On Being Sane in Insane Places

By Never Going Back

In college I was required to study a book by Lauren Slater called "Opening Skinner's Box." One of the chapters called, "On Being Sane in Insane Places," discusses a psychiatric experiment performed by Dr. David Rosenhan and his friends and colleagues from around the country in the early 1970's. If I remember correctly, the experiment was to see just how well psychiatrists could distinguish between the truly insane and those merely posing as such. A "patient" would admit him or herself into an asylum and claim to be hearing a "thud." This "thud" was the only odd thing about them. There were no other distinguishing characteristics that would give them away in their everyday life. Without a hitch, each of the eight patients were deemed crazy despite the fact that in every other way, they would be considered healthy and sane.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how this experiment compares to my sixteen year relationship with Jesus and the "saints." These otherwise normal people were labeled insane simply for hearing a "thud," and yet Christians and religious people can claim to hear the voice of God, angels, demons and the like and are considered healthy individuals by friends, families and the professional community.

What? Are we serious?

A Christian can writhe on the floor, babble in "tongues," pray to the ceiling and swear they are getting a response, even if the answer is "No," take a book chock full of fiction, parables and proverbs and claim it to be the very breathed word of God, be martyred for their dead man-god, obsess their whole life over original sin, convert heathen around the world with the threat of a fiery hell, and we continue to allow them to walk around in the free world?

When mental patients claim to hear voices, they are deemed nuts and given the appropriate dosage of psychotropic drugs. When a Christian claims to hear the voice of God, the community holds him up to be a prophet. When a mental patient begins babbling, we laugh him off and assign his odd behavior to his condition. When a Christian babbles in an "unknown tongue," we praise God for him being "baptized in the Holy Spirit." When a mental patient claims to see visions, we lock him up, but a Christian thinks it completely logical for Jacob to have wrestled with an angel and to have seen a ladder reaching all the way up to Heaven with angels ascending and descending.

Stepping into church near the end of my coming out experience was very uncomfortable for me. I felt like one of Rosenhan's experimental patients hoping to not be detected for what I really was while I was there: a fake. Standing there and mouthing the words to the age-old hymns, watching the display of greed by the pastors and gullibility by the parishioners, cringing at the sight of grown men and women shaking their tambourines and writhing on the floor, foaming at the mouths and crying hysterically, I couldn't help but to feel sane in an insane place. Luckily, for me, the gig is up, but just like with Rosenhan's patients, I was never detected, I gave myself up.

It's a relief to be free of that asylum now, but I wonder how many others are trapped behind the doors of that mental institution begging to get out and just how many fakes go undiscovered every week.

I am healthy now. I am sane. The doctors are always trying to tell me otherwise, but I know better. The "thud" is gone, and in its place is the voice or rationality. Like John Nash, I have learned to discern the difference between reality and fiction and am living a fairly functional and productive life, this side of the barbed wire.

Thank "God."

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Bill B said...

Hey NGB,
Just a quick comment from your biggest fan. Last Sunday I went to my first Mid Michigan Atheist Meeting and is was so was great. Why? Because for the first time in my life I was in a room filled with 25 people who were all uninfected by the mind viris of Christianity. It was so refreshing to grab the mike and tell my story and see every head in the place nodding in agreement. It was 25 sane people in an insane world.

What you say is so true. If someone claims to hear any voice besides God/Jesus they are deemed insane but at any given time you can claim to chit chat with God, and you're completely normal. How fucking insane is that. I just reconnected with an old friend who is born again, and she has told me on several occasions of what God has told her to do in matters of her relationship among other things.

Great Post as Always !!!!!!!!!!


Anonymous said...

I agree with you on some things on others I dont I have read many different versions of the bible each making less sense than the one before it as for the whole "babbling in an unknown tongue thing" that is not entirely true the ones who are really entranced( not faking it as with the famous tv faithhealers" they are speaking an actual language known as aramiac it was the ancient language for the region where christ was supposed to be from and though it is a dead language now it is far from "unknown" now for the reason I decided to post I can see how you would see the whole insane babble/christian tongues thing as a reason to look deeper adn yes eventually walk away from the faith and indeed I too have walked away but for an actual reason not some drummed up half assed excuse like yours and its not just you most athiests are like that so how about this you keep going to your athiest meetings *cough* mass *cough* and pretend you dont believe in a higher power just because you arent all powerful and the world isnt perfect but while you insist on not believing try and answer this little question. If the only meaning to life is it carry on your genetic make up to the next generation for the contuation of the human race as a species on earth and to perhaps make it a betetr place to liev for your children then why the hell do you even care what the christians believe is it that their belief in god makes you jealous but oh wait they are just mind slave right well aint that the pot calling the kettle black~ Later Loser have a nice headache trying to figure that out asshole

Anonymous said...

