Serial Killers and Morality

This is different from salvation of physopaths. Do serial killers fit in the category of mental illness? Are their actions predetermined by their childhood traumas or something happening in their life? If not how can someone like a serial killer go into a spree when he knows its wrong? If he has any morality which according the bible all people have he couldnt possibly end up in that situation right? We all fall short and we are not moral perfect of course. But killing human beigns is beyond immoral.

If you ever do anything with prison ministry or meet people at places like bars, drug addicts and so on you will realize often these people will come to Christ just as much as the clean cut, educated, well mannered unbelieving teacher and so on.

I imagine there will be a above average number of mental disorders within certain groupings. Some people are also simply hard hearted and evil. They still need to hear the gospel and they still will have to make a choice and they can choose to be better.

There is a book about Jeffery Dahmer wrote by a pastor who studied with him. Based off the information there, and other random testimonies by people it seems that Dahmer hated what he did and that he repented. Obviously he still messed up, such as reports of his humor at times, I still laugh at things like South Park.

I think it’s impossible to say they all had mental orders or that they all faced traumas. It seems terrible people, and good people, all come from various types of backgrounds and most people with the same disorders don’t end up becoming evil like that.

Actions are choices being carried out.

Yes but humans are inherently moral. Meaning they do understand that what they are going to do os wrong. And on fact not only wrong but messed up. So its strange to me that some serial killers are actually ok and have no mental disorders. It really intrigues me

No, I don’t believe that any more than I believe they are inherently evil as I have heard other people claim. I do think people are inherently habitual – self-programming entities that adopt patterns of behavior they have either imitated from others or simply try out creatively/randomly on their own. I think with most there is a race between the acquisition of power and learning to have regard for the well being of others, and when the former exceeds the latter then evil becomes likely. I think that looking for some kind of fairness in all this is misguided. I certainly do not believe that the idea that life is somehow fair is even remotely the case. I do believe in divine justice, but that is not quite the same thing.

As for serial killers, sociopathology, and psychopathology, I strongly suspect that in addition to mental illness there are genetic biological factors which largely amount to a kind of switch in the brain that can be thrown most often by early exposure to violence – though this also means that there are anomalies where the flipping of that switch is either more a matter of choice or more a matter of genetic predisposition.

I think the real lesson in all this is that judging other people is simply beyond our abilities and something that only God can do with any accuracy.

This means that actually they are predisposed to sin?

We all are. We all have flesh that desires fleshy wants. We all must choose to seek the fruit of the spirit.


Yeah if they are predisposed too that means they cannot choose otherwise

Yes. We are all predisposed to sin in many many different ways – ample bad examples to imitate as well as biological urges we must control. But I don’t think this equals a sinful nature. Predisposition does not make something inescapable. It is only highly unlikely that we can avoid every variety of sin with all this. But we are still responsible for our sins. We were never meant to navigate the moral landscape of life without the guidance of God. That is the tragedy of the fall.

Wrong! That is not what the word “predisposed” means.


I’m not sure how this follows. Knowing that something is wrong does not equal not doing that thing. I can’t think of any situation where all people follow all rules completely. It’s possible to know something is wrong, but decide that the personal benefit of doing it outweighs the potential consequences. I think we all make bargains like this in our minds even if we’re not aware that we’re doing it. Obviously killing is an extreme example, but we have serial killers all through history – we call them “kings,” “conquerors,” “warlords,” and many other names, but all people who decided that building their own power was worth whatever moral cost it was to get it.

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You are right; we are predisposed to sin but never compelled. Reminds me of the verse in “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” that goes

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let that goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

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I should preface all of this by saying that I’m not a trained professional, but I do have experience with psychopaths. I encountered them in my teaching job at juvenile detention. I pray none of you encounters one in real life. Monsters do exist.

