In this project, I analyze how the line between good and bad religions, as constructed through secularism, influenced whether or not practitioners of religion were sent to insane asylums or, at least, considered by their peers or family to be at risk of insanity or on the brink of it. Exploring these questions revealed the link between religion and insanity but also showed how some religious practices (especially ecstatic behavior) placed believers at even greater risk because of the threat to the secular and progressive narrative encouraged by the people around them.
By placing the asylum narrative in conversation with the broader experiences of religious ecstaticism in the Holiness and Spiritualism movements, this project brings the patients of the asylum and the revelers of religious melancholy into a new light. Religious insanity no longer can be reduced to something that happened in the asylum. Instead, it is a fluid series of events that happen in the everyday crises of believers. The regulations around those who go into asylums, and those who do not, were determined by social expectations and a world shaped by secularism.
History, Humanities, Religion
Number of Pages
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
Lacy, Courtney, "Religion Wrecked Her Mind: Religious Insanity in the Nineteenth Century" (2020). Religious Studies Theses and Dissertations. 22.
Available for download on Sunday, December 07, 2025