Howzit NGB,

I just had to smile at your post, cos it brought back a crazy incident I had as a teen. Now I had never been to or even KNEW about this kind of "church" stuff!!(how many people are lucky enough to be able to say that!)
Having gotten involved with some new "friends" I was duped into going along to a "youth group".
Can you imagine my shock at seeing this madness unfold before my eyes. The incoherent babbling, snorting and pawing at the ground. My initial instincts told me there was something seriously f*-up going on here. Were they all high on shit ? & why hadn’t I got any ! Needless to say I ducked outa there asap, and did some research on what I had just witnessed. To this day it still throws me. I still have the gross misfortune of coming across it on the odd occasion with certain “in-laws” of the brother-in-law that can and are avoided as far as possible!!!
All the misery and madness on this planet comes from one place only, and that’s the sick and twisted human mind.

Micah Cowan said...

The Whole Fuckin Insane:

Aramaic? Really? Can you back that up with even the slightest shred of evidence or reference?

Do you even know a single word of Aramaic? As it happens, I'm somewhat familiar with the language. I have never heard anybody, anywhere, ever utter a single word of it (aside from trivialities such as Adonai, etc), or anything even remotely sounding like it while “entranced.”

1. Learn to use punctuation, occasionally.
2. Leave your overbearing arrogance and “better reason for leaving the faith than thou” attitude at the door.
3. Please seek professional help (I mean this sincerely). You are clearly manic.

(Or was your post just meant to be ironic, given the topic? Hm...)

Bill B said...

Well I think "That Whole Fucking Show" stopped by as an actual represenative of the insane. Pehaps it should try posting prior to sniffing the glue. Actually the purpose of my life is to fuck as often as I can, and I fulfilled my obligation last night. Thank you very much.

I just can't quite figure out what angle this asshole is coming from, but I have a feeling we will not hear from it again.

Anonymous said...

NGB: Great post, excellent analogy and a very valid experience, one shared by millions and many here. Your writings are lucid, cogent and sane. I hope that the wounds suffered while crossing the barbed wire will heal in time. Thanks for sharing!

Nvrgoingbk said...

Thanks Bill and Micah, dumbass only served to solidify my argument. What a nutjob!

Aramaic? What an idiot! I have had plenty of friends, one being a former Christian herself, who in all sincerity claim to have spoken in tongues and not one of them have ever known the what the fuck they or anyone else was saying. The entire point of tongues during Pentecost was to serve as a sign to the UNBELIEVERS, and these "tongues" were actual languages. I am billingual and have never heard any English speaking Christian belt out a prophecy in Spanish.

The purpose of my post was to show the double standard society applies to the religious as opposed to the rest of society. The "faithful" can claim all sorts of things, but should one of us deviate slightly from the norm, we are deemed insane or delusional at least. Religious jargon and behavior has become so acceptable that we consider it normal, but is it? A Hindu can drink bovine piss as ritual, but if I were to drink a cup of it as a wake-me-up or Christmas toast, I'd be Baker-acted. Christians can handle snakes, and refuse medical treatment for their children all under the order of their faith, but if I were to do the same, DCF would promptly be called and my children would be placed with more suitable caregivers.

Clearly, the point of this post was lost on Dick cheese, but that is okay, because without knowing it, he has become a poster child for my cause.

Anonymous said...

I never really had the desire to speak in tongues or be writhing around on the floor. It was far too instense, and scared me away.
Unfortunately, I was forced to have hands laid on me, because of my "worldly ways".


Anonymous said...


I like it when someone can tell it like it is and I enjoyed the laugh I had while reading it.

Yes, I too, am glad to be on this side of the barbed wire fence.

I think those babbling biblebots are hallucinating because they remain overdosed on fundy-mental fantasies.

Imagine this scenario; you’re sitting at the dinner table, and before each bite of your food, you blurt out the name of a famous dead person.

"Body of JFK!"
*as you bite into a cheesy pizza*

Or, if your mother came over to bring you cookies, and began to hand feed each family member, while saying;” Body of Grandpa".

The kids would be like "eeewwww! Yucky! I am not eating Grandpa's body." Lol...

Seriously, we would be asking Granny what special ingredient was added to the kool aid she made.

BUT, when it is done in a cold giant stone church and in the name of a dead religious figure, it is considered perfectly normal and certifies you clean, not crazy.

Open up and say baaaahhh...

Joe B said...

