Friday, September 19, 2014

Asperger's Syndrome and Religion

One of the strange things that I've noticed about people with Asperger's syndrome is that when it comes to religion, they often fall into the categories of all or nothing.

Of course, there's a plethora of individuality out there and not all people with Asperger's syndrome sit at extremes but there does seem to be a bit of a trend nevertheless.

The aim of this post is to highlight some general themes and trends that I've seen. I'm not sure how much of what I've seen is down to Asperger's versus general opinions on religion but I'll be happy to hear your thoughts in the comments.

The Highly Religious 
A highly religious person with Asperger's syndrome tends to be focussed mainly on the inward aspects of religion, such as prayer and good moral values. They may spend a lot of time perusing, memorising and quoting religious texts.

I've noted that direct involvement with the church, synagogue or clergy tends to be in the form of very small on-topic discussions rather than fully-fledged social events. This is only natural given that people with Asperger's usually feel uncomfortable in crowded social settings.

One darker aspect that I have also seen is; dubious morality where a person holds true to certain moral aspects of their religion, for example, covering their eyes during risqué scenes in a movie but then proceeds to accept less savoury experiences, such as paedophilia within their church or bullying, with fewer qualms.

Quite often, these highly religious people become "self-censors" and choose their information sources very carefully. Anything which contradicts their personal take on their own religion is rejected and they pick and choose sources, including people to ensure that only their version is supported.

This is very different behaviour to the normal all-consuming special-interest absorption favoured by people with Asperger's.  

The Atheist
Atheism is rife within the autism community and it seems, at first glance, to be far more widespread in comparison to the ratio of atheist/believer in the wider population.

It's not that these people don't think about God, in fact it's more often a case of "overthinking". Atheists on the autism spectrum quite often lump the image of God in with Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. The physics of it all simply don't add up and coupled with the difficulty of staying still and quiet in church, this drives them away.

The normal rules for special interests apply with atheists on the spectrum and if religion ends up becoming a special interest, you can expect them to delve into historic and scientific texts in order to find evidence.

Atheists with Asperger's syndrome also tend to be more vocal about their beliefs and will happily explain why religion is false to anyone who dares to suggest otherwise. This can sometimes cause social problems, particularly when they are unaware that their comments are causing distress.

The Middle Ground
Of course, not all people with Asperger's are consumed with religion, history or science and there are certainly plenty of people who occupy the middle ground. It just seems to me, that those without an opinion on religion are in the minority.