The Church of England has denied "trolling" Richard Dawkins by offering prayers to him after he suffered a stroke.
The renowned atheist and scientist had to cancel speaking engagements while he recovers from the attack, prompting the Anglican church to tweet:
Prayers for Prof Dawkins and his family https://t.co/KxBBkBrECk
— Church of England (@c_of_e) February 12, 2016
The church has pleaded its message was a "a genuine tweet offering prayer for a public person who was unwell", after a "Twitterstorm" accuses them of mocking the staunch critic of organised religion.
— andrea juarez (@oh_dit) February 13, 2016
Sarcastic or ignorant?
— Nikki Sinclaire (@NikkiSinclaire7) February 12, 2016
In a Tumblr post, the Archbishop Council's director of communications Rev Arun Arora wrote: "Others attacked the church for “trolling” Dawkins suggesting the prayer was intended as an attack or sarcastic comment.
"One author and comedian suggested we were 'taking the p**s'. One news site even suggested that by offering to pray for Dawkins of all people the bishops controlling the account had clearly 'been at the sherry'.
"What is clear in some of the responses is a misunderstanding of what prayer is, who does it and who it is for."
Rev Arora said Dawkins' views were more nuanced than commentators on both side suggested, adding there was a "danger in reducing him to a one trick pony".
His views are more nuanced that both supporters and detractors would usually acknowledge. At the end of last year Prof Dawkins publicly voiced his support for the Church of England when our “Lord’s Prayer” advert was banned by cinemas in the UK.
"At the end of last year Prof Dawkins publicly voiced his support for the Church of England when our “Lord’s Prayer” advert was banned by cinemas in the UK," he added.
"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."
Dawkins had published a recording in which he describes the stroke and how he begun recovering.
In it, he says his doctors urged him to avoid "controversy" as it would add to his stress.
"The doctors asked me whether I had been suffering from stress, and I had to say, 'Yes, I had'," he said.
"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 the stroke happened after he received a "very gracious letter" from the organisers of a US science conference that had disinvited him, apologising him and re-inviting him.