This American Life is one of the many podcasts I listen to during my daily drive to and from work. It’s a great change of pace from my tech news and atheist commentary podcasts that I normally listen to.
While driving home one February evening, I was listening to episode 458, Play the Part. This American Life splits up their show into many different acts, and Act Two was titled “Wife Lessons“. Here’s a bit from the description:
Kristen Finch was a speech therapist who sometimes worked with kids with Asperger Syndrome, symptoms of which include emotional distance, inflexibility and missing social cues. Kristin and her co-workers often joked that all their husbands had Asperger’s, since the symptoms overlap with stereotypically male personality traits. But then Kristen wondered—what if it was actually true for her husband Dave?
Like I imagined most listeners, I was immediately tickled. And I’ve kinda been fascinated with people with Asperger’s for several years now, so this should be fun.
In the story, Kristen administered an unofficial diagnostic test to her husband. It’s called the Aspie-quiz. As amusing as it was to hear David answer the questions, some of them sounded kinda familiar.
This one resonated for me:
Before doing something or going somewhere, do you need to have a picture in your mind of what’s going to happen so as to be able to prepare yourself mentally first?
And there were others…
The whole segment felt so familiar. And at the big reveal, when he got his score… boom. Asperger’s.
I didn’t get to finish the segment before I made it home, but I kinda felt like I knew. With a tear in my eye I got out of my car and entered my home. I found my wife, TiggerGal, in the kitchen making dinner and I just walked up and gave her a big hug. I told her about the episode and that I think I had Asperger’s. She was aware of the condition because she watched Temple Grandin and the Parenthood TV Series.
We talked a little about what it meant, but she kinda saw it too.
After the kids went to bed, I went online and found the Aspie-quiz and took it myself.
The test gives you two scores, on a scale of 0-200. The first score is the Aspie score… higher scores = greater likelihood of Asperger’s Syndrome. The second score is the neurotypical score… higher scores = greater likelihood of being “normal”.
My aspie score? 136.
Actually, it was in the 120′s the first time. But when I reviewed the answers with TiggerGal, she pointed out that I didn’t properly answer some of the questions that were coorelated with Tourette’s Syndrome (which I’ve already been diagnosed with). As a control, TiggerGal took it too… her score was like in the 40s.
Since that day, it’s been an Aspie kinda world. Because everyone abhors self diagnosis, I have an appointment with a psychiatrist specialising in adult autism to be assessed. Because we see symptoms in our 6 year old daughter LadyBug (special interests, hoarding, hypersensitivity to noise and clothing tags, super high intelligence) we’ve scheduled an appointment with a pediatric psychiatrist to have her assessed.
TiggerGal and I have read a few books. I read The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood, which is like a user manual for me. And TiggerGal read Asperger Synderome and Long-Term Relationships by Ashley Stanford, which is like a user manual for our marriage. Oh, and I also read The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch, whose radio segment started this whole thing.
Seriously, our martial satisfaction has gotten so much better. We communicate so much clearer. Things have immediately improved.
And a big reason why our marriage has gotten some much better is the reason why most people don’t believe me when I tell them I think I have Asperger’s. Most people see the outcomes, the results of my massively complex and hugely constructed coping mechanisms. Most of everything I show people is a carefully constructed costume that I wear during my daily life. This intricate costume, while impressive and successful, is very heavy and tiresome to wear.
And when I get home, I take the costume off.
But I still need the costume to socialize with my wife and kids at home. And that can be even more tiring.
Not only that, bit the costume consumes a lot of brain power, since very few of m social interactions happen intuitively. Instead they happen analytically.
The costume has a huge list of behavioral rules… a massive lookup table, that governs how the costume operates. Sometimes behaviors are easy to execute, sometimes they take longer.
Sometime the rules that govern the behavior don’t apply anymore… and then I melt down.
Do you remember this post? Cleaning up the Mess of my Broken Mind. I think this was a manifestation of an Aspie Meltdown.
So where do I go now?
Well, the appointments for Ladybug and myself are coming up in May. I’ve disclosed my suspicions to my family and some trusted people. Most were skeptical, my dad in particular. Being from Jamaica, “they don’t have these disorders”. However, he’s most likely where I genetically got this from.
My brother, sister, and stepmom all took the test, and all scored higher than me… 150s. My mom took the test, and scored an 8. Dad refuses to take it.
