I had the following discussion with my daughters:
8 year old: you know daddy, we are all related at school.
Me: eh, ok, how so?
8 year old: we all come from the same people.
Me: eh, what?
8 year old: there were first a couple, and all people are related to them.
Me: Oh, that! Eh, some people say that, but it’s not true
6 year old: it’s like a legend, some people think it’s true, some think it’s a story.
Me: Yes, right, only it isn’t true.
– cue screaming, some further debate and then this –
8 year old: you can’t tell me what to believe, I can believe whatever I want.
Now, I have to note that my kids are in a secular school. However some of their fellow pupils go to catechism, where some of the above seeps into general discussion.
What can an atheist do when confronted with these debates? It may be socially unwise to take Richard Dawkins view and get in people’s faces. It sounds appealing to point out that for me ‘standard’ religious doctrine sounds like any other fairytale, but it will most certainly offend, and why would I want to do that to people that are my friends?
On the other hand I need to protect my children from an onslaught of antediluvian mumbo jumbo. I compromise by avoiding to flaunt my atheism (I am writing this post though), so long as people do not force me to accept their theism as a serious topic of debate.
I am not going to compromise to the point that I accept that science and physics are a matter of choice and belief. This is a slippery slope leading to intelligent design style obscurantism and Trump.
My answer to my 8 year old was:
Me: what happens if you drop a stone off the balcony? It goes down doesn’t it? Does it ever go up? No it doesn’t. Some people may choose to believe it could go up, but it won’t. Some things may be ‘legent’ but there is one reality.