The Archbishop of Canterbury says Genesis is not literally true, he has no idea whether anyone goes to hell and the Church of England’s debate over women bishops is embarrassing.
Dr Rowan Williams was asked on a Channel 4 documentary to be broadcast at the weekend how he knew God existed.
He answered: “I think I’d prefer to talk about being confident that God exists, or trusting that God exists.
“It’s not knowing as you know a state of affairs in the world, it’s much more of a sense that you’re in the presence of something greater than you can conceive.”
When asked if hell exists and what it is like, Dr Williams said: “My concept of hell, I suppose, is being stuck with myself for ever and with no way out.
“Whether anybody ever gets to that point I have no idea. But that it’s possible to be stuck with my selfish little ego for all eternity, that’s what I would regard as hell.”
“All we really know about the after-life is that God has promised to be there”, he said.
When it was pointed out that his concept of hell differed from the biblical portrayal, Dr Williams said being alone for ever “is torment enough if you think about it”.
He added that it is not necessary “to regard every verse of Genesis as recording history in the sense we now understand it”.
When asked about the issue of women bishops, Dr Williams said he was embarrassed by the Church of England’s slowness to catch up with the rest of society.
The Archbishop hit the headlines earlier this year when he revealed a preference for the novels of campaigning atheist, Philip Pullman.
Mr Pullman has said in the past that his books, predominantly aimed at children, aim to “undermine the basis of Christian belief” and are about “killing God”.
But the Archbishop, Dr Rowan Williams, said he liked Mr Pullman’s work because he took the church “seriously” at a time when it appeared to be “drifting out” of mainstream intellectual debate.
In 2008 he sparked a storm with the suggestion that Britain should consider accommodating parts of Muslim Sharia law into the legal system.
How Do You Know God Exists? will be shown on Channel 4 at 7pm this Sunday.