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Development of a Terrorist’s Mentality: Religion, Mental Illness of Psychopathy and DNA

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People usually say that terrorists have a healthy mentality and just do it for enjoyment, but most of them actually have factors that lead to them committing those crimes. Many people relate active-shooters and terrorists with the mental illness of psychopathy, and there is much information on how it does relate to them proven by scientists. Religion is a strong factor for terrorists that have actively attacked churches with guns, mainly because they have a strong belief system that they feel others do not share. There are many personality traits that are involved with an active shooter, but then again many shooters may be successful and still be psychopaths. There are many big factors in how people develop the mentality of a terrorist, but there are also many blanks in it. There are many things that can develop the mentality of terrorists, and those include religion, environment, mental illnesses, and DNA.

Mental illnesses are a common factor in how people develop the mentality of a terrorist, mainly because they get impulses that others wouldn’t. Psychopathy is the main illness that is commonly found in active shooters, they all show a lack of remorse and empathy. Psychopaths also are usually antisocial, which relates to the shooter Seung-Hui Cho, because he had many mental illnesses and now is believed to have had a Psychopathic Personality Disorder. Psychopaths also can be what people call normal and successful since other traits of a psychopath are being selfish, domineering, manipulative, irresponsible, impulsive, and fearless. Many of the active shooters have certain mental illnesses that come from DNA or their environment they grew up in. 

Psychopaths are known to have a criminal record and have been convicted of at least 4 violent crimes before the age of 40. About 16% of U.S. prisoners are psychopaths, which proves that psychopaths are very likely to commit crimes. Although some psychopaths are successful and not even able to tell that they are psychopaths, they are most likely to have at least one violent crime or be violent to a family member or friend. One of the Columbine High School shooters had a type of psychopathy disorder because he lacked empathy and remorse to the students he shot. There are many other traits that psychopaths have including being antisocial, selfish, domineering, manipulative, irresponsible, fearless, etc. Even with several abnormal traits, some psychopaths can be found socially well and adjusted to the world. Active shooters can be normal people and some parents have even said how they cannot believe what their sons did, but psychopathy is not something easily found in a person. Many of these active shooters are antisocial and commonly fearless of the consequences they get into. Although there are many more mental illnesses involved with the mentality of a terrorist, psychology is the more common one. Depression is also one due to past life experiences like being bullied or heartbroken.

The school shooter, Nickolas Cruz, was bullied and grew depressed, and had a couple of crimes committed, which showed proof of a mental illness that made him do what he did. From all these psychologists have been able to tell that mental illnesses have a lot to do with how terrorists develop their mentality. Psychopaths and every other mental illness patient are not going to stop causing tragedies until they all get the help they need. The brain has a crucial part in the mentality of a terrorist, especially because each part of the brain has different controls on emotions. There is a gene that is associated with impulsive aggression, called MAO-A. The MAO-A gene 8217 job is to break down important neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. If those chemicals are left unchecked, they can build up in the brain and cause a loss of impulse control and increase violence and rage. That can cause a major impact on shooters because they lose control and harm people. 

The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain that if it has damaged can cause impaired impulse control and emotional learning, and impaired decision-making as well. That damage can cause active shooters to lose control and do harm to others without being able to stop from the loss of control. Active shooters are also not good at telling emotions, so they might confuse things others say and take it wrongly. The Amygdala is also another part of the brain that is known to hide emotions from psychopaths, like making them be fearless in doing the wrong things.  In addition, the Hippocampus also has a lot to do with psychopathy because if it is damaged, then it impairs the retrieval of emotional memories and contextual fear. That causes active shooters to forget about the good memories with certain people and still harm them. Like with the Columbine High School Shooters, they were able to shoot their own classmates not caring about memories. The superior temporal gyrus can also be damaged in psychopaths and impairs the lack of perspective, awareness, and empathy. 

Lacking empathy causes active shooters to not care about how many people will be hurt after the tragedy and does not stop them. They also are not much aware of what they are doing so they go ahead and do not stop. The brain structure has a crucial impact on active shooters’ actions, and many of this shows that maybe not everyone deserves to own guns. So much of the brain can be defected without knowing that anyone in hands of a gun can cause so much harm to innocent people. Psychopaths all have different brains, and about 50 percent of the brain structure has to do with what develops the mind of a terrorist. 

