Dawkins and Sacks in ‘anti-semitic’ row

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Professor Richard Dawkins has rejected a charge from the Chief Rabbi that his description of the “Old Testament God” is “profoundly anti-semitic”.


The passage in Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion, reflects a centuries-old anti-Jewish attitude, Chief Rabbi Sacks said.

Prof Dawkins dismissed the allegation as “ridiculous”.

The exchange took place at the BBC’s RE:Think festival in Salford during a debate about science and religion.

The dispute began with Prof Dawkins’ claim that a controversial passage from his 2006 book was intended to be “humorous”.

“The beginning of chapter two, which says the God of the Old Testament is the most unpleasant character in all fiction, that’s a joke,” he said in the early stages of the debate.

Later Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said that Dawkins had misunderstood sections of the Hebrew Bible, which are also part of the Christian Old Testament, because he was a “Christian atheist” rather than a “Jewish atheist”.

It meant that Dawkins read the Old Testament in an “adversarial way,” he said, something that was “Christian” because the faith’s New Testament was believed to have “gone one better”.

“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.”

The text was read out loud by Lord Sacks at the debate.

It described “the God of the Old Testament” as a “vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser” as well as “misogynist”, “homophobic”, “racist”, “pestilential” and “infanticidal”.

“How you can call that anti-semitic, I don’t even begin to understand. It’s anti-God,” said Prof Dawkins.

Written By: Matt Bardo – BBC
continue to source article at bbc.co.uk

69 COMMENTS

  1. As someone who has had to deal with real antisemitism growing up (including being regularly attacked by a group of skinheads and having swastikas and “die Jew” written on my locker during my high school years), it is deeply offensive to me when the term is used as a “trump card” in a debate where it is clearly not warranted.

  2. The Chief Rabbi resorts to playing the anti-Semitic card on various issues. Here he is thundering about the attack on Jews by the German court decision against ritual circumcision. He takes the opportunity to slip in the charge that holding Israel to account for violations of human rights is anti-Semitic. An odd cove.

    “Since Hiroshima and the Holocaust, science no longer holds its pristine place as the highest moral authority. Instead, that role is taken by human rights. It follows that any assault on Jewish life — on Jews or Judaism or the Jewish state — must be cast in the language of human rights. Hence the by-now routine accusation that Israel has committed the five cardinal sins against human rights: racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, attempted genocide and crimes against humanity.”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

  3. “How do you decide which bits [of scripture] are symbolic and which bits are not?” asked Prof Dawkins at one point during the discussion.
    “Very simple,” replied the Chief Rabbi.
    “The rabbis in the 10th century laid down the following principle: if a biblical narrative is incompatible with established scientific fact, it is not to be read literally.”

    So, that’s pretty much the whole bible then, up to and including the death and resurrection (yes, I know Jews don’t include the NT but it’s such a good rule it should be used as widely as possible).

  4. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Rabbi Sacks has consistently demonstrated himself excellently as a blatantly, manipulative liar. It’s a fundamental part of the profession (i.e. religious leaders) to make stuff up OUT OF THE BLUE.

  5. I love how the Chief Rabbi doesn’t actually dispute the arguments and plays the anti-Semite card instead, because everything Dawkins said is indisputably true:

    vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser – Genocide of the Amalekites (Numbers 25, 31)

    misogynist – Women should be stoned to death for premarital sex (Deuteronomy 22:20), be stoned to death for not screaming during rape (Deuteronomy 22:23-24) or be wedded to her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), and undergo intense pains during childbirth as punishment for Eve eating an apple offered by a talking snake (Genesis 3:16)

    homophobic – Kill gays (Leviticus 20:13)

    racist – Curse of Ham (Genesis 9:20-27), the wonderful underpinning of slavery 1800 years later and apartheid even after that

    pestilential – “I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.” -Amos 4:10

    infanticidal – “Happy shall he be, that takes and dashes your little ones against the stones.” -Psalm 137:9

    Anti-Semitism is real. It’s not because people take god to task.

  6. Playing the Racist card. Given how far off the mark it is, it is not a good reflection on Sacks. 
    His wishy-washy program Science vs Religion was equally frustrating. Pure snake-oil salesmanship.

  7. @rdfrs-02895c54ddbf3d1d5b3b39dc18e30129:disqus , I agree. The Bible outright lends itself to interpretations that encourage human rights abuses. TaylorX04 created an excellent exposé on how the Old Testament establishes an ethnic hierarchy: 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
    Dawkins is telling it like it is, and nowhere in his excoriation of Yahweh does he say a thing against the Jewish race (which is necessary for one to be an anti-Semite).

