Chief Rabbi slams Dawkins for using 'anti-Semitic stereotype'
Richard Dawkins insists his description of God as a 'bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser' was intended as a joke
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." ·