Serial killers are psychopaths. The clinical diagnosis is Antisocial Personality Disorder. From the article:

The symptoms of antisocial personality disorder can vary in severity. The more egregious, harmful, or dangerous behavior patterns are referred to as sociopathic or psychopathic. … Sociopathy is chiefly characterized as something severely wrong with one’s conscience; psychopathy is characterized as a complete lack of conscience regarding others. Some professionals describe people with this constellation of symptoms as “stone cold” to the rights of others. … People with this illness may seem charming on the surface, but they are likely to be irritable and aggressive as well as irresponsible. … Due to their manipulative tendencies, it is difficult to tell whether they are lying or telling the truth.

According to the DSM-5, features of antisocial personality disorder include:

  • Violation of the physical or emotional rights of others
  • Lack of stability in job and home life
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Lack of remorse
  • Consistent irresponsibility
  • Recklessness, impulsivity
  • Deceitfulness
  • A childhood diagnosis (or symptoms consistent with) conduct disorder

On the “salvation” aspect, Randal Rauser had an excellent blog post last December showing how Ted Bundy used his “conversion” to Christ to manipulate James Dobson in a 1989 interview. Bundy knew pornography was Dobson’s “hot-button” issue, and Ted played his Christian audience of one like a fiddle. Psychopaths are dangerous, and Christians are easily manipulated by Christian lingo. Even trained people can be fooled by psychopaths.

No one’s actions are predetermined. People may be predisposed to choose certain actions, whether by experience or biology, but that simply means that we favor certain choices over others. Occasionally, people may choose “against the grain,” so to speak. And as many can attest, some adolescents (and adults) “rebel” against their childhood experiences, whether the role model was positive or negative.

In the case of psychopaths, let’s take childhood experience first. The worst cases of neglect and/or abuse before the age of 5 generally result in Reactive Attachment Disorder. An example would be an unwanted child immediately surrendered for adoption to a state agency. The child may bounce from one foster care facility to another and never form a permanent bond with any particular caregiver. The result isn’t a defective conscience or inability to empathize, which are characteristics of psychopaths. Children with RAD are most often emotionally withdrawn and can’t form “normal” bonds with others. Once in a while the opposite is true, and a child has no emotional/relational boundaries at all. Theirs aren’t the symptoms of a psychopath. It’s heartbreaking to meet these kids as adolescents. Most can’t show and will never know love, and the rest end up in the sex trade (primarily girls) or on the receiving end in an abusive relationship.

On the “biology” side, some kids are born with an inability to control their impulses or their anger. Make them mad and they may punch you in the face. The difference between them and psychopaths is that they will genuinely feel remorse afterward. It doesn’t heal your pain, but they aren’t psychopaths. The most likely cause of psychopathy is abnormal brain development. Specifically, abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex are positively linked to psychopathic behavior. Basically, some people are born with brains that aren’t wired properly.

The Bible concerns itself with “normal” human development. Children may lack the “knowledge of good and evil,” but the ancient authors don’t delve into questions of abnormal psychology. I hope you picked up on the fact that psychopaths lack empathy or a conscience. They are “beyond morality.” They understand “normal” human morality, which is why they can act remorseful even when they don’t feel the genuine emotion, but they don’t feel the need to comply with it. A frequently cited article on Psychopathy and Aggression describes them as “manipulative, callous, remorseless, impulsive, irresponsible individuals.” It also notes the existence of “white-collar” psychopaths:

With little empathy or remorse, they have few inhibitions against using other people for material gain, drugs, sex, or power. Accordingly, psychopaths are adept con artists, often with a long history of frauds and scams. Some may even become cult leaders, corrupt politicians, or successful corporate leaders. This proficiency as “intra-species predators” is likely to derive from their superficially engaging personality and skilled use of deception through verbal and non-verbal communication… (M)ore intelligent psychopaths may be less inclined to use aggression because they can use their cognitive resources to devise non-violent means (such as conning and manipulation) to get what they want.


I dont think all serial killers are psychopaths thought. Spme even pass their mental tests and are judged as beign normal

Can we know how God judges these monsters ? From what i understand its almost impossible for a psychopath tk choose right over wrong

People labeled psychopaths can still choose good or evil. There is no way to say they never feel remorse or change. We see people who do great evil still change. We see people who are great people go through hard times and begin to slip into the worse versions of themselves

Nature and nurture can result in people who become very hard hearted. But those same people can be made new in Christ. I’ve never met anyone when push comes to shove that can’t either logically tell right from wrong or emotionally tell the difference.

