Chief Rabbi slams Dawkins for using 'anti-Semitic stereotype'

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins insists his description of God as a 'bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser' was intended as a joke

LAST UPDATED AT 09:48 ON Fri 14 Sep 2012

THE CHIEF Rabbi has accused atheist Professor Richard Dawkins of using an anti-Semitic stereotype in his best-selling book The God Delusion.

Lord Jonathan Sacks complained about a passage in Dawkins's book in which he says that the God of the Old Testament was the "most unpleasant character in all fiction".

But Dawkins, an Oxford evolutionary biologist, dismissed the allegation as "ridiculous" and said he was not "anti-Jewish" just "anti-God", reports The Daily Telegraph.

In The God Delusion, Dawkins describes God as "jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully".

During a discussion at the BBC's Re:Think religion festival in Salford on Wednesday, Lord Sacks claimed the remarks were based on centuries of prejudice.

Dawkins insisted the passage was intended to be humorous. But Lord Sacks replied: "There are Christian atheists and Jewish atheists, you read the Bible in a Christian way. Christianity has an adversarial way of reading what it calls the Old Testament – it has to because it says 'we've gone one better, we have a New Testament'.

"So you come prejudiced against what you call the Old Testament and that's why I did not read the opening to chapter two in your book as a joke, I read it as a profoundly anti-Semitic passage."

Prof Dawkins expressed incredulity, asking: "How you can call that anti-Semitic? It's anti-God."

But Lord Sacks insisted that it was "anti the Jewish God".

Lord Sacks, who retires as Chief Rabbi next year, later said he was nevertheless fond of Dawkins.

"I was not concerned that Richard was anti-Semitic at all,” he said. “I was concerned that he was using an anti-Semitic stereotype, which has run through a certain strand of the Christian reading of what is called the Old Testament as a result of which thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Jews, died in the Middle Ages." · 

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What a truly ludicrous claim. Yet another example of a Jew claiming that _anything_ that he doesn't like, or that criticises Israel is anti-Semitic.

It devalues the term (a la "crying wolf"), and means that when something that is truly anti-Semitic is pointed out, people are liable to ignore it.

That's an outrageous accusation! Typical religious bafoonary. Either the great rabbi is genuinely ignorant of atheist thinking, or I suspect that he knowingly brings out the infamous "anti-Semite" boogie man to restore dwindling congregations. Just like playing the race card, this is a intellectually bankrupt argument. Lord Sacks ought to be more dignified in his assertion.

Agree that it is a ludicrous, but increasingly frequent, playing of the anit-semetic card by an ethically and/or intellectually lazy critic.
The extra absurdity of "... christian atheist & jewish atheist' further devalues any pretence of rationality.
It reminds me of the Ulster bigot who queried a horse about to be entered in a race as to whether it was "... a catholic & protestant horse".

Why are these religious people giving credence to this fellow. Darwkin a self appointed high priest of the atheist religion is a charlatan, if he was really anti-religion & has the conviction of his beliefs he would also write about the god of Islam & his prophet. I suspect he won’t do that because Judaism & Christianity are a soft touch and always provide him & his Disciples opportune moments to bash them under the guise of being anti-religion & free speech.

Each of the words used in Richard Dawkins' description of god can be backed up by specific quotations from both the Tanakh and the Old Testament on which it was base. That's not anti-semitism: it's fact.