  8. I haven’t seen  the whole debate and so I don’t know whether Sacks tried to explain why his God is not the odious character Dawkins describes. But if his defense is “He is not horrid and saying otherwise is Anti-semitic”, then maybe Dawkins should add him to the list of people not worth debating with, as rational debate is clearly beyond him.
    And yes Rabbi, while the N.T is choc-full of barking bits, it is an improvement on the O.T. For instance, Jesus saying that the sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath, is a definite improvement on stoning people for gathering firewood on a Saturday. Does believing this mean that I’m Anti-semitic? 

  9. 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.

  10. This article is by Matt Bardo. What, no Pigott?

    Dawkins had misunderstood sections of the Hebrew Bible, which are also part of the Christian Old Testament, because he was a “Christian atheist” rather than a “Jewish atheist”.

    Either you disbelieve all religious claims or all but one of them; in the former case you’re an atheist, in the latter case you follow a specific religion, and the former case differs from the latter in that the former is not amenable to subdivision. An atheist may have greater experience of one religion than others, which it is may vary among atheists, and atheists may be ex-members of different religions, but their positions are the same. If we take Sacks’s logic seriously, all the media has to do to demonise every atheist on Earth is to look up which religion they’re used to, trot out a leader in some other religion of accusing them of especial opposition to their own one (?), and get each and every atheist labelled as a bigot. But atheists are the only ones who regard all religious doctrines on an equal footing; and, since this “logic” is all about doctrines and not religions’ individual followers, it cannot work to establish the conclusions it seeks to. It’s just a lazy excuse for people like Sacks to manipulate the existence of anti-Semites as a tool to get out of jail free in every debate.

    I was not concerned that Richard was an anti-semitic at all

    The noun is anti-Semite. Did Sacks or Bardo make this error? If Sacks did, Bardo should have used [sic] to emphasise it. Sacks is too familiar with anti-Semitism for me not to blame this on Bardo.

    he was using an anti-semitic stereotype

    Whether individuals are real or fictional, you can only stereotype multiple individuals, not a single one such as the Jewish god.

    It really terrifies me to see the power of these stereotypes persisting into atheism

    This is coming from the guy who says everyone has a unique religious label, even if they’re an atheist.

    But the debate also showed areas of agreement.

    I wish the next part discussed had shown an example.

    “How do you decide which bits [of scripture] are symbolic and which bits are not?” asked Prof Dawkins at one point during the discussion. “Very simple,” replied the Chief Rabbi. “The rabbis in the 10th century laid down the following principle: if a biblical narrative is incompatible with established scientific fact, it is not to be read literally.”

    I told you it didn’t provide an example of Dawkins agreeing with Sacks! Where does Dawkins say that’s an OK method? It isn’t. It doesn’t address religious doctrines’ contradictions of science; it just reduces how far religious people are misled by them. But these contradictions prove the doctrines at least partially wrong; why accept the rest, which remember are taken on faith, i.e. aren’t supported by evidence and are only better than others for not technically being refuted yet? The criterion of science is your ideas must be in principle falsifiable but as yet overwhelmingly corroborated in many stringent tests; is this what we see here? The other problem is if you say science disproves A but so far not B so “we know” B is literal, that could change; indeed, every such A was once such a B. So the history of this principle is of misdiagnosing As as Bs in every case where we can prove whether it’s an A or B. The success rate is 0 %.

    This kind of “division of labour” between science and religion has prevailed for much of human history according to Dixon. “There have been these flash points which look like and, to some extent, are a clash between scientific individuals and religious institutions,” he said. “I suppose you might say [these] are exceptional moments when that truce breaks down,” he said.

    What an emphasis; things are fine except where they aren’t, therefore they’re fine. Do you realise in science a single disagreement proves you can’t both be right? (That’s because logic also says so.) And if you’re going to call something compatible with science, that means science’s rules for when things are compatible have to agree with you. And if you complain with that, saying why is science rather than the other thing laying the ground rules, you must admit it can only make a difference which is used if they’re at loggerheads in the first place. This “division of labour” simply means that religion and science only both make claims about a few things. Too bad religion is wrong and science is right each and every such time.

    What causes the row between science and religion to flare up is often reflective of big changes in intellectual history

    Yes, and religion is always on the wrong side of it.

    Alexander said divisions between religion and science are now being broken down among
    academics

    Academics who know anything about science have gone from universally religious to at most half-religious and, in the upper echelons of research success, almost entirely non-religious in about 200 years. You think the establishment of the occasional Templeton-funded sci-&-rel-titled chair in the last few years is proof the trend is reversing?

    He argued this change was underpinned by a sense science does not “have all the answers”. “If you pick up a daily newspaper and you ask the question on any page of the paper: ‘What has science really got to do with this story or that story?’ The answer most of the time is pretty much nothing,” he said.

