Fr. John Pasquini, Th.D.
Stunted Psychological Development and Atheism
A kindergarten concept of God or the academic sciences is very much different from a college-level concept of God and the academic sciences. Often people go to college with at best an eighth grade understanding of God, and yet have a high school or above understanding of the academic sciences and arts, and of almost everything else. And then we wonder why people lose their faith in college. They are still stuck in their eighth grade or kindergarten concept of God.
If we look at the psychological development of persons, we find similarities to the above analogy. If we do not nourish our being, if we do not foster psychological growth, similar consequences follow.
If a person has not moved, psychologically, beyond a childhood concept of God, then that person is likely to have great difficulties believing in God in his or her adult years. Anything that stunts a person’s psychological and/or spiritual development will either lead to a distorted spiritually or no spirituality at all.
Prior to puberty a child is predisposed to immanentism, egocentricism, narcissism, or self-centeredness. Healthy childhood development is marked by an expanded vision of reality where concepts of transcendence, self-giving and other-centeredness develops—qualities essential for belief in God. If a child has not progressed during this stage of development, in this pre-puberty stage, this childhood stage, then the child will enter into adolescence and likely adulthood with an inability to grasp the possibility of God, since the possibility of belief in God requires a sense of transcendence, self-giving and other-ness. Atheism, studies have shown, is characterized by egocentrism, immanentism, and many argue narcissism—many psychologist argue that atheism is a narcissist-related disorder. If one does not develop psychologically and properly through childhood into adolescence then the likelihood of atheism is more likely than less likely.