So, I hear this a lot:
“People think we’re all religious fundamentalists, but actually the disability rights movement is secular and not based on religion.”
And there’s an important sense in which that’s true. Secular voices exist and are important. A large percentage, perhaps the majority, of the disability rights community is secular. (And hardly any of us are fundamentalists or affiliated with the pro-life movement.)
But, at the same time, some of us actually are religious. And being religious isn’t a bad thing - and religion can be a powerful force for justice.
Those of us who are religious should not renounce this power. Religious outrage is powerful. Naming sin and calling for repentance is powerful. Those of us who believe that it is an affront to God to murder people with disabilities can say so, without being embarrassed.
Religion is not the only source of power or moral authority or spiritual strength. (Outright rejection of religion can be powerful in related ways.) But religion is important to many of us, and we have as much right to it as anyone else.
We have been excluded from and devalued in the same religious communities that ought to be championing our humanity. And it’s ok to be outraged by that, too.
It’s ok to be secular. But, if you’re religious, that’s ok too. People with disabilities have the same right to freedom of conscience as anyone else. We also have the right to speak the language of our culture and our beliefs.
And besides all the moral and ethical stuff you’re talking about here.
Disabled people get a lot of weird assumptions about our religious beliefs.
If you have temporal lobe epilepsy, then your religion and spirituality can never be valid because there’s the off chance (and it really is an off chance) that you’re having seizures masquerading as spiritual experiences. Hell, even if you have that kind of seizure you can have a legitimate religion or spirituality, and even spiritual experiences that are not seizures.
(What I was always taught was that if an experience doesn’t change you for the better in a long-term way or teach you something important about life on a deep level, it’s probably not an actual spiritual experience. And you can apply that to seizures, drugs, lots of things that can mimic spiritual experiences.)
I also have heard a lot of “The poor dears, they’re religious because it’s their only comfort, and they’re such simple souls that they’d never question what they’re taught.”
I’ve heard that all autistic people ought to be atheists.
I’ve heard that all nonverbal autistic people have a direct line to God and a telepathic connection with each other. (Because people just can’t help mixing up ‘psychic’ and ‘spiritual’, can they?) Admitting that I don’t have a telepathic connection to other nonverbal autistic people has meant I’ve been told I’m not a real nonverbal person. WTF.
I’ve heard every argument that any given kind of disabled person is so stupid and naive that they’d believe any religion they were taught. And I’ve heard every argument that disabled people have no place in religion. And I’ve heard the indigo and crystal child bullshit where disabled children aren’t disabled, we’re just the special new kind of person who will usher in the new age ™.
Recently I got an ask from someone who was very upset with me for being spiritual, because they thought I was smarter than that. Because they associate being smart with being an atheist (or maybe agnostic).
Spirituality is at the center of my life. In my case it involves a connection with a particular location. I should be able to talk about this without being told I’m stupid. I should be able to talk about spiritual experiences without people assuming I’m being arrogant or something — these experiences are things I see as open to anyone. But what got me about the ask was the person thought that being religious was being dishonest and spreading lies and dishonesty. And that’s just… not how I see it, at all, no matter what the religion. Most believers are honest and are not trying to dupe people. The only reason I talk about my spirituality is in case anyone else out there identifies with it, because I’ve felt so alone in terms of my spiritual practice.
But it’s not because I’m stupid and it’s not because I’m epileptic and it’s not because autistic people are closer to God and it’s just because I’m a human being and most human beings are religious or spiritual or both. And that’s fine. I don’t care what you believe or disbelieve, just leave me alone about what I believe.