    Firstly, unless religion has some of the answers, it doesn’t matter how few science has; until religion is proven to have answers, by definition it contributes nothing. Secondly, let’s look at a few story types. A politician makes a promise or professes a view; a celebrity has a scandal or agrees to be in a production; a quantifiable thing goes up or down (be it economic, ecological, in the polls or whatever); some religious people do a thing which may or may not be nice; and some scientists do or plan a cool experiment. Science has to do with which of these? You could ask the same question about history. Science and history aren’t just the tasks involved in expanding their own knowledge bases; they’re concerned with everything about which they try to answer questions, and ultimately that’s everything. All of these are historical events which obey physical laws, are in principle scientifically explicable, are certainly amenable to having the facts about them scientifically collected, and are in practice already scientifically explained to various degrees. Which of these stories is to do with religion? In terms of provably providing insight into what’s happening, none of them, not even the one about religious people doing stuff. And you thought the only science story was the experiment!

  11. Has this rabbi ever read the old Testament cover to cover?  All Dawkins did was a book summary. He said nothing about Jehovah that was not in the OT.  What else can you say about a fictitious character?

    If want you a quick summary of the evidence, read my bible study guide that points you to some of the crazier parts of the bible.  Go to my website/religion/biblestudy If anything, Dawkins’ characterisation of Jehovah was overly polite.

    Further there is a huge distinction between disliking an imaginary oppressor and disliking its victims.

    Our rabbi is beginning so sound like those Israelis who claim that those who disagree that Israel should eliminate Palestinians and nuke Iranians must be anti-semitic.

    The rabbi is trying to claim any comment disrespectful or incredulous about Jehovah is an insult to all Jews. This sort of thinking is a variant on the young American male who insists if you like him, you must also like his sports team above all others, and believe the brand of car he drives is superior to all others.

  12. Ah, the delights of religion… Hitch, we need you; Richard’s scientific persona is tremendous but how I wish his ‘bulldog’ was here to rip the bejesus out of the victim-playing Rabbi!

  13. The Chief Rabbi telephoned me yesterday and I now understand a little better where is coming from. When I said “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction” I could just has happily have said “The God of the Bible”. In Lord Sachs’ ears, however,  the one word that stood out was “Old”. He thought I meant the God of the Old Testament AS OPPOSED TO the God of the New Testament. That sounded anti-Semitic to him, because there has been a centuries-long tradition of Christian apologists attacking the Old Testament God as COMPARED with the New Testament God. I was able to reassure the Chief Rabbi that, in my opinion, the God of the New Testament was in some respects even worse, and I adduced the obscene idea that God deliberately had his son (alias himself) tortured and executed as a scapegoat for our sins. This cheered him up greatly.

    The relevant part of The God Delusion, where I deal with the God of the New Testament is this:

    So far, so vindictive: par for the Old Testament course. New Testament theology adds a new injustice, topped off by a new sadomasochism whose viciousness even the Old Testament barely exceeds. It is, when you think about it, remarkable that a religion should adopt an instrument of torture and execution as its sacred symbol, often worn around the neck. Lenny Bruce rightly quipped that ‘If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.’ But the theology and punishment-theory behind it is even worse. The sin of Adam and Eve is thought to have passed down the male line – transmitted in the semen according to Augustine. What kind of ethical philosophy is it that condemns every child, even before it is born, to inherit the sin of a remote ancestor? Augustine, by the way, who rightly regarded himself as something of a personal authority on sin, was responsible for coining the phrase ‘original sin’. Before him it was known as ‘ancestral sin’. Augustine’s pronouncements and debates epitomize, for me, the unhealthy preoccupation of early Christian theologians with sin. They could have devoted their pages and their sermons to extolling the sky splashed with stars, or mountains and green forests, seas and dawn choruses. These are occasionally mentioned, but the Christian focus is overwhelmingly on sin sin sin sin sin sin sin. What a nasty little preoccupation to have dominating your life. Sam Harris is magnificently scathing in his Letter to a Christian Nation: ‘Your principal concern appears to be that the Creator of the universe will take offense at something people do while naked. This prudery of yours contributes daily to the surplus of human misery.’
    But now, the sado-masochism. God incarnated himself as a man, Jesus, in order that he should be tortured and executed in atonement for the hereditary sin of Adam. Ever since Paul expounded this repellent doctrine, Jesus has been worshipped as the redeemer of all our sins. Not just the past sin of Adam: future sins as well, whether future people decided to commit them or not!
    As another aside, it has occurred to various people, including Robert Graves in his epic novel King Jesus, that poor Judas Iscariot has received a bad deal from history, given that his ‘betrayal’ was a necessary part of the cosmic plan. The same could be said of Jesus’ alleged murderers. If Jesus wanted to be betrayed and then murdered, in order that he could redeem us all, isn’t it rather unfair of those who consider themselves redeemed to take it out on Judas and on Jews down the ages?

  14. Thanks for the clarification.  It always astounds me that people at his level cannot articulate ideas clearly at such times.  I suppose any intelligent theologian has to walk a tight rope of self deception and carefully choose his words should he let slip how little of the dogma they preach they actually believe.

