My son, Daniel, is 6 months old. A key developmental milestone for him over the next few months is for him to learn that when an object is out of sight, it still exists. For him, an object only exists if he can see it. This goes for any object; animate or inanimate. Psychologists call this developmental phenomenon ‘object permanence’. We typically grow out of it within a year or so as a baby, but it causes a great deal of anxiety for a baby. This is because when mommy leaves the room, she ceases to exist for Daniel. Part of the learning curve is to learn that mommy is ‘permanent’.
Now, I said above that we typically learn object permanence at an early age. I wonder what happens if we don’t fully resolve our object permanence issues and if this might shed some light when considering how some individuals purport to only ‘believe in what they can see’. Atheists are some of the most vocal proponents of this philosophy.
Talk to a hardcore atheist and s/he will tell you how, if ‘it’ cannot be measured, empirically tested or just plain observable, there is no use in wasting energy in trying to believe in it. The ‘it’ for atheists is obviously God. The atheist’s view does however extend beyond God to almost anything beyond the natural realm. If it has a hint of supernatural, it is disregarded and often ridiculed.
Atheists get me giggling when they speak of God as our ‘imaginary friend’. It reduces our faith to an infantile delusion and obsession.
Now, what happens if I apply the same thought process to atheists themselves and try understand why believing in the not-seen is such an impossibility. I think object permanence can shed some light on the matter.
The argument is this: that atheists have in some way, become retarded in their psychological development, and become stuck in their object permanence phase thus limiting their tolerance for acknowledging the not-seen elements of human existence, most notably God. Besides all their clever arguments against the existence of God, or any supernatural realm, rooted in the supposed absence of evidence, atheists may have some other psychological make-up that prevents them from coming to the realisation that God is the foundation … of everything, seen or not seen.
Now, for those mentally agile atheists reading this, let me say this before you bash your keyboard in commenting that if you had seen God first (or at all) you would have believed in God: my theory is about the potential of a stunted developmental phase that in some way gives a person a proclivity for resisting the ‘not seen’.
Object permanence is rooted in seeing the object first, for sure, but we homosapiens do believe in things we have never seen (even atheists). So for example, lets take historical people. Only the most deluded atheist would argue that Jan van Riebeck never arrived at the southern tip of Africa (excuse the South African example). You’ve never seen him, but you believe he existed. So, seeing is not believing for atheists. If this is true, they have a bias towards arguing against the existence of God for some reason?
I don’t have the foggiest clue as to why, or how, this object relations retardation may I occur. But no doubt some of you will want some form of empirical evidence to disprove the theory. Be my guest. I look forward to seeing how off the rocker I am, or not, by positing this theory.