In the above video, aired by the BBC this week, Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of Britain, discusses science and religion with three scientists, including Richard Dawkins.
The two entered into a dispute at a related BBC-sponsored debate this week over whether or not Dawkins’ attacks on the God of the Old Testament are anti-semitic. The Telegraph reports:
Lord Sacks complained about a passage in Prof Dawkins’s book in which he said that the God of the Old Testament was the “most unpleasant character in all fiction”.
Prof Dawkins said that his remark that the stories of the Old Testament suggested God was “jealous”, “petty”, “pestilential”, a “megalomaniac” and a “bully” was a joke. 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. “How you can call that anti-Semitic?” he said. “It’s anti-God.”
Lord Sacks insisted: “It is anti the Jewish God, Richard.”
Sacks clarified that, he was only describing Dawkins’ rhetoric, not his personal views: “I was not concerned that Richard was anti-Semitic at all. 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.”
Dawkins has run into trouble recently with feminists over his comments. A rocky road for the New Atheist.