Healing is My Special Interest
God is My Special Interest Podcast
Unholy Mess: Where God and Neurodivergence Meet (Part 1!)

Unholy Mess: Where God and Neurodivergence Meet (Part 1!)

A conversation with Richie X

Today’s episode is special—Richie X was my first guest ever and now we get to have a conversation where I share a bit more about my de-conversion—and they share their story as well. Listen to part 1 here, and then go to

for part 2 of our free-flowing convo. We discuss deconstruction/autism/integrity/high control religion and so much more!

Thank you to everyone who supports this newsletter—thanks to you, I can keep doing stuff like making podcasts!

God is My Special Interest is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

And if you enjoyed this podcast episode, share it on socials or share it with a friend!


Be sure to check out Richie X’s amazing newsletter,

, and subscribe to his incredible podcast, Surviving Fundamentalism, wherever you normally listen.

Here’s the transcript of part 1:



DL: Hey, welcome to the God is my special interest podcast. I'm your host, DL Mayfield. Thanks for being here. Today, I am Interviewing, actually, it's more like a conversation between me and Richie X. I had Richie X on a few months ago. maybe they're even my first guest . but Richie's incredible and I've just gone through a ton of faith shifts, I guess we could call them even in the months since starting my substack and starting this podcast and Richie's like, let's do like a nice long convo where we can just talk about some of this stuff. And it's great because there's some similarities in me and Richie's stories and some real differences too.

And so, We just had a really great time talking and because we knew we wanted this to be a nice long, luxurious conversation, we decided to split it up into two parts. The first part of our convo is here on God is my special interest. And then the second part is over on Richie's podcast [surviving fundamentalism]. Richie is a wonderful writer and they have a substack called just above my head, which I will link to of course. And they also have a few amazing podcasts. The one that, the second part of this conversation we'll be on is called Surviving Fundamentalism, and Richie is a wonderful storyteller, somebody who's just like really good at, uh, radio talking.

I don't know, obviously I'm really bad at it myself. but I'm just so glad we got to have this conversation. So, stick around. Listen to the first part here, and then you can go straight to Surviving Fundamentalism wherever you get your podcasts and listen to part two of this conversation. Thank you so much. Again, I'm DL Mayfield and this is God Is my special interest the podcast.

Richie X: Hi everybody. I am Richie X and I am here with

DL: Oh me, I'm already, I'm already doing this wrong. It's me. It's DL Mayfield here with Richie X

Richie X: and this is a crossover episode, with surviving fundamentalism and God is my special interest. And we're, we're back. I know you heard, you heard us, I think, was it last year? Was it 2022? That we had our first conversation about everything and all the shenanigan. So we're back to talk about more shenanigans and this is basically gonna be a conversation about the intersection, of autism and religion and deconstruction and all of the things.

And I know that everyone is on their own journey with these different things. Well, I know we are in that, that end of the thirties era of like, having these new revelations and them being like, oh God, here we are. Must I begin again? Must I go all the way back to elementary school and, and work through all of these shenanigans?

So we hope you all enjoy our conversation. One of the things I was thinking about yesterday was the difference between our journeys, cuz you, you were diagnosed first and then you started your deconstruction journey, right?

DL: Yeah, I would say, I mean, I think there's threads all along. And, one thing I really recognized about myself is that I think I've been asking some really hard questions for a really long time in basically white evangelicalism and those questions just not being taken seriously ever. So I really internalized like, well, I must be wrong, you know, anyways, but yes. Being diagnosed autistic in the past year, I did not foresee coming like a literal deconversion moment. I was like, this is not deconstruction. This is me putting a hard stop. And it, my story is very connected to finally, processing my childhood and understanding what childhood religious indoctrination is and how it actually can be pretty effective, especially I believe on neurodivergent folks.

And so, I use the word deconversion, which I know not everybody does. But yeah, I, did not see that coming and it came, it came for me. Hit me like a little truck, you know. And you have been on this journey of really searching out the deconstruction, even like writers, thinkers, books, it sounds like, for a really long time.

Richie X: Well, yeah, so I, the journey started for me, um, in 2010. So I was taking a couple of classes. One was the psychology of Politics, another one was, modern political theory, which was basically about the politics,  the way that the enlightenment period influenced politics particularly in Western society.

And so it was really interesting, to be in that space. And I was also surrounded by people who were communist and democratic socialists and just had these free thinking, you know, people did not wear shoes. Just, just very interesting, eclectic people. Everybody smoked cigarettes, everybody.

