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← Richard Dawkins Responds to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Richard Dawkins Responds to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach - Comments

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 1 by rod-the-farmer

Well researched rebuttal. I am not surprised.

Fri, 16 May 2008 16:14:00 UTC | #172031

irvine.intervention's Avatar Comment 2 by irvine.intervention

Bravo Richard!

Fri, 16 May 2008 16:15:00 UTC | #172032

zosky's Avatar Comment 3 by zosky

yes, i too agree that this exchange has run its course. People like Boteach do not listen to reason. I have seen several debates where he has been corrected on his naive interpretation of evolution yet he keeps making the same arguements over and over again. He is really a showman, on a mission to get laughs from the crowd.

Fri, 16 May 2008 16:23:00 UTC | #172036

Homo economicus's Avatar Comment 4 by Homo economicus

It is a storm in a tea cup when we consider the more important issues of science education, and the role of faith in society.

I am glad to hear Richard that you recognise that the Hitler comparison was a taboo comment that could have been avoided; it allowed Boteach to miss the substantive issues you raised in your open letter and I hope those other remarks are not lost when people talk about the letters.

Boteach does make obnoxious remarks about atheism, and false views of evolution. As for Murphey it is enough for us all to go for some chair throwing. Our focus needs to be in showing up these things for what they are.

Fri, 16 May 2008 16:27:00 UTC | #172037

animavisual's Avatar Comment 5 by animavisual

I really do hope this puts an end to this whole charade (doubtful, but still. One can always hope).
I watch the debate Boteach had with Hitchens in New York before I go to bed on nights when I'm in a bad mood, and I have to say: it's difficult to imagine how Boteach could bring any less credibility upon the stultifying ignorance that he preaches in public discourse.
Somehow, though, he found a way to do it. His infantile attempts to diminish the arguments leveled against him based on a perhaps less-carefully considered (but nonetheless accurate) comparison are just painful to endure.
Seriously though. Tea for all, please. And to all a good night.

Fri, 16 May 2008 16:42:00 UTC | #172041

Fouad Boussetta's Avatar Comment 6 by Fouad Boussetta

Did you check out the link provided by Richard?
If not, please do!
It seems that this Boteach and his wife are really dishonest people.
(Should one be surprised?)

Fri, 16 May 2008 16:45:00 UTC | #172042

Nikolaj's Avatar Comment 7 by Nikolaj

To the best of my recolection, it was my cousin, who has a degree in history, who once relayed the following to me:

In a speech-manuscript by Winston Churchill, there was in the margin a note from Churchill to himself, pointing to a particular part of the speech. The note said: "Argument weak. Shout"

I feel compelled to mention this, though it is doubtless just an urban legend, that has grown to be "fact" in my mind. it is almost too good to be true, so I hesitate to relay it as such. But I suppose it is checkable, if you are skeptical.

But true or not, it is a funny story, and does speak to the power of voice, sometimes even over the power of words. And having seen Boteach speak it appears to me that he is, consciesly or unconsciesly, telling himself to raise his voice when the arguments get weaker.

P.S: As a certified Anglofile, I am a fan of Mr. Churchill, but one must admit that he used his great speaking-talents to sway people to his side, not just with the words he said, but also by the way he said them; a less than flatering tactic, I must admit.

Fri, 16 May 2008 16:50:00 UTC | #172044

Big City's Avatar Comment 8 by Big City

The reason Boteach is getting offended at the Hitler comparison is the same reason he (and most religious people) immediately take offense when someone criticizes their religion. They've been taught, "Here is this thing that you can get pissed about, that you can take to heart, and if anyone gets near it, you get to pitch a fit."

animavisual-'s difficult to imagine how Boteach could bring any less credibility upon the stultifying ignorance that he preaches in public discourse.
I think that every time I watch D'Souza; his arguments are discredited by his subscription to them.

Fri, 16 May 2008 17:08:00 UTC | #172047

hightrekker's Avatar Comment 9 by hightrekker

Well, at least our Cabbage For Christ friends have the moral high ground:
Texas minister charged in Internet sex sting
Friday, May 16, 2008
(05-16) 18:33 PDT Bryan, Texas (AP) --

A minister from a Dallas-area Baptist megachurch was caught in an Internet sex sting and charged with online solicitation of a minor, police said Friday.

