Atheist evolutionist Richard Dawkins denied making an anti-Semitic remark in his book The God Delusion after he was accused of that by Lord Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi of the British Orthodox synagogues, during an hour-long debate at a BBC religion and ethics festival at Salford’s MediaCityUK.
Sacks’s complaint was about a passage in Dawkins’s book in which he states that the God of the Old Testament is the “most unpleasant character in all fiction.”
“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,” Sacks said on the program, according to the Telegraph. “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,” he added.
Dawkins refuted the claim as “ridiculous,” but also stated that the moral values presented by the God of the Old Testament were “very deplorable indeed – all that stuff about slaughtering the Amalekites,” according to the Jewish Chronicle. Later in the debate, Lord Sacks conceded that Dawkins was a “really nice guy” and that he “was not concerned that Richard is anti-Semitic at all, but using an anti-Semitic stereotype, which has been a strand through Christian reading of the Bible through the Middle Ages. [It] really terrifies me to see the power of these stereotypes into atheism today.”