The Rabbi is wrong, simple as that. His views are an attempt to censure criticism of a book that should now be regarded as profoundly racist and supremacist about others. This was not exceptional at the time, but just look at how the Hebrew Bible portrays  'Cannanites' and Samaritans.  The Yahwists who wrote the book accused others of practices such as child sacrifice when this was part of some branches of the cult of Yahweh. It refers gleefully to the slaughter of women and children all in God's name. This was standard for the time in which it was written. It is not standard now.  That progress is due to the development of our moral understanding, and that growth has little to do with religion. The parts of the book that Richard Dawkins was referring to were written long before Rabbinic Judaism started anyway.  Thousands of years of human effort, (mostly male effort) has gone into 'explaining away' all the nasty bits of the Hebrew Bible. Why not accept like Humanistic Jews do that this is just a book that reflects its time, the events in it are not always true, and they are not morally correct. The Rabbi needs to accept that if he wants the kudos of hanging with his new science chums he will be expected to bring evidence to the table to back up what he says, and the mis treatment of minorities including, but not restricted to Jews, (Gays, Atheists, other Christians) by Christians is not explained by what he says. A last thought, the writers of most of the Hebrew Bible did not call themselves Jews, they were Hebrews, or Israelites. RD is discussing their concept of God, not the God that modern branches of Judaism beleve in. Therefore RD can in no way be accused of anti-semitism. The Rabbi should rethink and apologise.

...does this Rabbi's "bible" advocate Israel's theft of land from the Palestinians and the, sometimes, violent oppression of that people? Does this Rabbi not understand that for too long the West has been obliged to support this small but aggressive nation against what should be the West's better judgement, simply to satisfy the "Jewish Lobby" in the USA - how many more Middle East wars do we have to fight simply to keep these people in existence?

To argue the semantics of Old v New Testament is to completely miss the point, especially when we are about to stand by and wait for the fall out when Netanyahu et al launches a pre-emptive strike against Iran - oil prices will rocket, real hardship will be suffered - and for what? The sooner Rabbi Sachs starts to examine the behaviour of today's Israelites with regard to that country's immediate neighbours, the sooner we all might become safer on our own streets in the West - we have wilfully invited retaliatory violence (aka "terrorism") onto our streets due to being seen to be backing this greedy and violent entity in the Arab heartland.

There is a little-publicised element in Israeli society that advocates a just and peaceful settlement with the Palestinians - it seems that they are being kept very much in the background in Israel - these "Jews" are very brave and enlightened people - I would not think for one moment that they care one way or another what either Richard Dawkins or Rabbi Sachs think or say to each other.

It may have escaped your notice, but the 'charlatan' you refer to grew up in a society where he was surrounded by christians and where the judaeo christian bible was the one being rammed down everyone's throat.

14 Sept. At the bottom of this page there is a link to Fortean Times ;there go to Features;go to The Science Delusion.This is an interview with scientist Rupert Sheldrake on his book ;a counter- attack on scientific materialism.The title was chosen by the publisher as a take on The God Delusion by Dawkins.(It is not called that elsewhere as Dawkins is not that famous.)


There are Christian atheists and Jewish atheists??? From the chief Rabbi??? Since when was the God in the Tanakh/Old Testament Jewish? How exactly does he come to the conclusion that God is a member of ANY human religion? What is this man smoking??
And in fairness, I'd have to agree (this time) with Dawkins, God was rather irate back then - 'bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser" etc. etc. seems pretty apt regardless of whether you are a Jew, Christian or Atheist (or anything else for that matter). The Rabbi should rethink and apologise.

Message to Lord Sacks: Get over it. Get over yourself.

who gave them the land

In The God Delusion, Dawkins describes God as "jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully

Sounds exactly what I imagine Satan saying to turn the angels against their creator. Funny, if true God would have just wiped them all out. But besides that. What a bunch of ignorant buffoons that think they are comprehending the Bible as a whole . A child can and does do better.

Anti Semetic? This ranks with the crazy Yanks who were reading all kinds of significance to the Teletubbies. It also undermines protest at genuine anti Semetism

Except that it WASN'T being rammed down everyone's throat. The fact that the dominant culture was shaped by Judeo-Christian thinking doesn't mean that it was being forced on anyone. If it were, you wouldn't be able to make that statement.

It does mean that Dawkins, a supremely sloppy philosopher in my opinion, is rejecting the Judeo-Christian God - i.e. he is a Christian Atheist or a Jewish Atheist by all important criteria.