Consciences can become calloused or seared, though. We can become desensitized and accustomed to all or any wrongdoing with continued practice. (One of the awful things about fetal alcohol syndrome is that those afflicted with can have trouble recognizing consequences and have an impaired conscience, a mental disability. They are victims, though – others are not necessarily, and maybe necessarily not.)

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[quote=“Dale, post:15, topic:43553, full:true”]
Consciences can become calloused or seared, though. We can become desensitized and accustomed to all or any wrongdoing with continued practice. [/quote]

I agree. For example, think of army training. I don’t know much of psychology but I assume that many have mental barriers that normally prevents killing of those living around us. Part of the military training is to get you obey before the mental barriers kick in and make you hesitate - action before thinking. Once you have crossed the mental barriers, it’s easier to continue on that road. Especially if you can get mental backup by thinking that the others are less human or less important than us (= me).

In generally accepted organisations, such as national armies, killing is considered an acceptable action and those killing more than the others may even become heros. During the last war between Finland and Soviet, one sniper managed to shoot >500 ‘enemy’ soldiers. He was considered a hero, except by the soviets who named him “the white death” (belaja smert).

If the same killing would happen in the service of an unaccepted organisation, the person would be considered a dangerous terrorist that needs to be eliminated. And if he would have done the killings outside any organisation, he would be considered a serial killer.

I don’t say that army heroes equal serial killers - there is a difference. Yet, this viewpoint shows that the border between ‘normal’ citizens and serial killers may be weaker than we like to think. It’s not ‘us’ vs. ‘them’, there are just us humans. We all need salvation.


I can’t imagine a serial killer who wasn’t a psychopath. It’s part of the job description. If you mean serial killers can score normally on an intelligence test, I would agree. If you mean serial killers have “normal” psychology, I would disagree.

I’m not God, but I consider them the embodiment of evil. A psychopath knows right from wrong, and they are capable of choosing to do the “right” thing, mainly when it scores “points” for them with others.

Actually, the psychopath’s inability to feel remorse is part of the diagnosis. I certainly believe in second chances and the possibility of change. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have spent so many years inside prison walls. But, as I said, some people’s brains aren’t wired properly, and no amount of therapy, drugs, or Bible study will change that. This was one of the hardest things for me to learn when I started out.

Psychopaths can logically tell right from wrong, but “community standards” mean little to them. Their moral calculus is simply this: Does this benefit me or not?

Yes, but that’s part of normal psychology. The psychopath, like the child with fetal alcohol syndrome, is born with a brain that doesn’t function normally.

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Yes, but are they necessarily born that way. Maybe normal functioning can become atrophied, for lack of a better word, through practice – misuse or nonuse, injury or some environmental factor.

To each their own. I’ve met people diagnosed at thresholds of 30+ on the hare test from serial rapist and murders who still felt convicted over years of studying the gospel and also studying books on animal rights and abuse and so on. They seem to try to jump around with things like ID or superego restraining people from just being themselves completely and so on.

A man named Juan Ortiz studied the Bible with me for 6 months. He was previously in a gang in Mexico and before he got baptized while confessing sins to one another he admitted he raped and murdered multiple people in Mexico. He came to America working for a construction company and use to come back to houses he did remodels on and tie up the families and rob them and worse and that he’s not a citizen and was here illegally. He mentioned a lot of terrible things. We discussed the legality of it and Christ forgiving him verses turning himself in. He decided to go back to Mexico and turn himself in so that he could bring to gospel to the prisons. Was not able to keep in touch with him directly but a brother in Mexico did and we contacted him. Found out a few months into it Juan was murdered and had his head cut off in prison by his former gang for encouraging people to leave the gang and pursue Christ. I’ve met several others and have studied. Some repent and come to Christ. Some don’t. Some do and fall away and some are sticking with it.

