Virginia Tech Student Stabs Himself to Prove God Exists

Despite all the amazing things to happen on Ask An Atheist Day today, this was one of the low points… and a scary one at that:

Virginia Tech Police were called to the Drillfield Wednesday afternoon following a report of a student stabbing his own hand with a pen.

The incident took place near a table promoting a local version of “Ask an Atheist Day.” The student group Freethinkers at Virginia Tech sponsored the table.

Witnesses said [freshman Alexander M.] Huppert stood near the table for nearly an hour. Approaching the table, Huppert borrowed a pen and drew a circle with a cross inside on the back of his hand.

Nicole Schrand, a senior psychology major, said Huppert then asked students at the table to stab him in the cross with the pen to “prove to us God existed.” The students declined.

“We don’t believe in assaulting people,” Schrand said. “We’re very against assaulting people.”

Huppert then asked for the pen back, a request Schrand and other students declined. Seeing another pen, Huppert grabbed it and began stabbing himself in the back of the hand.

This takes place three days before the fourth anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre

Scary stuff.

(Thanks to Lauren for the link)

***Update***: The atheist student quoted in the article, Nicole Schrand, has her own thoughts on her website:

It was absolutely horrible. I mean, it’s pretty awful in the first place to have someone request that you stab them in the hand. And then to have him stab himself in front of you. Blood was welling up out of the wounds afterward. The two guys who helped subdue him had their hands covered in blood. And in case it wasn’t clear in the article, he wasn’t just scratching at his wrist with the pen — it looked like he was trying to drive it through his radial artery.

… I’m incredibly grateful that Tyler Pease had the presence of mind and the proper manner to be able to help in the way that he did. Pease is a Cru member, and was talking to us when the incident began. If he hadn’t been able to calm Huppert down, I suspect things would have been a lot worse, as we volunteers felt unable to come around to the other side of the table without chancing provoking Huppert further. Even if we don’t share the same views on everything, Tyler Pease was a hero in my book today.


  • ph423r

    I’m very curious why he thought stabbing himself on a cross he drew on his hand would prove god existed.

  • Don Pope

    How exactly does stabbing yourself with a pen prove anything? (I mean, other than proving that the guy is completely insane)

  • Dave B

    Does anyone know how he thought stabbing a cross drawn on his hand would prove anything?

  • Ed

    All this proves is this kid needs help SOON !

  • Michael

    Did it work? Does god exist?

  • Dave B

    It only works if an atheist stabs him.

  • SkeptiMommy

    ??? Was he not supposed to feel the pain because God would protect him?
    What was the verdict?

  • http://godlessmonkey.wordpress.com bobby

    @Dave
    I think you’re on to something. If he drew a cross on his hand and then wanted them to stab it it’s probably because he wanted to be “crucified”. He’s got a Jesus complex. Happens a lot. Sad, really.

  • Dan W

    Wow, that’s bizarre. I don’t understand how getting stabbed on the hand with a pen proves a god exists. That’s some insane troll logic there.

  • Justin Miyundees

    This falls squarely under “Mysterious Ways”.

    Can I get an “amen”?

  • Jonathan

    Normally when I hear “Crazy person stabs someone” the news is a lot worse. I don’t really care about this.

  • cozette

    Thats just stupid

  • http://www.theatheistadvocate.com Kenny Duit

    I have three words that sum this up nicely:
    Delusional, Delusional, Delusional.
    Doctors can prescribe medication that may also stop the voices in his head. However, proving any god exists has never happened, even by highly educated theists. This whack-o missed the target by a light-year.

  • El Bastardo

    What? I just don’t get this. I’ve even asked several Christians and no one can gather any sense out of this beyond the fact that boy needs help.

    Sorry, but I don’t see this as the act of a crazy Christian, just the act of a crazy person.

  • Richard P.

    This is magnificent. It’s almost so perfect, you’d think it was staged. It’s a good thing the guy didn’t come in with a gun. I guess if your going to poking the crazies, you have to have known something was likely to happen.
    It’s a horribly good example of the damage caused by religion. It’s the grand finale of what happens when mental instability meets invisible friends.

    I hope what happened only encourages more of this, as this is exactly the reason we need to be speaking out. This drive to help people remove their invisible crutches, so people can learn to stand on their own, is vitally important.