And this was my first time back in a full secular university. You know, after having been away at Christian school. and so I'm like, whoa, these people are different. But I liked them and they also seemed to be the only, they were the, the first white people I'd ever met who were actively anti-racist.

And it was astonishing to me. They talked about these things called microaggressions. I knew nothing about, I knew about them cause I had experienced them, but I didn't know what they were. I didn't know what they were called. And so I got around these people, I'm taking these classes and one thing you know about the enlightenment period is, it’s ultimately the culture bucking up against the church. And the church’s power over the world, if you will. And it is people kind of using philosophy to go, Hmm, this doesn't make sense. religion shouldn't be leading our world in this way. It shouldn't be influencing our world. And this is why, essentially.

And what was kind of seeping in was like the fact that I could question what I believe. and I was like, uh, this is weird, but no, I'm still gonna be that person. I'm just, not, I'm not gonna allow it in. And I was fighting to not allow within myself the process of critical thinking. But the deeper, the more I studied for this class, we were required to read like full sources. So , the Will to Power, uh, Marx’s the Communist Manifesto, John Locke, Thomas Hobbs, all those, you know, they call them founding philosophers who talked about a lot of this stuff. And I was like, whoa. So I'm reading it and I remember my mind exploding and then taking a class called the Psychology of Politics, breaking down every aspect of our society.

And our beginning source was group psychology and the analysis of the ego by Sigmund Freud and we kind of worked our way out from there. And one of the things he talked about was the idea that we have where we mirror the family unit with the institution, whether it's the church or the army.

And I thought that was really interesting. So again, from both angles, both classes, I am being literally tortured because I am in a fire and brimstone  Pentecostal holiness cult where my pastor is incredibly psychologically violent, and verbally abusive. And literally going away to college was a gift. And it's funny, I was gonna stay home and commute because I didn't want to be away from church, but something was like, go, get away. And so I did. And so the journey began. Then again, being around so many thinkers, I was like, yes, yes, all this is great. I was taking, uh, six classes, protesting--active in the activist community in North Jersey. I was the president of the Poly Sci, the Political Science Club. I was the head of Modern United Nations doing all the things because my whole life, and again, here comes that intersectionality was about, was dedicated to the mask that I was 100% a bad bitch.

And I could handle it all. I could do it all. There was nothing that could stop me. I was incredibly intelligent and I wanted the world to know it. And I spent my entire life trying to prove that I was just like everybody else, even though it was obvious to me that I had to work three-ten times as hard, but that didn't matter because I was determined to perfect my mask and present as someone who had it all together in this way.

And I was, and I was determined, but the mask literally cracked like a China bowl that year when that critical thinking came in and I started to examine my belief system and I began to read the God delusion, which I would not finish until 2020 , but this was 2010 and I began to read it. And the first part of it talked about John Lennon’s Imagine. And he says, imagine there's no heaven. Imagine there's no hell. And the author wants you basically to, in this, uh, prelude to, to imagine that there is no God and what the world will be like without God and religion. And that thought alone, I shut that book and I was like well. Because I felt myself thinking. I remember having the thought, well, if I imagine that, the world would be so much more peaceful, my life would be very different.

Oh my God, it would be amazing. And I felt so wrong for that. I shut the book. I began having these terrible panic attacks, which led to what I now know. I used to call it a nervous breakdown, but I now know it to be autistic burnout. Just a combination of all the things I was doing, my basic infrastructure, everything that my mask was built on was crumbling.

I think I had accidentally told somebody that I might be queer at one of those democratic socialist conventions. And I was, the masl was breaking and I was distraught. And so it began then and I of course went back to everything I knew. I almost left college. I was like literally going back and forth to the hospital.

I was having all these tests done. They're like, nothing is wrong with you, nothing is wrong with you. And I'm like, no, I'm dying. My whole, like, I'm losing my mind. People were just like, you just gotta calm down. You gotta meditate, you gotta relax, you gotta do this. And ultimately I just went back to what I knew, fasting, praying, repenting. I'm gonna be, you know, whatever.

I pulled away from all of those free thinking people--couldn't be around them. And it would be a few years before I would get back into the deconstruction journey. But before I go into that, I'd like to talk a little bit about like when was the period where you first started really thinking--Mm. This don't make no sense?

