Why Psychopaths Are Attracted To Jobs in Religious Ministry

Why Predators a.k.a Psychopaths Are Attracted To Jobs in Religious Ministry,psychopaths, sociopaths,narcisstic,personality disorders,predators
Why Predators a.k.a Psychopaths Are Attracted To Jobs in Religious Ministry,psychopaths, sociopaths,narcisstic,personality disorders,predatorsPsychopathic Baptist Minister and Cult Leader Jim Jones

About the Author — James C. Tanner is a highly published writer, author and business coach who has written heavily on topics related to business, marketing, and psychology.  A former professional Investigator who specialized in cult and occult related crime with a targeted focus on the ritual slaughter of animals.  He has written and taught business skills courses for clients such as the Government of Canada.


Why Psychopaths Are Attracted To Jobs in Religious Ministry — For many the thought that a religious leader, or perhaps their very own church minister might be a predator “in-the-closet” is a very disturbing concept to grasp, and yet the likelihood of such is very high.

Why He Doesn't Love You Anymore by James C Tanner. Self-help for those struggling with the pain of a broken heart, rejection, and emotional abandonment.

This does not mean that we should assume that all religious leaders are unhealthy and predatory in nature.  With almost no religious organization utilizing any form of psychological screening for ministerial candidates, it simply means that we cannot afford to hide our heads in the sand and assume that all ministers, or members of the clergy, are fit to be in their professional roles and discernment should never be cast aside or replaced with blind trust.

It doesn’t matter which denomination or church organization one belongs to, a Salvation Army Major, a Baptist minister, a Christian and Missionary Alliance Career minister, a Rabbi, a church youth worker, or a Catholic priest (to name only a few), all have the ability to secretly be psychopaths/predators.

Former FBI Agent Joe Navarro examines why predators find ministerial and clergy positions so desirable in an April 2014 article in Psychology Today.   In his article, Joe Navarro reports how a career in church or religious ministry as a member of the clergy is the eighth most popular profession chosen by predators, following on the heels of the seventh most popular profession chosen by predators which are careers in law enforcement.


What Are The Top 10 Careers Chosen By Psychopaths?

  1. CEO
  2. Lawyers and Paralegals
  3. Media (TV/Radio) Personalities
  4. Salespeople
  5. Surgeons, Medical Specialists, Research Scientists
  6. Journalists
  7. Law Enforcement Officers
  8. Members of the Clergy
  9. Professional Chefs
  10. Civil Servants (Government Workers)


What Does a Psychopath Minister or Priest Look Like?

Initially and publicly, a psychopathic minister or priest, can blend in and appear as normal or as healthy as any one of their counterparts.  Psychopathic members of the clergy are master manipulators of public opinion, and individual persons.  These people can manipulate the masses into thinking they are “God’s annointed”, while privately they can be victimizing a member of their parish manipulating their victim into thinking the rest of the congregation will never believe the victim if they cried out for help; or that the actions of the member of the clergy are God ordained.

In an attempt to maintain their position of authority in public opinion, and maintain a manipulative hold or power over a victim, a psychopathic minister will not hesitate to use defamatory gossip or slander to ruin the reputation of their victim in the eyes of the church family, labelling that victim as a backslider, sinner, or rebellious member.  They might even rally the support of a church disciplenary team to suppress the accusations and cries for help from a victim within the church body.

Psychopathic members of the clergy can put on a professional air of feeling concerned and loving towards a member of their parish, while inwardly experiencing absolutely no emotion towards any member of their church family.  In fact, behind the scenes, they resent the “wimps” and “weak” in the church.  Psychopaths feel they are not bound by boundaries such as laws, and psychopathic ministers will not hesitate to conduct themselves secretly and privately in illegal actions from rape, to theft, to break and enter and far more blatent acts, publicly justifying their actions as being done “in the name of God”.

While healthy leadership does exist, many church leaders have crossed the line, and we must remember that spiritual abuse and the existence of cults in churches today occurs far more frequently than many of us care to admit.  Spiritual Abuse describes any process by which a religious authority misuses their power and the trust of their congregational members individually or collectively in order to meet their own needs or the needs of the system.

