Thursday, November 1, 2012

Autism and Spirituality

Maple writes Autistics Speaking Day: Autism and Spirituality on her tumblr Faeries-Cupboard 

One thing that I’ve found baffling about Autistic stereotypes is the polarization between a particular two.

One says that Autistic people are “so spiritual”.

The other says that Autistic people are “too logical for religion”, and that to *truly* be Autistic one must be Atheist.

This really bothers me.

Perhaps some context is required here. I am Autistic, and a Pagan (although as to what type I am, I will not otherwise specify). The Pagan community is largely unique, in that it encompasses a large number of non-Abrahamic religions and practices. My journey is only just beginning, I only began seriously looking into this last year. Being Autistic has presented me several challenges on my journey of learning, part of it comes from my own literal-mindedness. A lot of books and resources use veiled or prettified language, which can be hard for a Neuroatypical person to translate and glean meaning from. I have found many of them useless to me.

But my main issue I’ve met is in interacting with other people in and around the community. I am a self-advocate, and I wear pins to disclose my neurology to others. I have been denied the opportunity to join workshops and groups because they felt as though I wouldn’t belong there. They were afraid I was just “taking my fantasy too seriously”, simply because I am Autistic, and I have obsessions. I have been asked if my parents were around, even though I am almost 20 years old this month.

I have observed others talking about how mentally disabled people shouldn’t go to church or circles or gatherings, because they can’t understand the true “meanings” of such things, or that by allowing a mentally disabled person into these events, it is “indoctrination”, as though we can’t take care of ourselves. In a lot of Pagan religions, fertility is a common theme (although it usually takes place in untertones, not outright sexuality or sexual acts), and I have been told that to allow a mentally disabled person to participate, it would be like allowing a child to participate.

Does anyone see the implications of these things? So while many people tote us as “spiritual” they never divulge just how they came to this conclusion, while actual Autistics are often barred from seeking spiritual paths because of preconcieved notions about Autism and mental/neurological disability.

“Autistics are so spiritual” comes from the thought that to be able to exist and have a full and happy life as a disabled person requires divine intervention, a smile in the face of hardship, etc. Inspiration porn. They’re the people who believe that “God is just challenging you”. In their minds, if one IS spiritual, then they’re just upholding the stereotype, and if one isn’t spiritual, they’re a “bad” disabled person because they can’t just “smile through it and believe in God”.

On the other side are the people who insist that all Autistics must be Atheist, and are incapable of spiritual persuits. I think this comes mostly from the stereotype that Autistic people are scientific, mathematic, and logical (and there’s the strange fallacy that logic and spirituality are also mutually exclusive - they’re not).

These are usually the same people who think that science and spirituality are inherently mutually exclusive, and can never interact, and who view spirituality to immediately translate into “Christian”. This is a problem in and of itself, but the fact remains that they’re often the loudest. These are also usually the same people who take Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest” to heart, refuse to provide accomodations, partake in consuming inspiration porn, and often are supportive of eugenics.

These two stereotypes, simple at first glance, have a lot of implications for the Autistic person, and can be very confusing. But they both come down to the same basic meaning.

“Autistics are so spiritual”: Just try to push through it, never lose your smile, God is testing you. It’s so **inspiring** that you can live with such a horrible condition every day, it must truly be divine, you must be chosen! Wait, you don’t believe in anything? You must not really be autistic then/You’re just being difficult.

“Autistics are all atheists”: They’re so scientific and literal-minded that they cannot comprehend the “god delusion” and good on them. Wait, you’re not good at math, science, or you are spiritual? You must not really be Autistic then/you’ve just been brainwashed by your parents.

I realise this is a bit of a rambling mess, but I hope it explains why these stereotypes are harmful, in my experience and MY experience only.

Happy Autistics Speaking Day!

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