People with ‘mild’ forms of autism are more likely to be atheists, according to a controversial new study - and more likely to shun organised religion in general.
The study, which looked at posts on autism forums, focused on people with high-functioning autism such as Asperger’s.
The study, from University of Boston, speculates that common autistic spectrum behaviours such as ‘a preference for logical beliefs’ and a distrust of metaphor and figures of speech, could be responsible.
Autism quotient (AQ) scores among the surveyed adults are plotted against their declared religious beliefs - atheists are a clear majority
The study authors, Catherine Caldwell-Harris and Patrick MacNamara studied discussions by 192 different posters on an autism website. They also looked at a survey of 61 people with high-functioning autism, and graphed against results from the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) test.
The results appeared to show that those with high AQ scores were ‘more likely’ to be atheists.
In the group of high-functionining autistic individuals, 26 per cent were atheists, compared to 16 per cent of ‘neurotypical’ individuals.
They said this is the first ‘systematic study of the religious beliefs of autistic spectrum individuals who have normal or near-normal intelligence.’
The paper, ‘investigates the proposal that individual differences in belief will reflect cognitive processing styles, with high functioning autism being an extreme style that will predispose towards nonbelief.’
Caroline Hattersley, Head of Information, Advice and Advocacy at The National Autistic Society said: ’Autism affects people from every sector of society and people with autism represent the full range of religious and non-religious beliefs.
The metaphors and figures of speech found in religious texts may deter people with autistic spectrum disorders from religious belief
‘It is important that people with autism have the freedom to make their own choices about their beliefs and receive the support they need,’ says Hattersley.
Rajib Khan, writing on Discover Magazine’s ‘Gene Expression’ blog wrote, ‘I doubt this is going to surprise too many people. Additionally, we need to be careful about generalizing here.
‘This doesn’t mean that a huge proportion of atheists are high functioning autistics (though there may be a larger proportion than the general population).’
Christian and ‘mildly’ autistic here!
I am, too. We may be rare, but we exist.