Theoretical physicist and president of the British Humanist Association Professor Jim Al-Khalili said Christianity had "hijacked" human values and Christians are simply "humanists who believe in God."
Speaking at The Cambridge Union Society on Monday, Al-Khalili argued that he believed in a rule famously attributed to Jesus Christ that people should treat others the way they would treat themselves.
An audience member from Al-Khalili's lecture, however, highlighted the writings of German philosopher Friedrich Nietsche and pointed out that secular humanists "killed" God but were still pursuing Christian values.
"You said at the start that you treat people how you think you would like to be treated yourself and I think we know where we've heard that before," said the audience member in a YouTube clip of the discussion.
"I'm wondering to what extent is humanist morality divergent to Abrahamic morality because to me it seemed like you've killed God. God is dead but you are still doing what he said," the audience member noted.
"You mean what I'm doing now, I wouldn't have done had there not been a God to tell me?" Al-Khalili asked in the video.
"Your morality your values that you live your life by, it seems much like Christianity just without God. Is humanism capable of creating new values or does it simply just follow Judeo-Christian values without God?" responded the audience member. To which a somewhat defensive Al-Khalili said: "Christian values have hijacked human values," to applause.
"A human being, for me that's what defines me as a human, that I have the capacity to love, to empathize to sympathize, to be kind. Yes those were values that were taken up by the Abrahamic religions and rightly so because back at a time when people needed to be told that those are important human values," he noted.
"For me, I don't think I need to behave in a certain way because I want to seek the reward of God or because I fear the punishment of God. I do them because I'm a human being so I don't think they are Christian values," he continued.
"They are human values that Christians abide by and therefore they are also humanist in their attitude, they are humanists who believe in God. I don't subscribe to this idea that humanist is atheist and Christian isn't," he ended.