of religion.
    It is disgraceful.

  2. Yes, the decision of Jessica and Jean was an enormous disappointment to citizens who might have imagined that this young couple could have become modern role models. Jessica and Jean might have made a common declaration on the eve of their civil marriage: "Our love is a demonstration that young people today, brought up in different religious contexts, can transcend their differences in a union that will be neither Jewish nor Catholic, nor even based upon religion, but simply human. Likewise, our future children will be free to choose their own philosophical beliefs, when they are old enough to do so." Society, alas, is not yet sufficiently mature for the emergence of such wisdom. Not, in any case, in the context of the families and individuals in question.