DL: Well, it's just like I, I'm still a little stuck in your story, if that's okay if I just ask you a few questions because as you were talking, like I could feel my throat like starting to close up. Like that's how I used to get anxiety is like I, my body would be like, Yeah, you, you want to be able to say things inside of you, but you know, there's no space for that.

So I always thought I was allergic to things and I would get like the allergy test and the doctors would be like, there's nothing, you're literally allergic to nothing. Congrats. Like, it is very rare. And I was like, but why? Why do I get hives and I can't breathe? And they're like, maybe you're just a really anxious person.

anyways I wanna go back to a word I heard you say, maybe you used a different word. Like you said, it was like torture, right? Being introduced to these concepts that were causing you to interrogate your worldview, the worldview that you had invested so much in as a coping mechanism, right, for being different. There’s so many layers to that, right? There's so many layers to both, all the things you've had to do to try and survive and how painful it is to interrogate that, and nobody will know the cost. It is, I think for autistic people, and especially you have so many other intersection nationalities added onto that, but like the cost for you to interrogate your coping mechanism, your worldview, the psychological cost of that, I, I do not think people understand what it is until they've gone through it.

You used the word torture. I would not wish that kind of situation on my worst enemy. And I mean that like, I don't know if you feel similarly, but it's just. I wouldn't wish that kind of internal, and I always say existential crisis, but that it, that word doesn't really communicate the depths of psychological and psychic pain.

I think that I heard you expressing, so I don't know. I was like, I just need to honor what you were saying. It'd be

Richie X: Yeah,

DL: it's so real and it's a lot.

Richie X: I always tell my therapist, I would say, you know, like my life, you know, I've lived it so it doesn't seem like it's that bad. But when I look at it from the lens of now knowing that I'm autistic, my autistic brain goes, oh my God, poor baby. Like you, it's this like, because I was just living. My life was my life and I was determined to survive.

I was determined to survive even when I literally felt my mind breaking what I thought was my mind breaking. And now I cherish that time so much because, um, it taught me one thing. Um, and that was. , I could go, Ooh, I'm getting emotional. I could go to the lowest point, but that I would be okay.

DL: Hmm.

Richie X: I could almost lose my mind.

I remember I was standing at the front door with, in the middle of autistic burnout, completely broken existential crisis. Fully fearing that I was about to die at any minute and go to hell that it started to lose. I started to lose, like completely separate from myself in my mind, and I was standing at the door in the dead of winter with nothing but underwear on, and my mother stopped me from going outside and was asking me what was wrong and I, and I just stood there and she was like, go.

and I went and walked upstairs and went back to bed. But that time period taught me that I could, it taught me about my own strength. Whitney Houston has a song on her last album that says I didn't know my own strength and that it taught me like, I am so much stronger than I believed because I was so determined to survive that period.

It went from waiting to die to, well, doesn't look like I'm gonna die. So I started fasting and I used to think the fasting was about connecting back to Christianity. It was more so about telling my body that I was in control. That I was in control of it and it was toxic and nobody should fast for more than for 72 hours eating no food or drinking no water.

That's insane. But I would do it. But I was telling my body, I am in control of you. You are not in control of me. I was telling my nerves, my nervous system, I would constantly shake. I was in so much physical pain, uh, reminiscent of that, which like people who had fibromyalgia, like I was in full. Breakdown and I, um, remember just telling, controlling my body in this way, like, you are going to survive this.

You are coming out of this. And I just, I remember one day I looked up and I could see that it had snowed and I realized that I didn't even know it had snowed. When it snowed. It was a couple days after and then I went to my apartment and I started seeing all of the clothes on the ground, and I'm still in college, barely making it into classes.

I mean, shout out to Andre, this kid that typed our entire paper for this political psychology class, our final paper, because I was so. Just like tore up to pieces. I had to hand write it and send it to him because I could not even like type and he typed the whole paper and submitted it. But I remember noticing that everything was all over the place and that was when I started to kind of come out of all of it and I was like, whoa, I'm here.

Whoa, this is life. If I don't get a hold of this, I don't know what's gonna happen. And so I did. But when you, when you say it like that, I realize, oh yeah, that is something that taught me probably one of my greatest lessons. And I, I heard, I remember when I heard, I was watching something and I think it was Oprah.

She, I think she was giving a college speech, a graduation speech, and she said, you will always be okay. And I thought, that's a pretty bold ass statement. I don't know about that. but when I think about those things and those moments, that is a thought that has carried me through those things.

