Autistic Kids Lack the God Part of the Brain and Need Therapy to Fix It, Says Head of a Turkish Autism Organization

When the subject of autism comes up, one thing you can count on is that someone, somewhere will say something stupid. So it’s not all that surprising to see someone make a deeply uninformed statement like this:

“Autistic children do not know how to believe in God because they do not have a section for faith in their brains”…

The statement itself is stupid, but the author of it is even more shocking; Fehmi Kaya, the head of the Health and Education Associations for Autistic Children in Adana, Turkey. Yes, that’s right, the head of an organization supposedly dedicated to the needs of autistic children believes that there is a special section of your brain for your belief in God.

Fehmi Kaya with an autistic youth. (via Günaydın Adana Gazetesi)

What Kaya, who is a sociologist (and, I’m going to guess, not a neurobiologist), is probably referring to is the fact that individuals on the autistic spectrum have much lower levels of religiosity as compared to the non-autistic population. Rest assured, however, that the “faith box” in your brain is like the “God-shaped hole” in your heart: a figment of people’s imagination.

Kaya believes that this lack of religious faith in autistic children is troubling, saying that atheism is a part of the autistic disability, and that children would otherwise “normally” have religious faith. All is not lost, though, since these kids could learn to be religious through therapy!

“Autistic children do not know how to believe in God because they do not have a section for faith in their brains,” sociologist Fehmi Kaya reportedly said. “That is why they don’t know how to pray, how to believe in God. It is necessary to create awareness [or religion] in these children through methods of therapy.”

Every child understands when you tell him or her to fear God, but an autistic child will not,” Kaya told the Daily News. “Once he starts to develop normally, belief will come in time. We do not have the idea of creating a section for faith in their brains.”

It is very troubling that the head of an autism organization would understand so little about the condition itself, much less believe that children must have religion forced upon them with therapy in order to be properly “normal.”

His views are not shared by other Turkish autism organizations, who reacted with shock and anger to his comments. Unfortunately, it would appear that these attitudes may have actual harmful effects on autistic children:

Adem Kuyumcu, A Life Without Disabilities Association chairperson, told bianet that some rehab centers under the umbrella of Turkey’s National Education Ministry were recommend to add religion classes in their curriculum.

These centers offer classes only 8 hours over month. This is not enough at all. There is a variety of things autistic children should learn in these 8 hours. Officials had to change mind upon families’ criticism. I have been receiving complaint calls from families. We can’t sue the association chair for his remarks, but we fear that the unscientific therapy practice could spread across the country,” he said.

Autism is a condition that affects millions of children and adults worldwide. With no known cure, therapy is the single most important resource available to manage the illness, and it is absolutely vital for improving the outcomes for children with autism. These kids will face a multitude of challenges through their lives, the last thing they need is ignorant adults derailing their treatment for the benefit of their own religious beliefs.

About Claudia

I'm a lifelong atheist and a molecular biologist with a passion for science and a passionate opposition to its enemies.

  • baal

    Even my massively evangelical born again full 9-yards sister in law who provides therapy for autistic kids thinks religion is not the fix and lack of it is not the problem for autistic kids.

  • observer

    Most fundamental religious folks say that the reason a loving god allows evil is because of free will. Yet these same people want everyone to think like them, under the excuse that it’s “normal”.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    So, where exactly is this “god part of the brain?” In the prefrontal cortex? Part of the limbic system? A little piece of one of the temporal lobes?

    Maybe it’s in the ass, because that seems to be from where so many people pull out their claims about gods.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-W-Busch/578120211 Michael W Busch

      And if there were a specific “god part of the brain” or “god gene” that made people religious believers, which all available evidence says there isn’t, that would actually be an argument _against_ the existence of a god. It would be a dramatic illustration of how religious belief is a generation of human brains.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        That’s a good point.

      • flakingnapstich

        There’s fascinating research into why some people are religious and others are not. One theory states that religious people lack the ability to process more abstract cause-effect relationships. For example, “God did it” is a simpler description of where people came from than Evolutionary theory. Incapable of processing the more complex idea, they resort to the simplicity of religion.

        • Michael W Busch

          You have cause and effect backwards.

          The vast majority of people who are religious do not “lack the ability” to understand complex abstract reasoning.

          In some cultures and as a group, people who are religious may test out slightly lower on certain metrics of critical thinking than people who are irreligious. But that is an effect, not a cause. That is because critical thinking is a set of learned skills.

