Are people born totally evil or made that way by the world around them?


The reason I’m asking this question is because I’ve always pondered on whether people are born evil or made that way by the environment/world around them. I also think we are both good and evil because we all are made in the image of God, which means we have qualities such as love,compassion,understanding,kindness, etc etc. But we also carry within us a fallen nature that is bound to sin, and a tendency to do what’s incorrect than to do what is right, or maybe we all are capable of the same evil if it weren’t for the Grace of God holding us back? Consequences and laws are what keep people in check and not act out their inner sinful desires and pursuits.

Is there such a thing as a human born without a conscience? But the Bible tells us that everyone is born with a conscience and that the law is written in our hearts. (Romans 2:15) but we also know that if an individual keeps on his wrongdoing and doesn’t repent, it sears their conscience (1 Timothy 4:2 Ephesians 4:18-19) in other horrifying cases a reprobate mind can occur which sounds horrifying.

One person I find interesting is a Russian serial killer named Andrei Chikatilo I believe he is a prime example of being made due to the harsh realities around him, perhaps at one point had a conscience but seared it?

Andrei Chikitilo had killed 53 people which were women, and young victims which included young boys and girls. I’m taken aback as to how this man could had slept at night without his conscience biting at him throughout his life, but I suppose the answer lies if we go back and see what went wrong.

This reminds me of the verse where bring up a child in a way he or she should go and he/she will not depart from it. If you look at his childhood( if you can call it one) it was filled with death, war, hunger, humiliation, and little love. He was born during the time of communism, and lived in a village in Ukraine, poverty strangling his family where all were entangled within a one room hut. Quite sadly his mother would verbually and physically abuse him, and his father was drafted and taken prisoner by the German forces so his dad was pretty much out of the picture.

Not only that he was bullied when he had gone to school( his sister would recall times when he would be crying) Also He witnessed as I mentioned before, death such as bombings, shootings and fires due to the Nazi occupation of Ukraine at the time. So growing up in all this, I think would devastate a child’s mind and break a person completely. Not to sound crazy, but despite what he did I do feel pity for him.

It just shows we need love to grow as a human being, if love is not present within the heart, hatred will abide and pollute the soul. The individual will only grow up as a broken human being reflecting the twisted environment he or she was raised in.

I have a few questions regarding him, was he just destined to go the path he did why would God create someone who had seemed to be doomed from the start? Would Chikatilo have turned out differently if he had grown in a loving environment? Despite committing all these horrible crimes, do you think he was beyond saving or could he have come to repentance and been saved?


It is quite clear that sins of others resulted in his perversion. It certainly begins with the sins of his mother but extends to everyone he encountered.

My toddler has a conscience. Without a doubt she knows when she is doing something she’s not supposed to–has know since about 9 months or so.

Our futures are not pre-determined. I could be that kindness may have changed his life.

Sometimes, people are jerks. This weekend at church strangers sat behind my husband and I. My toddler did her thing and they CLEARLY hated her even though she was extremely well behaved for a young child. When it came time for the sign of peace she was delighted to shake peoples hands. While the couple shook other peoples hands they gave my husband and I dirty looks and ignored her. She was frustrated, but being small she got over it quickly.

Yet, what if I my husband and I were visiting? What if our faith was not strong? What if we were frustrated and were looking for acceptance and instead found hate?

I mean, she’s a toddler who does the sign of peace–how heartless can you be? (they shook hands with a 10 or 11yo in the pew down a way so it wasn’t due to illness). She is Father’s favorite and is much loved–I’m her most critical observer in Mass. There was NO reason for the attitude.

So, in the face of sin and such depravity, we are called to kindness, period. Being an absolute jerkface is not a valid option for Catholics.


And…what about the people who rise above a bad beginning to become good and loving, faith-fille people?


Jesus Christ witnessed many crucifixions, His parents fled the murder of the innocents, Many early Christians witnessed murder and torture.

Who knows what makes a psychopath.

We all have the choice to accept Jesus


Hi Neoncap,

Those are understandable thoughts, but they have no root in Catholic theology (or any other Christian theology that I know of). God created, and saw that it was good (Genesis). All that He creates is good.

We are born with the capacity to form a conscience, and given that we have basically the same emotions and drives, that formation is fairly standard, even across cultures. People do, however, have problems in their conscience development … quite often, in fact.

Serial killers and mass murderers are usually either sociopaths or psychopaths. These people have a serious inability to empathize with others; in fact they are largely incapable of reading the emotions of other people. Without empathy, it is very hard to form a conscience.

I think we can’t know everything. I have no explanation as to why God would create a person with an empathy disability, but God still loves them. No one is out of reach of God’s forgiveness.


Neither. People are not born totally evil. Nor are they made that way from the world around them. Catholic teaching is that humans are born with a wounded nature, but are not totally deprived of good. Perhaps someone in hell is totally deprived but someone still breathing there is always hope for no matter what sins they have done. There is the possibility of repentance and forgiveness. This question assumes that people are totally evil. Since that assumption is false the question itself is mistaken.


No one is “born evil”. It is possible that some people are born with brain malfunctions or deformities that predispose or even cause them to be psychopathic or violent. Many other people are warped by bad childhood experiences such as neglect or abuse. We need to keep doing research into this area so we can better understand how criminals develop and how we can prevent this or protect ourselves.


No one is born evil. Some people just choose to do evil things. Also some people can have personality disorders that cause them to commit crime and do bad things e.g. psychopathy, anti-social personality disorder, conduct disorder.


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