Undercover officers posing as a 13-year-old girl communicated with Joe Barron, 52, of Plano for about two weeks. The online conversations were sexual in nature, police said.

On May 6, Barron suggested meeting the girl in person. He eventually made the nearly 200-mile drive to Bryan on Thursday, when he was arrested. Police said they found a web-cam and condoms in his car.

Barron remained in Brazos County Jail on Friday on $7,000 bail. Police did not know if he had an attorney.

Barron is one of 40 ministers at Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of the largest churches in the country with 26,000 members. He ministers to married adults.

Mike Buster, executive pastor, said in a statement that the church had no record or knowledge of previous improprieties or saw any inappropriate behavior in the 18 months Barron was on the church staff.

Buster said church officials are fully cooperating with police.

"We are disturbed and saddened by the reports we have heard and we are praying for the Barron family," he said.

Fri, 16 May 2008 18:02:00 UTC | #172057

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 10 by Cartomancer

Oh, it's an absolutely classical rhetorical ploy that one. Classical in every sense. Cicero, perhaps the greatest orator the world has ever known, and his Greek model Demosthenes were very much in favour of shouting at the tops of their voices to get the point across when it was effective to do so. Demosthenes was even supposed to have gone down to the sea shore every morning to practice his shouting with pebbles in his mouth so that he could achieve the levels of volume he required (although public speaking in a pre-microphone era did naturally require that quality in abundance). Cicero and Aristotle both noted in their treatises on the art of oratory that the mode of delivery is often far more important in swaying people's opinions than the content of the speech. They also noted that ignorant, vulgar audiences responded well to increased volume whereas those of more intellectual sensibilities could see it for the cheap trick it was.

It is almost certainly no accident that Augustine was a professor of rhetoric and a fervent Ciceronian before he took to christian apologetics, or that there was a powerful strand of humanistic Ciceronian / Horatian education in Carolingian and twelfth century cathedral schools, and the universities of the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries which trained the priests and preachers of medieval Europe. The early eastern church was no different - John Chrysostom ("goldenmouth") was the best student of the great Antiochene orator Libanius, and deliberately set out to turn the skills in public speaking he had learned from his master to the service of the christian cult he was a part of.

As far as Hitler is concerned I am less able to judge, but he certainly grew up in a late nineteenth century German-speaking world which raised the model of a classical statesman's instruction to the pinnacle of its educational endeavours.

Fri, 16 May 2008 18:03:00 UTC | #172058

Geodesic17's Avatar Comment 11 by Geodesic17

Well said, Richard. I offer the following:

If a man had a mustasche like Hitler's, would it be wrong to point this out?

Fri, 16 May 2008 18:18:00 UTC | #172060

maton100's Avatar Comment 12 by maton100

I have often suggested that Dinesh D'Souza offers his own line of hearing aids. D'Souza and Boteach are barking tards.

Fri, 16 May 2008 18:45:00 UTC | #172066

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 13 by mordacious1

Fine, Boteach is not Hitlerian. According to the link to Foxnews, he is a liar and a crook.
A fine upstanding member of our religious community. So have a hot cup of tea, just keep both hands on your cup.

Fri, 16 May 2008 19:16:00 UTC | #172073

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 14 by Diacanu

Someone left a leaky italics tag, attempting to close with my own.

Well ta-daa, it worked!

Fri, 16 May 2008 19:32:00 UTC | #172081

christianjb's Avatar Comment 15 by christianjb

Aha, I finally get to disagree with RD about something!

Referring to someone's speech patterns as Hitlerian shows a complete lack of tact, and could be perceived as grossly offensive by a Jewish person (and others).

Maybe Stentor would have been a better choice.

I watched this Rabbi's debate with Hitchens on Youtube. He's a nut, and Hitchens came up with some very funny putdowns.

Don't get me wrong. The Rabbi deserves to be insulted, but let's insult him for his ridiculous arguments and not for any perceived similarities with Hitler's oratorical style.

It's only my opinion, but I would have apologized.

Fri, 16 May 2008 20:00:00 UTC | #172093

TruthByEvidence's Avatar Comment 16 by TruthByEvidence

I find Richard Dawkins' need to respond to a storm in a teapot very similar to my own, as well as many other peoples I'm sure can relate.

It is nice to see that he can still pay attention to the lesser important details of life whilst also being a type of rock star socially.