  15.  It is not easy to argue religion with a Jew, even the (supposedly) most erudite. Whenever their arguments begin to slip, they always have recourse to the bloody shirt, don’t they? They know that the word, or even the mere suggestion by innuendo of “holocaust” will bring millions of people suddenly to their side and make it appear that they have ‘won’.

     It’s just as bad in Middle Eastern politics. If I had a shekel for every time the holocaust comes up in discussions of  Palestine, I’d be rich as Bill Gates. At this point, the word ‘anti-semitic’ elicits in me more revulsion for the accuser than for the accused.

  16. I’m disgusted by the the blatantly opportunistic and underhand tactics employed by Rabbi Sacks over the last week or so. First we see him ambush Professor Dawkins in his interview claiming that “new ground” has been found between science and religion, that compromises have been made on both sides and that he hopes Richard had been able to “take away” something from the experience, when it was clear that Mr Sacks was not at all interested in taking away something himself or any kind of compromise, what he wanted was science to join HIS club and repeat how the Bible shouldn’t be taken at all literally except when it should. The whole interview looked to me more like a defeated leader come to beg terms for his people. Then, a predictably cynical and calculated very next day, we get a very personal and public attack on the person that on HIS OWN PROGRAMME he had claimed to have found a new respect for. The highly dramatized and rehearsed tone of his voice, more an unsolicited sermon, ( was that him on those no win no fee adverts? ) was the first clue to Mr. Sacks’ odious nature but the ill-conceived and clumsy attempt at manipulating the viewer through “factual programming” was as transparent as the media whoring he courts with cheap insults and petty accusations. Mr Sacks does himself tremendous damage by playing perfectly to the stereotype of a manipulative, point scoring, logic twisting, making it up as they go along Rabbi/Priest/sex offender etc. He fancies himself as some kind of master tactician in the war against atheism, unfortunately for him and those he fights for he is as incompetent as he is credulous. Beware Rabbi’s with outstretched hands, they’ll only try and pull you down into the mud with them.

  17. This shows that Jonathon Sacks is no different to any  other religious person who you debate, namely if they feel the debate is not going their way or they need to score points they then bring up as in this occasion ludicrous accusations of anti-semitism.  This is envariably the way of people such as Sacks who cannot allow anybody to have a view different to theirs.

  18. ” That cheered him up”   Hahahah, very naughty! Also, nice photo showing the rabid one in full sanctimonious lecturing pose. Is it any wonder that Richard tires of ‘debating’ these close-minded types?
    Ooops, sorry- should not assume so.

  19. I’m not surprised you missed that distinction, Richard. I suspect most of us would have done so. However, arguing about which god is worst is an indulgence, much like arguing which side was best for the deckchairs on the Titanic, given that all gods are simply a figment of the imagination.

    What is much more relevant is the behaviour exhibited by those who do believe, which varies from the self-righteous indignation of the Chief Rabbi to the murderous sensibilities of the Islamic. Both have been on inglorious show this week.

  20. Anti Semitic? If you want to employ these out moded and now more or less meaningless human charactorizing terms, then be conscious of the fact that Arabs as well as Jews are Semitic.

    This smacks to me of Anti Humanism, which I think of a last ditch, desperate stand; so perhaps the rationalist argument is having some effect.

    Oh! What was that? A pig just flew by!

      

  21. Just another pathetic person who has been programmed to a belief in hocus pocus and is now addicted to that placebo drug. Richard Dawkins is amazing in not being worn down by these pathetic people, how he manages to continue conversing with such people is superb.

  22. Clearly a desperation move by the Rabbi…  The next thing you know, he’ll be casting antisemitic labels to negotiate a chair at the table of reason…  I for one ignore the religious in religion, thus making them irrelevant in authority…   However, I will respect their human rights to free speech as ugly and offensive as it may be….  I am not their enemy, reality is and when you clash with reality, you will loose…

    Now, I’ll just go on my merry way….

    Best regards, 

  23. Had Prof. D. turned up to the debate carrying Peter Griffin’s (Family Guy: if you’ve never seen it you haven’t lived) scareJew then the Rabbi might have had a point.
    Also, has everybody forgotten that the God of the O.T. passage in question wasn’t Richard’s own but was quoting somebody else? I forget who, and I’ve lent my copy of T.G.D. to a friend so can’t look it up at present.

  24. I’m a little disappointed with RD TBH. He pushed Sacks on his lack of commitment regarding the literal truth of the Old Testament, but what about his views on circumcision? Can we be friends now? 

    It would have been interesting to see him wiggle away from it, possibly claiming RD is a lost cause and not a ‘true scientist’ like the other good boys. I like Jim Al Khalili, but he is no interested in picking a fight.

    I know it was off subject, but that would have been entertaining. Could be the magic of editing took it away, but it looks more like RD was hoodwinked by the flow of crocodile tears there. Or was that also not a true reflection of the conversation? He is a slippery and manipulative one, albeit not very subtle.

