Here are some extracts from a fascinating paper – “Mentalizing Deficits Constrain Belief in a Personal God” by Ara Norenzayan, Will M. Gervais and Kali H. Trzesniewski. Gervais is certainly a name which keeps popping up in conversations about the cognitive functioning of people with regards to their beliefs and so on.
The basic conclusion to be made form this work is that people on the autistic spectrum (think particularly Asperger’s Syndrome) have, due to their cognitive functioning, a much higher disposition not to believe in a personal God. The is largely due, it appears, to a lack of empathy. Empathy seems to underscore our beliefs in a personal God. This can be seen in believers needing to put themselves ‘in God’s shoes’, so to speak. In other words, in all your words and deeds as a believer, what would God think of you? This intersubjectivity, placing yourself out of your body and imagining ‘you’ from another point of view, is something that particular groups of autistic people struggle with. And this, it seems, is why they have less propensity to believe.