Professor Jim Al-Khalili, a theoretical physicist and science broadcaster, said Monday at The Cambridge Union Society that Christianity had commandeered humanistic values.
In his presentation, Al-Khalili said he believed in the Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. The ethical maxim is often attributed to Jesus Christ.
Echoing the thought of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, a member of the audience said it seemed like secular humanists had "killed God" but were "still doing what he said" by adhering to Christian morality and values.
Al-Khalili responded by saying the situation was actually reversed. Christianity had hijacked human values.
"For me, that is what defines me as a human, that I have the capacity to love, to empathize, to sympathize, to be kind," he explained.
"Yes, those were values that were taken up by the Abrahamic religions and rightly so, because [it was] back at a time when people needed to be told those are important human values. For me, I don't think I need to behave in a certain way because I want to seek the reward of God or because I fear the punishment of God. I do them because I'm a human being."
Al-Khalili described Christians as "humanists who believe in God" and rejected the notion that humanism is synonymous with atheism.
Watch video, uploaded to YouTube, below: