Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Author and evolutionist Richard Dawkins has compared Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a leading voice for the belief system that relies on an intelligent designer and competes with faith in evolution, to Hitler, prompting the rabbi to challenge Dawkins to another debate.
"Since we were once friends, and since we both have a responsibility to act justly and humanely, I propose a follow-up to our debate, either here in the United States or in the UK, to focus on your recent book on atheism and whether G-d is necessary for morality," said Boteach, host of the daily "The Rabbi Shmuley Show" on XM Satellite Radio and author of 19 books.
His suggestion came in an open letter to Dawkins, a prolific proponent of evolution and author of the 2006 book, "The God Delusion."
"Since, in your letter, you mention my 'lamentable but vocally confident ignorance of Darwinian evolution,' no doubt you will make mincemeat of me and even the score. I would appreciate if you would propose dates that are suitable," Boteach wrote.
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The letter came in response to Dawkins' own posting about a conference in Canada at which both speakers appeared. Dawkins spoke first, then said he needed to leave because of his travel schedule.
"As it happened, my taxi was late. While I was waiting for it, I was able to hear your speech, relayed over a loudspeaker in the foyer. I was astounded by what I heard. Gone was the urbane, humorous, polite Shmuley that I had known at Oxford, and with whom I had had lunch. What I heard over that loudspeaker was a shrieking rant, delivered with an intemperate stridency of which Hitler himself might have been proud. As I listened, I was shocked by your lamentable, but vocally confident ignorance of Darwinian evolution. And even more shocked by your shrill and vicious attack upon me. You were shrieking invective, in the belief that I was on my way to the airport. Had you prepared your ranting attack in advance, or did you extemporize as soon as you read my note?" Dawkins wrote.
The first part of the rabbi's Canadian presentation is available on YouTube:
The second part of the rabbi's Canadian presentation also can be seen on YouTube:
As WND reported, the issue arose because in a website comment section, Dawkins denied debating the rabbi, and the rabbi responded with a posting of a video of a debate between the two.
"Boteach organized debates, with himself as chairman, and I sometimes took part in debates with the outside visitors that he imported, for example Robert Winston. Boteach was a surprisingly impartial chairman, but he was always just a chairman, never a debater in any of the debates that I attended," Dawkins wrote of the time both were at Oxford.
"That is a particularly bold untruth. Our debate, which took place at St. Catherine's College, Oxford, on Oct. 23, 1996, attracted hundreds of students and featured, on the atheist side, Prof. Dawkins and chemistry Prof. Peter Atkins, and on the religion side, me and Prof. Keith Ward, Oxford's Regius Professor of Divinity. Student president Josh Wine was in the chair," the rabbi rebutted.
"In a vote at the end of the debate as to how many students had changed their minds after hearing the arguments, Dawkin's side was defeated and religion prevailed, which might account for his selective memory," he wrote.
The full footage of the more-than-two-hour debate is available on his website at a cost and includes 11 segments of MP4 video file that average about 10 minutes each.
Then Dawkins responded with a lengthy critique of the rabbi.
"If we really did have a debate in St. Catherine's I am happy to apologize for forgetting it, although I don't think it is much to apologize for. I hope you will look in your heart and decide whether there is anything you should be apologizing for," Dawkins concluded.
Earlier in his letter, Dawkins accused the rabbi of failing to provide documentation of his statements, and Dawkins expressed his suspicion that the rabbi was resentful of his statements that Boteach never had official standing at Oxford.
"You would have liked to reply to that, but you couldn't because you know perfectly well that, despite frequent pretensions, you had no official standing at the University of Oxford during any of the 11 years you lived there. You were not 'Rabbi of Oxford University' as is stated on Beliefnet.com, of which you are a columnist, and on the publicity for your books. You couldn't respond to the part of my remarks that really hit home. So instead you latched onto my second paragraph where, in what was at worst a trivial slip of my memory, I said that you had always been chairman in your debates, never a debater," Dawkins wrote.