***It’s important to state that many evangelical churches which appear to stand behind sound and solid Biblical doctrine can be considered as identifiable dangerous cults when they practice techniques of mental, psychological, social, relational, or physical manipulation and indoctrination.


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What Is Psychopathy?

There is a great deal of confusion over the terms psychopath and sociopath.  In the early 1900’s the term psychopath was used to describe people exhibiting certain symptoms of a personality disorder.  In the 1930’s the term shifted to sociopath, to demonstrate the huge degree of damage these people cause to open society.  Today, the psychological community have reverted back to the use of the term Psychopath, redefining Sociopathy to refer to less dangerous people who are seen more as products of their environment, including their upbringing.

In open society, only 1% to 3 % of the population are classified as psychopaths, yet inside our prison system that number radically increases to 25% of the prison population.  Thus, bearing witness to the criminal nature and willingness found inherent in psychopath natures.

Psychopaths are morally depraved individuals who represent the “monsters” in our society.  They are unstoppable and untreatable predators whose psychological, emotional, and physical abuse is planned, purposeful and most often emotionless.

Psychopathy is in brief, traditionally defined as a personality disorder characterized by enduring antisocial behavior, diminished empathy and remorse, narcissistic behaviours, conduct disorder, as well as displays of bold or defiant behavior. It must also be stated that many of the signs and behavioural symptoms found in psychopaths are also found in many perfectly healthy people.  It is the combination of signs and symptoms that sets psychopaths apart from healthy society.

In the field of clinical psychology, there are four recognized sub-categories of psychopaths.

PRIMARY PSYCHOPATHS do not respond to punishment, apprehension, stress, or disapproval. They seem to be able to inhibit their antisocial impulses most of the time, not because of conscience, but because it suits their purpose at the time. Words do not seem to have the same meaning for them as they do for us. In fact, it’s unclear if they even grasp the meaning of their own words, a condition that Cleckley called “semantic aphasia.” They don’t follow any life plan, and it seems as if they are incapable of experiencing any genuine emotion.

SECONDARY PSYCHOPATHS are risk-takers, but are also more likely to be stress-reactive, worriers, and guilt-prone. They expose themselves to more stress than the average person, but they are as vulnerable to stress as the average person.

They are daring, adventurous, unconventional people who began playing by their own rules early in life. They are strongly driven by a desire to escape or avoid pain, but are unable to resist temptation. As their anxiety increases toward some forbidden object, so does their attraction to it. They live their lives by the lure of temptation. Both primary and secondary psychopaths can be subdivided into:

DISTEMPERED PSYCHOPATHS are the kind that seem to fly into a rage or frenzy more easily and more often than other subtypes. Their frenzy will resemble an epileptic fit. They are also usually men with incredibly strong sex drives, capable of astonishing feats of sexual energy, and seemingly obsessed by sexual urges during a large part of their waking lives. Powerful cravings also seem to characterize them, as in drug addiction, kleptomania, pedophilia, any illicit or illegal indulgence. They like the endorphin “high” or “rush” off of excitement and risk-taking. The serial-rapist-murderer known as the Boston Strangler was such a psychopath.

CHARISMATIC PSYCHOPATHS are charming, attractive liars. They are usually gifted at some talent or another, and they use it to their advantage in manipulating others. They are usually fast-talkers, and possess an almost demonic ability to persuade others out of everything they own, even their lives. Leaders of religious sects or cults, for example, might be psychopaths if they lead their followers to their deaths. This subtype often comes to believe in their own fictions. They are irresistible.  (Source: http://www.cassiopaea.com/cassiopaea/psychopath_2.htm)


Why Predators a.k.a Psychopaths

Are Attracted To Jobs in Religious Ministry

In a career field noted for the importance of a high quality trust factor, why do psychopaths seek out careers in the religious, church or para-church area of ministry?

