Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Asperger's and religion. What do you say when God comes calling? No thanks, or yes please?

Back in the fall of 2008 I spoke at the MIT Brain Science Center in Boston. One of the people at that talk was Catherine Caldwell Harris, a psychology professor at BU. She asked an interesting question:

Why do you think Asperger people tend to be atheists?

First of all, I had no idea whether or not her premise was even true. Did Asperger people tend to be atheists? I turned the question back to her, and she told me about studies she'd done; exploring the religious views of a large number of people on the spectrum. Within the sample she had interviewed the majority tend tend to have what she saw as atheist views.

Since that time, I have conducted a sort of informal poll in the course of my travels, and I have to say my numbers look similar to hers. But I don't claim to understand the why of it. . .

After discussing that peculiar observation some more, we both wondered if the people's views were truly atheist, or really "anti-organized-church." The more I listened to Catherine, the more I felt it was the latter case. I thought Asperger people might shy away from organized churches because their threat and dogma ran against our logical grain.

But I recently saw another study postulating the same thing - that people on the autism spectrum are less religious than the general population - but for a totally different reason - a diminished theory of mind.

Here's a story from the Scientific American blogs that ponders the same question.

Read it and let me know what you think.

Are you on the spectrum and religious? Are you an atheist? Are you spiritual, but not part of a church? Or are you a solid churchgoing believer?