I think that most of the "faithful" are in truth rather doubtful. They keep their sanity bottled up in side and play along. After a while, it is such a practiced act that it really doesn't take that much effort.

The reasons for that are really pretty clear. The community tends to view god believe as the sine qua non of a good person, so it pays social dividends. The term "good atheist" is considered to be an oxymoron.

Most of the xians are really quite sane under it all. Just scared and manipulated. I lampoon the church for this and often fall into mocking its beliefs--it's part of recovering rationality for myself. Still, in the end, I feel sorry for xians. I hope that all can find a way to let their doubts bloom without fear.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Now we all know why they call it Christian FundaMENTALism!

Okay, that was lame, but as a former believer, I could thoroughly relate.

Anonymous said...

Hello, fucking show? I do not know if you are for real. That was the wildest tirade I have ever heard. If you were acting, you ought to win an Oscar for The Best Impersonation of a Lunatic.

About Aramaic: I have had 3 semesters of Hebrew. The two languages are similar and I would know Aramaic if I heard it. Some people do not think of them as two different languages.

We need to see, or hear, a little evidence. Your posting indicates a methedrine-induced psychosis.

Nvrgoingbkeither said...

hey everybody at ex,

i am nvrgiongbks husband,and i truly am grateful for all the support we get. I read this guy's response and i have actually grown past posting like a pre k child. But unfortunatly there are morons like(half the whole damn show, oh! im sorry! (part of the whole damn show. Damn, i got it wrong again! i know (the whole damn shabang.) Any whoo, i have as much time to figure out his name as i do his imature response, but i will say this: he sounds like a covert fundy, because he can't figure out if he's coming or going. I ran into the same as a christian- nothing but confusion; thats why i believe he's in the proverbial christian closet. In my personal note to him, my wife and i, along with all the rest of us at ex have exausted our efforts in being in the presense of an all-loving god,and along with that comes extensive research, so you obviously have not done the homework you say, because you did'nt make one rational point. All you did was embarass yourself, because EVERYONE at ex knows how intelligent nvrgiongbk is with her posts and how she studied for years on her way out of the real chains of bondage, and on a more personal note it's just like some SOFT ass person like 1/4 of the whole damn show to hide behind a computer screen and pick on someone he does'nt even know, that is even more imature than his non- puntual, kindergarden jargen.

Have a nice day one half of a half of a half of a qauter of the show.

p.s please change your log in name As was your post, it is just too confusing. i can't seem to get it right as you can see. LOL

Anonymous said...

Here's more support for Never Going
Back for an excellent article. I've
often wondered what would happen to
people if they were out on the
street, then started hearing voices, started talking back to those voices, then started yelling all sorts of gibberish no one could understand. They would
probably end up in the local hospital for observation!

As for The Whole Bleepin' Show..if
you want people to take you seriously, I would suggest going
back to Junior High School, and this time paying attention in
composition class. The writings
of a near-illiterate impress no

Also: What sense does it make for
someone to start babbling in Aramaic when no one around them
will have the slightest idea of
what they're saying anyway? Is this an idea of Christian "logic"? Or, like in the Mel Gibson movie,
does someone provide subtitles?

Anonymous said...


Your nice.

Anonymous said...

Actually it was meant as a joke. I appologize if it was viewed as a literal rant, or perhaps some mentally challenged religious zealot attepting to change your views. If you ain't laughing, you aint living. ~PEACE~

Bill B said...

Wow TWFS you got us hook line and sinker. Thanks for coming clean with the practical joke because it was a good one : ).

You last post was really good. It is so true that saying you are Christian just gives the general public the impression you are a good person, where as your average Joe could never use the term good atheist.


Micah Cowan said...

The Whole Fuckin Show:

OMG, that is one of the best trolls I've seen. You rock.

I guess ryan got it right: and he's totally on, you deserve an Oscar.

If you're surprised that we couldn't see your rant for the gag that it is, you should check out some of the other comments we get posted here on a pretty damn consistent basis, from religious zealots who truly are borderline insane (at least, AFAICT: it's entirely possible we've been trolled before by someone who decided against revealing the gag, for maximum pleasure). Your post wasn't terribly far from those, so perhaps you can sympathize with our assumption that you were sincere :)

Jim Arvo said...

Admin: "As a militant atheist I can unequivocally state that there is no time in your life that you totally disbelieved in God."

That's an interesting thesis, Admin. On what do you base it? Since it is "unequivocal", I presume you have something concrete to support it--not just a gut feeling.