  • asonge

    I’d like to commend the actions of the kid from Campus Crusade for Christ that ripped the pen from his arm and helped the officer subdue the kid. That was very dangerous, the kid kicked out a police cruiser window later, as well as harming more cops.

  • http://www.saintgasoline.com Saint Gasoline

    Well, I’m convinced!

  • Troglodyke

    I’d like to commend the actions of the kid from Campus Crusade for Christ that ripped the pen from his arm and helped the officer subdue the kid. That was very dangerous, the kid kicked out a police cruiser window later, as well as harming more cops.

    Wow. Another VT future massacre averted, you think?

  • TiltedHorizon

    I came across a related article on another site before reading this one. In a nutshell it states there is a correlation between faith and brain damage.

    http://www.cell.com/neuron/retrieve/pii/S0896627310000528

    I guess the article is on to something…

  • sherifffruitfly

    Uh folks? It’s christianity. It doesn’t HAVE to make sense.

    Durr.

  • http://girlofthegaps.blogspot.com/ Nicole Schrand

    Hey guys; I organized the VT booth and ran the event here today, and was there for the incident (apparently I can also now be quoted as saying, “We don’t believe in assaulting people. We’re very against assaulting people.”) I wrote a blog post about it (click on my name to see it) if you would like to read more.

    I don’t believe that the guy had some sort of “Jesus complex,” as people have been saying, but rather that he was trying to prove his faith’s truth through extreme devotion. I believe that it was a terribly ineffectual thing to do, and that it was a very poor decision, and that he is in need of counseling.

    I would also like to add that Tyler Pease, the student from Cru, was my hero today. Without his intervention, things would very likely have turned out far worse (though he didn’t “rip the pen away;” he convinced the fellow to hand it over to him… and I think that his doing so is actually a greater credit to him than tearing it from the other guy’s grasp would have been).

  • me

    He stabbed himself with a pen? I dont even think this article was worth posting.

  • Miko

    This takes place three days before the fourth anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre…

    Irrelevant.

  • http://girlofthegaps.blogspot.com/ Nicole Schrand

    @me: I think you perhaps missed the part where he refused to comply with police requests when they showed up to check on his well-being, assaulted three police officers, resisted arrest, and kicked the window out of a cruiser.

    Though to be fair, that’s not specified in the snippet here.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    The poor guy is obviously in need of medical help. He’s not representative of Christians and he’s definitely not someone deserving of scorn or ridicule, just pity. Poor fellow, I hope he can get the help he needs.

  • http://skepticalnotcynical.blogspot.com/ Lai

    It sounds like he’s suffering from some underlying psychological problem – he needs help.

  • Nakor

    @Nicole: I can’t quite tell from the way you worded it — are you saying that the quote “We don’t believe in assaulting people. We’re very against assaulting people.” was incorrect?

  • http://facebook.com/djcrowmix MYDJCROW

    The power of Pen Christ compelled him to do it.

  • Sonris

    Worst thing that ever happens at my university is a AC unit burns out or someone leaves popcorn in the microwave too long. Whats with VT?

    And I am curious as to his reasoning. Pen go through hand thus God is real? Clearly questioning his bubble world sent him over the edge.

  • Robster

    De pen is mightier than the sword, I think…

  • Drew M.

    I wonder if god will get the DA to drop the felony assault charges.

  • MadelaineLeidy

    Perhaps VT should have a Psych. evaluation exam for every future student. You know, the kind they give police officers.

  • Tenley

    o.0 how…bizarre

  • HamsterWheel

    At least his actions are logically consistent with his beliefs, because stabbing oneself with a pen indicates roughly the same degree of mental clarity as believing that a three day old corpse came back to life. I’m surprised that he didn’t attempt to prove some other core elements of Christianity by perhaps trying to eat a car or lift himself off the ground by pulling up on his socks really really hard.

  • Richard Wade

    I’ve seen things like this before. It will take a psychiatric examination to know, but on the surface it looks like the young man has a serious disorder like schizophrenia. It often appears in late teens or early twenties. Sometimes there are hints of trouble in childhood, sometimes not.

    It’s very unlikely that his religious beliefs have any causal relationship with his disorder. His religion did not “make” him to go crazy, and it probably did not make it any worse, either. He would probably still be having trouble with bizarre thought processes and impulse control problems at this time in his life if he was previously an atheist or any other category about religion.

