A number of people have asked me if being/becoming a Christian is more difficult as someone on the Autism Spectrum. It’s always seemed like a silly question to me. I thought, what difference should it make? But this question was often coming from Christians who have friends or family members on the spectrum who are strong atheists. Even those growing up in Christian households (as I did) often end up not just switching to another religion but renouncing religions in general. I’ve come to realize in recent years that my being an Autistic and Christian is a bit of a statistical anomaly. So perhaps there is something to this question after all.
I will take a moment to point out that I’m not arguing Nature vs. Nurture. I’m acknowledging and analyzing a pattern, but I also believe in free will. The pattern would not exist without a cause behind it, but without free will we might not have statistical anomalies. (And since I’m dealing with other people’s beliefs I also want to apologize ahead of time for offending anyone. I aim to be respectful but I know sensitivity is not my strong point.)
The conclusion most jump to is that the problem is relational. They ask me if having a relationship with God is difficult as an autistic since I struggle to understand relationships in general. Personally I don’t think this is really the issue. For one thing, difficulty understanding how to have a relationship with God affects a much broader range of people. I generally find God easier to deal with than people.
From speaking with other autistics, both religious and non-religious, and getting their views on things, the conclusion I come to is this… (and to some of you this may be painfully obvious)
As far as what we, as individual autistics, choose to believe, all of our own personal conclusions seem to be based on logic. We autistics are, almost universally, logical thinkers. We don’t choose our beliefs based on emotion, as it seems to us is what most people do. We may make emotional decisions sometimes, but in regards to our beliefs the only thing that matters is the truth. We are each going with what makes the most logical sense to us, based on what we see when we look at the world. What I am unable to answer is why the world that I see is so different from what most autistics see.
I imagine that most autistics (as with most atheists) look at the world and see disorder. And disorder is certainly there to be seen. And whether by a divine whisper or by the brain’s natural inclination to decipher patterns, there is an inherent sense of the way the world should be. And the world is not as it should be. Therefore the world is in chaos. Therefore there is no one in control. Therefore there is no God. People of faith, on the other hand, claim to see only beauty and divine providence when they look at the world, or at least this is what the stereotypical religious person looks like to us – living in ignorance.
As for myself, my view of the world lies somewhere in between. I don’t see a world of complete chaos without rhyme or reason, and I don’t see perfect harmony either. I see the results of a perfectly made world that has fallen into chaos – and to me this fits with what the Bible tells me I should expect of the world. Pain and suffering is everywhere, and yet so is beauty. I look at the natural world and I feel remorse for animals that get taken down by larger carnivores, but I also admire the beauty of their design, the stripes on the zebra and on the tiger alike. I see what remains of the world that God gave to us in Genesis, after the fall of Man set it on this course into a chaotic state.
So what makes my view different from most autistics? I don’t know. It could simply be different life experiences. I was raised in the church, and exposed early and often to a lot of first-hand examples of God at work. But so were many autistics who are now atheist. Life experience isn’t everything. It could just be different ways of processing the same information. A different way of connecting the dots. Or perhaps some dots don’t get connected. At the bottom of it all I generally assume that a person’s response to any belief system is ultimately attitudinal. Do I take the world for what I want it to be, do I take it for what it ought to be, or do I take it for what it is?