In medieval times, people managed by decree and threat. The King made a proclamation, and said, “Fear this, and tremblingly obey!” You ignored the King and his nobles at your peril, as most anything could be a capital offense. Stealing a loaf of bread, or murdering your neighbor – either could send you to the gallows. In a world like that, the bible’s threats and dogma seemed right in line with the way of the world.
Today, things are different. Managers manage by motivation. Instead of saying, “Do this or we will have you executed,” they think of ways to make people want to do things. Bosses talk endlessly about self-motivation and actualization. The goal today is to make people want to work for The Man. Parents have even jumped on the bandwagon. Today’s kids must want to cooperate. Threats and spankings are out the window.
It seems to work. People stay at work sixty hours a week at times, with no threat of transportation or execution. Some would say we have lifted behavior or at least motivation to a higher plane. Others would say its just brainwashing but that’s a subject for another post.
The fact remains, threat and dogma are passé when it comes to management in most of the Enlightened Western World. But through it all, the Bible has remained the same. Do as I say, or feel the wrath of a vengeful God.
I didn’t give that dichotomy much thought until speaking with Boston University psychology professor Catherine Caldwell-Harris. At a talk last winter, she said, “Why do you think Aspergians tend to reject the Bible and religion more often?”
“More often than what,” I asked? She directed me to Asperger sites Wrong Planet and Aspies For Freedom, where the prevailing sentiment when spirituality is discussed is indeed the rejection of Western religion. I got that impression from a quick perusal of the forums, but she knows it for sure, based on statistical analysis.
She’s done some follow on studies where people are interviewed in more depth; in fact she has one here that you can check out and participate in:
The studies so far suggest that high functioning people on the spectrum – those who participate in studies like hers and online in forums – are significantly more likely to reject religion than nypicals. I meet quite a few people myself, and my observation tends to confirm Catherine’s. But what does that mean? I’ve thought about that question quite a bit.
I’m not a follower of any traditional American church. Yet I consider myself a spiritual person. Furthermore, I think I have a good and solid moral sense, and a reasonable grasp of right and wrong and how to behave. I know from experience that many adult Americans would describe themselves the same way, be they Aspergian or nypical.
Do I reject traditional American religion? Upon reflection, I guess I do. I reject the “Do what we say or you’ll suffer damnation!” I don’t need a priest’s threats to stop me from looting the neighbor’s house and ravaging his females. The idea that I’d go to a church to hear those kind of threats just isn’t very appealing, no matter how subtle they may be. When you add a priest with his hand in your pocket and all the diddling scandals certain churches have, the picture is even worse.
The reason I do not go looting and pillaging is that I believe it’s morally wrong to do so. Since I already believe that, threats will do nothing more than annoy me. And that’s not all. The bible is full of passages that say, in essence, “Believe this or else!” Why? I’m okay about believing many things, but I want a more solid foundation than, “Because I say so.” I had a problem with my father saying that forty years ago, and I have problems when preachers say it today.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized rejection of organized religion is very different from rejection of spirituality or the concept of a God. I began to wonder . . . do Aspergians like me tend to reject religions like Catholicism because we are exceedingly logical people, and the Church’s threats and dogma are anything but?
We reject lots of things in life because they aren’t logical. Why not the bible? Why indeed. Maybe we Aspergians are just on the cutting edge here, because of our predisposition toward logicality.
I wonder if the time has come to update the language of the bible to reflect modern times and customs. Perhaps if we toned down the threats, more people would embrace it. Maybe if we added a little more logic, it would find wider acceptance. We’ve done that with every management tome, and most parenting tomes. What is the bible if not the pre-eminent “how to behave” manual for society. When all the lesser works have been revised should we not revise this one too?
Or maybe I’m just nuts, and it’s perfectly good the way it is to 99% of the world. What do you think?
I will say this. I’ve visited a number of churches, in small towns and inner cities. This is what I have seen: The rougher and meaner the environment, the more the successful and popular preachers focus on practical life matters. Threat and dogma are virtually ignored in favor of logical sensible living advice. Are they onto something, those inner city Baptists?