The Rt Rev David Jenkins attacked both 'self-styled religious authorities' and 'pseudo-believers or scoffing unbelievers' in his final Christmas Day sermon before his retirement next year.
He told a congregation at Durham Cathedral: 'We have to be on our guard against people who tell us we should not raise questions, disturb people's myths or trouble their faith.' One threat was from the 'manipulative condescension of self-styled religious authorities'.
Such authorities said 'people should not be disturbed - leave them to their comforting myths, legends and half truths'.
The bishop also spoke of the 'need to watch out for those pseudo-believers or scoffing unbelievers, who want to leave religious people in their special religious sphere'. Their attitude was 'by all means receive comfort from religion but do not bring it into politics, business or any of our real world manipulations of money, power, people and prestige'.
Dr Jenkins' counter-attack came at the end of a week in which he has been criticised by both church figures and Tory politicians for calling aspects of the Bible stories about the birth of Christ as 'myths'.
Letters, page 11