Oct 312013

An interesting blog posting up at CNN.com:

‘Mr. Spock goes to church’: How one Christian copes with Asperger’s syndrome

What we have here is a feller claiming to be both an Aspie and a Christian. This is a somewhat unusual combination; Asperger’s syndrome and religious conviction are often assumed to be sorta of mutually exclusive concepts. And for good reason. As one religious blogger notes:

Aspies are known to be literal, black and white thinkers who want or need evidence or proof. Spiritual faith does not require proof.

(Note: That second sentence could be written better. “Spiritual faith is the rejection of proof” would seem to me to be more accurate.)

Being literal-minded can set up some issues when faced with concepts such as religious faith in things that cannot be demonstrated (life after death, angels, God, honest politicians, that sort of thing). I suspect that many Aspie children believe in some god or other because they were told to, just as children believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus; but when they start to become aware of the fact that some things they were told Are So turn out to Not Be So, this can make ’em especially jumpy about the undemonstrated, and here’s where religious families start having trouble with kids with Aspergers. Too many claim that their favored religious text is Literal Truth rather than Allegory, and there’s  really no such thing as a religious text that stands up to Literal Truth Scrutiny. So when you claim that your book is Fact, and something within it is patently silly… then to someone with a black-and-white worldview, the whole thing is suspect, as is any attached belief-and-practice system.


Interestingly, there is another side to Aspergers: many of ’em *are* religious, and from what I’ve read, they tend to be of the more fundamentalist variety. That black-and-white thinking that leads most Aspies away from religion makes the religious Aspies into black-and-white-thinking religious types: this behavior is good, that behavior will get you sent straight to Hell.

Back to the original “Mr. Spock” link: the writer sez…

I desperately wanted to have what they had – an emotional experience of God’s presence – and asked them to pray over me.

It didn’t work.

When I didn’t move with the Holy Spirit or speak in tongues, they told me it was because I had rejected God.

From my experience, the church experience seems to break down into two basic types:

1) Legalistic/ritualistic (the Catholic masses/weddings I’ve been to… yeeesh, what a snore)

2) Extreme emotionalism… singing, clapping, yelling, etc.

Maybe some Aspies would get a warm fuzzy from the first type (Yay! Rules! Order! Ritual!), but the second type seems to be tailor-made to push Aspies away: if you inject someone who has trouble with basic human socialising into a room full of people who are socializing loudly, powerfully and, in the final analysis, socializing around something not rationally explainable, I can’t see much beyond a whole lot of confusion and feeling of alienation. Couple that with the Aspies lower incidence of seeing “purpose” behind events that were not the result of obvious human choice, and it seems pretty clear that the pews probably wouldn’t be full of Aspie worshipers busily trying to avoid eye contact.

 Posted by at 2:17 am
  • publiusr

    We have a Christian station as part of Crawford broadcasting that ran a more free-thinking libertarian talk-radio host, Matt Murphy away from FM 101. (He is on an AM station now)
    We have a lot of socially conservative hosts here, and one of these who hates big gov’t–except when lording over people private lives, was railing against frre-thinkers because he thought them sinful, odd or whatever.
    Here is the problem The jock culture is what drives religion, same as football. and most Aspies can’t stand up to them–that is the real hell of it.
    But the worst of the fundies do have that Aspie type behaviour–but I often wonder if it is folks with Williams syndrome who often lead the “sanging” in church…

  • Rufus

    1) Legalistic/ritualistic (the Catholic masses/weddings I’ve been to… yeeesh, what a snore)

    2) Extreme emotionalism… singing, clapping, yelling, etc.

    You are clearly an expert on the subject.

    • Anonymous

      You ever been to an evangelic church? I have. It was not a sedate, serene experience.

  • Anonymous

    I can cope with Episcopal worship where everything is written down, but I can’t cope with charismatic churches at all. Like the guy in this article I did try. I think Aspergers people are more likely to take the bible literally, and be at the evangelical end of the spectrum – if they take any interest in religion.