First off, Dawkins has abandoned all pretense of being a scientist; he no longer attempts to butress his arguments with empirical evidence. He is neither a Religious Scholar, nor a Historian, nor a Sociologist, so he is speaking about things he has not done the requisite study necessary to be taken serious by scholars. He knows this, which is why the craven coward ducks real religious scholars like William Lane Craig in favor of old preachers who are not skilled at debate. Dawkins knows that debating a genuine scholar of religion would show his ignorance; his knowledge of Christian theology would get him laughed out of most 2nd grade Sunday Schools.

And all of that is BEFORE we read the B**slap of Dawkins in Vox Day's "The Irrational Atheist". After what Day does with Dawkins philosophical foundations, calling Dawkins a "Charlatan"... is being polite.

Tom Bryant
BA, Philosophy - Clemson Univ.
MA, Religious Studies - Univ. of South Florida

Dawkins does not believe God is omniscient (all knowing). All of his arguements spring from this belief. Show him he is wrong, and you invalidate everything he said about God.

" He no longer attempts to butress his arguments with empirical evidence. "
In saying that, presumably you are now, bizarrely claiming that the existence of God can or even has been proven by empirical evidence, but if so, that would be something new and exciting, there would be news reports with headlines reading "God Exists". Rather than that kind of line being left to the peddlars of religion. They aren't there though, because the best argument that believers can come up with is that no one has proven that God doesn't exist, seemingly ignorant of the fact that they don't have to. Incredible claims need incredible evidence to bolster them, there never has been, nor is there now, so much as a scintilla of evidence to support the idea of the existence of a god at all, never mind one that in any way could be linked to the Middle Eastern god of the three major Abrahamic religions.

“In saying that, presumably you are now, bizarrely claiming that the existence of God can or even has been proven by empirical evidence,…”

Yes, this is EXACTLY what I am saying. Using common historiographic methods we can examine the events of the Bible, the same way we would do for any other work of ancient history. (And none of this “extraordinary events” tripe; that is a load of hogwash. It violates Bayes’ Theorem, which Oxford science professor Richard Swinburne famously used to calculate that there was a 97% chance that Jesus rose from the grave. Look it up.) From that evidence we can draw the most likely conclusions and interpretations of said evidence –again, just the same as we do for every other event that occurs within space and time.

The only real question is the historical accuracy of the Bible. While there ARE places where the historical record is silent, there has NEVER been a postitive archeological find that has disputed so much as a single word in the Old and New Testament, and in fact the Gospel of Luke corrects Julius Caesar, Tacitus, and Josephus – all considered fine examples of ancient historians. This means the Bible is accurate history, according to best examination methods of modern scholarship.

And while we cannot give a full defense of the Resurrection of Jesus on a blog thread (N.T. Wright’s defense took three volumes and over 2000 pages), we CAN safely say that the Resurrection of Jesus is an established historical event. And while one CAN interpret the Resurrection occurred for a reason other than the one the authors of the Gospels gave, to do so is to, once again, ignore the evidence.

Add to this the fact the word translated most often as “faith”in the New Testament is “pistis” – a word borrowed from the technical language of Greek rhetoric and defined by Aristotle as meaning “trust based on evidence”,and any reasonable mind would conclude that there is far more than a “scintilla”of evidence for God, and that He is the God of Israel by name.

However, don't look for this to make the headlines. Atheist Richard Carrier once said that if God wanted to offer proof of His existance He would have wrote "Jesus is Lord" in big block letters on the surface of the moon. An anonymous Christian replied, "No, because some would still not believe because He didn't write it in cursive." "incredible evidence" be, well, you know.....

Tom Bryant
BA, Philosophy - Clemson Univ.
MA, Religious Studies - Univ. of South Florida

Swinburne's percentage chance of the resurrection happening is well known nonsense. Start off with ludicrous guesses at base probabilities and you can use real math to give a high percentage chance of a purple cat living in your hair unnoticed for 25 years.
The bible itself often has real place names and sometimes there are events that link to genuine real events. Other times, it is filled with nonsense times that don't match up to any known or possible historical events as you must know.
If you really have degrees Mr Bryant, then you are actively damaging the reputations, if they have any, of the awarding institutions with bilge like this.

You think this violence was done in the name of skeptical inquiry? Bloviating nitwit.

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