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What about Atheists?

Posted by Jennifer Mata on June 3, 2009 at 8:50 AM

I've been reading this book called "Secrets" by Paul Tournier. It was written in 1965 and provides examples and cases which seem quite outdated and sometimes too stereotypical and biased. But I guess the author could only portray the view of an educated, White, heterosexual man living in Europe in a post IIWW era. 

Tournier posits that a child in order to truly develop into an individual, separate and unique from the parent, needs to learn to keep some things to himself; the child needs to learn to have a secret. It is not until this moment, in which the child decides to keep a secret that he is not a true individual.

Phase two of this personality development theory, states that later on with the development of friendships and trust the child grows confident enough and decides to share this secret with someone else, not necessarily an adult or his parent, but someone he confides in. Once this secret is shared the child can be consider a true person.

Later on Tournier explains how this keeping and sharing secrets continues throughout a person's life and plays important roles in the relationships he builds, as in marital relatioships, and patient-therapist relationship.

The last phase mentioned by Tournier consist of the ultimate sharing of secrets. In this phase the person shares all secrets and thoughts with God. The sharing with God makes the person a person in the full senses of he word.

Tournier summarizes it as such "The first stage in the formation of a person was a withdrawl, becoming an individual by the cretaion of a personal secret. The second stage was the free communication of this sercret to someone else freely chosen, and out of it the experience of love and the interpersonal relationship with another. And the third stage is to have this double experience in our relations with God, to feel ourselves distinct from him, to choose him also freely, to tell him our secret and to know thereby the interpersonal relationship with him, the experience of the love of God." (p. 62)

I thought the propositions were interetsing, although I know there is more to making and individual a person than keeping and sharing secrets. What struck me and made me think hard was the notion of inclusiveness and how would it be possible to generalize this theory to everyone, especially now a days when people are opepnly so different. What would Tournier say of people of other beliefs, or people who share everything, or the extroverts who don't keep secrets? Would they not grow to develop into individuals and persons? What about Atheist? Would they never come to their full personal potential because they have nothing to share with God, since they don't believe in him? And then, furthemore, when thinking about spirituality specifically could Atheist be spiritual even though they don't believe in God? Or is spirituality a notion tied to the belief in something grander than us from which we stem?

I'm still thinking about these questions. What do you think? I would love to hear your opinions.

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1 Comment

Reply k8
10:54 AM on June 3, 2009 
I find the idea of secrets in formulating personhood to be quite interesting. As you well know, I'm in recovery and one of the steps of recovery is to do a 5th Step, which is basically a reiteration of all your secrets to another person and to God. It is stated that a self inventory is not enough. That to speak them outloud to another person in the supposed presence of God is what gives someone relief. <br> <br>And frankly, it works. There's a phrase that says, "You're only as sick as your secrets." It is not enough to say, "God, you know what I've done." It is more important to say it outloud and let it inform your consciousness. <br> <br>When it comes to Atheists and recovery, we tell them to choose anything they want as something bigger than them. It doesn't have to be "God." It can be a tree, the idea of nature, a group of people, etc. Spirituality comes from connecting with something larger than yourself and the process of letting your secrets out to whatever that is, works just as well for Atheists as it does believers. In my experience, spirituality is indeed tied to the belief in something grander than us from which we stem. It need not have anything to do with God.

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