And I’m adjusting. So next month, when the psychiatrist asks why I think I have Asperger’s Syndrome, I’ll tell her that I blame David Finch.
It’s been a few months since I last posted anything and I definitely feel like I’ve neglected you all. Especially those of you who have subscribed recently because you liked some of my older articles. Thank you for that by the way. I want to take this opportunity to quickly bring you up to speed on what’s going on with me, and why I’ve been gone for so long.
In my last post I talked about how I finally stopped going to church after over six years of weekly attendance. For three of those years, I was and out and out atheist. Although I was vehemently against Christianity and organized religion, my church attendance as a non-believer was arguable better than most of the faithful who actually attended.
But this past January, I had enough. I just couldn’t do it anymore. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a sermon about obedience that used King Samuel’s incomplete slaughter of the Amelekites as an example of how not to be obedient. That sermon was beyond ridiculous and I vented my feelings on Facebook in a really unclassy way.
It was then I realized that there was no point in me going to church. There was too much anger and frustration and almost no positive benefit. Not to mention the social interactions were kinda nerve-wracking.
So I stopped going.
And it was wonderful.
I’m not kidding… it was like such a weight off my shoulders. My stress level immediately dropped and I felt dramatically less anxious and on edge. When the wife and kids went to church, I’d clean the house, or listen to podcasts, or go for a walk, or play some video games. It was some really rejuvenating free time.
Since I figured that the constant overload of religiosity causing me too much emotional distress so I started to clean my life of religion. I started by modifying my Facebook settings to stop updating me on my religious friends Christian status updates. That made the hugest difference.
But then I also noticed that some of my other contentious Atheist leisure activites caused the same stress. I had to stop listening to The Atheist Experience and The Non Prophets because of the religious callers. Don’t get me wrong, I love absolutely love the ACA, but the he arguments were too much for me.
And while I found myself being generally happier, things were still rough between me and my wife TiggerGal. Even though we don’t talk religion anymore, we still were having problems arguing and communicating. It’s like we still weren’t clicking.
And then by the end of February something crazy happened.
While listening to the February 17th episode of This American Life: Play the Part, I had an amazing realization. I may have Asperger’s Syndrome.
More to follow.
Today is a big day for me. It finally happened.
Today is the Sunday of me not going to church anymore.
If you’re new here, it will probably help to know that, although I’ve been an atheist since 2008, I’ve been attending church with my wife and kids since 2006. We go every Sunday with exceptions for illness, travel, or weekend house guests. It’s been rather weird for me, both attending church as an out and out atheist and in giving my reasons to people who think it equally weird that an out and out atheist goes to a Christian church.
Although my reasons were based on complex emotions, they seemed simple to say.
- I love my wife and want to support her in her “spiritual needs”
- I didn’t want to have separate lives away from her and the kids
- I wanted to be around to talk about the religious topics when they come up
- I wanted to try and stop the kids from becoming Christians themselves.
That last one was kinda unspoken. But it was there.
Over the last year it seemed, more and more, like these were bad reasons to go to church.
As it turns out, I can support my wife’s spiritual needs just fine without going. All I have to do is watch the kids while she goes to her different functions and pay for the occasional book or fundraiser.
We already have separate lives anyways from work and school. I’m not terribly worried about TiggerGal or myself having an affair or anything from the extra 2 hours a week we’re away.
We don’t really talk about the religious topics outside of stating what the standard dogma is. TiggerGal is a fantastically wonderful woman and a terrific wife but a hideous debater. I married her because she was sweet, loving, and kind… not for her rhetorical stills or oratory acumen. That and I know more about theology than she does, so these discussions go wonky. And for me and LadyBug, the best time to talk is when we’re driving or reading stories, so I don’t really have to be in Church for that.
Oh, and LadyBug was recently baptized… whatever that means for us.
On top of that I’ve been growing increasingly dissatisfied with the quality my church friend relationships, discussions, and debates.
So I’ve been on my way out for a while.
All this came to a head last week during a guest sermon about obedience to god. The guest pastor is an intern who I consider a really good guy and a friend. But his sermon had a little bit about the Amalekites. You know them? God tells Saul, via King Samuel, to completely wipe out the Amalekites.
1 Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. 2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” – 1 Samuel 15:1-3 NIV
Freaking genocide. Wipe everything out. Even the children. Even the innocent babies. Even the sheep! What did the sheep do to deserve that?
So Saul wipes out Amalek, but doesn’t kill off everything as instructed.
