OXFORD author Philip Pullman believes the Archbishop of Canterbury must have “very good eyesight” to see traces of God in his work.

Mr Pullman, author of the award-winning His Dark Materials trilogy and an avowed atheist, was speaking in response to comments made by Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams, at Hay Festival.

Dr Williams, who described Mr Pullman as one of his favourite authors, told an audience at the festival it was clear the author took the ‘Christian myth’ seriously enough to disagree with it.

He also said the idea of a “daemon” – souls of humans in animal form written about in Mr Pullman’s work – showed awareness of people’s “inner conversation” which should be part of how people talk about God.

Mr Pullman, who has debated religion with Dr Williams in the public arena in the past, told the Oxford Mail: “He must have very good eyesight. It is always pleasing to think one’s books are being read and thought about but what people say about them, but it is for them to define, not for me.

“I am an atheist because I do not believe there is a God – but I am also a religious person, because I am interested in the questions religions deal with, such as why are we here, where do we come from, and what is good and what is evil.

“But that does not mean that we have to believe in God.”