Religion in the mind of terrorists is another huge factor, especially because many people have different religions and do not always agree with the same opinions. Active shooters already most likely have a mental illness and having a religion might increase the chances of hurting innocent people. Just like Robert Bowers decided to shoot up a Jewish church because he felt like Jews were starting to take over and he did not like their belief. The Muslim religion is mostly blamed for being terrorist and violent, due to their faith and their reputation with terrorism. About 45 percent of people in the United States believe that Muslims are violent and terrible people, and 54 percent believe that Muslims support terrorism. Although, almost all of the shooters have been known as Christians, instead of any other religion. Many active shooters are known to be Christians with beliefs that everyone should agree with their religious beliefs. Those active shooters attack people with different views, like the time Omar Mateen attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando out of pure hatred for different sexuality people, and part of ISIS. Terry Ratzmann was another example because he was very religious and attended church regularly, but ended up shooting up a church that had different beliefs in 2005. Religion has many effects in active shooters, especially because they get people to have beliefs that others may not have. Especially, because there are many churches around the world with many different beliefs that not everyone agrees with, specifically because they are not all the same religions. Although, everyone has different beliefs religion causes people to believe in a certain thing more than a regular person would. 

Active shooters already have a mental illness and being encouraged to believe in something that not everyone believes causes them to have anger issues and hurt innocent people. The environment that someone grows in can damage someone’s life in a terrible way and make that person commit bad crimes. If someone grows up in an environment where they get bullied and treated badly, then there’s a chance they will grow hatred and want to harm people. An active shooter named Chris Harper-Mercer grow up with his mother who was very passionate about guns, which could have caused Chris to have shot up his community college from being around guns so much. People say that parents are part of the blame, even though sometimes it is not always at home. 

Many active shooters come from broken homes, like having an absent father or being in the middle of a divorce or domestic violence. Jeffrey Weise was a school shooter at Red Lake Senior High School, that had parents that never married, his father shot himself, a mother and stepfather that divorced, and also lived with his grandmother who was separated from her husband, which shows that it could have affected him badly since his home was broken entirely. Although this does not mean that every child with a broken home may cause horrifying attacks, but it would help that schools would help students with their feelings. It is proven that broken families have a greater risk of hurting the mentality of children, while they grow older.

Many studies show that children that live in families with two parents have lower levels of emotional and psychological stress, while those without two parents have higher levels of stress. Children that grow up with broken homes are more likely to develop hyperactivity, depression, and irritability. That is why many of the active shooters in history have many mental illnesses that cause them to lose control and gain hatred of other teens they consider “lucky with two parents or a better family”. Being rejected or heartbroken can also cause someone to do crazy things and being young with a broken family can cause them to hurt others and not be able to control themselves. Having a broken family does not mean someone will become an active shooter or become terribly violent, but it can increase some chances and can be prevented by being there for them emotionally. 

Active shooters can be so terribly rejected by a society that they tend to harm people for that reason and harm themselves as well. Although they should learn to ask for help instead of hurting innocent people, but being damaged emotionally and having mental illnesses can drive someone psychotic. There are so many factors that can develop the mentality of an active shooter, although many of them are not easily detected, so they cannot be prevented. An active shooter can be stopped mostly only by gun laws that make everyone take a mental illness scan so that they know that the guns are not in the hands of someone with psychopathy or any other illness. The information above, that all explains how the mentality of a terrorist develops, and not from just one reason but from many reasons mixed together. 

Works Cited 

  1. Weber, Sabrina, et al. “Structural Brain Abnormalities in Psychopaths- a Review.” Behavioral Sciences & the Law, vol. 26, no. 1, Jan. 2008, pp. 7-28. EBSCOhost. Kiehl, Kent A., and Joshua W. Buckholtz. 
  2. “Inside the Mind of a Psychopath. (Cover Story).” Scientific American Mind, vol. 21, no. 4, Sept 2010, pp. 22. EBSCOhost, doi: 10.1038/scientificamericanmind0910-22. Cox, John Woodrow. 
  3. “Inside the Mind of a Teen School Shooter.” The Washington Post, 2018. Siegert, Mark, and Beth Siegert. 
  4. “Inside the Mind of the Active Shooter. (Cover Story).” Security Technology Executive, vol. 23, no. 6, Aug. 2013, p. 20. 
  5. “The Teen-Killer Whisperer.” Newsweek Global, vol. 163, no. 4, July 2014, p. 1. Keegan, Katie, and Wendy L. Morris. 
  6. “Mass Murder in the News: How Religion Influences Perception of Terrorism.” Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research, vol. 23, no. 5, Winter 2018, pp. 354-363. Klasen, Martin, et al. 
  7. “Neutral Networks Underlying Trait Aggression Depend on MAOA Gene Alleles.” Brain Structure & Function, vol. 223, no. 2, Mar. 2018, pp. 873-881. Rosenberg, Yair. 
  8. “Pittsburg Shooter Didn’t Hate ‘Religion’, He Hated Jews. We Should Say So.” The Washington Post, 2018. Landau, Elizabeth. 
  9. “Rejection, Bullying Are Risk Factors Among Shooters.” CNN, Cable News Network, 19 Dec. 2012,, John. 
  10. “3 Common Traits of School Shooters.” The Heritage Foundation,

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Development of A Terrorist’s Mentality: Religion, Mental Illness of Psychopathy and DNA. (2022, July 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from
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