And I've had other dark times, but that particular time it really carried through those times and yeah, and you're right, people and I myself didn't even think about how it, how giant of a moment that was for me. I can only realize in retrospect that it was. Pure torment, and it is for many people.

One of the things I have learned from my deconstruction journey and people I've talked with and worked with, I used to have a house church. We'll probably talk about it a little later. Um, that was really for people who were recovering from, well, surviving fundamentalism was birthed out of that house.

DL: Mm-hmm.

Richie X: Because I learned from that experience that I did not want to be a pastor, that I did not want the responsibility of pastoring. But, I had something for people who were healing from church hurt and all of that stuff, and surviving fundamentalism. And so that time period though really taught me so much. It’s very much a part of the work that I do now and that's, that I'm not alone in this, that there are other people whose who, although they may not be autistic, they have had their mask cracked on the cement and have had to put the pieces together because so much of our identity is wrapped up in, Christ, right?

We, we, we would say in Christ alone, I place my trust, um, you know, spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, we give full access and full command over our entire bodies and beings  to something we've never seen, something we don't fully understand. to people who don't have the best intentions, and we, we, particularly as autistic people who just want to be right, particularly it's undiagnosed autistic people who just want to be right, just want to get it right.

Just want to get it on the line.

DL: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm.

Richie X: listening to these people and we're holding so steadfastly to everything that they're saying and everything that they believe, and it becomes what we believe because we saw the scripture and we, and it's their testimony and we're running with all this zeal and you know, it's like I remember.

Side story: When I was a kid, I cracked my tooth on the concrete running. And the pain of that I remember is like very similar to in a, in a sort of a spiritual way of like, of having your face cracked in that way. That it is a jolt and then it, then there is, and it, it's a shock. And then there is an electrifying pain that shoots up from that space in through your whole body, down through and out your toes.

And that is what, um, the first parts of deconstruction are like. Um, and the deconversion

DL: Okay. Yeah. Okay. can I interject here? Because I think sometimes in the past when I would hear stories like yours and you would say like, I was a part of this, you know, cult, I'd be like, oh, like I resonate with a lot of this, but I wasn't raised in a cult, so I can't, I can't really take my own pain  seriously.

Like, I can take Richie's pain because to me it seems very clear, like, was a cult. And I think the thing about being undiagnosed autistic and being in a religious cult, right, is it we really do take it literally. And so I think there's two concepts in particular that are the hallmarks of most fundamentalist thinking.

And, one is like, this belief about the afterlife, this cosmic battle, right between good and bad forces and, and then Christianity takes that even a step further with the afterlife and hell and all that. And then there's also this concept of Satan or like evil at work in the world that we must be vigilant against, right?

And be aware it could be inside of us and, and like, yeah, that's white evangelicalism. At least my community was very obsessed with both those things and both of those concepts, right? And we really internalize the message like, no, we aren't okay on our own. Like we have to have God in order to go to heaven, right?

We have to believe all the right things. And then I think Christianity, a lot of streams of Christianity take it one step farther and it's like, well, you have to pray. You have to fast. You have to dedicate your life to God. You have to empty yourself of all things that make you not follow God if you want good things to happen, right?

And then if good things happen in your life, you're like, yeah, that's God. If bad things happen, it's not cuz God's bad, it's cuz you're bad. And so it's this continual cycle of learning to hate yourself if bad things happen, right? Because it's obviously your fault. And no, you will never be okay on your own.

So you can't trust yourself and you can't find solace, and you had to come up against that and just get to the end and say, actually at the end, all there is is me. Like there's nobody else. That can go through a mental breakdown with you, right? Like you do it alone. And even listening to you talk about that experience, I was like, I have a really different one.

But there are some common threads, and I did not perceive this as being a part of my deconstruction at the time, but I just recently wrote an essay about what it was like when I almost died in childbirth. And this has happened to me two times because I am very unlucky, I guess. But the first time it happened, I remember being like, I'm 26 years old. I'm a white woman who lives in Portland, Oregon. Like I'm in a hospital. I've dedicated my entire life to serving God. You know, like, There's no way I'm actually this sick. You, you know, like, I'm just gonna just get that C-section. Get that baby out. Yeah, the baby's two months early. I'm sure it'll be fine.

