Sunday, November 24, 2013

Faith and Religion: Sitting in Uncertainty

Faith is weird.

There, I said it. It doesn't really make sense to me. Although I have strong emotions and on every Myers-Briggs test I take I score as a Feeler, I tend to think things through slowly and make decisions using my rational mind. And to my rational mind, faith and religion are weird. Believing in a God doesn't really make sense to me.

Oh yes, it makes sense that we need community, and good religious communities are powerful. It makes sense that people want to believe in something Bigger than ourselves. It makes sense that people want to believe that this world isn't all there is. To my rational mind and because of my sound understanding of psychology and sociology, these things make sense.

I understand the logical reasons for faith and religion. I know why these things exist, and I see that for some people, they're really good things. And they haven't been all bad for me either. I know that when people are part of a good religious community, their mental health is better (conversely, according to new studies, solely spiritual people who practice faith and belief alone have worse mental health).

But I feel like I'm having a religious crisis. I was raised in a conservative Evangelical Christian family. Church a couple times a week has always been a part of my life. Talk of Jesus and God permeated everything. I got baptized when I was a kid. I joined the church when I was a teen. I've identified as Christian for as long as I can remember. But I don't know if I can identify as one anymore.

Now that I'm a young adult, I find myself trying to sort through what I actually believe and what I tried to convince everyone that I believe. I'm trying to figure out what I believe and what I said I believed so that I'd fit in and be accepted. I just don't really feel it anymore. I don't know that I ever did. I see people being emotionally moved by religious songs and messages and sacraments, and I often feel nothing (and yet I find myself weeping when I hear Beethoven's 9th Symphony). These things don't grip me the way they do other people. Is this an Autistic thing? I know some of my other friends on the spectrum have told similar stories.

I want to believe. I do. I think faith is beautiful. Religion, when practiced in a way that serves to better yourself and others, is beautiful. Jesus and what he did and stood for inspire me. I love his teachings. I love large parts of the Bible. The Psalms are powerful. The Proverbs have the wisdom of the ages. I love the idea of being created in the image of the Most High. These are all awesome things to me, in theory. But in my gut...I'm not sure I feel it.

This is the first time I've allowed myself to acknowledge my discomfort, my questions, my uncertainties. Being raised in the Church put certain pressures on me. There were expectations. So I went along with the flow, trying all along the way to convince myself that this could work for me too. But I'm not sure anymore. I'm not sure.

I think this will be a long journey. A long journey of becoming and uncovering. But I realized that before I can even start to find some answers and certainty, I had to be honest with the fact that right now, I'm nothing but a bundle of questions and doubt.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"This is Autism" Flashblog

Linking up here:

Suzanne Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks, would like you to think that Autism is a tragedy. In her recent post on the Autism Speaks blog, she spoke about Autism as a crisis and compared us to children who are missing or gravely ill. She said that parents of Autistic children live in despair, that they're not really living. This is the picture of Autism that she is trying to paint. And it is wrong. This is NOT Autism. Autism doesn't mean that we're lost. It doesn't mean that we're gravely ill. It doesn't mean despair and hopelessness. It doesn't mean we're helpless individuals who can't communicate or do anything for ourselves. This is wrong.

Let me tell you what Autism is to me, an Autistic adult.

Autism keeps me young. Yes, I grow older in years, but I haven't lost the childlike joy that most of my NT friends no longer fully possess. I get excited about things in a way that allistic people can't understand. Sometimes it's hard to have more intense emotions, but when it comes to joy and happiness, and when it swirls inside me, full to the point of bursting, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Autism keeps me focused. My intense obsessive interests have often been very beneficial. They usually revolve around issues of social psychology, and my ability to hyperfocus helped me excel in college. I love learning, and although I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm smarter than my friends, I will say that my Autistic ability to hyperfocus has helped me develop a vast knowledge base.

Autism keeps me honest. The longer I live the more I realize that allistic people aren't typically very honest. They sugarcoat things and try to tell you what they think you want to hear. We need more honesty and authenticity in our society. No more hiding under half truths and white lies. My Autistic passion for truth and accuracy adds a freshness and clarity to the world that I think is invaluable.

Autism keeps me sensitive. I think it is the sensitive people, the ones who perceive and notice and feel the most, who are the real movers and shakers. I might process things slower and feel things more keenly, but this deliberate sensitivity keeps me in touch with the world. I notice things others miss. I intuit feelings people thought they had hidden. My Autistic senses help me connect with people and help me move for change.

Autism keeps me hopeful. I know that there are some Autistic people who are cynical. But the part of Autism that keeps me young also lets me see the best in people and helps me hope for the best in all circumstances. Some people call it naivety and say it's a bad thing, and that I need to grow up and get "street smart". But I call it hope and say it's beautiful.

This is Autism. This is childlike joy. This is focus and knowledge. This is honesty and authenticity. This is sensitivity and perception. This is hope and beauty.

Autism Speaks, you don't speak for us. There is no tragedy. There is no crisis. We know the goodness and beauty of Autism, and we will continue to proclaim it.