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Another narrative behind the Autism/Atheism "link"....

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posted on May, 31 2012 @ 10:44 AM
Last year in September, an interesting article caught my eye... "Atheism as mental deviance" .... I thought to myself "That has got to be a deliberately shallow attempt to anger many readers into clicking on the article." Responding as the authors most likely intended, but not for the reason they engendered... I clicked.

Clicking led me to reading; and thus to sharing my perceptions with with my friends so I create a thread here on ATS Interesting - but problematic statistics: Autism and Atheism... (note I took the liberty of at least attempting to make that title less inflammatory.)

As could be expected, the matter was met "reflexively" ... many, perhaps most, members participating were angered by the inferences they drew from the study I cited.

Once we had dispensed with the vetting of whether I was attempting to "promote" the idea, as opposed to sharing it, some very insightful comments followed. However, as conversation do, it strayed toward a direction that was more about how atheism is a conscious rational choice... not a matter of hard-wired 'defects' of the human brain. It should also not need elaboration that a great deal of defensiveness was evoked..,

I return to you with a different article; one perhaps better structured but ostensibly equally suspect...

Autism study strengthens idea that we read God's mind

Please understand, I do not go "looking" for these articles, but I cannot help but be amused by the consistently 'creative' way they are entitled.... this title has a particularly redeeming metaphorical application; but on it's face it nevertheless risks completely misdirecting a would be reader.... I can't help but wonder why this is consistently so?

From the article:

People with autism appear less likely to believe in God – a discovery that has strengthened theories that religious belief relies on being able to imagine what God is thinking, a capacity known as "mentalising".

One of the hallmarks of autism is an impaired ability to infer and respond to what other people are thinking, so the investigators wondered whether this would affect their likelihood of believing in God.

In a study of adolescents questioned on their beliefs, those with autism were almost 90 per cent less likely than non-autistic peers to express a strong belief in God.

The theory goes that if you are not capable of empathizing, understanding social context, and projecting or sensing emotional conditions in others, or as a response to your actions (as those suffering from Autism seem to be) you are less capable of harboring "strong faith" in your personality.

It seems a vaguely 'wanting' theory.. and my own limitations may be responsible for my difficulties fully understanding it. However, "mentalising" may be a suitable concept for rationalizing how worship takes place in the brain. Subjectively projecting oneself as an 'object' to a larger all-encompassing intellect must require some exercise to that effect.

Perhaps our members who revel in atheism will find this entry less offensive... after all it is brought to us, in this instance, by researchers who have apparently greater affinity for not characterizing the similarities of atheism and autism as a disease.... even though that seems to infer the converse may be true... that faith is an act of self-delusion and perhaps an offshoot of a narcissistic ideal.

This discussion may be better served now. Since it appears of late that many evangelical theists and atheists are on vacation engaging in the political sport "cheer-leading."

I can only hope that my comments will not engender more angst my way...
edit on 31-5-2012 by Maxmars because: (no reason given)

edit on 31-5-2012 by Maxmars because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 31 2012 @ 11:19 AM
I find this extremely interesting. I wonder if the so-called "God" chemical (the part of the brain that stimulates NDE) plays into this somehow.

Working with autistic students, I've noticed they tend to not like direct social interaction. They are "unplugged" from emotional feelings (please understand this is very generalized and stereotyped; there are multiple levels of autism and not all follow these guidelines).

Which raises another interesting point, one I've pondered many a year. If God exists, and he "created" or "allowed" someone to be born with a mental impairment that kept that person from believing in God, then how could God punish that person? If God is the ultimate in justice, then where is the justice for the person born missing that part?

Great thread, OP. Can't wait to see the responses.
edit on 31-5-2012 by smyleegrl because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 31 2012 @ 11:26 AM
reply to post by Maxmars

autism is caused by heavy metal poisoning, specifically mercury poisoning
Chelation is the proper treatment.

the "study" is simply a big steaming pile of bull feces.

part of the "religious/atheists are crazy" wars

religion has failed in turns of delivering transcendence,
and corporate science wants to turn us all into robots.
nuff said.

posted on May, 31 2012 @ 11:33 AM
We've evolved a certain way to our environment. Anybody outside this way will necessarily be seen as impaired both in their behavior and their condition. Heard of the god part of the brain? I would not be surprised one bit (haha!) if evolution intentionally has used religion for one reason or another to further its goals. So the moment something mutates or deviates from this intended direction, problems will ensue as they almost always do when we stray from the chosen path. The chosen path is so complex and intimately tied to its environment that it's highly unlikely for a random mutation or change to be beneficial. Maybe in another environment it would in fact be beneficial, but not every small change can be accommodated so lovingly and delicately. Most changes are not beneficial and end up in disaster. So this is the fate then, I suppose, of those who suffer from autism.