With this Rabbi, however, it seems that some people cannot admit any fault about themselves...ever. Why is he so upset? Can't he just see that he yells and howls like a lunatic? The most popularized lunatic in recent history that is not fictional is Adolf Hitler.(Well, one of them.)

1. Yells like Hitler
2. Is criticized about his Hitler yelling.
3. Yells even more like Hitler.
4. Explained that he is not Hitler,but yells similarly.
5. Becomes Hitler.

Fri, 16 May 2008 20:07:00 UTC | #172096

Pao Chang's Avatar Comment 17 by Pao Chang

So that's the rabbi that debated with Hitchens. The guy likes to go into hysterics. This is how debates between religious yobs are conducted: Who can say the most, the loudest, with no logical content, the quickest: hands gesticulating wildly and all the rest of it.
I think the good rabbi needs a stiff Scotch to calm down.
Peace in the Way....quietly please.

Fri, 16 May 2008 20:26:00 UTC | #172102

Robert Maynard's Avatar Comment 18 by Robert Maynard

I realise we've already developed and perhaps rehearsed talking point-esque rationalisations about the secular regimes of Stalin and Mao, very good rationalisations about them being cults of personality, and religious in their own way, but when are people going to start pointing out that there is a vast gulf between being murdered, the language Boteach uses here and which we've all seen elsewhere, and starving to death?

I think there is an argument ripe for the plucking if we take some time to explore the story of Lysenko, his denial of Darwinism and his weird form of Lamarckism, which essentially led to enormous famines in Communist Russia and China, and that tens of millions of the deaths attributed to these regimes are the direct result of their failed agricultural policies, founded on bad science - not atheistic murder. Certainly they were callously indifferent to how bad the policy turned out, almost as though they had become dogmatically devoted to a particular theory in the teeth of falsifying evidence. (Hmmm!)
This is a perfect example of what lousy atheists they were.

I think, furthermore, that by demonstrating a more nuanced understanding of the millions of human deaths that came from these awful governments, we can criticise our opponents for using their deaths in bulk as a 'score' to further a cheap religious argument not strongly warranted by the circumstances of their deaths.

Fri, 16 May 2008 20:50:00 UTC | #172111

MIND_REBEL's Avatar Comment 19 by MIND_REBEL

Dawkins owns another typical ignorant religious nutjob.

Fri, 16 May 2008 21:35:00 UTC | #172118

troodon's Avatar Comment 20 by troodon

Robert Maynard,
Good points.

Watching Shmuley shriek makes me fantasize about a geek rigging up the microphone to a voice modification program so that whenever he raises his voice above a certain level, the program would lower the output volume and raise the pitch to a squeaky sound, maybe like Donald Duck.

Fri, 16 May 2008 23:12:00 UTC | #172126

Wosret's Avatar Comment 21 by Wosret

The only fault I can find with RD's original statement, is that he clearly thought that the good Rabbi was far more intellectually mature. He allowed for a statement that could be easily misconstrued, and played for emotive purposes, and from my experierence, some people really can't seem to understand what context and conditional statements even mean.

So, I think his misatake was that he thought too highly of Boteach. From the general tone of this reply though, I highly doubt that will happen a second time.

Fri, 16 May 2008 23:22:00 UTC | #172127

Barry Pearson's Avatar Comment 22 by Barry Pearson

Are atheists in general to be smeared with shared guilt for mass murder and genocide?
We sometimes ourselves up for this when we criticise "religion" for its atrocities.

What we should do is criticise "unenlightenment" and "unenlightened organisations and regimes" as being the primary cause of problems. Then we can give "religions", "Nazism", "Maoism", and "Stalinism" as examples of "unenlightened organisations and regimes".

We can't claim moral merit for being atheists - there can be bad atheists, just as there can be good religious people. And it is pointless to irritate the latter. We should instead link "enlightenment" to the moral high-ground, including "freethinking", "opposition to dogma and doctrine", "tolerance towards people with different beliefs", "advocacy of human rights, including freedom of/from religion", etc.

I suggest that most of here are moral beings (assuming we are!) because we are enlightened, not because we are atheists.

Fri, 16 May 2008 23:32:00 UTC | #172130

Raiko's Avatar Comment 23 by Raiko

If they seriously used to get along, this is sad. My personal opinion is that it started to be this sad from the moment Shmuley Boteach delivered his rebuttal speech in Toronto.

