The cognitive science of religion is a new field which explains religious belief as emerging from normal cognitive processes such as inferring others’ mental states, agency detection and imposing patterns on noise. This 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 (atheism and agnosticism).
This view was supported by content analysis of discussion forums about religion on an autism website (covering 192 unique posters), and by a survey that included 61 persons with HFA. Persons with autistic spectrum disorder were much more likely than those in our neurotypical comparison group to identify as atheist or agnostic, and, if religious, were more likely to construct their own religious belief system. Nonbelief was also higher in those who were attracted to systemizing activities, as measured by the Systemizing Quotient.What does this mean? 192 people found at an Autism website, and 61 people with High Functioning Autism were given a survey about their religious beliefs. The results found that these people were more likely to be atheist or agnostic than the average person.
Statistically speaking, this study is a little suspect, given that the majority or respondents were people at a website, who were already discussing religion. Anyone who has browsed the spiritual world online finds a very high representation of atheists to begin with. So this study has concluded that, among a pool of people that has a high incidence of atheism, there is found a high incidence of atheism.
Statistics aside, is it surprising to find agnosticism in people with ASD? Religious belief involves a high degree of abstract, non-logical thinking, two traits that are not emblematic of the autistic community.
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