Brad wrote:Back to the circumcision issue, another question might be whether the practice would exist at all, in modern times if not in ancient times, but for the belief that an invisible god has a very strong preference for altered foreskins.
If you look at the history of how circumcision came to the modern world, the answer is "almost certainly".
The practice is found in many cultures from all places, and was probably ubiquitous in the ancient European world prior to Greek civilisation, probably for reasons related to hygiene. Not
circumcising might have been an innovation of the Greeks because they worshipped the perfection of the human form, and wished to distinguish their civilisation from the barbarians around them.
Circumcision was essentially not practiced in the English-speaking world (unless you were Jewish, obviously) until the 19th century. Its re-introduction came at the same time as medicine was starting to become ubiquitous, in the sense that just about everything was considered to be a medical problem and thus have a medical solution. It was this time in history, for example, when doctors started presiding over childbirth, which was previously considered women's business, and women were treated for "hysteria".
Circumcision was essentially re-introduced because it was believed to be a treatment for masturbation, and later gathered other post hoc
rationalisations, such as hygeine. Eventually, the influence of evolutionary theory in medicine led rise to the idea that the foreskin was probably vestigal.
So actually, the prevalence of circumcision in the late 19th and early-to-mid 20th century English-speaking world is arguably due to over-eager medicine, not religion.
But, of course, you may as well ask this question of any
type of cultural body modification, including ear piercing and armpit shaving.
Brad wrote:While there are apparently some potential health benefits to circumcision, [...]
I have to wonder about correlation and causation here. Circumcision is, obviously, a practice which is seen more in Jews and Muslims. These are groups who may practice stricter sexual hygiene for cultural reasons, as a general rule.