Like, this is just how I live my life. Like psychologically I'd released put all of my fear and anxiety into this, you know, construct. And so I'm in the room waiting to be prepped for this emergency C-section and the doctor had been like, we have to do it now. you're either gonna die of a stroke or you're gonna like, your blood won't be able to clot in a few  hours and you'll just bleed out.

So we have to do it now. So I was like, okay. And I was all by myself while they're like sticking the needle in me and I was just like, okay, this is it. This is the moment. God, I've been told my whole life. When you get to the end, like God's peace that passes out, all understanding will be with you. You know, like I will sense the physical presence of Christ.

It was a Christian Adventist hospital, and so they actually had these pictures everywhere. They had these pictures everywhere of like, One was of Jesus, like holding this slumped over guy, this really famous picture. And the other one was actually by seventh day Adventist painter. And it was like of Jesus over the shoulder of a surgeon and the guy's doing surgery and that was in the surgery room.

So I'm staring at that picture. I'm like, okay, let's hurry up white Jesus. Like, where are you? Like get here. Like. and I was so alone and I didn't get better right away after the C-section. And the nights at the hospital were the worst because my body just wouldn't come down. And so I was at the risk of a stroke for like a week straight and had to be on these horrible medicines, and I was in so much pain and, and I was just like, oh my God.

Like I'm alone. Like it it happened. Maybe it happens to other people and maybe there's something really wrong with me. You know, like, but I am literally trying everything possible to follow God, like, and when you die. It seems like you die alone. And I couldn't share that with anybody, and that really was a hard part of my story, right?

Everybody was like, oh, it's a miracle you survived. Like, and I was like, yay, I guess. But for me, that actually is a huge part in my deconstruction story. But now looking at it, I'm like, wow. I did show up for myself. Kind of what you were just similarly saying about your experience is like we've, we've got to the end of sort of these religious platitudes or, or these things we were told, just keep going, just fast, just pray.

And we're like, I don't know if any of that worked, but I've got to be like, okay. And even be proud of who I am and know, like I will always be there for myself. So anyway, sorry if that was like a ramble

Richie X: No, that's so, so good. It, it, it just, you, you, you, when you got to the end of your last statement, something hit me right. And I realized from that I have much more peace on the other side of deconstruction than I ever had when I was a Christian.

DL: Hmm.

Richie X: I was more calm. And I've realized too, like a lot of that angst that came with the Christian belief system is gone.

And you know, my example of that is in 2020 when I almost died of a diabetic ketoacidosis. And I remember just being so, having this feeling that I was, it, my mind was so blank. It was just like, I'm either going to die or I'm not. What? I'm not gonna freak out. I have no control over this situation.

It will be what it will be or it will not be. I do not know and I do not care, quite frankly. I just want to take a nap. And that was really, I, and, and the doctors were, they were sending in psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist was like, are you sure you're okay? I was like, yeah, I just wanna go to sleep. They were sitting there, they kept and the doctors kept saying, you just seem so relaxed for everything that's going on with your body.

I said, maybe, cuz that's, I don't know what's going on with my body. I don't, you know, I'm just here

DL: Yeah.

Richie X: I was just, I was going moment by moment. and now, you know, I was there for six days, so once I got towards the tail end and I wanted to go home, it was a little bit more of like, all right, now come on, that's enough.

But, but yeah, I really had this like sense of peace that I honestly could say I never had as a Christian, never.  I remember be always being and I don't, it, it could have been my angst with the angst with which I served. I don't know, but it's so crazy because you know what comes to mind now?

You know, my friends always say, you're such a preacher. Uh, what comes to mind now is the scripture that says, be anxious for nothing, but in everything, give thanks. And, um, you know, it's kind of like. But I never had that in Christianity, which is the funniest thing, or for God, that's not giving us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind.

it's so funny the, the very, the very angst with which we serve this God is out of the fear of going to hell. So are we really anxious for nothing? And do we really did this God not give us the spirit of fear? Because if I look at biblical literalism and evangelicalism, then yeah, no, I am supposed to have fear apparently.

Because that if I don't, then I'm going to do all the things they told me I'm not supposed to do. So, I don't know. But it's so odd, but I find that I have so much more calm in what I now call, I point to, I guess this particular chakra area below, like right near my belly button.

But I feel like I call it the known beyond the known, which is just that's what I call those things we don't understand. And it's like, yeah, no, nobody knows. There is a thing within me that says, watch you make it through this. And so I don't know. I just have it. It's there. And I'm glad. But I think my life circumstances has taught me that.

