The Church of England has defended sending “prayers” on Twitter to The God Delusion author Richard Dawkins following his stroke.
The outspoken academic, 74, fell ill on February 5, forcing him to cancel a tour of Australia and New Zealand.
He is now recovering at home following four days in hospital.
The church was among well-wishers who sent messages of support when the news emerged on Friday, saying: “Prayers for Prof Dawkins and his family”.
But the post sparked a Twitter row, with some users accusing the organisation of “trolling” the biologist in light of his secularist views.
Reverend Arun Arora, the director of communications for the Archbishops’ Council, said the Church’s Twitter feed was a “regular diet of prayer” and the tweet to Prof Dawkins was “genuine”.
In a blog post, he wrote: “Many recognised the tweet for what it was, a genuine tweet offering prayer for a public person who was unwell.
“Others attacked the church for ‘trolling’ Dawkins suggesting the prayer was somehow intended as an attack or sarcastic comment.
“What is clear in some of the responses is a misunderstanding of what prayer is, who does it and who it is for.”