I agree that it would have been wise not to mention Hitler, as the mere mentioning of the word seems to toss reason out of the window, especially by people who enjoy abusing the name for their own arguments. Nevertheless, refraining from making a certain argument does not make it untrue (And "NO I AM NOT SHRIEKING LIKE HITLER!!" doesn't actually help AFTER the fact has already been pointed out).

Maybe a good idea would have been to say that the rabbi's shrieking is reminiscent of "certain questionable politicians in history". ;)

In any case, Shmuley seems to react like most unreasonable people when their mistakes have been pointed out - instead of saying "You know... I think you have a point and I should really change that," they yell "not true, not true" instead. The second most useful thing to do after yelling "not true, not true" would be to take the criticism anyway (in this case: stop shrieking like Hitler), but that doesn't happen too often, either.

Some people just don't like to acknowledge they might be wrong, have flaws or made a mistake, I suppose.

PS: And thank you, Diacanu. I thought about closing that tag, too, when I read the first comments. (^_^)

Fri, 16 May 2008 23:33:00 UTC | #172131

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 24 by Matt H.

A good clarification, Richard.

Fri, 16 May 2008 23:39:00 UTC | #172132

SpacePup84's Avatar Comment 25 by SpacePup84

An excellent and well reasoned reply.

Fri, 16 May 2008 23:58:00 UTC | #172138

Logicel's Avatar Comment 26 by Logicel

Do D'Souza and Boteach blog in all caps?

Sat, 17 May 2008 00:59:00 UTC | #172145

notsobad's Avatar Comment 27 by notsobad

he has even won a preaching competition!

Woah, is that anything like the competition with the prophets of Baal described in 1 Kings 18:24 onwards?

From my experience, it is best not to even react to narcissistic* busy bodies like Boteach. They don't address the actual argument and just start throwing red herrings in and playing the offended card to appeal to emotion.

*just his self-given title "America's rabbi" speaks volumes. The linked story just confirms this.

Sat, 17 May 2008 01:36:00 UTC | #172152

norhov's Avatar Comment 28 by norhov

This tendency of the religious to make Hitler an atheist is ludicrous. His army had "God with Us" on their belt buckles. The Nazi war flag had two crosses on it plus the swastika. What kind of atheist would do that? Hitler was a Catholic pure and simple. Mussolini the fascist was a Catholic, Salazar, their contemporary fascist dictator in Portugal was Catholic, Most south American dictators has been devout catholics.

Sat, 17 May 2008 01:37:00 UTC | #172154

Dune010's Avatar Comment 29 by Dune010

What we should do is criticise "unenlightenment" and "unenlightened organisations and regimes" as being the primary cause of problems. Then we can give "religions", "Nazism", "Maoism", and "Stalinism" as examples of "unenlightened organisations and regimes".

I agree in a sense, but prefer a different approach.

I do not believe that we can necessarily blame religion for all the things done in its name. It is inevitable that with certain people the opportunity to hold one opinion that is strongly opposed to another will lead to violence. I think it is best to start from this point. Any strong difference in opinion can lead to violence and this applies to atheism too. In such a case I would not hold the belief responsible.

The real issue is not whether a particular belief system has been fought for, it is whether the nature of the beliefs encourage violence.

Take the French Revolution. There was much injustice in the name of opposing religion, and this could fairly be equated with atheism. Was there something inherent in Jacobinism that encouraged this violence? Yes. Was there in atheism? No.

Take Stalin. I don't know but lets suppose that his atheism was a motivation for the killing of religious people. Is atheism to blame? No. Either he just believed so strongly in something that he came to hate the opposing position, or he held other beliefs which he combined with atheism to justify the killing of religious people (or any other people).

Take Christianity. While there almost certainly have been cases of Christians killing purely because they hate people who disagree, it is very difficult to disentangle the dogmatic element from this. Christianity does encourage violence. It singles out particular people to hate, and it encourages faith. This is something that atheism definitely does not do.

Sat, 17 May 2008 01:50:00 UTC | #172159

notsobad's Avatar Comment 30 by notsobad

Hitler was a Catholic pure and simple.

He was more into occult and Norse paganism, but not an atheist and definitely not a rationalist.

Sat, 17 May 2008 02:28:00 UTC | #172163