But I wanted to go back into what was that like moment for you that you were like, mm, yeah, this, this is. This don't make sense.

DL: Yeah. Okay. So I have a few of those moments. Probably. I probably have like a million, right? And I think this is why I have such. I've had so much anxiety and depression for so long, right? Is because I've been just chockful of, this doesn't actually make any sense to me, but every single person in my life is just literally over and over again saying Yes, it does. Yes it does. And not only does it make sense, it's literally the best way to be a human.

You know this, we are the best people out of all of human history. I mean, just the white supremacy of white evangelicalism. I don't think we've even begin to scratch the surface of how uniquely awful it is, if I'm being totally honest.

And you know, there's a few things. I just tried so hard, Richie, I just tried so hard. I will say there's a few books that accelerated my understanding of, uh, bibiblicism and how biblicism really is the backbone of, uh, you know, communities like White Evangelicalism. And this approach to reading the Bible literally and applying it to your everyday.

Uh, you know, and so there's a book that’s called The Bible Made Impossible, by a guy named Christian Smith. And again, this is not like a really, uh, popular book, but it just like blew my mind. It says like, why biblicism is not a truly evangelical reading of scripture. And he just really kind of outlined the history of how white evangelicals read the Bible and why it's wretched and also so such a blip in history of how people have interacted with sacred texts. And it's just an utterly toxic way to an approach a sacred text is how I would now say it. biblical literalism, right? So there is that. And then, um, I don't know if you've ever read, uh, Willie Jennings, but his book, the Christian Imagination is a phenomenal book I've talked about a lot, but it's, it's about how like White Western Christianity is a diseased imagination and starting, uh, with like the transatlantic slave trade and how Catholic priests, you know, were the ones blessing these expeditions all the way up to modern day, you know?

but at the same time that I was reading these books, Richie, I was immersed in these spaces, sort of like progressive Christian spaces and there were lots of people of color and lots of people of color writing books about how actually, you know, take out all the white supremacy stuff that's bad, but like at its core, Christianity is good.

And even like, they wouldn't even say evangelicalism's good, but that was the vibe, right? Um, and I'm writing in these spaces. I am friends with these authors and so I just mostly, I read their books and I was like, yeah, these are amazing thinkers. They're people of color. Their faith actually helps them resist white supremacy.

Like there's so much that I value. And at the same time, I use them, their arguments, their books, to not let myself fully ask the questions I needed to be asking. If that makes any sense. And I know this is really complicated, and so I feel a little bit like, I hope I'm saying this as respectfully as I can.

And I just see that as a huge reason why I didn't let myself fully even ask questions, and also at the same time, understanding I'm autistic. you know, the DSM five or whatever, it's just like, there's, there's two components, right, of what makes up an autism, autism diagnosis.

And one is like the repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. And then the other one is difficulties in social and emotional communication. And I think in the beginning I was really able to see like, okay, I, I actually think how I've approached religion, single-mindedly. Like to me, I was like, oh, that's a special.

Oh, my life is very, my life is very restricted. Like intellectually, ethically, like everything is about my Christian idea. So I was like, okay. I can say, can I say that? But I never thought of myself as someone who had difficulty with social and emotional communication. And I started reading all these things about autistic people being naive, you know, being pretty rigid. Being vulnerable to exploitation. And I was like, that is not me, man. I am like really good at reading people and I am like really good at all these. And, but finally I just had to be like, what if I'm not, like, what if I am kind of naive and I really do wanna believe in the best parts of Christianity?

And what if I was exploited by an institution my whole life? because of my nativity and I, and that's kind of how I view my life at this point today. And that might change, you know, I might come to a different understanding, but I was a true believer. My parents went all in on childhood religious indoctrination, the focus on the family, Dr. Dobson's style. I ate that shit up.

I ate that shit up. Literally went to Bible college to be a missionary because if you take this seriously, if you take the doctrine of hell seriously, like why the fuck wouldn't you be trying to convert people otherwise they're going to hell. Like that's the only ethical decision inside of white evangelism if you ask me.

Richie X: I am still a very good evangelist, by the way. I've still got it. I know it.  I was, I was like soul winner of the month, like 80 times.

DL: Soul winner of the month!

Richie X: Yes, because I was a part of what was called a Home Missions church. Um, and so in the United Pentecostal Church, the home missions are the, the, the smaller churches.