    Anyway, that 30 mins of emotional public appeal was disappointing and not very enlightening, more like PR and ego-stroking. If you title your program Science vs Religion (even putting a festive tone to it), you’d better mean it. You know, you could make a good one hour program about that, and it’s not gonna be all pretty.

  25. ” I was able to reassure the Chief Rabbi that, in my opinion, the God of the New Testament was in some respects even worse, and I adduced the obscene idea that God deliberately had his son (alias himself) tortured and executed as a scapegoat for our sins. This cheered him up greatly.”

    Erm, could that not be considered “antichristian” of him?

  26. I guess…but it loses any potency when one is an equal opportunities anti-theist, or should that be anti-deist? Like me. I’m as anti-Semite, as I’m anti-Christian, anti-Sikh, anti-Hindu, anti-Mithran,  anti-Scientologian, etc., etc.,…all their gods are shits, or at least they would be if there was any substance to the bollocks.

    It’s hard to be classed as bigoted if one doesn’t hold any particular god with any esteem over any other, RD decries all gods equally when pointing out the inherent problems with the religious woo wooists and the gods they follow, like he does for the fantastical attributes of the Toothfairy, Leprechauns, Pink Unicorns and even the FSM. Nonsense will always be nonsense.

  27. Rabbi Sacks’ suggestions are anti Christian. His complaint that the Christian faith is merely an attempt to “go one better” undermines the entire… oh man, I almost got sucked into this stupidity.

  28. Ignorant Amos, the T-shirt does indeed contain the ‘most famous quote’ from TGD, but I’m certain that Richard credits the originator of the quote in the book. Now I think about it, Richard also says in the same chapter that although the quote isn’t his own, he’s sure that it would be attributed to him. Maybe Richard – or anybody with TGD to hand – could please confirm?

    Glad you like the scareJew though; I laughed ’till the tears flowed.

  29. If you start labelling everything you find abusive or offensive as being anti-Semitic, then it won’t be too long before you have reduced the label to be meaningless.  Anti-Semitic carries a strong sense of wrong with it.  Once you call the factual reporting of the behaviour of the old testament god as anti-Semitic, you’re on your way.

    I wonder if Lord Sacks realises this – he is actually weakening the word and doing his own community a disservice.

  30. 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.

  31. …The hebrew bible, or the old testament if you will is not a person, it does not have a race.  It is a collection of stories, ideas, poems, and songs none of which are capable of being jewish, or semitic if you will.  If we can’t criticize those things without not only criticizing the persons who wrote them, but their race as well then any and all criticism of anything anyone has ever written is racist.
    It’s truly sad when anti-semites become not whom hates jews, but whom jews hate.  >_<

  32. Sadly,  Rabbi Sacks in his reading of Richard’s book TOTALLY and UTTERLY fails to distinguish between phraseology constituting an antisemitic line of thought and phraseology  constituting a take on literal aspects of how Yaweh is described.  He then rambles on to say that he’s opposed to taking a fundamentalist, literal approach, and that he’s no doubt just as concerned with the Fundamentalist take on Old Testament verse as Richard is.  

    Richard, you’re just too nice a guy!!!!!  Why let him hide in the smoke and mirrors of the contention that all O.T. contents should even need to have to be taken FIGURATIVELY anymore, much less LITERALLY???

    Giving literal AND figurative interpretations of figurative takes on Old Testament phraseology is what has kept the entire Rabbinate in paying careers since probably the 4th Century. 

    Does mankind need literal and figurative interpretations on figurative takes of verses in Snow White? Cinderella maybe?

    I consider myself  culturally Jewish, yet Atheistically Secular.

    And Richard, from my perspective, you had absolutely NOTHING to apologize for; no reasonable person,
    not even a Jewish theistic one, like Rabbi Sachs could give that passage a fair reading and come to
    the conclusion he did.

    I find Rabbi Sacks guilty of shameful, shameful, positional  grandstanding in the first degree.

    And what’s worse  is that I believe it’s “knowing grandstanding”,—- the most disingenuous kind.

    Richard, you’re quite correct in your observation that “The Emperor has no clothes”.——–The Rabbi just
    likes to knowingly pretend that the Emperor is still at least wearing a thong, or perhaps a string bikini.

    After all, it keeps him in a job, doesn’t it?????

       

      

  33. There is a real problem with accurate use of the term anti-Semitism.

    1)  People believe that if the individual doesn’t personally hate Jews, then whatever they say could not possibly be anti-Semitic in nature
    2)  Anti-Semitism only involves preaching hate or violence against all Jews personally

    This perception is incorrect.

    There are many aspects of anti-Semitism, including lies about Judaism, which led to Christian Jew hatred, demonization and dehumanization of the Jews by Europeans for 2,000 years, and severe persecution of the Jews in Europe.  A foundational piece of anti-Semitism is the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament, precisely the interpretation provided by Richard Dawkins, precisely as Rabbi Sachs said.