    When people start to psychologically decompensate, they very often draw upon the ideas, stories, images, and terminology of whatever things were important in their upbringing in an attempt to express their confused thoughts and emotions. Those things aren’t the cause of the mental disorder, just the vocabulary with which it is expressed.

    I hope he is able to get the help he needs. It is possible to recover, or at least to keep it managed.

  • brent

    I can explain it.

    It’s basically the same logic of how God was angry with himself, so he went down to Earth and murdered himself in order to appease himself and take the blame for all the sins of everyone onto himself.

    Seriously, it’s the same argument.

  • Richard Wade

    This young man’s hopes and dreams are suddenly a pile of rubble. His college career is either on hold for a long time, or over forever. Right now he is in terrible anguish, humiliation and grief.

    I really don’t think it is appropriate either intellectually or in humanitarian terms to make fun of someone suffering so, or to use him as a cheap shot to try to discredit the beliefs of Christians by association or comparison. Use your best argument skills and your best social skills to persuade people, or just shut up and don’t be a jerk.

  • Nick

    What I don’t get, is the constant need for religious people to prove that god exists.

    Surely the very definition of faith and belief excludes proof? For if you can prove god exists, you no longer have faith nor belief.

  • terminator

    Well what i think is that he thought that when he will hit on the cross…it being the gods symbol no blood will come out and thus god exists!

    Quite stupid though!

  • http://www.quietatheist.com Slugsie

    Add me as another one wondering exactly how stabbing yourself with a pen is supposed to prove the existence of God. I mean, where is the methodology? What is the expected outcome if he’s right, or wrong? Has he controlled for the type of pen – fibre tipped, ballpoint, or fountain? Will a pencil work? Is the left hand or the right hand preferable?

    @Richard Wade, I like being a Jerk. It’s about the only fun I have left in this miserable pointless dark empty brief atheist existence. I know that I am destined to spend the rest of eternity roasting in the fires of hell, so why do you want to deny me my little pleasures whilst I can have them?

  • http://cosmicnavellint.blogspot.com/ Cosmic Navel Lint

    Alas, Freshman Huppert’s actions are, if anything, more likely to prove himself a shoe-in as the winner of a Darwin Award.

    I guess irony isn’t taught at Virginia Tech?

  • Jacques

    Hi Guys

    We are talking about religion here. Things like this are par for the course and to be expected when religion comes into play. It might be a psychological condition, but also, almost expected when it comes to religion. It takes a special form of self delusion and suspension of reality to be seriously religious.

    My point is that, in my experience, people with psychological conditions tend towards religion, as the practise of religion allows a lot of leeway in the expression of their particular psychological condition under the guise of religious practise.

  • Christophe Thill

    Martyrdom fantasies ?

  • http://liberteegalitetrivialite.blogspot.com @porlob

    Horrible.

    And am I wrong for fearing to read the comments on the linked article? I don’t want to rage at the inevitable comment(s) blaming the Ask an Atheist table for goading him into it by their very presence.

  • Cortex

    Taking potshots at the mentally ill is about as clever as mocking the gait of someone living with cerebral palsy.

    Better get going, bullies. I heard some Christian just got diagnosed with cancer a few blocks over. Maybe this is the perfect time to tell them heaven is fake!

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    Sounds like Alexander is mentally ill. 18-25 are the ages when schitzophrenia is most likely to manifest.

  • Tom

    God exists proof:
    -stab self in hand
    -commit felony assaulting police officer
    -get expelled from prestigious school
    -find work as taxi driver after light prison sentence
    -work 20 years as taxi driver
    -strike pedestrian while driving taxi, pray for survival of victim
    -victim survives, claim miracle from God
    -praise God for you stabbing your hand 20 years prior and putting you in position to save a life
    -God exists.

  • HamsterWheel

    I feel sorry for the kid. As others have pointed out, he probably has mental health problems. But it is not cruel mockery to point out that the irrational action of stabbing oneself with a pen shares the same degree of irrationality with believing in a three day old resurrected corpse. Millions of Christians may not be stabbing themselves with pens every day, but their core beliefs are equally batshit crazy.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    I agree with Richard Wade. This is probable an example of someone suffering a psychological breakdown. He needs sympathy and support rather than mocking. We have plenty of mockery left for those who come onto the Internet and make spurious claims about deities, we can keep a little back for those who aren’t well.

