Richard Dawkins Responds to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
The famous atheist explains his correspondence with Boteach, references to Hitler, and why they should 'all calm down.'
[Editor's Note: Click here to read Rabbi Shumley Boteach's article, "Richard Dawkins' Shameful Attack." ]
This storm in a teapot deserves little time or attention from me, and less from anyone else, so I hope this can be the last word. I’ll reply to a few details in Rabbi Boteach’s diatribe, before turning to his main complaint.
"I served as the head of the Oxford L’Chaim society and rabbi at Oxford University for 11 years from 1988 until 1999.
Shmuel Boteach was a rabbi who moved from America to the city of Oxford, where he lived for 11 years. He never had any official status in the University of Oxford. He arrived and bought a house. As anybody is free to do, he ran a club, which Oxford students were free to join.
"[Dawkins] was always cordial, accessible, and friendly. I grew to like him a great deal--my wife and I even hosted him and his wife at our home for Shabbat lunch."
That is true, and I always found him friendly too.
"When I arrived [in Toronto] I was surprised by Dr. Dawkins' cool reception of me and his informing me that he could not stay to hear my rebuttal of his remarks, which immediately followed his own.”
I am astounded that Shmuley should find my reception of him [in Toronto] cool. On the contrary, I felt rather warm towards him, having not seen him for a number of years. I had explained to the organizers when accepting their invitation that I would have to leave Toronto on Day One of the conference, after Shmuley’s talk. Unfortunately, however, the program ran late, and it ran even later when, to my intense frustration, the organizers invited some kind of yoga teacher onto the stage to lead us through various posturing poses (which were doubtless designed to reduce frustration). I was in the row behind Shmuley, and I passed him a very friendly, cordial note, explaining that I had to catch a plane, and regretting very much that I couldn’t stay to hear his talk. I had no idea at that stage that his talk was going to be a 'rebuttal' of mine. There was no suggestion in the official program that this would be the case. It was never billed as anything like a 'debate.' We were simply scheduled to speak on the same afternoon, along with several others.
As it happened, my airport taxi was late and, all unknown to Shmuley, I was therefore able to hear most of his speech, relayed to a small loudspeaker outside the theater. I didn’t like what I heard, but that is another story.