Richard Dawkins’ stroke put the atheist community into quite the tizzy. The noted author of The God Delusion suddenly fell ill, and some were concerned he might die. While some Christians may want to see Dawkins dead, the Church of England publicly stated they would be praying for Dawkins’ health and his full recovery. In response, some on social media claimed the Church was merely mocking or trolling the fallen defender of atheism, but the Church says it was genuinely concerned about Dawkins’ health condition.
The British author fell ill on February 5, forcing him to pull out of a tour planned for Australia and New Zealand. Dawkins was supposed to appear at the Sydney Opera House, but the haemorrhagic stroke caused him to cancel all engagements for the foreseeable future.
“What happened was that on Friday the fifth of February I was alone at home and I suddenly became aware that my left arm was not behaving properly — I couldn’t coordinate properly. When I tried to stand up I staggered about in a rather alarming way. I must have fallen because I later discovered a large bruise on my elbow,” he said in an audio message recorded to SoundCloud.
A haemorrhagic stroke is caused when a weakened blood vessel bursts, and the condition is usually caused by either a brain aneurysm or an arteriovenous malformation, an abnormal connection of blood vessels in the brain which are usually present at birth. Unfortunately, the stroke can cause a loss in coordination, and reports say Dawkins’ health has been affected in this manner.
Dawkins is currently recovering at home after spending four days at the John Radcliffe Hospital. One of the side effects of his stroke may have affected his mobility, so he is now receiving physiotherapy and occupational therapy. In discussing his health, Dawkins also revealed he had been suffering from blood pressure problems, but it is possible the stroke was triggered when he became “very distressed” when a U.S. conference canceled his appearance.
“The doctors asked me whether I had been suffering from stress, and I had to say, ‘Yes, I had’. They keep advising me not to get involved in controversy, and I’m afraid I had to tell them that not getting involved in controversy was one of those things I was not particularly talented at,” he said.
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The prospect of Richard Dawkins’ death had some in the atheist community alarmed.
“At the age of 45 of course i know that we all lose everyone someday. But I am not just a fan of your life and work. I’m ALIVE because of you, and some others along the way,” wrote James Henderson on RichardDawkins.net, with others like Panu Paunonen writing, “Don’t die. We still need you.”
In response to the well-wishers, Dawkins said everyone should not be overly concerned about his health condition.
“It’s not too bad. I’m very grateful to everybody who has been sending me good wishes from all around the world,” he said.
One of the well-wishers was the Church of England’s Twitter account, which offered up prayer for the atheist.
Prayers for Prof Dawkins and his family https://t.co/KxBBkBrECk
— Church of England (@c_of_e) February 12, 2016
Atheists did not believe it, immediately calling the tweet “sarcastic or ignorant.” In reaction, Rev. Arun Arora, director of communications for the Archbishops’ Council at the Church of England, wrote out a response which denied they were mocking Dawkins.
“The prayer tweeted on Friday evening was for Richard Dawkins. It’s hardly surprising that I don’t agree with all of his views,” wrote Aroroa. “But 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.”
As an example, the Church of England representative noted how the atheist supported the Church when their “Lord’s Prayer” advertisement was banned by movie theaters in the United Kingdom. In 2007, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, hosted Richard Dawkins and his wife at a party at Lambeth Palace, calling the couple “absolutely delightful.”
“There’s something about his swashbuckling side which is endearing,” said Archbishop Williams.
While Christians often butt heads with Dawkins during debates, Dawkins once described himself as a “secular Christian” in recent years.
“I would describe myself as a secular Christian in the same sense as secular Jews have a feeling for nostalgia and ceremonies,” Dawkins said, according to the Telegraph.
Arora points out that Jesus Christ commanded Christians to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” As such, any “suggestion that Christians do anything other than hate Professor Dawkins utterly confuses those who think in binary terms.”
“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. 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.”
What do you think about the Church of England telling Christians to pray for atheist Richard Dawkins’ health?
[Photo by Don Arnold/Getty Images]