An Interesting Debate: Dawkins vs. Sacks
I don’t have much time these days for posts, but I decided to post this debate between Richard Dawkins and Britain’s chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks.
Sacks is pretty good, but fairly week on some issues. For example, he had no idea on how to follow up on his charge of anti-Semitism. However, he did get Dawkins to apologize that he had no idea that the people who persecuted the Jews in the Middle Ages had the same view of the OT (a God of violence etc.) as he does. Frankly, I was very surprised by his complete lack of historical understanding about the Jewish people (I take him at his word that he did not know). There is a lot to be said about this. I hope to do it in a future post.
It is also interesting to see the encounter about “junk DNA,” as it seems fairly clear that Dawkins changed his view on this, but the Rabbi did not know to press him on this. See for example thisanalysis by David Klinghoffer.
Rabbi Sacks does a fairly good job showing Dawkins that he reads the Bible as a (I would add ignorant) fundamentalist, and he admits that he hasn’t read one Jewish commentary before he made his comments about the God of the OT. I wonder if he would be mad at creationists (or ID defenders) if they never read a biology book and they made comments on science!?
The Rabbi also does a good job toward the end discussing the problem of morality, but I think he is rather weak at explaining why many non-religious people still have good morals. In the case of Britain is fairly easy to explain. It is (like the USA) a society built on Judeo-Christian values, so even if you took religion out from many people and places, a lot of the foundation still stands. The moral atheists are simply “running on the fumes” left from their predecessors (to paraphrase another Rabbi). An atheist in the jungles of South America would certainly not behave like an atheist raised in Great Britain! :)
Of course, there are plenty of places around the world (especially in the last century) where you can see what an atheistic morality has produced. Take Soviet Union and China for example. Yes – I know that atheists typically say that the bad things done by Stalin, Mao etc were not done “in the name of atheism.”
I agree. But who said that Stalin did wicked things ‘in the name of atheism’? That is NOT the point. Frankly, I do not think you can even get out of bed in the name of atheism. The point has always been that if you do not believe in God (and by implication in a future judgment), than anything is permissible (Dostoievsky). Stalin did not do what he did “in the name of atheism,” but he felt free to kill and abuse because he did not believe in God, a personal God who will one day call him to account. And so did Mao and many others.
The fact is, and this is indisputable, that atheists in less than one century killed a lot more people than “Christians” in nineteen centuries. And there is no doubt that most (if not all) communists were atheists, but there are serious objections to the Christianity of the Crusaders etc. It would be nice if these ‘straight talking and honest’ atheists (because that is how the present themselves) would acknowledge the damage done by atheistic regimes (and I lived under one), but I do not expect that to happen very soon. Why? Because those atrocities were not done “in the name of atheism.”
Question to ponder: If I say that I do something in the name of Christ/Christianity (e.g the Crusades), but Christ clearly does not teach that [in fact he teaches the opposite], am I still justified to blame it on Christianity? The atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.) seem to have no problem blaming ‘Christians’ for doing things that Christ clearly does not condone.