Even though I’ve been a good, church-going southern boy my whole life, I’ve struggled to believe in God as presented by the church. The idea of an old dude sitting on a cloud doling out favors and retribution as he sees fit just isn’t something I can get my head around, you know? It turns out this could well be due to my autism because studies show people with autism are more likely to identify as atheists than neurotypicals. It’s comforting, in a fucked up kind of way, to know that because it means I’m not alone. So today, I’m going to talk about how autism and atheism are a match made in, well, probably not heaven.
Studying Autism and Atheism
My original plan had been to give you a somewhat detailed breakdown of three studies I found that are connected to autism and atheism. But, the truth is, you don’t need that shit. Nor do you want it because, honestly, it’s a little boring and I went totally fucking overboard with that shit. Like 3 long-ass paragraphs. Not only was it a lot of boring shit, unless you’re really into it, it’s probably not that much fun to read. It was for men, which when I realized this was my hyperfixation kicking in. So, I cut it back to the medium-length one you’re about to read. For the record, I did provide links to those fuckers so you can read them if that’s your thing. It has nothing to do with me being a bit of an anal douchecanoe about citing my sources. I swear.
So, the first study looked at dualism and where it comes from by comparing the views of neurotypicals versus neurodivergence. They did this because NDs have issues with weird ass shit like the mind and body being separate entities. It was, to my nerdy ass, extremely interesting and I wondered if it was part of why autists lean toward atheism. And, it is. Sort of. I say that because I found another study that said our difficulties in mentalization play a part. Basically, it says that belief in a divine being relies on a person ability to think about minds (i.e. mentalization). To top all this shit off, I found a study that says it’s not all in our heads, it’s also environmental. Neurotypical society rewards conformity and churches, being an extension of that society, are not immune the desire for compliance. The bottom line? Religious organizations just don’t provide ND-friendly environments, no matter how hard they try. Between the mental shit, the social shit, and the conform-or-be-cast-out shit, is it any wonder that atheism is a thing among autistic people?
The Struggle Is Real, Y’all
In the opening sentence of this piece, I say that I’ve “struggled” with religion and faith. While that’s true, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Because the whole idea of taking something “on faith” fucking makes me itch. Especially when that thing flies in the face of shit like science and reason. This feeling has only deepened since I went to college. Learning about the scientific method and critical thinking took that innate skepticism and gave it a framework on which to hang. Let me be clear that education didn’t sour me on religion. Religion itself did that. The truth is, by the time I was in college, I’d already stepped away from the more ridiculous aspects of Christianity. Things like the virgin birth, an actual physical resurrection, or an actual seven day creation story are just too fucking fantastical to be taken literally. Education just gave me the tools to acknowledge what I already knew to be true.
I’m Skeptical. Very Fucking Skeptical
At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m an avowed atheist, but I’m not. If I have to put a label on it, I’d say I’m an agnostic who’s open to the possibility that this whole God thing is real. But with a fucking healthy dose of skepticism. At least 80% of what I heard in church growing up has turned out to be horseshit. And, not the useful kind you can spread on your flowers to make them bloom all pretty. The flood narrative from Genesis? No evidence that shit ever occurred. Like, ever. Sodom and Gomorrah? Those cities may (and I stress, may) have burned to the ground but not for the reason I was originally told. The virgin birth and an actual physical resurrection? I can’t help but think you’re fucking with me with these last two. I mean, that is not how shit works. Apparently, for some Christians, not believing all this crazy ass stuff is a goddamn deal breaker. But for me, saying I have to believe it is the goddamn deal breaker.
So, Where Does This Leave Us?
The short answer is that it leaves us in a place where you do your shit and I do mine. As long as neither of us is hurting the other, that is. More specifically, for me it means that I maintain my connection with my current church and go as often as I can handle it. And by “handle it”, I mean that I’m not overwhelmed with social shit and the more mystical aspects that I don’t cough <*bullshit*> loud enough to be heard. Because I like my church people and, much as I hate to admit it, a socially averse misanthrope needs community, too. Even if it makes them itch.