So any church under a hundred is a home missions church. And so that means they are to be evangelizing to their surrounding community. Um, In, in effort to grow their ministry and get as many people saved as possible. Right. And so I was a part of a very small home missions church that started in a hotel and then moved to a elementary school, then moved to a building of its own.

And I probably, when I left the church, was probably about 150. I won probably about 50 of those. To that church, got them baptized child, got them people to the altar, speaking in tongues, and, and kept coming as members. I was so dedicated because when I read Go Eat into all the World , you know, and, and, and the great commission as they say, or when I read Acts two and 38, when Peter said, rep, repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ.

I was so, I was filled with so much zeal, but now I realize that I recognize that as like , me being autistic and it being a special interest of mine. Religion was like, I ate and breathed the Bible. That's why, like when I'm talking, it's so automatic. I was, look, I was reading my speech from high school, because I was the class senior class president and so I had to give a speech at graduation.

I had scriptures in my speech, I didn't quote them as scriptures, but they were. I  spent hours upon hours, upon hours in the Bible and in prayer and researching and reading spiritual books, and watching sermons and, reading aloud even. I would read books and the, the scripture out loud. And pronounce my words, to learn how to enunciate better.

And so it was like I was in, I was fully hooked in. And when I read those things, I took them literally, I took the sermons literally. Uh, if a preacher said, if Muslims pray five times a day, why can't you? I started praying five times a day. I didn't think anything of it. Like I didn't think slow your, and I know when, and it was funny cuz when I got older and I got grown and I ran into people who are also backsliding. They would say to me, yeah, you just, you stuck with it so long.

And I was like, well, I thought y'all would've too. And one of my friends told me flat out, we weren't doing it like,

DL: No,

Richie X: were in it, but we weren't doing it like you. Like they went to college and was like, eh, bye.

DL: okay. Can I ask you a question? I, I think it was for me, it was in college. Bible college because again, I self-selected myself into spaces where it was like everybody God was their special interest too. I think Bible College is obviously a place where undiagnosed neurodivergent religious folks show up.

still even in those spaces, I'd be like, wait, I ended up moving into low-income housing to work with refugees, you know, as a good little missionary would. I literally thought all my friends would move in with me and that we'd all do homework clubs together. We'd like have a communal money pot where we lived off of

Richie X: some autistic shit right there.

DL: Yes. And so I was just like, where is everybody? Like you say you believe this. Like, why are you not doing? And I was just so shocked and. I've been shocked for like a lot of my life when Christians disappoint me by not taking it literally. And now I'm just like, okay, there's only a few of us that do.

And the church will exploit that. They will seek you out. They will see that you're a true believer and they will take everything they can get from you. And when you finally burn out, you know what they'll say: You didn't try hard enough, I guess. You didn't pray enough. I guess you wanna be in the world and you want an easy life, like they will, they will dismiss you with an instant.

Richie X: Or Who hurt you? Who hurt you?

DL: God's not like that. People can be like that, but God's good. Don't get rid of the church. I'm just like, okay. I mean, there's a reason why I waited so long to truly allow myself to deconvert because. It is so painful for an autistic person who has such a hard time connecting with people to realize I will lose everyone if I am honest about my internal world.

And that is honestly kind of proving true for me right now, Richie. And I thought I was in a place where I'm like, I can deal with it, but it's really painful and I maybe should have seen this. But because I've been in progressive spaces for a while, I thought nobody's gonna care.

Like if, if, if a white girl deconstructs, like who cares? That's not a big deal. Um, but it's actually been really triggering to folks and, and I honor that. Um, if, if you're invested in the church being good news for the world, when somebody like me who was all in says,  I'm totally out. Like, I'm out, out.

Like, I don't even wanna talk about Jesus, like that is so triggering to folks and I just need to honor it. But it's been very hard for me to be like, okay, like that this is you know, this is not a good fit. If somebody's deconstructing fully, it makes sense. It's not a good fit to be in spaces where people are really invested in, in saying why the church is still good news for the world or whatever.

Richie X: progressive spaces. That's the difference. because I wasn't in any progressive spaces, honey, enough, people walked away from me as soon as I stopped coming to church.

DL: Which is painful itself. Don't get me wrong.

Richie X: Right. Like

DL: very painful.