    On a related note (and I’m not a psychiatrist) I understand that diseases like schizophrenia are often accompanied with religious delusions. While these don’t bear much in the way of resemblance to a typical religious person’s beliefs there is a connection between religious belief and schizophrenia. That isn’t to say that religion is a cause but rather that religious delusions are a symptom.

    I find it sad that the US applauds outward piety and religious pronouncements that make it difficult to identify and help schizophrenics at an early stage. I almost every other first world nation extreme piety and voices in your head would be a sign that you needed help, rather than a sign that you were touched by God.

  • Roxane

    Stabbing the hand! Yes! Yes, I believe! Somebody stabbed his hand!

  • Candide

    How is this any different than the Catholic practice of corporal mortification?

  • http://girlofthegaps.blogspot.com/ Nicole Schrand

    I also agree with Richard. From where I was sitting, it seemed much more like the conversation on religion served as a trigger for an underlying psychological disorder.

    Furthermore, I would like to say that THIS BEHAVIOR IS NOT TYPICAL OF CHRISTIANS, OR OF BELIEVERS OF ANY RELIGION. This behavior is typical of people suffering from a mental disorder, and could be triggered by a stressful event regardless of the faith of the person suffering it.

    At the time being, Free@VT does not seem to be being blamed (by anyone) for the occurrence. If anything, we’re focusing our attention on keeping people from blaming Cru or other Christian organizations on campus.

    @Nakor: The quote is accurate, as far as I remember it. I was just flustered, and it came out sounding rather stupid, IMHO. Though it got the point across, I suppose.

  • Kristi

    ….. and he thought this would prove gods existence … umm…. how? All it proved was that he was a brainwashed idiot.

  • Kristi

    Cortex Says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 7:06 am
    Taking potshots at the mentally ill is about as clever as mocking the gait of someone living with cerebral palsy.

    Better get going, bullies. I heard some Christian just got diagnosed with cancer a few blocks over. Maybe this is the perfect time to tell them heaven is fake!

    OK… first, no one knows if this person HAS any mental illness aside from a strong religious belief. Your comment was uncalled for. Second, people do not give themselves cancer, but this guys stabbed HIMSELF with a pen. He brought it on himself. This is what RELIGION breeds.

    By your logic, anyone who drops to their knees and prays, depends on faith healing, eats stale crackers and drinks bad tasting wine thinking it is the blood and flesh of their lord, speaks in tongues etc can ALL be said to have a mental illness. Yes… thats great logic there.

    Sorry, I do not give free passes to the willfully ignorant.

    “Maybe this is the perfect time to tell them heaven is fake!”

    And why not? The Christians seem to think it is the perfect time to tell people to “repent” lest they go to hell when they die. Whats good for the goose……

  • Richard Wade

    Kristi:

    OK… first, no one knows if this person HAS any mental illness aside from a strong religious belief.

    What we know is that he stabbed himself in the hand and was violent to police officers while making bizarre statements. Despite what appears to be a running bigotry in several commenters here, that kind of behavior is not a common sign of religiosity, but it is a common sign of mental illness. I’ve had it happen right in front of me. Some were religious, some were not. There was no causal relationship, and none of them got better by giving up their religion.

    Nobody is talking about “giving a free pass” to the willfully ignorant.” Your ignorance, demonstrated by your eagerness to blame the victim as somehow wanting to end up with his life in a shambles, and eagerness to use him to discredit a group of people with whom he shares only one thing is the reasoning of a bigot. Your ignorance seems very willful to me.

    This is organic, not conceptual or attitudinal. If it were, we would not have tens of thousands of patients in mental facilities, because the level of suffering is appalling.

    NOBODY is immune to mental illness. It can happen to anyone, YES YOU, at any time, at any age, slowly or suddenly. Do not strut around striking poses of superiority to anyone who has such problems. You are definitely not made safe from it just because of your knowledge, your education, or your lack of religious belief.

  • Erp

    I agree with Richard. What I wonder is does this poor student have the medical insurance to cover the problem and the support to get him out of jail and into proper treatment. His poor parents must be going through hell right now.

  • Parse

    @Kristi,
    Given Richard Wade’s degrees and professional experience, I’d say he has a significantly-better-than-average chance of being correct. And even if he’s wrong, that Mr. Huppert is evaluated and has a clean bill of health, most seriously religious people I know don’t go about stabbing their hands with pens. At the very least, he deserves sympathy, not mocking.

