Author and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg has denounced the declining number of young people who read the Bible as 'disgraceful' and called those who find the King James translation too complicated 'wimps'.
Bragg himself does not believe in God, yet he said the Bible was a 'great force' for people of all backgrounds.
He urged every school and church of all denominations to read the Bible on a monthly basis so that children are not 'deprived' its 'depth of language'.
Speaking at the Henley Literary Festival on Monday, Bragg paid tribute to the King James translation of the Bible in particular.
'I think it is no accident that the decline of the Anglican Church coincides with the decline of the King James Bible.'
Young people, he said, 'say it's too complicated, what are they talking about? Shakespeare gets more and more popular, and nearly always Shakespeare is played in the original Shakespeare.
The Bible is 'equally powerful, [yet] we just say 'it's too complicated. Wimps, terrible persons.'
'I think it is a great deprivation. What have we thrown away? One of the greatest pieces of art, work, whatever way you want to put it. It's awful. As for being too difficult, really? Honestly. We should be too good for that, we used to be the clever country.'
On his own beliefs, he told the audience on Monday: 'I have left [religion] in many ways but it will never leave me, and I don't want it to, because it's part of my past...I don't believe in God but I do believe in a first cause.'