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Daniel Tammet: Christian -Savant’s Book on Faith in God, and Christianity (Fragments of Heaven)
Daniel Tammet: Christian - Book on Faith in God
Religion and psychology are a couple of my favorite things to write about. Imagine my pleasure when I get to write about something that perfectly blends those two topics. Daniel Tammet, who lives with high-functioning autistic savant syndrome, is a man of truly astonishing genius. He is also, as his new book will show, a man of genuine Christian faith. I am someone who strives to grasp at every bit of faith that I can, as my own faith tends to be too shaky for my own liking. So I love to discover brilliant and/or scientific people who profess faith. In my mind, cases like Daniel Tammet forever set to rest questions like: can a truly intelligent person in modern times reasonably believe in God?
Daniel Tammet: The Boy With the Incredible Brain
Daniel Tammet in Brief
Daniel Tammet, born in London in 1979, is a high-functioning savant who lives with Asperger's syndrome (a disorder related to autism). He has an extraordinary ability to describe his inner world and thought processes in a way that people without the disorder are able to understand. And this is only one of his many extraordinary abilities. Tammet is able to make huge calculations in his mind with calculator-precision. This is because, for Daniel, every number has its own distinct sound, and its own three dimensional shape, color, texture, and personality. When he does calculations, he simply watches and listens to images combine and reform into new images. This sort of involuntary sensory experience is scientifically known as synesthesia (from Greek roots meaning “sensing together with”).
Tammet is on record for reciting the number pi to 22,514 digits in barely over five hours. He is able to do this because he can see pi, as a rich, colorful, many-textured landscape stretching on and on before him in his mind’s eye. In order to recite pi, he merely travels through this wonderful landscape. Tammet also knows over ten languages, and has publicly proven that he can learn a new language in only a week. Since he was a child, he has been inventing his own language, which he calls “Manti”.
Although numbers and words have long been Daniel’s closest friends, he functions very well on a social level as well. He is in a happy relationship with a significant other. He is also professionally successful: he has written a New York Times bestselling book, operates a successful business, and has appeared on Letterman, ABC News, 60 Minutes, and Good Morning America.
- Optimnem Blog: The Blog of Daniel Tammet
Daniel Tammet's discussion of his faith and his sexuality on his blog website.
Daniel Tammet and Faith
On his blog, Tammet says, “I think many people are surprised to hear that I believe in God and that I am a Christian.” He talks about his lengthy journey from skepticism to faith. At first, he had no interest in what he “could not see or hear or touch directly.” But gradually Daniel’s defenses wore down, and he became a Christian in 2002. He concludes this blog entry with the following: “Quite often, in sudden unconscious moments like an awakening, I realise that I am a member of the mystical body of Christ - something far bigger and greater than I can begin to comprehend, but nonetheless something in which I do not feel a stranger, but at home.”
Lest someone ask how Tammet can possibly be intelligent if he can’t properly spell the word “realize” in his above statement, I will remind my readers that he is from England, which is world-famous for doing things differently.
His New Book
Daniel Tammet has published two books, including a New York Times bestseller, Born On A Blue Day. His third book, Fragments of Heaven, is to be published very soon. Here is an explanation of the title from waterstones.com: “for Tammet, though the world is strange it is also beautiful and provides ample evidence for the possibility of God's existence; special moments becoming 'fragments of heaven', feeding our spiritual imagination and reminding us that our world is richly complex and fascinating.” The new book will discuss Tammet’s journey from atheism to Christianity, as well as the reasons he is a Christian. Tammet will also describe the rich complexities of what his faith is for him. The book will be published by Hodder and Stoughton, whose website says that it is due to be published in Autumn 2010. I have very recently written the publisher, asking for an update on the book’s estimated publishing date, and will release any information I get from them on this web page. According to amazon.co.uk (Amazon.com’s United Kingdom website), the book is now set to come out in March of 2011. That is very soon indeed, but for me it is hardly soon enough. I am dying to get my hands on this book.
On Being a Christian Homosexual
Tammet is a both a Christian and a gay man, and sees no incongruence between these two identities. Further down in the same blog thread that I discussed above, he places the handful of scriptures which condemn homosexuality alongside the scriptures which “condemn the eating of shellfish”. He emphasizes that such passages should be taken in context. He also tells us he is not a biblical literalist, for “too often people read a book not as it is, but as they are.” Tammet believes that homosexuality is determined before birth, and that it is natural, occurring in many different species and serving a biological function.
Fragments of Heaven
Tammet‘s first book, Born On A Blue Day: A Memoir, describes how numbers, for him, not only have visual and auditory sensations associated with them, but individual personalities that evoke different emotions in him. Since his disorder makes it difficult for him to understand many human emotions in his interactions with other people, he thinks of how different numbers make him feel in order to better understand the emotions of others. In order to empathize with someone who is sad, he imagines himself "sitting in the dark hollowness of number 6".
Is it any wonder then, that when it comes to a numerical concept like the Trinity, which for many people creates more confusion than anything else, Daniel Tammet perceives, in his own words, “the living, breathing personification of Love and of Relationship”? To me, that is beautiful on so many levels. Such statements from Tammet are the very reason why I can’t wait to get his new book: from it, I hope to glean as many more such fragments of heaven as my mind has room for.