    (For what it’s worth, I had/have clinical depression that, untreated, led to my getting fired from a job. With treatment (including medication), I’m successful at my current workplace. I may sympathize with him because I know what mental illness can do, but I’d like to think that it’s because he’s a fellow human being.)

    “Maybe this is the perfect time to tell them heaven is fake!”

    And why not? The Christians seem to think it is the perfect time to tell people to “repent” lest they go to hell when they die. Whats good for the goose……

    Because we’re capable of behaving better. Isn’t that reason enough?

    (For the nitpickers, I’m referring to the religious ghouls who haunt hospitals for converts, not the majority who realize how appalling such behavior is.)

  • Cortex

    OK… first, no one knows if this person HAS any mental illness aside from a strong religious belief. Your comment was uncalled for. Second, people do not give themselves cancer, but this guys stabbed HIMSELF with a pen. He brought it on himself. This is what RELIGION breeds.

    Right. You know, I don’t even ask people if they’re religious anymore. I just look to see if they have any gushing stab wounds. It’s quicker.

    By your logic, anyone who drops to their knees and prays, depends on faith healing, eats stale crackers and drinks bad tasting wine thinking it is the blood and flesh of their lord, speaks in tongues etc can ALL be said to have a mental illness. Yes… thats great logic there.

    lol. wut? This seems to be almost exactly your logic. I can’t for the life of me see the connection between this statement and what I said.

    Sorry, I do not give free passes to the willfully ignorant.

    I can understand that. I don’t give free passes to cruel opportunists just because they’re part of my ingroup. I guess we all have our standards.

  • Drew M.

    Richard Wade said:

    I’ve seen things like this before. It will take a psychiatric examination to know, but on the surface it looks like the young man has a serious disorder like schizophrenia. It often appears in late teens or early twenties. Sometimes there are hints of trouble in childhood, sometimes not.

    Now I feel bad for being so glib about it.

  • Kristi

    “Nobody is talking about “giving a free pass” to the willfully ignorant.” Your ignorance, demonstrated by your eagerness to blame the victim ”

    He was the victim AND the victimizer….. so who DOES the blame lie with if not himself?

  • Kristi

    “Given Richard Wade’s degrees and professional experience, I’d say he has a significantly-better-than-average chance of being correct.”

    I am not saying he is wrong. I am saying I disagree. I don’t see this situation the same way he does.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    How is this any different than the Catholic practice of corporal mortification?

    I was wondering about this, too. Clearly this young man is suffering from some mental or emotional disturbance, but when Muslims and Christians beat themselves bloody for religious reasons, they don’t get tagged with the same label. The previous Pope was “outed” as practicing self-flagellation, but the public at large doesn’t consider him mentally ill.

  • Rebecca

    Hope the guys sees a shrink and gets some meds. and/or therapy for his problem(s).

  • http://www.facebook.com/aratidwell Ara Tidwell

    This sh*t really does not need to be published. Yes, it is crazy, and goes to show the crazy things believers do, but it really is inappropiate. Some poor kid had a mental breakdown, at a school where many people were killed, when his religion was challenged. This is not something atheist need to be touting and it really saddens me. I could say more but I already said what I need too.

  • Ubi Dubium

    Nicole, I’d like to applaud you and your group. Although I’m sure this event was quite upsetting, the fact that it happened, and the way it happened, may mean that this individual gets the medical help he needs, and gets it before he causes more serious injury to himself or anyone else. Maybe you have thwarted the next potential campus shooter! I hope you do this event again next year.

  • http://girlofthegaps.blogspot.com/ Nicole Schrand

    Thank you for your kind words and support. It means a lot to us. We do plan to run similar events in the future.

    I do not believe that Alex would have ended up shooting anyone, even had he not come across our booth. He was in therapy, and had recently started on a new medication.

    I and Free@VT hope for nothing but the best for Alex and his family, and hope that he gets the proper help.

  • Tabby

    I do see some logic in his actions. Presumably, stabbing the cross that he had drawn on his hand would equate roughly to desecrating the cross. You desecrate the cross, and you get smited by the angry and vengeful Lord – therefore, whoever did it would get smit, and thus would prove the existence of the Lord.
    Sane? Probably not. Logical, however? Totally.

  • Ben

    It all makes sense now!! I believe! I love Jebus!

  • http://profiles.google.com/billwalker666 Bill Walker

    Without treatment / medications this boy is a contender for a Darwin Award, & removing himself from the gene pool.


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