7 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt. 8 He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. 9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. – 1 Samuel 15:7-9
Saul wipes out everything except the best animals and the Amalek King. And god is pissed!
22 But Samuel replied:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”
-1 Samuel 15:22-23
So the guest pastor made the case, in non-denom progressive Christian tones, that god wants you to be obedient. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Then he went on about how obedience is less about rules and guidelines, blah blah blah.
Well, here I am in the pews thinking WTF!?!?! You one of the most morally reprehensible examples of Yahweh’s asshattery as a reason why people should be obedient?
And so I posted on Facebook.
Seriously, how do to bring up the divinely commanded genocide of the Amalekites as and example of how god isn’t all about killing and just wants you to worship him? I mean seriously. Bad example. And I love how no one bats and eye about the slaughter of men women children and animals ( what did the animals do) because the true lesson was that Saul didn’t fully obey. WTF?
That was my mistake. Some of my atheist and fairweather Christian friends chimed in agreeing that this was disgusting. And then one of my Christian friends started a discussion suggesting that Yahweh used Hitler as a tool for his justice. It all went bad
Guest pastor messaged me the next day. He was disappointed that I think he’s an idiot and hoped I would have just talked to him individually instead of calling him out like that. And I think he’s right. We were friends and I should have just talked to him directly. I apologized immediately and he forgave me.
That whole interaction really made me question my church attendance. What was I doing there? Seriously, what was the point? Why am I even getting mad at his sermon? His sermon wasn’t for me, it was for people who already agree with him. The challenging part for them is the obedience, not the “my god is totally cool commanding mass murder”.
I forgot that I’m a guest in their house. I don’t have to be there. No one is forcing me to go. Even TiggerGal, when I talked with her about my desire to stop going, reiterated that she never pressured or forced me. She felt honored that I wanted to go with her, but that it was my decision.
So I stopped fooling myself.
There’s no sense in going. No sense in worrying about what other people think. No sense worrying about people seeing me as “that atheist”. I’m already “that atheist”. I might as well own it. No sense in holding on to the belief that going to church, as an atheist, makes me a morally good person. It just makes me a martyr. A whiney, frustrated, angry martyr.
And martyrs are annoying.
So now I’m home. The house is quiet, and I’m going to head over to Lowes to get some o-ring’s to fix a leaky faucet.
And it feels good.
It feels good to have 2 hours of my life back.
It feels good to be free of the self-imposed prison I was in, caused by religion.
True freedom is definitely a life without Jesus.
And today, I’m a little bit more free.
I recently finished John Loftus’s The End of Christianity and I wanted to jot down some thoughts. This isn’t so much of a review as it is a debrief after reading the book. The strange thing about The End of Christianity is that it actually made me care less about atheism. But it’s not what you think. Let me explain.
Similar to his earlier book The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, Loftus assembles a group of counterapologetic heavy hitters to really dismantle Christianity in every possible. The collection of essays feel like they’re’s written for academics, so I felt that some of the parts were kinda dry… like reading a boring technical manual. In fact, that’s exactly what I felt when I read the first chapter, by David Eller. My sincerest apologies to him as a person, but I normally find his work dull and unengaging. Eller focuses a lot about the cultural aspects of Christianity, that it looks so much like any other culture that it’s probably just any other culture. Rather than, you know, being true.
Towards the end of his chapter though, things started picking up. This was specifically when he starts writing about how Christianity evolved and adapted when it came to America and beyond. It was probably more relatable for me. I get really bored with the history geekouts. But as I closed out Chapter 1 and started in Chapter 2, something in me died.
That something was the Power that Christianity had over my emotions. The end of Chapter 1 made Christianity feel not just “more false”, but blindingly, painfully, bluntly, and ridiculously more false. And as I went through the next chapters, this Power continued to wither and fade.
Since becoming an atheist, I felt it important to actually keep an open mind… to have an idea of what I’d anticipate seeing to change my mind. And while I still think it’s important to actually keep an open mind (and not just say the words), I’d be lying if I said that my anticipation came with a lot of emotions.
What were those emotions? It’s kinda that “on guard” feeling we in the psychology biz call “fight for flight”. It’s like a defensiveness… but more so. It’s trying to simultaneously stay open for a genuinely new correct information, while being prepared to catch nonsense, while being ready to respond in an adult and assertive manner. All that… stuff takes energy and is quite draining.