          What is happening is that some religious groups discourage people from developing critical thinking skills, and people who have developed and practiced those skills are more likely to become non-religious.

          • flakingnapstich

            I much prefer your explanation, as it means education can improve the situation.

            No wonder so many religious people are antagonistic towards education.

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

      Though there is no evidence supporting a god gene or area of the brain there is clear evidence supporting a Gullibility Gene.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisbrownofcabra Chris Brown

    I’m autistic and I have faith: in invisible pink unicorns, as it happens.
    Is that OK to make me “normal” ?

    Sheesh, the lack of logic and the lack of critical thought in Fehmi Kaya’s paradigm is frightening. He needs to look at his own belief framework first.

    He hasn’t even seen the problem with the term and concept of “faith”.
    And he wants to treat or cure me? I can run rings round his theology any day.

    • WallofSleep

      “Is that OK to make me “normal” ?”

      No, infidel! The invisible unicorns are purple, not pink. You shall pay for such heresy!

      • Tweekus

        Hell, i’m autistic and i have about as much faith in god as i do in Fox to keep good shows for more than a season. (Firefly, you were killed too soon.) Yes, burn me at the stake for my being an infidel

  • ladydreamgirl

    “Illness”? Seriously? Autism is not an illness it is a condition. Calling it an illness implies disease, which autism categorically is not.

    • Uly

      Bingo. If you want to stick with the medical model, it is a developmental disability – but it is still not an illness.

  • A3Kr0n

    So If I don’t believe in God that means I have a part of my brain missing, which means I’m disabled, which means I can get social security checks. OK, I’m game.

  • LesterBallard

    I’m confused; does this mean I’m autistic?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyro-Kathar/1539781848 Tyro Kathar

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/belief-and-the-brains-god-spot-1641022.html

    Edit: I’m autistic (Asperger’s Syndrome), and I used to be religious (raised as agnostic UU, converted to Neopaganism as a teen, then went atheist in early 20′s).

  • Rain

    By his logic, all atheists need therapy, which blasphemes atheists. Blasphemy is a crime in Turkey, ergo Jesus. How am I doin’. I think I’m getting the religion logic thing down. Let me know if there are any flaws.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Evans/1017276335 John Evans

    Sooo…. if atheism is a medical condition not a choice of will, where does that leave Turkey’s blasphemy laws?

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    Clearly though, it’s theists that are diseased if this were true. After all, a portion of their brain produces irrational and delusional thoughts. I suggest we start removing this area of the brain in fundamentalists right away and finding treatments to suppress its action in less fervent believers. Non-autistic atheists should be monitored of course. Fortunately, I’m autistic.

  • Dez

    This pisses me off. When I was a young kid and until high school age, I thought something was wrong with me for not believing like my family and the churches we went to. Only now as an adult I can look back and see that I was a normal non-believer. It doesn’t matter if a child is autistic or does not have any diability at all, belief should not be forced onto them. No kid should feel less than because of a lack of belief in deities.

  • Edmond

    So, is it part of God’s wonderful PLAN that people should be born this way?

  • SeekerLancer

    So then he either thinks all atheists are autistic or non-autistic atheists are liars?

  • rhodent

    OH NO! VACCINES CAUSE ATHEISM!!!!!!!!

    • Dez

      Jenny Mccarthy will get right on it. lol

    • Thalfon

      Wait, so if vaccines cause autism, but autism is the lack of the god part of your brain, then the only possible conclusion must be that vaccines are an atheist conspiracy to deconvert all those God-fearing Christians (who are too young to comprehend what that even means). The horror!

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

    The patients at my facility that have autism, have been trained, by their families to Ape out the mechanisms of religious rites. If I ask the communicable patients what is god they have no clue nor do they understand why the are doing what they have been trained to do. One patent told me that, “It makes his mother happy.”

    The Fundamentalist employees, who seem to be taking over my company, all light up when the patents pray, and encourage this behavior with rewards of food or sweets. Personally I see this as abuse but as the minority I have no recourse to change this practice.

    The common theme is, “What harm can come of it.” to which I often reply, “When dealing with a patient with ritualized compulsive behaviors, which scenario would you rather have, the patient praying while the facility burns down or the patient exiting the facility?”

