“Nothing but the Blood of Jesus”

By Jan Latsha as told to Kirsten Roggenkamp.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been practiced among the Maasai as well as other ethnic groups in Africa for hundreds of years. This ritual is believed to prepare girls for marriage as the Maasai say that an “uncut” woman is dirty, and it guarantees a woman’s faithfulness to her husband. This custom makes childbirth more difficult and results in more stillborn babies. Traditionally the procedure is done by an older woman on the dirt floor of the family home. Nothing is given to relieve the girl’s pain. More information can be found online; both the World Health Organization and Wikipedia have extensive articles.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11183

FGM, the Jewish tradition of male circumcision and the Christian dogma that humans can magically be saved from their sins by believing in Jesus’ torture and death are all essentially alike; I.e., bloodthirsty superstitions that should have no place in a rational, caring society and indeed would not exist if our creator was actually omnipotent with the power to overcome ignorance and had a cure stupidity.

And yet, each is tolerated and even condoned by people who claim to be doing the lord’s work.

While many atheists take this as prima facia evidence that god is not real, I’m convinced this only proves that the people who espouse these beliefs and commit these atrocities do so out of fear—whether that fear is of tradition or god makes no difference. That is, people cling to these habits and fallacious fantasies because of something they read or heard, rather than as a result of knowing our divine source on a elemental, conscious level and instead of interacting with our maker personally.


I used to roll my eyes at skeptics who would accuse Christianity of “blood magic.” But the more I thought about it, the less I could come up with objections to that characterization.


I spent a year in West Africa, not as a missionary but as a machine operator in a sawmill, and came to love the Ivorian people with whom I worked. (My fellow american, eternally besotted supervisor, not so much.)

That said, some of their misconceptions about living in America, and what our technology is capable of, were unintentionally amusing. For example, one sweetest guys I ever met asked me in all seriousness, if NASA had found god when they went to the moon.

When I returned to the states, my mother was spouting some crazy–at least to me at that time–nonsense about how you couldn’t really believe everything you read in the bible and that “god’s word” was demonstrably not inerrant.

At first, I objected vehemently.

But now–while I’m definitely NOT greatful to my parents for forcing me to skip little league because the games were on saturday, nor for their decision to circumcize me without my consent–I am very thankful that my mom taught me to think on my own, and provided an example of courage and resolve in the face of abusive power and arrogant ignorance.


Who decreed that God could not forgive any sins unless His son was tortured to death? Who enforces such a cruel requirement? Why don’t we call that entity god or God?

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