Living With Autism Part 7: Concerning Religion

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It took almost a half an hour of research to get started on this post after I brought up the ‘new post’ page.  Over the last few days, I’ve gotten more interested in the relationship between religion and autism, and what religion is like for people on the autism spectrum.  A study done in 2011 (you can see the hard-to-follow statistics of in full here) showed that people with high-functioning autism are less likely to belong to an organized religion than people who are neuro-typical, and are more likely to create their own independent religious belief system.  The study also showed that high-functioning individuals had higher rates of non-belief identities like atheism and agnosticism than those who were neuro-typical.

While I understand that scientific studies can only go so far in statistics within populations and particular groups, there’s one thing the people behind these studies consider that makes sense. Autistic people typically possess intellectual strengths such as ’emphasis on logic’, and believing what they see.  In other words, having a very black and white point of view is a common trait that a lot of autistic people have.  I’ve considered myself to be ‘grayer’ in the past, but I’ll admit that in some cases I can absolutely be very black and white.

I’m a pastor’s son.  I practically grew up in the church and have attended an overwhelming number of churches in just the first twenty years of my life.  I clearly remember the time when my mom sat me down and helped me accept Jesus into my heart.  At the time, I was around nine or ten and I did it because it’s what I knew.  I grew up being told that God is real and to believe in Him and to have Him in my heart.  My mom made a daily morning routine for me to follow and one of the things on the list said to ‘do devotions’.  Doing devotions was the one thing on the routine that I sometimes did not do.  I can’t exactly explain the reason why, but there were periods of time when I didn’t read the Bible and pray in the morning and when my mom would ask me if I did devotions, I would lie to her and say that I did (yeah she knows about this, the woman always figures out the truth.  Always).

When I look back on the ‘Christian’ side of my childhood, I realize that I was going through the motions a lot of the time.  Because it was all real to my parents, it was real to me, because I looked up to them and believed what they told me, and yet there were still moments of rebellion, like when I wouldn’t do my devotions for whatever reason even when it was expected of me.  As a fun fact though, my mom just recently told me that apparently I was able to cite the names of the kings of Israel in order to a point.  I was fascinated with the facts, but the spiritual significance seemed to elude me.  To this day when it comes to my ‘devotional time’ life, the longest streak I have reading the Bible consistently would be a week.  Beyond that, my devotional time is very inconsistent and isn’t an ‘every day’ thing.  I struggle with feeling much of a connection at church, and, this is nothing the worship team is doing wrong, the songs that are sung there just don’t inspire very much joy in me or creates any intimacy with God (the My Typical Worship Service Experience post gives details on that).

Whether autistic or not, every person reaches a point early in his life where he needs to learn not to copy and paste the belief system of his parents and ‘find his own faith’.  Usually when a person goes on his own journey to find his faith and finds it, there’s a lot of peace the person can find because he’s established himself more as a unique individual with his own set of beliefs and though he may have questions or struggles at times, the person grows pretty comfortable in his own skin.  That’s not the case with me.  Every time I think I have reached a point where I’ve settled on a faith or set of beliefs, I still constantly question.  Last year on June 8, I went to my then-youth pastor and asked him to help me recommit my life to Christ and claimed that I was ready to fully accept the whole concept.  Afterwards, I managed to read the Bible and pray every day for at least a week and a half, tithed once, and got baptized, but afterwards I slowly resumed my usual routine and consistency (or lack thereof).

Now, I believe in God and I love Him.  I love God as much as I can, and I believe that He has worked in my life in more ways than one because I believe that some of the ways I’ve grown and the experiences I’ve had can’t possibly be because of mere chance or coincidence.  What I believe I’ve done (and am still doing) is that I’ve begun to form my own independent belief system that separates itself from modern Christianity in a lot of ways.  I believe in God, and I believe that the Bible is true, but that doesn’t mean that I have issues with believing in something that I can’t see on a fairly regular basis.  I’ve never seen God, therefore it’s hard for me to have a relationship with Him.  How can I have a relationship with someone that I can’t see?  I can see humans, therefore having relationships with humans isn’t a problem at all.  I want a relationship with God and I believe I need it, but it’s challenging for me to get attached, and its been that way all my life.  My youngest brother Hudson gets up to an alarm at 5:30 every morning so that he can have time to read his Bible and pray to God before he starts his day.  At his age and younger, I was reading my Bible inconsistently and lying to my Mom’s face whenever she’d ask me if I did my devotions.

Faith has always been so complex to me with all its shapes, sizes, and colors, and all the different approaches that people make with it has frustrated me so much that I feel unmotivated to get associated with ‘organized Christianity’.  I yearn for simplicity in my faith because of the cut and dry, black and white point of view that I have and am most comfortable with.

 

5 thoughts on “Living With Autism Part 7: Concerning Religion”

  1. Forrest, well put as usual……..Don’t know if I have ever shared this with you, but I didn’t come to know the Lord until I was 30. I must admit, I couldn’t get enough of the Word. Even Today, at my age, I cherish the time I can spend in the Word in the mornings. I seem to identify, in that Nobody could tell me I needed to. In fact I had a real encounter one morning in church. Since then I haven’t looked back.
    Love Man. Grandpa.

  2. I was a friend of your mom’s in youth group way back! 😉 I have a friend today that is raising 2 autistic girls with its many challenges! I love reading your posts and I would like to pass them along to her so she could read them herself if that’s ok? You have a gift for writing and a great way of expressing yourself and your view points!! Thank you so much for being so bold and courageous and sharing!! I know God is touching others through your words! Thank you and I am looking forward to reading the next one! Say Hi to your mom for me! 🙂

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