  34. You are misunderstanding the point, and assume too much about RD without warrant. Have you even read the God Delusion or chapter 2 to be completely convinced that it indeed can easily be misconstrued directly as such i.e. anti-Semitic? You have to be a moron or brainwashed or PARANOID SCHIZOPHRENIC to interpret it in such a skewed manner. Moreover, why should I take the word of an apologist who can’t even spell Rabbi Sacks’s last name correctly.

  35. Well that isn’t remotely close to the point Mr Sacks appeared to be trying to make, and I suppose the Jewish version of the O.T. is all sweetness and light with hardly any infant mutilation, misogyny, slavery and genocide etc. at all, right?
    Did Mr Sacks really believe Mr. Dawkins, merely by mentioning the words “old testament” which is a large chunk of the Christian Bible too don’t forget, was aiming the comment specifically towards the Jewish people in a strident and shrill bout of unbridled anti-Semitism, or was he just looking for absolutely any excuse to claim some perceived insult trying to cultivate sympathy and justify his lifelong ambition to sulk until everyone agrees with him? I dread to think that a small portion of the Jewish community possibly look to Mr. Sacks for guidance and an example on how to live morally and with integrity, they have been tragically short changed.

  36.  @rdfrs-4b4ac7aec1a662085c6bee4ef4277c12:disqus : A foundational piece of anti-Semitism is the Christian interpretation of
    the Old Testament, precisely the interpretation provided by Richard
    Dawkins, precisely as Rabbi Sachs said.

    Bullshit Mike. RD said it like it is about the KJV Old Testaments description of the deity. Its got fuck all to do with anti-Semitism and everything to do with criticising a piece of work on its merits. You interpretation of anti-Semitism would make any critic of any scripture, or indeed any written work, some sort of bigot.

    The old testament does describe god ordering massacres, requiring children to be killed, suppressing women and sending pestilence against people. That god, as described, is a nasty character. If the Rev. says he doesn’t ascribe to the character as given, is not a literalist, well good for him. His interpretation is not what is being criticised in the passage of The God Delusion so he actually has no grounds for protest.

  37. Ernest and EvolutionaryThrowback,

    You are both proving my point.  This has absolutely nothing to do with any charge that Richard Dawkins hates Jews, or even hates Judaism more than other religions.  This has only to do with the accuracy of Rabbi Sacks’ claim (thank you for correcting my spelling) that the view of the Old Testament deity that Richard Dawkins propagates was developed by early Christians with anti-Semitic intent by those who developed it.  Richard Dawkins probably does not even know this, and he may not know how Jews understand the Old Testament’s moral guidance (hint: they do not view it as prescribing cruel and unusual punishment–case in point–the Talmud emphasizes that only one person in the country every 70 years committed a crime severe enough to warrant capital punishment).  So if Richard Dawkins viewed the Old Testament deity as being vengeful, that’s not how his followers carried out his commands, at least not for around 2,700 years or so.

  38. Thank you, DanDare.

    I believe that you and Mr. Dawkins take the Old Testament deity out of context.

    For example, would it not be ameliorating to point out that the same deity did not order general indiscriminate murder, and that it was intended as punishment, something that every system of law has always had?  Would it not be ameliorating, as well, that the same deity ordered followers to not commit murder and that all humans are created in that deity’s image?

    My point is, you can take any God out of the analysis.  The Old Testament can be viewed foremost not as theology, but as story of how the Israelites came to conquer Canaan (the same way every tribe every conquered any territory–brutally), and how they should govern themselves afterward (with an attempt to make equal treatment under the law, moral conduct, and centrality of the family structure as the key ways to build a stable and productive society).

    You can criticize this all you like, but it doesn’t really make the Israelite system worse than competing secular systems.

    By means of comparison, the Americans conquered the United States at the expense of Native Americans quite brutally. However, they then governed the country by a pretty good set of laws and ideas.

  39. Saganic Rites:  Ignorant Amos is correct, the RD quotation from TGD does not have any attribution, but it is followed in the same paragraph by other quotes, in a similar vein, by Randolph Churchill and Thomas Jefferson.

  40.  No it would not ameliorate and yes you can take god out of the analysis, and if you do, then say hello to North Korea where cruel and unusual punishments for infractions of absurd and bizarre laws written by entirely mortal men claiming divinity abound. And did the Israelites REALLY do all the conquering that’s claimed? Wasn’t it Israeli archeologists who ventured into the desert to look for evidence of the tribe of Abraham and found precisely zip, nothing, not a sausage? So if we can find evidence of humans living in communities hundreds of thousands of years ago but we can’t find a shred of evidence for the Jewish people crossing the desert for forty years… what, we’re just supposed to take your word for it as impartial as that would be? You admit that the Israelite system is no worse than any other system which demonstrates just how man-made and un-divinely inspired your system is, shouldn’t a system that is claimed to come from the inerrant word of god be substantially and obviously better than the rest? As far as the anti-Semitism of the early Christians re-writing the O.T. to suit themselves, I can very easily believe that, but to expect the general population to know this and claim anti-Semitism when it it not faithfully observed is exactly the kind of petty, point scoring childish attitude that we have come expect from the irrational quarter.

