• Rebecca Giles

Is Autism Demonic?

There is a subset of Christianity in which the belief is prevalent that demons cause disabilities, or at least certain disabilities. This belief is discriminatory towards us (autistic people). It demonizes difference. By default, it makes us into a lesser category of people who are “in bondage” and in need of being “set free” or “delivered” from our differences by the prayers of normal people.

No, autism isn’t demonic. Difference isn’t from demons. Those of us who have autism are fearfully and wonderfully created with the beautiful atypicalities we have. God creates unconventional kinds of people instead of making us all similar, and that is good. We all deserve to have our differences accepted.

I remember the stinging comments that Christians have said to me:

"Nobody knows what causes autism, but it seems obvious that demons are involved somehow." "I'm not sure how much demons are involved with autism." "Demons cause autism." "We don't need to know whether demons cause autism or not, it doesn't make a difference." "Demons don't just cause autism; some people think that every kind of physical sickness is caused by demons, like the runny nose I have. We don't really know for sure what demons cause." "I don't think physical disabilities are caused by demons, but autism is different. It seems like autism is demonic, especially because nobody knows what causes it." "Demons are oppressing you. They're surrounding you like dogs with fangs, nipping and nipping at you." "You are under demonic influence."

Every one of these people meant well, but their words were destructive instead. You can't suggest to an autistic person (or to the parents of an autistic child) that demons may cause autism without causing great harm and distress by your words.

On two occasions, people tried to cast demons out of me in church. One of these people put her hand around my neck and leaned in on me, trembling hard, while my back was against the wall; this frightened me, and I was embarrassed because I was in front of a crowded sanctuary. One time, a church lady said she saw bats and evil spirits flying around my head. She connected this with my autism and sleep issues. Another church lady said she saw that my wrists were bound and that I was under demonic oppression.

For a period of time, I worried that my autism might be demonic, because of what I heard from Christians. Here is how it harmed me to think that demons cause autism:

I felt as if being autistic was my fault. I felt as if it was a choice I made as opposed to being the way I was born, and I felt that I was bad or sinful to make that choice. I felt as if I was going against God's will by being disabled. I felt as if my autism was a barrier between me and God, as if I must make a choice between being Christian or being autistic. I felt as if disabled people cannot serve God as we are, and must be "healed" first if we hope to become useful to him.

I felt rejected and unacceptable within Christian environments. I was nervous around Christians because I knew they might associate demons with people like me, but my college, where most people weren't religious, felt like a refuge of acceptance for difference. In church I fidgeted a lot, due to my nervousness, and was very self-conscious due to my knowledge that some people associate odd bodily tics with demonic presence.

Finally, I came to understand that demons don't cause autism and that I'm not under demonic influence. People have already prayed innumerable times to free me from demonic influence, and I'm still autistic. I have Jesus living in me, and demons can't inhabit the same place as him. I have the Holy Spirit to guide me, and I pray in tongues. My friend Jesus stays with me wherever I go (Joshua 1:9 and Psalm 139:7-10), so if any demons ever try to influence or oppress me, Jesus is going to be far more powerful than them. I can feel his love and protection falling over me.

As I deal with the stigma of perceived demonic oppression, I find it helpful to remember that my best friend Jesus, like me, was accused of having demons:

John 7:20 - "You are demon-possessed," the crowd answered.

Mark 3:22 - But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.”

Matthew 10:25 - Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names!