Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie responded to British atheist professor Richard Dawkins' comments that fairy tales and belief in Father Christmas may harm a child's development, saying "a little magic" helps impart important moral lessons.
"There are morals in these stories and you want a little magic – it's important to have something that we're a little bit in awe of," Jolie, 39, told the Psychologies magazine. "Kids grow up fast enough these days, so let's allow them to have a little bit of childhood for as long as they can."
Jolie, who is raising her six children, was responding to the 73-year-old evolutionary biologist's talk at the Cheltenham Science Festival earlier this week where he said it is "rather pernicious to instill in a child the view that the world is shaped by supernaturalism."
"The other day, one of the kids lost a tooth and I talked about the tooth fairy," Jolie continued. "Half of them are old enough to think: 'What are you talking about,' yet they're still not sure there isn't something. And I'm not lying to them. I say, 'I really can't tell you. I don't really know. Mothers are sworn to secrecy.'"
The actress also talked about her latest film "Maleficent," in which she plays an evil fairy godmother. "I got really emotional because the script is very powerful," she said, according to Daily Mail. "The kids loved it."
Speaking about his autobiography, An Appetite for Wonder, at the festival, Dawkins said, "Even fairytales, the ones we all love, about witches and wizards or princes turning into frogs. There's a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog. It's statistically too improbable."
The appeal of fairytales may lie in their magic, but their supernatural perspective is "second-rate" and more harmful than we think, Dawkins added. "Is it a good thing to go along with the fantasy of childhood? Or should we be fostering a spirit of scepticism?"
Asked if religious instructions amount to a form of child abuse, Dawkins replied, "To call it testament to child abuse would be a bit strong, but when you tell a child to mind their Ps and Qs otherwise they'll roast in hell then that is tantamount to child abuse."
The atheist professor admitted he once "flirted" with religion, but added, "I grew up. I put away childish things." He said the scientific view is "so marvelous that anything else is a second rate explanation of existence."
After his talk, Dawkins sought to explain, "I did not and will not condemn fairytales. My whole life has been given over to simulating the imagination, and in childhood years, fairy stories can do that." However, he once again said later that it's an "interesting question" how a "diet of supernatural magic spells" affects a child's development.
Speaking at the Hay Festival in Wales, Dawkins recently admitted that while he surely doesn't believe in the supernatural elements of Christianity, he wouldn't mind being called "a secular Christian." "I would describe myself as a secular Christian in the same sense as secular Jews have a feeling for nostalgia and ceremonies," he said.