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Meeting God in an Autistic Context

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Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.
June 22, 2009

This essay is controversial, I suppose, for at least two reasons: First, I am connecting my autistic self with my religious beliefs. Second, although I am not suggesting that I have been cured of autism, it may, at least superficially, appear as though I am doing so. I am also, to get the technicalities out of the way, making this posting in an individual capacity, not as the director of United Against Neurelitism.

To be clear at the outset, I consider autism to be my neurological type. Consequently, whatever changes have been made to my personality over since 1956, my neurology is, and presumably always will be, autistic. At this point in my life, I derive enormous satisfaction from my autism, and the mindset and skill sets associated with it, and would not accept some hypothetical cure even were it offered to me. To do otherwise would. from my standpoint, amount to a rejection of my own character.

That stated, I attribute my success, and my accommodations to a neurotypical society, largely to my religious convictions and, more specifically, to my membership in the Bahá'í Faith. Growing up as a child, I had virtually no empathy for, or understanding of, others. That I lived in my own world was partially a choice but mostly a product of lacking the most basic competencies to relate to others.

Through my involvement in the Bahá'í Faith, a religion I embraced at 14-years old, I gradually developed a love for God and for others. It was in the cultivation of these intense interpersonal sentiments, a process which has steadily increased to the present day, that I began to develop empathy. My opening up to others and their lifeworlds made it possible for me to complete four academic degrees, including a Ph.D., to become a college professor, a college administrator (in the past), and a previous president of the Kansas Sociological Society. God met me where I was, as an autistic person. From that place, He then gently drew me to Himself.