I also need to admit that a huge part of those emotions are the “what if they’re right” worries.
I mean, I “know” in my head that Christianity has been false for quite some time, but there’s always been that bit of emotional “what if”. I think it has to do with the effects of conformity: the natural impulse to think and act everyone else. So many people in my life are Christians, that it takes a lot of effort to combat that those effects. But it’s easier when more atheists are around. And after reading The End of Christianity, it kinda feels like the conformity effects are mostly gone.
Hmm… that didn’t occur to me until I typed it just now. The End of Christianity made Christianity so absurd that it took away the emotional distress of not confirming to it. Christianity isn’t just wildly improbable, it isn’t even remotely possible.
In fairness to my other life experiences. I wasn probably headed that way already and this book just took it over the top
Terror management theory predicts that I’ll be a more passionate atheist the more my worldview is threatened. Christianity doesn’t feel like a threat to me, so I don’t care as much.
I’m still an atheist, but I’ve definitely noticed that my rant blog is harder to write for. Thanks John, et al.
- – - – - – - -
Some other quick notes. My favorite chapters were the ones by Dr. Valerie Tarico on god psychology and Dr Victor Stenger on near death experiences and the afterlife. Richard Carrier’s stuff was good too, although his intelligent design chapter was a bit hard to follow. The biggest surprise for me was Robert Price. I’ve listened to him on atheist podcasts and utterly can’t stand the way he talks. His phrases are way too densely packed with references and quotes. He writes exactly how he talks and I was quite shocked to see how much better his communication style is on paper than on the radio. Same content, same style, night and day difference.
Christians Being Nice Isn’t Evidence for God Any More than Atheist Being Nice Isn’t Evidence Against God
Every now and then, when I see a Christian doing something really despicable, I think to myself, “that’s why I’m not a Christian”.
But then I stop and have to correct myself. That thought isn’t true. Even if all the Christians of the world were just as sweet as lollipops, I still wouldn’t believe. My belief has little to do with manners and almost everything to do with the truth of Christianity’s claims.
(Although, if Christianity did claim that it made people demonstrably nicer, and all Christians were significantly more nice compared to the non-Christian population, that probably would be evidence in favor of Christianity).
So long as I disgregard politeness as evidence for Christianity being true, I can’t really say that rudeness is evidence against Christianity. I’m not justified in thinking that thought.
This has some huge problems for Christians who think the best way to minister to people is just to “love on them”. Think about what it would mean if being nice is evidence for the truth of your beliefs.
If I’m nice to you, does that atheism true?
If I’m nice to you, does that mean Star Trek is better than Star Wars?
If I’m nice to you, does that mean that purple is a better color than green?
Hm… but now that I think about it… for many people, it kinda does.
I was only half listening when PastorItaly let out his gem:
Yes, Jesus pooped.
He was referring to the baby Jesus of the Christmas story and that when the Lord Most High entered into the world, he entered in the most basic and humblest of ways. Jesus lowered himself, reduced himself to a helpless little baby, to be delivered in a dirty manger.
I think this was the pic he used in the sermon PowerPoint to highlight just how much the big JC was slumming it.
Pretty janky, huh?
From there he started riffing about how simply human, god had become. The baby Jesus had no special super hero, magic powers. There was no baby bottles magically floating across the room… well at that time period I don’t think there were baby bottles.
And yes, of course, Jesus pooped.
This got quite a chuckle from the congregation as the rebellious thrill from saying something not normally said in Church spread through the pews.
Now although this sounded cool and edgy, it doesn’t feel like it makes a whole lot of sense. If Jesus was perfect, would/could that imply that he would be able to fully absorb and digest anything he ate or drank? I mean, we pee and poop mostly because we eat and drink things that our body can’t use. So we have to get rid of all the waste. Wouldn’t a perfect being be able to forgo peeing and pooping?
Wouldn’t a perfect being not need to eat food in the first place?
And what about the “not having superpowers” thing? That struck me as making less sense. So, adult Jesus could walk on water, heal the sick, instantly make a whole bunch of food, self-resurrect. If baby Jesus couldn’t, is it a knowledge thing or a physical body thing? When, then, did Jesus obtain his magic powers?
Maybe he’s a mutant and his powers manifested in adolescence during a time of great stress. I dunno.
I get that PastorItaly was being rhetorical, but taken literally, what he said makes no sense. And what good is a sermon that’s all rhetoric and not actually true?