  41. Again, you assume too much. What point did I miss exactly? If this discussion were exclusively about Jews vs ‘Christian atheism’ I’d be more generous. It is certainly the case that Christians did many times try to malign Jews by forwarding skewed interpretations of Jewish actual beliefs and practices. That important bit of history, which may have escaped some people, still does not excuse the Rabbi’s cheap attempt at making it appear as if RD were especially “prejudiced” against the OT (i.e. Jews and their “Jewish God”).

    The only thing that is out of context is the way you assumed the paragraph read by Sacks was in any way limited to that context.

  42. Quite right. Furthermore, there is a growing academic hypothesis with some evidence, that the whole Exodus yarn could be an elaborate cover-up job to save the embarrassment that an early group of humans, call them Canaanites if you will, in the Levant, turned on one another over a socio-economic class dispute, the lower class rebelling and turning on the upper class, creating a schism and the group called the Israelites was born out of this. 

     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v… have a read of….”Biblical peoples and ethnicity: an archaeological study of Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and early Israel, 1300-1100 BCE”.

    Tell me MikeP, why do the followers of Judaism celebrate ‘Passover’ again?

     Why do Jewish infants under go the assault of actual bodily harm that is the ‘bris milôh’? 

    14 And the uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken My covenant.

     

    Can you clear up that interpretation for me please?

  43. The rabbis in the 10th century laid down the following principle: if a
    biblical narrative is incompatible with established scientific fact, it
    is not to be read literally.

    Interesting. How much of the Bible really is compatible with established scientific fact? Richard tells Kurt Wise’s story in The God Delusion. Wise took a Bible and literally cut out the verses that conflict with the scientific world view. Guess how much was left of his Bible.

    By the way, the “God of the Old Testament” quote is indeed Richard’s. He quotes Gore Vidal in the same chapter (“The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism”). Careless readers often attribute Gore Vidal’s quote to Richard (See the links below)
    http://www.believers-dilemma.o
    http://www.philosophynews.com/

  44. Having read all the comments, and seen the clip, IMO  the good rabbi is playing to the gallery. And the card he plays is the “victim” card. For such a “sophisticated theologian” to have to play such a card reeks of dishonesty, despite his call to Richard afterwards. “Oh I thought you meant this, when you really meant that” is no excuse for abject ignorance of TGD, or, more likely,  plain bloody lying.

    I mean, I don’t have to be sophisticated to realise that flooding the world to kill pretty much everything in it, is an evil deed! Now I don’t give a shit whether Noah’s flood was actual or allegorical, the fact that a person such as Rabbi Sacks can accuse R ichard of being anti-semitic is an insult to my intelligence.  I’m afraid Rabbi Sacks has been classified, by me, as just yet another religious opportunist.

    A flea by any other name would bite as viciously!

  45. anyone who plays that card needs a slap.
    to call someone anti-semitic with the emotional baggage such a term carries is at best hubris borne of ignorance, at worst, and when i say worst, i mean coming from a chief rabbi, it’s an admission of utter moral bankrupcy.

    how dare anyone make use of that word which relates to a movement that supported the mistreatment, torture and genocide of people who through nothing more than accident of birth, were jews? let alone a rabbi who one would assume must know people actually affected by anti-semitsism. Would he stand in front of a survivor of nazi europe and talk of Richards comments in these terms? is it up there among other things we associate with the term?

  46. That is the point I would have made. Even the use of the term ‘Old’ is built upon the notion that the covenant (testament) between God and the Jews  it has been superseded by the ‘New’  covenant 
    (testament) in Jesus Christ. It is a form of anti Judaism that arose when Christianity began to see it self as separate from post second Temple Judaism. The root of later Christian antisemitism is Christian anti Judaism. 
    The other thing that should be noted is the fact that the Christian Old Testament is not the same thing as the Hebrew Bible. The books are in a different order. The OT is in the order its in because the Christians who arranged it as it is now did so because they were wanting to tell a different story using the same books. In the Hebrew Bible only the Torah is seen as fully inspired. Christians see the whole of the OT as equally inspired.  
    Christianity looks to the bible to confirm its dogmas. They will argue about interpretation but that quite often needs to schism. Judaism is not really like that. Argument as a positive has been written out of Christianity (until recently). I don’t think the same could be said of Judaism, Abraham, Moses, Job, those who wrote psalms, they all argue with God, Job argues with his ‘comforters’.  

    Judaism is not Christianity minus Jesus, neither is the Hebrew Bible the Bible minus the New Testament. 

