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Are Atheists Autistic?

Joe Carter has a post at the evangelical outpost [Note: Evangelical Outpost is showing a warning about browser exploit from McAfee Site Advisor. As I was admonished in the comments, I need to give warning. I've used the site for years, but that doesn't mean I'm safe in doing so. Use the link at your own risk.] in which he proposes, with some caveats, that atheists may tend to be less socially aware, particularly aware of other minds, and may tend more toward Aspberger’s Syndrome. He invited readers of his blog to take a test here, which I did, scoring a 30. Since I’m a theist, that puts me close to a counter-example for his thesis.

I commented there that I thought this approach is more polarizing than helpful, though I would admit is is no more polarizing than the suggestion some atheists have made to me that I hallucinate any experience of God. I don’t mind them doing that.

In a reply to my own comment there, Joe states [see warning above]:

About 95% of the atheists I have met seem to be “quarrelsome, socially challenged men.”

His experience is different from mine. I’ve found Christian apologists to be much like this. I have also found atheist apologists to be like this. In fact, apologists in general tend to be in your face and somewhat quarrelsome. I think that goes with the territory, though I do know some counter-examples in each and every group. Personally, while Dawkins gets on my nerves, I don’t think it’s because he’s socially challenged. I’ve only read his work, and seen him on TV, but he seems reasonably personable for an advocate of a controversial position.

If there is a correlation, and the problem is a type of “mind-blindness” then it should not be surprising to find that reason-based arguments are ineffective when trying to change their opinion of God. We Christians tend to treat atheism as if it was some form of Enlightenment-era rationalism and provide arguments that appeal to their reason.

I’m afraid I have seen atheists as much more interested in discussing the arguments for the existence of God than most Christians. I would suggest that, rather than the intellectual arguments being ineffective because of a psychological failing on the part of atheists, they are ineffective because, as proofs of God’s existence, they are, in fact, flawed.

In my experience, practically all of the arguments for God’s existence make more sense from the position of faith, i.e., I believe I can learn something about God through them, but they are not water-tight. Belief in God involves faith, which does not mean it is totally immune from intellectual examination, but I believe it does mean it’s not totally subject to it.

I’ve always thought atheism was mostly psychological rather than epistemological. This potential correlation only strengthens that opinion, which is why I think it is worth exploring.

Again, I would have to disagree. On a purely intellectual level, atheists do quite well. There’s no need to seek psychological reasons. They simply don’t find the arguments convincing. I wonder why that’s so hard to accept?

For me, while there are pieces of the puzzle provided by arguments for God’s existence, at the core there is a serious leap of faith. That leap was not easy to take, and so I’m not at all surprised that some don’t take it, and some others don’t even believe there is a leap to take, and that I imagined both chasm and leap. Those are all things on which different people can have different views.

8 comments to Are Atheists Autistic?

  • Most of the atheists I know are neither quarrelsome nor socially challenged.

  • I hope more people will comment, because I think Joe Carter’s experience is atypical. Either he’s meeting a very odd group of people, or he’s interpreting them very oddly.

  • Wow. I don’t know where to start. My experience, too, is that most atheists I know are not quarrelsome or socially challenged. Beyond that, I find it disturbing that Joe Carter uses these two terms as if they are synonymous. Would he say that 95% of all autistic people are quarrelsome?

    Additionally, Carter doesn’t seem to grasp the meaning of “mind-blindness,” the inability to see from a different perspective. It has nothing to do with “believing in” other minds, as Carter suggests.

    Finally, Carter doesn’t appear to know anything about Asperger’s Syndrome, other than as a clinical description of a condition that has some unpleasant characteristics. If he doesn’t want to take the time to be informed about autism spectrum disorders, he shouldn’t speculate about what types of people are more likely to have them.

    FWIW, although I’ve never been diagnosed, I have all the symptoms of Asperger’s, and I scored a 39 on the Wired test.

  • Henry, I would be more likely to comment if your links were not all broken, at least for me. I can never access Evangelical Outpost, of which it has been reported that

    this site attempted to make unauthorized changes to our test PC by exploiting a browser security vulnerability. This is a serious security threat which could lead to an infection of your PC.

    And http://www.piepalace.ca, where the test is supposed to be, is reported as “Non-existent domain”.

  • Peter,

    I’m not sure what to do on that. The link worked for me at the time I posted it, and I can access evangelical outpost, though McAfee’s Site Advisor does give a warning for it.

    I advised Joe Carter of the problem, but that is as far as I can go on it. It appears that some others are getting through.

    BTW, I cannot access piepalace.ca right now myself, though I could earlier. I’ll continue to check.

  • Henry, if you are getting this kind of warning you really should take heed of it, stop accessing the site, and refrain from encouraging others to. It seems to be infected by a virus or something of that sort, perhaps trying to install some kind of malware or spyware on to users’ systems.

    I am not suggesting that Joe Carter is doing this deliberately. But he was warned about it several weeks ago and has not fixed the problem.

    I would never suggest a boycott of a blog for its content, at least unless it were grossly offensive. But I do think that a blog which attempts (even if accidentally) to infect readers’ computers should be avoided by all.

  • Well, since this won’t nest any more I’ll comment here. You do make a good point, though since I’ve read evangelical outpost pretty much since I started paying attention to the blogosphere with no ill effects, and I have pretty good security and checks on this system, I simply decided, like the reviewers on the Site Advisor entry, that there was some kind of glitch.

    I’ll put a note in the body of the post next to the link to evangelical outpost giving warning. For the moment I’m going to continue to read eo.

  • Fair enough. I’m more worried about the millions of others around the Internet who have little or no protection against such malware. If they start letting whatever this is infect their blogs etc as well the Internet could be seriously compromised.