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”.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • ladydreamgirl

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

  • 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?

  • Tyro Kathar

    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.

  • WallofSleep

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

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

  • John Evans

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

  • 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.

  • Richard Wade

    That’s a good point.

  • 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.

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

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

  • 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


  • 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…

  • 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?

  • Dez

    Jenny Mccarthy will get right on it. lol

  • 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

  • Uly

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.