Richard Dawkins had a stroke. Should believers pray for the famous atheist?

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(RNS) The renowned atheist Richard Dawkins has suffered a "minor stroke" and canceled an overseas book tour, generating concern among his legion of fans about his welfare and the future of his redoubtable campaign against religion and faith.

But the 74-year-old Briton's sudden illness also prompted a debate about whether believers should pray for the health of the trenchant nonbeliever.

For example, Huffington Post blogger Kashif N Chaudhry tweeted:

And others joined Chaudhry in those supplications.

But some fans of the author of "The God Delusion," among his other bestselling works, were having none of those calls for divine aid:

https://twitter.com/Foot_Off/status/698066958265274368

Yet some refused to back down:

https://twitter.com/pricklypilgrim/status/698074634479104002

A statement from the Sydney Opera House in Australia where Dawkins was to appear later this month announced that the famed scientist suffered a "minor stroke" last Saturday (Feb. 6).

"(H)owever he is expected in time to make a full or near full recovery," the statement continued. "He is already at home recuperating ... He is very disappointed that he is unable to do so but looks forward to renewing his plans in the not too distant future."


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Dawkins himself was back to tweeting by Thursday -- he has 1.36 million followers and frequently mixes it up on Twitter with his usual flair, endearing him to fans and infuriating foes.

But by late Friday he had made no mention of his illness.

(David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS.)