Church of England: Our Prayers for Richard Dawkins Are Sincere, Not 'Trolling'

Well-known atheist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins speaks to the crowd during the 'Rock Beyond Belief' festival at Fort Bragg army base in North Carolina, March 31, 2012.
Well-known atheist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins speaks to the crowd during the "Rock Beyond Belief" festival at Fort Bragg army base in North Carolina, March 31, 2012. | (Photo: Reuters/Chris Keane)

The Church of England says there was nothing insincere about sending prayers for Richard Dawkins, who recently suffered a stroke, and argued that the famed atheist professor has more "nuanced" views than some would suspect.

The official CofE twitter account sent a message on Friday stating "Prayers for Prof Dawkins and his family," in reference to the evolutionary biologist suffering a minor stroke on Saturday, which forced him to cancel a planned tour of Australia and New Zealand.

The tweet apparently stirred a great deal of discussion and debate on social media, and in a blog post over the weekend the Rev. Arun Arora, director of communications for the Archbishops' Council, even acknowledged that some accused the Church of "trolling" and being insincere in its prayers.

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"What is clear in some of the responses is a misunderstanding of what prayer is, who does it and who it is for," Arora wrote, before explaining the CofE's long history of praying for society and for people in the public sphere.

"Some of the twitter reaction assumed that Christians only pray for other Christians. In fact Christians pray for all kinds of people. They pray for their friends and families. They pray for their community," he wrote.

"They pray for the government (of whatever persuasion). They pray for terrorists, kidnappers, hostage takers. They pray for criminals as well as giving thanks for saints. Poets write poetry, musicians play music, Christians pray. And they love," Arora added.

He also said that many other people had indeed recognized the tweet for what it was, namely "a genuine tweet offering prayer for a public person who was unwell."

As for Dawkins, the CofE spokesman said that it is "hardly surprising" that the two don't see eye to eye on a number of issues, but said that does not stop the Church from extending prayers for him.

"There is a danger of reducing him to a one trick pony. His views are more nuanced that both supporters and detractors would usually acknowledge," Arora said, and noted that Dawkins backed the Church of England's case in November for screening ads advocating for prayer at leading cinemas in the U.K., which were banned out of fear of "offending" people.

He also dismissed the idea that Christians do nothing but hate on Dawkins, and noted that the atheist author has had a number of good-natured meetings and conversations with Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

"I wish professor Dawkins well. I hope he makes swift and full recovery and wish him the best of health. I will pray for him too. It is the very least I can do," Arora concluded.

Dawkins meanwhile updated his supporters about his condition on Friday, noting that he spent four days in hospital after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke, but is now getting better.

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