Bridging the communication gap between high functioning autistics and neurotypicals.

Michelle:  Mark, we have a couple of religious holidays happening right now.  I know that religion entails a lot of emotion, something you don’t get.  Can you explain to us how you saw religion growing up and how you see it now?


Mark: Religion was something I just didn’t understand. Like every other belief, you tell yourself over and over that it works for you and sooner or later you believe religion without question. But, no person puts in the work of constructing a belief without getting something in return, emotionally, especially when it concerns something as abstract as a religion.


I expect that religion works for people for many different reasons. It probably helps assuage fear and/ or loneliness, It may also help people feel a part of a group or club. It also seems to validate people and their feelings about life. But, for me, rarely did I get anything out of it. Those times when I thought I did take something helpful away from a church service or reading the Bible never lasted for more than a day or two. I kept hearing people say, “You have to build a personal relationship with God”. Really? Ok, then, how about you telling me how to do it? I don’t even see this God we’re talking about. I can’t even touch him or talk to him in such a way as to know that I actually have. So, I don’t get it. If I can’t connect with my own mother because I don’t have the emotional receptors to understand when she’s sending me love then I really need someone to explain to me how I’m to relate to an abstract ‘person’. My mother is real, tells me she loves me, lives 2 miles away from me and I see her about once a week yet I still don’t connect with her. My wife is also real. I wake up next to her, take care of her when she’s sick, know when she’s upset yet still get no emotional messages from her because I don’t have the receptive ability, neurobiologically. God, however, can’t be touched, doesn’t tell me he loves me nor do I see him at any point during the week. So, you see, there is no connection that makes sense to me. People would say, ‘You need to pray to have a personal relationship with him’. I tried that and still got nothing. I never ‘felt’ a presence that I could communicate with or relate to. If you’re reading this and correcting my grammar, you’re missing the point of what I’m writing, ;P.


In the past, I’ve seen some people who appeared to genuinely have a relationship with whom they called God. Me, not at all. Those times when I thought I had some kind of contact or understanding, nothing was ever concrete enough for me to be convinced that I was in touch with God or The Universe or whomever. In a way, I envied that condition I saw in other people because they seemed to have all the answers in life. They had a ‘faith’ that worked for them. Every time I tried to understand ‘faith’, I had to look it up in the dictionary and then the dictionary defined the word with other words I had to look up, like “trust”. Such abstract words had no meanings for me except the dictionary definitions. Most of these words had emotional meanings anyway (see the post about words that don’t mean much to aspies). It took me many years to form an idea of what the words ‘faith’ and ‘trust’ meant in relation to people and even longer in relation to abstract ideas and even longer than that to be able to put them into practice.


Religion seems to exist solely because of emotional needs. I’m guessing our far distant ancestors had to find a way to wind up the loose ends of frayed emotions like grief, fear and loss. So, for them, the same forces that took care of growing their crops, providing them with game to eat and wild foods to gather could easily provide emotional nutrition and stave off spiritual starvation, at least in their imaginations. Imagining concepts can, after a while, bring them to life in your belief system. And after a a couple of dozen times acsribing the unknown reasons behind the death of a loved one or the loss of food crops or game animals to a force greater than themselves, that ascriptive process may have helped remove the burden of causality or frustration from their emotional centers. That mental/emotionl process has probably been passed down to us from times immemorial. While I have no evidence for the scenario above, I can easily see the invention of a god or gods stemming from a similar mechanism.


I imagine that for most NTs, emotions, at times, can be unbearable to experience and having someone to share them with and, even more so, having someone to relieve you of them would be one of the best inventions in the history of humanity. Again, I don’t have evidence for this train of thought, but, listening to coreligionists in their prayers to god, I consistently hear requests for help in their times of emotional need.


Overall, for me, I see religion as something I don’t and haven’t fit into. I think mostly because there are emotional connections that are present that are natural for NTs to pick up on. But, for HFAs, the emotional connections present in religion are invisible to us especially the connection to god or gods. Even though, on Wrong Planet, a survey was taken asking how many Auties adhered to some religion. There were some respondents who claimed to be religious, but more than 50% of the respondents answered atheist/agnostic. For me, now, as an adult, I still don’t see a need for religion but I think I now understand why people are religious, out of emotional reasons.


While the above diatribe may appear to offer little in the way of practical advice for HFAs and their NTs, in Part II, I’ll explain how I’ve worked out a spiritual path that works for me. Hopefully, the techniques I relate will be of help to HFAs and their respective NTs in establishing their own connection to whatever they ‘feel’ is their idea of the All Powerful force behind the Universe and Life.


~Mark w/ a little help from Michelle (sung to the tune of ‘I Get By With A Little Help from My Friends’ by The Beatles)


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