The Short Bus Diaries » Confessions About Life With an Autistic Son

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Would Believing in God Make Autism Easier to Swallow?

So I’m an atheist.

IMHO, this represents quite the divide in the autism world.  Not that there are separate clubs, or holiday parties, or secret handshakes between us and them.  Not that I’m even aware if there’s any other atheist autism parent out there who could join ranks with me to form an “us” team.

What I mean is that there are those bloggers, Tweeters, and fellow autism conference attendees who feel that A) there is a god, and B) because there is a god, “he” (and don’t even get me started on the genderizing of said god) has selected this child to be autistic for some particular reason.

In my life, I have rarely, RARELY wished to believe in God.  When you never had it, ya just don’t miss it.  You just tend to see the world according to coincidence, the consequences of humans making good/bad choices, self-reliance for a moral compass (as in, no need to behave in one particular way in order to avoid judgment by anyone but yourself and perhaps your family) and – MOST IMPORTANTLY – total randomness.

So what does this have to do with autism?  Well, this means that I believe that my son and our family got stuck with this (emphasis on the word “stuck”, because I also am not one of those cheerleading autism moms who feels that this is a blessing in disguise) as a result of sucky, awful, INEXPLICABLE randomness.  Yes, perhaps it was the vaccines.  Perhaps it was that time when my son fell out of the shopping cart at Babies ‘R Us when he was 10 months old, or perhaps it was a result of the genetic dance between my husband and myself.  But it is not a punishment/lesson/penance/gift-in-disguise/god knew that we could handle it so s/he chose us kind of thing. Because Lord knows (ha!) that we can barely handle this type of thing.  It’s bleeding us dry – monetarily and otherwise.

After we were smacked with the diagnosis and had gone through the standard period of denial, I did at times wish I had religion. But why?  I already knew that a belief in a god that the sort of most people believe in (the type that somehow knows what each and every one of us are doing at every SINGLE minute of the day on every SINGLE square inch of Earth) would probably mean that s/he assigned me this burden for a reason. And I really didn’t like the sound of that. Because that would just make me struggle with the quest for that reason, feeling angry at being assigned this life without my input, based on some incomprehensible wisdom on the part of some unknowable deity in the sky. In other words, knowing that there was a reason for autism, other than something in a vaccine or head trauma, would just leave me pissed off and struggling on a daily basis to continue belief in a god that would do this to me.

So I don’t think my occasional yearning for religion represented some sort of masochistic search for a cruel or condescending uber-power in the sky.

It was a desire for the warm fuzzies that I *think* people get from their religious communities.  [Brief tangent: Back in college, I tried on Judaism for a minute, thanks to a friendly, guitar playing group of hippie Jews at CU-Boulder who liked to hang out and not pray or talk about belief. But I could never get past that god thing. That, and I think Palestinians deserve a state. But I digress.] I would like – for one day a week or even a month – to feel at peace. Like everything is going to be alright, no matter how much my son progresses or doesn’t progress.  I would like to just go sit in a building for two hours on a weekend, sing songs, hug women with ample bosoms, and put a genuine smile on my face, just knowing that I’m being taken care of – either by god or by fellow worshippers.

My husband and I started a support group around here that I run out of my studio. And that helps. It feels nice to bitch about working with [read: against] the school system, dealing with suicidal Aspergers tweens, comparing notes on neuropsych examiners and social skills camps. But I don’t feel good in my “soul” after these meetings. I just feel a little less alone.

Essentially, what I really want to feel is a kind of light, post-glass-of-wine -type of faith in the idea that it’s all going to be OK in the end. And I want that feeling to last for a little while. Yes, I realize that religion means a whole lot more to people than that silly little metaphor. Sorry to offend.

But you know what?  That’s all I want out of religion. A little buzz. Some hugs. Some hope for the future. I don’t need that other little centerpiece–that god thing.  I don’t need to wonder WHY my son has autism.  And if I did believe in a god, I would have to walk around and wonder why him/me/us? And I don’t need that shit.

I just need a break on a semi-regular basis. Save the god and the explanations for some other mother who is capable of dealing with both the DIAGNOSIS and the DELIBERATE ASSIGNMENT of that diagnosis to her by her god.  Just give me the buzz please.

Stephanie - March 1, 2013 - 12:39 pm

I just found your site today. I couldn’t agree more with this post. It was great! Thank god (no pun intended hehe) that I am not the only one. 🙂 I look forward to reading more.

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