I've heard our best minds say that believing in god might be a benefit to us. I myself do not believe in god anymore, but I see the logic in this thinking. Without God I sometimes despair because of the conditions of reality: death, disease, randomness, murder, etc. When I believed in God I did not worry about these things because I knew that my faith in God conquered all things. This is not to say that faith is easy. It was very hard at times because I did not want to sin or be throw into hell for eternity for something stupid I did. So there was always this feeling that I could mess up my relationship with God and be abandoned. Looking back on it now, I think that my life was very much fear-based. I felt back then that if I turned from God I would be burned for eternity, so obviously what choice did I have? However, there were many moments when my faith in God brought redemption and deep satisfaction and serenity. My point is to say that maybe people who believe in God benefit from it because it gives them answers that they otherwise would not have in the absence of God.

I do not know if I have autism, but I've always had social problems. I do not want to know whether I have it or not because I personally do not trust the "establishment". I've seen them mess up people. And who knows? For all we know, all of these changes we see may be inevitable. Seriously, this whole living on planet earth with seven billion others is a grand experiment. Perhaps some of us are the product of a bad experiment. Or maybe evolution encourages some experimenting to take place.

This brings me to another topic. I've thought more than once that evolution might "mess up" some people intentionally. Why would it do this? Because, I suspect, we get too comfortable doing things a certain way. Sometimes the boat needs to be shaken - people have to make waves. Evolution accomplishes this by randomly changing things. While most of the time the changes do not help the individuals experiencing them, perhaps it has a nullifying effect on something else we do not yet understand. Maybe it's good that some people refuse to stay on the path and instead wander off. Not so much because they make themselves better, but they remind us once again why we should stay on the path. And if, by chance alone, the crazy man that wandered off the path was right, the majority of people on the path will gain from it and not all themselves plummet off the cliff.
edit on 31-5-2012 by jonnywhite because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 31 2012 @ 11:53 AM
I find this study to be very interesting, however I cannot for the life of me see how not believing in an imaginary being in the sky (not trying to be rude, just trying to avoid picking any one religion) would cause the mental development of a child to go wrong.

I have a 6 month old daughter, my first child. I've noticed some other young/newer parents leave their kids to play by themselves in a play pen, or sitting on a swing for hours without interacting with them. Many parents it seems are too preoccupied with facebook and their social lives and not interacting with their children. My wife and I, both of us have masters degrees in education spend a great deal of time playing with her, trying to teach her things, showing her emotions (both positive and a few of the lighter negative emotions), and probably the most important is we SOCIALIZE her. We often have people over the house and not just family members. We let people who she just met (that we trust obviously) to hold her and play with her.

Conversely, my older cousin who has a 6 year old daughter never let anyone in the family see her. They kept her sheltered for many years. He is my 1st cousin, and I had not met his daughter until she was 3 years old and he lives right down the street from me. Now, when they come to a family dinner she hides from everyone, won't talk to anyone, and is having problems socializing with kids in pre-school. While she is not autistic, I believe she came very close to having serious developmental problems. As it is now she will always be a very VERY shy child.

Now I am in no way saying that Autism is caused by bad or unattentive parenting, but there is just as likely a link between the two as not believing in an imaginary man in the sky.

posted on May, 31 2012 @ 12:16 PM
reply to post by Whatsreal

Nice post. +1 for you.

I think lousy parenting probably does have an influence on things, why not? It's part nature and part nurture, right? Responsibility has to fall on multiple fronts in our battle to figure out how things work.

One other thing... this other man you mention (and his wife) that have that daughter, what do you know about their social lives? Are they fully social like you or do you detect shortcomings? I'm not relieving them of responsibility to their daughter and her social development, but it could be that they themselves lack the innate awareness of it and so do not help her in this important area. Ever seen a family and all of them were overweight? Kind of like that, except they're socially underweight.

I remember reading that social development in those first few years is very important. I can't remember the details of what I read. But nonetheless, I think your post is important.
edit on 31-5-2012 by jonnywhite because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 31 2012 @ 12:41 PM
There is a distinct difference between behavioral conditioning and physiological affectations that preclude, or override, what we as a society call "the norm."

I think it is wrong to characterize this as "autism interferes with faith." Instead, I think we should labor to quantify what is is about 'faith' that requires something the autistic lacks.

Scientists, being entrenched in the "quantifiable evidence" camp, may be attempting to link apples to oranges. But that is just me. I am a firm adherent to the idea that (spiritual/dogmatic) faith is not a rational choice.... it is a choice made despite reason. Such faith that manifests itself in heartfelt religion is an act of "will."

Not everyone "wants" to apply their will that way. It is their choice. It does not affect society until society defines itself as demanding faith. It's a tough sell though. So I won't expect many to agree.

However, considering the possibility that the "will" to accept faith is there... but the means to embrace it is lacking - if we accept the research - means that faith may achievable for some - but not others. Our inherent capacity to view non-conformity as a threat can make for a truly painful existence for those who can't believe. It also makes for the potential that many "say" they believe only to conform.