    I have read the God Delusion and I have also studied the history of Christian antisemitism. Whilst I would not go as far as to say that the phrase ‘God of the Old Testament’ is antisemitic, it comes from a history between Christians and Jews that is antisemitic. Richard is not being antisemitic IMO.

  47. The memorable moment was Richard’s expression of utter  astonishment to hear from the Chief Rabbi that that passage in The God Delusion was anti-Semitic. “Christian-atheist”! Now that’s a new one!

  48. A quick fact check of the rabbi’s responses reveals that the degree of truth in his speech did not match its eloquence.

    Here’s one example: the rabbi asserted that the Bible is a polemic against power, and that the story of the Exodus, where long-oppressed slaves won out over the most powerful empire of the time (Egypt) is Exhibit A. While a beautiful message, the claim that the Bible is a polemic against power is not only untenable but contrary to fact. Here are six instances in the Pentateuch (the first five books) alone that glorify the powerful:

    1) Throughout the Pentateuch, the only way the people get to hear God’s command is via Moses (and rarely his brother Aaron). When a man named Korah and his supporters complained to Moses and Aaron that “the entire congregation is holy! Why do you raise yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” the Lord had some of them swallowed up in an earthquake and the others burned alive (Numbers 16).
    2) The Bible supports the power of the master over that of his slave. Not only does the Bible not present any polemic against the power of the master, it instructs the master to consider the slave to be sub-human. E.g. If someone strikes a non-slave and the victim dies, the perpetrator is put to death (Exodus 21:12); however, if a master strikes his slave and the slave dies, as long as the slave survives a day or two before passing, Biblical law dictates: “If he [the slave] survives a day or two, he [the master] will receive no retribution, for he [the slave] is his [the master's] money (Exodus 21:21).”
    3) A priest is given the power to incarcerate anyone he wishes for as long as he wishes. All he has to do is see some sort of spot on the person’s skin and declare it to be leprosy. No doctor or anyone else is consulted (Leviticus 13). Indeed when the priests got into a bitter dispute with their king Uzziah, they suddenly noticed that the king had leprosy on his skin! The alleged leper spent the rest of his life in jail (2 Chronicles 26).
    4) The people must obey every legal decision rendered by the priests or the judge at that time or else be put to death (Deuteronomy 17:8-13). No jury of one’s peers. No appeals process. All the power resides in the hands of those priests or judges.
    5) When a famine cripples the entire Near East, the only one who has any food is Joseph, viceroy to the Egyptian king, who had stored up seven years’ worth of food. Rather than use his seat of power to save as many as possible from starvation, the Bible devotes a whole section to tell us how the people had to beg Joseph to keep them alive, and only after selling to him literally every piece of property they owned – their animals, their land, everything – did Joseph give in (Genesis 47). No polemic against power found here. (One could argue that the Joseph story as a whole is a polemic against the power of his brothers who had tried to kill him. But this episode in the story is clearly an example of the opposite dynamic – one of the powerful winning out.)
    6) Perhaps the best of them all: “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).”

    Did anyone notice anything else from what the rabbi (or Dr. Dawkins for that matter) said that does not stand up to a fact check?

  49. What is Sacks whining about?

    His own misnamed holy books as per the Old Testament are the world’s finest and
    most loathsome pieces of anti-Semitic literature ever spawned and cobbled
    together by depraved human imagination.

    Is not the Old Testament god THE Uber anti-Semite of deities?

    The Old Testament god repeatedly condemns Israel and the Hebrew tribe to utter
    destruction and the followers of Yahweh are repeatedly dehumanised and
    denounced as a thoroughly wicked and evil lot.

    One could cite innumerable passages, such as the book of Amos wherein god rages
    that he will commit global genocide against the Hebrew tribe itself.

    The tribe so pissed off their holy god that he divorces himself of any further
    association with them, as stated in the book of Jeremiah, “And I saw, when for all the causes
    whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her
    a bill of divorce” — Jeremiah 3:8

    John Sacks’ holy book also states of Israel, “Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD
    are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the
    earth”  (Amos 9:8).

    In Jeremiah god turns his flock into cannibals, “I will make them eat the flesh of
    their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh” — Jeremiah 19:9

    Any wonder Hitler was fond of Old Testament themes and depicting himself as a
    Yahweh-like deliver, punisher and maniacal destroyer.

    The question naturally arises, who actually persecuted and killed more humans,
    Adolf Hitler or the God of the Old Testament and by extension which one was
    thus more anti-Semitic?

    Instead of making unfounded and false accusations against Dawkins, if Jonathan sacks is
    truly so sensitive and offended by anti-Semitic themes, tropes and typology,
    why does he not begin by clearing his own house of such stench first?!

  50. Nope, I’m sure ‘thee’ quote in question is definitely RD’s…at least that’s what it says on my T-shirt anyway }8O)~

    A bit late maybe, but my friend finally returned my copy of TGD. You were right, I was wrong. Just thought I’d acknowledge the fact.

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