Then Dawkins reacted to the "attack" by the rabbi at the Canadian conference.
"Are you, perhaps, in the habit of fantasizing about debates that never took place? Either way, you were giving me ample reason to be cool towards you – after Toronto," Dawkins wrote.
The rabbi's response raised objections to being compared to Hitler.
"Perhaps it was providence that your letter was posted on your website on World Holocaust Remembrance Day. Are you really so callous? Have you developed such uncontrollable loathing to people of faith that you would equate a rabbi who was your friend and who hosted you at his home and at so many public forums and debates to a monster who killed six million Jews and bombed the people of England mercilessly?" Boteach wrote.
"And now you would add to this infamy by comparing me to Hitler? Really Richard, I mean no disrespect and once knew you to be a very genial and decent man, but Hitler? Have you lost your mind? Your loathsome comment brings you, Oxford University, and Charles Simonyi who endowed your chair into disrepute and you should issue an immediate apology."
Boteach said a "reality check" would show that the Canadian event was a "fine rebuttal" of Dawkins' dismissal of faith.
"I am well aware of the fact that you believe religious people to be 'know-nothings,' weak-minded illiterates who require a myth to get through the travails of life. Some would regard such condescension as elitist arrogance. You have a right to be egotistical. But you have no right to compare a rabbi who refutes your arguments to the most demonic murderer that ever lived," he said.
The rabbi also said the video of the Oxford debate is, in fact, posted on his website. "Please look on the left-hand column of my home page. Significant portions of the debate have also been posted on YouTube."
The rabbi also wrote he'd like to play games no longer.
"You say that I was never affiliated with Oxford University and that I misled attendees at one of my lectures when I claimed to have debated you. You were attacking and attempting to discredit me, Richard, so let's not play games," the rabbi wrote. "The organization I ran for 11 years at Oxford, the L'Chaim Society, was one of the largest student organizations in the University’s history, which is why you agreed to participate in approximately five of our large debates. It was an official University Society for most of the time I was there, with Dr. Joshua Silver, your physics colleague from your very own College, New College, serving as its senior member. As you also know, Richard, far from our organization simply setting up shop, as you put it, we had a huge impact at the University, had thousands of student members, regularly hosted large joint events with the Oxford Union, and hosted some of the most influential people in the world, including luminaries like Mikhail Gorbachev, Prof. Steven Hawking, and Elie Wiesel, which is why, I would assume, you were honored to lecture for us on so many occasions, both in Oxford and in London."
But the rabbi also noted that he never was an "official rabbi" at Oxford, since the university formally recognizes the nation's state religion, the Church of England, and no other.
"All the chaplains at the respective colleges are Church of England. Indeed, even the huge Catholic chaplaincy, we were told by university officials, has no official university status and neither do the Muslims," he said.
"Perhaps, as a man of liberal ideology, Richard, you will use your influence at the university to have them recognize an official Jewish chaplain in due course and I would view this as ample atonement for your outrageous Hitler comment," Boteach said.
"Despite your many rants against religion, especially since the publication of your book, I have never attacked you and certainly have never compared you to Hitler. It seems you have become aggressive and intolerant, dismissing people of faith as 'fundamentalist hypocrites,' 'hillbillies,' 'vulnerable to subversion,' and 'suffering from a delusion,' the rabbi wrote.
"Now Richard, if you can dish it out, you have to be prepared for us religious boobs to defend our pitiful selves when attacked. And the correct response is not to accuse us of being Hitler when we bring intelligent rejoinders. Rather, I would advise you to behave scientifically and to respond to us on the merits of our arguments."
Boteach has been labeled "a cultural phenomenon" and "the most famous rabbi in America" by Newsweek. He first came to the attention of the world through his founding of the Oxford University L'Chaim Society, a group that within three years had become the second largest student group in Oxford's history.
His books include "Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments," "Judaism for Everyone," and many others.
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