In particular, you need to show that your hypothesis (let's call it H2) is better supported than the hypothesis that we offer (let's call it H1). To summarize:

H1: Those of us who spend a significant amount of time debating Christians do so for a number of reasons, including 1) we dislike being disparaged for holding different views, 2) we feel that religious beliefs are irrational and often dangerous and/or unhealthy, 3) we wish to help those who are in the process of deconverting, or 4) it can be intellectually challenging to debate believers (although, admittedly, most often it is not).

H2: We actually secretly believe in god, and simply wish that she did not exist. Therefore, we try our best to convince ourselves and others that belief in her is irrational. (If that's not quite what you intend, then please do correct me--I don't wish to put words in your mouth if I can avoid it.)

Now, on the side of H1, we have many direct statements from atheists such as myself. I've explained on many occasions why I debate Christians here, and the reasons include all of those I cited above. I categorically do not believe in any kind of supernatural beings, as I've never seen one shred of credible evidence for such entities. I claim that my rhetoric and my behavior has been 100% consistent with H1, as has that of many others here.

What can you offer on the side of H2, aside from the fact that you hope very much that it is true?

Jim Arvo said...

Ooops. Either I posted my reply above in the wrong thread, or our visiting friend has been scrubbed. Either way, my apologies for any confusion.

Nvrgoingbkeither said...

To: 1/2 show
Come on man, that was too well thought out. Your post had all the signs of a brain fart gone terribly wrong.

At least don't insult someone like nvrgoingbk. She has done more deconversion research than most poeple have lived.

"Peace" choke choke

webmdave said...

Jim, you didn't post at the wrong place. I deleted this guy's post, twice.

He has a half-dozen websites out there. In one he presents himself as a fanatical, obnoxious white-supremest. In another he is campaigning for the belief in Bigfoot. In the site he's trying to advertise here, he's a super-agressive, angry, anti-atheist.

He's obviously some kind of nutty troll, and I don't feel inclined to play with him.

Jim Arvo said...

Thanks for letting me know, Dave. We wouldn't want to waste out time arguing with nut cases, right? :-)

webmdave said...


Sincerely deluded is one thing. But this guy?... naaaaa.

Anonymous said...

To TWFS: Great put-on! I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. We get so many fundy fanatics posting
here; I guess you've been studying
the way they write. (If you want to call some of what they submit

Nice job!

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I left Christianity is because I realized that I was crazy to believe some of the things I was taught. This was so hard for me because most of my family have (undiagnosed) mental and personality disorders that really affected me while I was growing up. Now that I'm not infected with Christianity, the world seems so different, and the personality disorders that I adopted to believe Christianity are melting off. The problem is, I become depressed when I realize how Christianity robbed me of some of the best times of my life (i.e. my teenage years and 20's). I'm 29 now and trying to figure things out from fresh is a little tough.

A. Ford

Joe B said...

Hang in there, A. Ford. I gave them 1982-2006. There's no point looking back. The current moment is the only one that is of any use. The past is fixed and the future unknown. Being free from the dogma of the the church makes that future consciously unknown, and therefore the source of daily surprises and delights. I'm not realizing that myself as fully as I would like, but last week I found some amazing gardens in San Diego, and today I spent a delightful day with a woman I love. I'm sure there's surprising beauty in your neck of the woods. I wish you every opportunity to enjoy it.

Nvrgoingbk said...

A. Ford, it was while I was a Christian that I was the most tormented and confused. I was continually trying to justify the rampant contradictions in the Bible and within the Christian community. I was constantly trying to appease my God, and stay clear of his wrath. I was constantly concerned about how he felt about me, and if I was doing this or that good enough, or lamenting over why I just couldn't seem to stop doing this or that. I was never quite sure if I was saved or not. The whole marriage and divorce issue kept me in such anxiety as I contemplated remarriage after my first husband left me for another woman and divorced me...it was always one issue or another. Consulting other Christians, pastors, books, etc. was of no use, because they all disagreed.

Breaking free from that asylum and regaining my sanity is what kept me from committing suicide. To save my own life, I HAD to leave. It is a fact that many just can not understand. Christians will still assign my former torment as a problem of "faith", but how long does one have to wait for an answer from God? How long does one pray to the ceiling with gut-wrenching sobs? How long does one have to torment. How close to suicide/hopelessness does one have to come before it's acceptable? To a Christian, it's never long enough.

How many patients in mental institutions have begged their doctors to be released, knowing full-well that they were sane, but no one would believe them? How many have begged to be taken off medication that was keeping them ill, but no one would listen? That is how I felt as a Christian. It took breaking out on my own, because no one was going to let me go willingly. They liked the insurance (tithe) money too much.

Steven Bently said...

Very brilliant and profound post, I'm making copies. Thanks NGB

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