    The fundi’s eyes glaze over…

  • http://www.facebook.com/roger.bauman Roger Bauman

    So God creates people without the part of the brain that allows them to believe in God? If he made everyone this way, would he cease to exist?

  • Ronixis

    I don’t like the “illness” and “no known cure” business. It makes it sound like a cure might be desirable, which I and many other autistics emphatically oppose.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1019365643 John J. Ronald

    While I’m an atheist with Asperger’s, I laughed out loud when I read the line about “all autistic children are atheists”–nope. I *wish* that were true, but it’s not. Pretty sure Temple Grandin is a Christian, or at least nominally a theist. And while I can usually locate fellow atheists who are also coincidentally on the autism spectrum at local Atheist meetups, we are always a distinct minority of the total attendees.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Any excuse to force god on people. They’ll take anything at all, no matter what the consequences.

  • tiftikmelih

    As a Turkish and atheist person, especially for the recent 10 years I feel ashamed of my country bcoz of all its extreme ignorance, stupidity and the actual rise of Homo Religious.

  • mdoc

    I have a friend from Turkey who is an atheist. He says atheism is fairly well tolerated there. No wonder there was a significant hoopla over this goofiness.

  • Jenn

    Please check your language. “Affects”, “illness”, and “no known cure” all imply that there is something wrong with us that needs to be fixed. Awareness is the answer to the challenges faced by those of us who are autistic (not “affected by autism”). Also, it is a disorder, not an illness, and cannot be removed from us without changing who we are.

  • Aspieguy

    I also have Aspergers syndrome and am atheist. I do know that there are autistics who are religious believers, although I have no idea why. I thought it silly that there is a part of our brains that don’t allow us to believe in god. It’s simply that the concept of god is illogical to many of us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

    The funny part about this post is that 8 of the 24 atheists that posted on this blog admit to being on the autism spectrum. Although they are trying to refute the claim the fact that roughly a third of the commenters admit to having auspergers or autism just gives more evidence to the study

    • Anna

      You don’t seem to know much about self-selection bias, then. This post is about autistic atheists, so it’s no wonder that many of the comments are from autistic atheists. Members of that group obviously have a much greater interest in responding than non-autistic atheists.

      • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

        There haven’t been studies that I have found on this subject, but in my experience it seems like there are a great number of atheists who are autistic math professors or autistic computer programmers

        • Anna

          In your experience? How many math professors and computer programmers do you know? It would be interesting to see how many people in those professions are autistic, how many are atheist, and how many belong to both groups. I would assume that both atheists and those on the autism spectrum would tend to skew more towards careers in science and technology, but that’s based more on popular stereotypes than on statistics.

  • http://twitter.com/rtanen rtanen

    Did he mean autistic children, excluding adults? If so, then this is, even for religious types, not a problem, as kids generally don’t have the kinds of beliefs religious people want anyway (see tooth fairy, boogeyman). If he meant all autistics, then he should look up the religious and autistic Temple Grandin.

    • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

      There is an exception that proves the rule

  • Alex the aspie

    Since learning I am an aspie, no wonder religion and faith never made a lot of sense to me. It seems to me that those of us on the higher end of the spectrum either become Atheists, or hard core fundamentalists. I used to be a fundamentalist Christian many years ago and very few of my peers at church could relate to how extreme I was. Atheism has truly helped me in so many ways. No faith has allowed me to be myself and start learning how to treat people a whole lot better based on logic and reason. This is very troubling because if only that baffoon who made the comment could see the world through the eyes of an aspie-an autistic person who to most people around them(unless they have been around us for extended periods or lived with us and saw the REAL problems we have that they can’t imagine and sometimes refuse to believe in their denial), he would NEVER make this suggestion. How many times I lost jobs or quit them due to my “faith” that caused me to have 10 times the amount of problems I have anyway interacting with people. About 14 years ago I was going to school for networking/computer maintenance. I was so terrified and obsessed over the “mark of the beast” that I dropped all of my classes. I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to get ANY degree due to this type of behavior or simply not being able to handle all of the stimulation of being at a college. My Athesim has helped me to get my diploma(will have my associates in August!!!, finally after all these years and I am 34). This was entirely normal behavior for me, and people at church just didn’t “get it”. I was resentful at them for so many years after the fact, but now I understand that they can’t understand because they aren’t autistic. Simply don’t believe in “God”, this sort of thing will never happen. Hope that moron who made the comment gets fired.


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