Here, I would very much like to ask Aspies who consider themselves to be ‘theists’ (who believe in one or more deities) to describe the mechanics of their ‘belief’ as best as possible. (Of course, I would like all Aspies to describe their mechanics of ‘belief’ – but theist ones in particular, because I suspect that Aspie theists are quite rare.)
I have as yet to meet one…
I do know many Aspies, most of whom have been raised in theist homes when they were children. Yet, when I have discussed this whole topic of religion and belief, it has become clear to me that not one of them ‘believes’ in deities in the sense that neurotypicals who ‘believe’ do. The closest to ‘belief’ these people have come is to choose to live as if this whole ‘God proposition’ were true in much the same way that people can accept that something ‘is true’ in the ‘universe of Star Trek’ and can then extrapolate ‘new ideas’ within that pre-defined frame. Within these parameters, this is true…
But, of course, this does not really relate to reality…
I am not sure if I am explaining this in a way that non-Aspies will understand.
What I am trying to describe is akin to saying: not that I agree with this, but let’s accept this to be true for the sake of this discussion… I suspect that the Aspies who live as theists follow some version of this reasoning, which I understand is different from the ‘belief’ that most neurotypicals experienc.
Yes, I do understand that I am skirting the whole debate ‘what constitutes belief’ – but I hope that rather than focusing on the greater debate here, people will comment (so we can explore this discussion) on the difference between ‘religious belief’ as experienced by Aspies and non-Aspies.
Why do I think this is a topic worthy of discussion?
For the sake of the children, of course… Let me explain.
I know that I am incapable of ‘belief’ in the traditional sense – at best, I view validity of ideas based on probabilities. Even the ideas I hold as my ‘core views’, the ones I consider define me as me, even those ideas I cannot rate at 100% probability.
I have been this way from as far back as I can remember. I could never understand why other children would behave as if things were ‘definite’ or ‘certain’, how they could be so sure of, well, anything… They, on the other hand, thought that my constant qualifications of my position on anything meant I was setting things up so I could lie, or some other display of dishonesty…which, of course, was the exact opposite of what I was trying to do. I have since learned, in most social interactions, to censor out the vast majority of the uncertainties and qualifications – yet my speech still contains much more of these than displayed in majority of neurotypicals’ conversations.
Back to ‘the children’: I know many families where two non-Aspies have Aspie children, but I do not know of a single family where two Aspie parents would have any non-Aspie children, which is why the focus of this discussion is on Aspie children in non-Aspie households.
If I am correct in my observation that Aspies are physically incapable of ‘neurotypical belief’, what happens when theist parents are raising Aspie children?
What happens when Aspie children are sent to be educated in religious schools?
The demands made on Aspie children to ‘believe’ (in the neurotypical manner) in deities may be something these children are simply not physically capable of!
Of course, in theism, failure to ‘believe’ in just the right manner is interpreted as ‘sin’ and ‘heresy’ – a very bad thing. Children who fail to ‘believe’ are considered defiant and disobedient, to be punished and broken until they ‘believe’.
I have observed a number of Aspie children in these situations. In some Aspie children I have observed, this demand to ‘believe’ in a way they were physically incapable of had led to serious internal turmoil and led them to believe they were inherently bad people. In others, it led to further withdrawal from social interactions, and in two cases I am aware of it led to serious childhood depression. (Granted – other factors were there, but this was a big complication…)
So, we are talking about very serious effects here.
Last summer, an Aspie friend of my son joined us for our holidays: it was his first time away from his family and his parents were thrilled that he got an opportunity to spend a week ‘with his own kind’ – in an all-Aspie household. I think he had enjoyed himself, but there was one incident I was not certain of how to handle.
We holidayed up north, where the nature is pristine and light pollution is very low at night. As we were going through a meteor shower, we spent one clear evening lying on our backs on the beach and watching the deep, velvety night sky bejeweled by millions of stars. We saw some spectacular ‘shooting stars’ when our young (13) Aspie friend got quite upset: he explained that watching the vastness of the universe in the night-time sky made him finally realize that there probably is no afterlife…
This inability to ‘believe’ – in spite of a desire to – is unpleasant in itself. Adding to it parental and societal disapproval for ‘not believing’ – that can cause definite damage to a young person’s ability to grow up healthy and to their maximum potential.
Obviously, even though I probably know more Aspies than an average person does, my sample size is insufficient for anything more than ‘a hunch’…which is why I would welcome comments that might help us explore this issue together.