One guy in studying with bow is the son of a rape victim. His mother told him growing up he looked just like his father and she could not stand seeing him anymore and kicked him out at 12. He then lived with his grandfather on his dads side who molested him. His mom killed herself in her car outside their house when he was around 15. Went into a mental institution for stabbing a kid with a pencil. Got out at 20 and at 24 went back for stabbing a guy multiple times in Burger King for looking at his gf who was a cashier. He got out at 30. He’s now 37 and we met 3 years ago because he was taking a shower in my outdoor shower that had warm water. He’s not been drunk in several months and cusses a lot less. He even married the girl he was with so that they could have sex without it being a sin. He was also interviewed and categorized as a psychopath. Even now sometimes he gets extremely paranoid while I’m typing on my phone and he’s at my house and he will accuse me of trying to set him up or something and get very violent acting. Sometimes I’ve even had to fight him off. But I still notice how hard he works on getting better because he believes it’s the right thing to do. Last week he was diagnosed with kidney cancer and does not want treatment because he believes it’s a blessing from God to cut his life short so that he won’t fall away. He has super good medical insurance through the state or whatever he gets it from along with collecting some sort of government check.

Personally I do believe that even the worse of the worse understand morality. They often talk about hating themselves and other things. Often talk about this sort of addictive predatory feeling they get that feels so good when stalking a victim. The they use not the people I mentioned but in general people labeled this way. Some of these same people end up turning to Christ and their hearts just get softer. Things that use to mean nothing to them now hits them emotionally. Some of those people never choose to do good. Most of these people interviewed and diagnosed are also criminals. People have brought up what about those that are diagnosed but never commit crimes, are self aware of their actions, and make smarter choices. Very few are willing to take a test that suspect they may be that way or are accused of it.

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I’m not denying that psychopaths routinely experience neglect and abuse in childhood. But psychopaths are rare. Very few children who are abused/neglected become psychopaths. The most likely trigger is nature, not nurture. Follow the previous link …

@SkovandOfMitaze don’t get me wrong. I appreciate where your heart is, but I find some aspects of your reply deeply disturbing. I would let it go, but for the benefit of any lurkers and out of concern for your own safety, I have to reply to a couple of things. I’ll start with the easier stuff first:

Psychopathy is a spectrum, like autism. You mention animal rights. Two of the most reliable predictors of juvenile delinquency are cruelty to animals and a fascination with setting fires. A Hare score of 30 is borderline, but we’ve been talking so far about serial killers, who are the far end of the scale. I looked up an article by Robert Hare, who created the scale you reference, and he noted the fact that some psychopathic traits are becoming “normalized” in our society (my emphasis):

In my book, Without Conscience , I argued that we live in a “camouflage society,” a society in which some psychopathic traits- egocentricity, lack of concern for others, superficiality, style over substance, being “cool,” manipulativeness, and so forth- increasingly are tolerated and even valued. With respect to the topic of this article, it is easy to see how both psychopaths and those with ASPD could blend in readily with groups holding antisocial or criminal values. It is more difficult to envisage how those with ASPD could hide out among more prosocial segments of society. Yet psychopaths have little difficulty infiltrating the domains of business, politics, law enforcement, government, academia and other social structures (Babiak). It is the egocentric, cold-blooded and remorseless psychopaths who blend into all aspects of society and have such devastating impacts on people around them who send chills down the spines of law enforcement officers.

I’m sorry, but this is irresponsible. If my own son admitted rape and murder to me, I would call the authorities. I have questions about the end of the story, but assuming that all of it is true, you had no idea what this man was doing other than taking his word for it. Having a “discussion” is not enough. Trusting his word put everyone in your community at risk. I’m honestly shocked.

Okay, this is scary. You don’t know who you’re dealing with. I hope you live alone, because otherwise you’re putting your whole family in danger. If he got the idea that you might turn him in, you are in danger. You shouldn’t show him this conversation or reply. For your own safety, do not have this man into your home. You should meet with him only in controlled/public situations. For your own safety. Please.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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