Richie X: it is sudden. It's a lot more sudden but it's also expected because I was in it and I knew that when you, when people walk away, I knew what it would be, right? So it was like, okay, I know what this is. But when you talk about progressive spaces, I totally can imagine where your head was.

understanding that you have all of these, um, progressive people, right? And so they should be able to make space for that dynamic because they have already done some deconstruction work, right? They, you know, they should, they should know they should be honey. They can't handle it because you start to rattle them.

Every little thing you say people, there were people who used to watch my stories all the. They don't watch 'em anymore. Cuz I, I know, I know them enough to know they can't, they can't handle it. You, you cannot. I'll use my cousin as an example. I have a cousin who is named after me. His name is also Richard, but they call him Little Cuz he's little

And uh, he lost, we lost a mutual friend of ours some years ago. Um, first suddenly in his sleep. Um, and then he lost his brother and then he lost his grandmother and then he started, you know, so a lot of people, he lost a lot of people in the last few years. Well, randomly, he decided he wanted to go full on, so I, the last time he was at my house at that point was, he came over here.

Like literally just a mess. and then, so I didn't see him for like months. Then he comes back, he's full on Gung ho Christian, I mean of, and so I see, I see through it a mile away. I already know what it is. So he's like, oh geez, you know, and you used to really serve God and what happened? And I thought it was so funny because back when I was dedicated. He didn't want nothing to do with it. He thought I was crazy. He was like, you people, y'all be speaking in them tongues. I'm Uhuh. He visited my church one time. He was scared the whole time. So he was like, mm-hmm but now he's Jesus all the way. He actually almost joined the church, the cult church, and I had to stop him from that.

He ended up finding them on YouTube and he started watching often and he was like, what do you, this used to be your church, right? What do you think about it? And I said, your mind is too fragile. You'll never come out. And I had to tell him all of the dirt so that he wouldn't go, cuz he, he is so afraid to die next that it's, , I'm going this way cuz if I do die, at least I'm gonna be saved.

And so that's where he is. [00:51:00] And he's just like, so he thought that he could still come around me because of how much I know. So every time he would come, he came over my house about three times and he would come over and he would start asking me all these questions. But you know, I'm fully deconstructed and deconverted.

So, he was definitely not ready. For the conversations he was trying to have with me, because I think he wanted me from way back when and he would, you know, start asking questions. And then, so one, the, the last time he was here, honey, I haven't seen him since because the last time he was here, I said, I want to ask you something.

He said, yeah, okay. I said, do you understand. That the scripture says that God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love and a peace of a sound mind. He said, yeah. I said, you don't have peace or a sound mind and you are completely serving God out of fear. And so do you not think that the God of your understanding, if you say he's omniscient and all.

All seeing and, and so do you not realize that if you go to stand before that God in judgment, that, that God is gonna see that you are serving him completely out of fear and not out of, uh, a sound mind

DL: Hmm.

Richie X: and out of the spirit of love and he was. I never thought about that. I said, maybe you should, because that was why the sacrifice of came wasn't accepted.

The intention wasn't pure. So maybe you should work on your intention for serving your God. And leave me alone. He hasn't been over here since, uh, He, he sends me a text message every so often and says, I love you, cousin. Okay, yeah, sure. but I get it. I get it. You can't come around me. Um, especially me.

I'm like, I was just telling my therapist. Like, I have this constant realization that I'm like super autistic. That's why I told you I take the test every couple months, one of those online tests just to see, and the score is always high. Um, but uh, I take, so I'm like, you know, I'm really autistic. She's like, what do you mean?

I'm like, no, but like for real. She's like, okay, yeah, I diagnosed you. And I'm like, but no somebody made a joke and I went onto a whole like three paragraph response, and then the person said, I was just joking, friend. And I was like, so he, and I'm like, I've been that way my whole life. I don't know how not to be that.

And, and I stopped trying now. But you know, that's the thing. Like there would be just wanting general conversation and wanting me to placate his, his new found, uh, desire for religion or whatever the case may be. And I don't do, my brain doesn't work like that, so, and I've accepted it. I used to play the.

You know, I used to play the, even with my church friends, I still have some friends who are in church and you know, now I just roll my eyes or go mm-hmm, but you know, I don't play the games. I used to kind of play churchy with people.

DL: Yes. That's what they want you to do. Yeah.

Richie X: Yeah. So that they can remain friends with you.

Healing is My Special Interest
God is My Special Interest Podcast
DL interviews autistic and other neurodivergent folk about their lives, with a focus on masking and how that interacts with religious systems and traditions.