If we allow the evangelicals to hijack the narrative, we may never know. Because faith is not a social phenomenon; it is a personal one. Evangelicals, ever the social peddlers however, insist that name-calling, repugnant mischaracterization of the opposing view, or worse, the disagreeing person add something to the argument. For them it's about being a member of the 'club' where members are smarter, or otherwise better than everyone else. Most here (though not all) seem to know better, I prefer to believe.

Personally, I refuse to go down the path of poo-pooing every perception that conflicts with my own. It seems counterproductive to pretend this is only about "opinion;" but I am willing to discuss the matter from any perspective... whereas the more angst-filled seem to revel in the conflict; and go out of their way to engender "opinion" as the central issue.

posted on Jun, 1 2012 @ 04:19 AM

Because faith is not a social phenomenon; it is a personal one.

I do disagree with this perspective to a large extent. If Jesus was the only true son of God, then why is he still not known about in some parts of the world and all of the world before he came along? As the culture that holds this faith has spread to all the corners of the Earth, so has their faith based perceptions. Questions of faith are just like any other ideas in the way they comprise and define a culture and spread just as the interactions of man do. While there is some room for personal choice in terms of our perceptions of faith, most of it comes from our social culture as for what ideas and possibilities we are able to merge to define our faith.

Why I see their is so much trouble and conflict when discussing the topic of god is that all too often it is the easy answer for all the remaining questions in the too hard basket. As for the links between Autism and Atheism, they do both appear to be trends that are on the rise. With the very logical thought processes that is exhibited in many cases of Autism I am not at all surprised that they are not able to relate to some clouded concept that tries to explain so much with so little. There is a very long and complex history for the reasons of why we are here, if you are happy with the short answer of God that is fine, but not everyone is.

posted on Jun, 1 2012 @ 09:45 AM

Originally posted by kwakakev

Because faith is not a social phenomenon; it is a personal one.

I do disagree with this perspective to a large extent.....

I understand what you're saying. From this perspective I believe that you are addressing the cumulative effect of groups of people adopting the same faith. But I think many times "groups" of people adopt the same faith because it is the faith most everyone "the group" displays as 'accepted.'

In the end, true faith is a matter of personal choice; and even if a church is full of 'faithful' you can nearly be certain that there are some who wouldn't be there if it weren't for the social 'norm' ... or if it weren't for the fact that their entire family is there.

In my opinion, that choice is made for them... thus it is not 'faith.'

I reference the personal (internal dialogue) mental process of choosing to accept that despite a lack of logical support, some establish a paradigm of life that includes a larger entity than oneself, or anyone or anything else that can be concretely measured.

This is not a social thing, though as such a personal choice becomes more common it will very likely have social impact.

I wonder, out of curiosity, how other highly religious cultures deal with autism, and what their 'cultural perspective' is on the potential that 'faith' may be inhibited by a 'condition' for which medicine claims there are evidence-based conclusions to be drawn. How they deal with atheism is clearly evident...

Could there be a difference between spiritual faith, and mundane faith?

edit on 1-6-2012 by Maxmars because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 1 2012 @ 10:59 AM
reply to post by Maxmars

I do very much acknowledge that there is a lot of individual variation in the definition, value and meaning that faith has within a group. Faith is not just limited to some other external entity to help solve our problems and keep us safe, but can also be applied to ourselves, others, tools and the environment.

In some more primitive cultures, deformities have been linked to thinks like devil worship and witchcraft and the child is generally killed. In some ways it is best as life can be hard in hunter and gather systems and if the individual is not able to be independent and reliable it can risk and overly burden the greater community. In todays way of life the issues of resources and independence is not as great, support is available for the individual to make the most with what they have and more is getting understood about the reasons, whys and hows of life.

There is a big spectrum of faith out there. As for the spiritual and mundane, there seams to be clear distinctions. While the term exorcism is way overused, there are some very interesting cases when looking into it. What was Moses thinking when he walked down the mountain with the 10 commandments? How did Joan of Arc quickly raise so much support and know where to find the sword? While there are clear chemical reactions going on in the brain when people have a Near Death Experience, does our spirit really live on with so many strong, power and life altering accounts? What is it with Multiple Personality Disorder and why do accounts of Monarch indicate that the person needs to be broken physically, mentally and spiritually to achieve such disorders? While there are a lot of fake and bad Psychics and Mediums around, there are many cases that leaves one going WTF.

There are a lot of strange anomalies when investigating the spiritual.aspects of existence, I don't have all the answers but as science continues to push the boundaries hopefully they do start to become a little clearer.
edit on 1-6-2012 by kwakakev because: spelling 'accounts'

edit on 1-6-2012 by kwakakev because: fixed grammer

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