Richard Dawkins: First he was a 'cultural Anglican', now he's a 'secular Christian'

Professor Richard Dawkins, ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author of books including The God Delusion and The Selfish Gene(PA)

Richard Dawkins has hinted at something of a fondness for the church, telling the Hay Festival he feels for the faith something similar to what secular Jews feel for theirs. 

The outspoken atheist and evolutionary biologist was presenting the first volume of his memoirs, An Appetite For Wonder, at the festival over the weekend. 

According to The Telegraph, he made it clear he felt nothing for the spiritual teachings of Christianity, but his comments suggested a tolerance of the church as a cultural tradition. 

"I would describe myself as a secular Christian in the same sense as secular Jews have a feeling for nostalgia and ceremonies," said Dawkins.

"But if you don't have the supernatural, it's not clear to me why you would call yourself a minister.

"But I am a secular Christian, if you want to call me that."

He made his comments in response to a question from an American minister in the audience who said he continued to preach the teachings of Christ and considered himself a Christian despite not believing in Jesus's miracles or His resurrection any more.

Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene, went on to say he believed there was a "magnetic pull" that kicks in if humans stray off the path they were destined to take.

"I think there are always paths not taken but if a different path is taken, I think there is a magnetic pull. There is a sort of something that pulls you back to the pathway having taken a fork in the road," he said.

Dawkins grew up in the Anglican faith but became atheist in his teens. Last year, he said in an interview with The Spectator that he could be described as a "cultural Anglican".

He said he felt "grateful" to the Church of England because of its "benign tolerance" that allowed people to be a part of its ceremonies and traditions without having to believe in the faith.

"I sort of suspect that many who profess Anglicanism probably don't believe any of it at all in any case but vaguely enjoy, as I do ... I suppose I'm a cultural Anglican and I see evensong in a country church through much the same eyes as I see a village cricket match on the village green," he said.

In comments at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in Connecticut earlier this year, Dawkins admitted he was a little "angry" with God and those who believe in Him.

"I do believe in truth. I am moved by the beauty of life, as it has evolved. I think any child who is being denied that knowledge is being cheated. It's wicked that children are being brought up in that way by parents, teachers, priests - deliberately, systematically deprived of that knowledge," he said.