My daughter, following in her father's churchlesss footsteps, doesn't believe in God. Or other religious fantasies.
So it surprised her when my granddaughter, who is almost seven, popped up with this back-seat observation when they approached Disneyland recently. (They live in southern California.)
"Praise God for Disneyland."
"What do you mean?" my daughter replied. "I'm the one who is driving you to Disneyland. So praise your mother for taking you."
My granddaughter thought for a while. "OK, then let's praise Walt Disney for Disneyland."
That makes much more sense than praising God. But I can understand why my granddaughter said what she did. She goes to an independent Episcopal school that, though embracing children of all faiths and no-faith, still has daily prayers, a chapel, and such.
I reassured my daughter that children go through all sorts of phases.
I wouldn't be surprised if my granddaughter has one or more religious upswings where she tries out believing in some form of supernatural God. I certainly did, though my daughter has never swerved from her unbelieving attitude.
On the plus side, my wife and I just attended a "Grandparent's Day" at the school. I was much impressed with the school's commitment to science and scientific thinking.
With the help of a parent, my granddaughter and a first grade classmate carried out a pretty sophisticated study of bacteria levels at various locations around her school. They cultured swabs, displaying the results as part of other experiments on review at the Grandparent's Day event.
Hypothesis: boys have more germs than girls. Their conclusion was, yes, based on swabs taken at locations frequented by boy students (can't remember where; might have been handles of boy's restrooms).
The great thing about this is what my granddaughter is learning about reality at such an early age: the truth is out there; it can be known by observing the physical world in certain ways that separate truth from untruth.
My daughter helped teach her this lesson when she challenged my granddaughter's unfounded hypothesis that God is responsible for the existence of Disneyland.
There is no demonstrable evidence that this is true. "Praise God for [whatever]" is just a manner oif speaking, a religious utterance that points to nothing real in the world. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that Walt Disney created the park that bears his name.
Walking through the room that housed the student science experiments, I couldn't help thinking that these elementary students had managed to learn more about the universe in a few weeks than religions have learned in all of recorded history.
Some aspects of reality likely always will remain mysterious.
But this doesn't mean that we can't learn about the many aspects that can be understood by humans. Including the fact that Walt Disney came up with the concept for Disneyland and supervised its construction.
Sure, one could then trace the existence of Walt Disney back, and back, and back, and back until the first stirrings of life on Earth, and even farther -- back to the big bang that brought the universe into existence.
Nowhere, though, will God be found. At least, not any God which isn't just another name for the laws of nature. People can choose to believe in religious dogma; this doesn't make it true, even if billions accept the same untruths.
Regarding whether boys have more germs than girls... this is a question that can't be resolved by a simple first grade science experiment. A bit of Googling revealed some evidence that my granddaughter is right. Also, that she is wrong.
At least scientific questions have answers that can be either right or wrong. With religion, the phrase "not even wrong" holds sway.