…we need to be reminded that predators [psychopaths] seek to be in organizations (any organization) for a variety of reasons that are both useful and beneficial but may not be clear to us; including of course so that they can better conduct their predatory activities. The reasons vary, but here are just a few:

  1. Organizations provide a convenient infrastructure from which a predator can prey on others for financial gain or to otherwise exploit others (sexually, mentally, physically).
  2. Membership in a legitimate institution, be it a club, a branch of the military, or a corporation, gives legitimacy to individuals. We are more respectful and trusting when we are told a certain person is a VP or head of sales for XYZ company rather than just a stranger off the street.
  3. Organizations give predators ready and easy access to an identifiable pool of individuals or potential victims. A cable television installer, for instance, can gain access to a home, assess the level of security, appraise what is of value, or determine if the person lives alone.
  4. Organizations give predators access to potential victims they otherwise might not come into contact with, or might have to spend a lot of time finding. Predators may even find potential victims conveniently working two cubicles away.
  5. Alliances are easy to make in an organization. These can serve to provide the predator information about exploitable weaknesses of others, as well as proprietary, personal, or sensitive data otherwise difficult to obtain.
  6. Colleagues within an organization can serve to warn or protect the predator as a result of conspiratorial alliances or because they have a fiduciary interest in those predatory practices (predatory accountants protecting predatory CEOs).
  7. Some organizations can be very financially rewarding for predators where they can exercise their anti-social traits (e.g., lack of conscience, indifference to others, bullying, cavalier attitudes, minimal concern for the welfare of employees, narcissism, sense of entitlement, placing profits over people). Often a similarly calloused and indifferent board of directors, interested only in profits, rewards these predators and their anti-social acts. It is a toxic but profitable symbiotic relation that is all too often familiar.
  8. Organizations often try to “handle” negative things in-house to avoid bad publicity, so they are reluctant to report even gross criminal misconduct on the part of the predators in their midst; preferring to transfer them, fire them, or have them leave quietly.
  9. Organizations are sometimes structured in such a way that the predator merely has to take advantage of existing weaknesses in the organization in order to profit – as we saw with the banking debacle of 2008.
  10. Predators know that in civil lawsuits victims will go after the corporation with the deeper pockets rather than go after individuals with limited financial resources. 

(Source:  Joe Navarro, Retired FBI Agent, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/spycatcher/201404/why-predators-are-attracted-careers-in-the-clergy)


As we can see above, there are a vast number of reasons as to why psychopaths seek out careers in organizations.  But why do they go after jobs and careers in the area of church or religious ministry?

  1.  Within a church setting, psychopaths have immediate access to a definable pool of potential victims.  The psychopath minister will know the church schedule, and when the church faithful will be attending church functions.  Regularly scheduled meetings gives a psychopath opportunity to exploit their victims directly, or from a distance such as arranging to have a church member’s home robbed while they attend church.
  2. Religious organizations often encourage an environment whereby members can share their sins and faults, providing a psychopath with ample intelligence to better access and psychologically manipulate their victim.
  3. Church gossip becomes a massive harvesting ground of information on church members and a psychopath keeps his or her ear “to the ground”, listening for information on who is earning how much; which partner is cheating in their marriage; who has come into an inheritance; who is perceived as being naive or gullible; and who is struggling with loneliness.
  4. Church congregations are a melting pot of people from various positions of social status.  A church congregation provides a psychopath with easy access to a class of wealthy people not normally within his or her reach.  Churches are a favourite target of conmen and Ponzi scheme promoters for this reason.
  5. Churches often promote grace and forgiveness.  Psychopaths know that if they get caught, in all likelihood they can simply go through the paces of seeking forgiveness, believing that the church congregation has to forget the matter and put it in the past.
  6. In church settings, if caught, it’s very easy for a psychopath to place the blame on Satan, claiming that “the Devil made me do it.”  In many church settings, this act of confession is enough to evoke in the church congregation an attitude of forgiveness and turning of the other cheek.
  7. A common ploy utilized by psychopath ministers when they come under scrutiny, is to identify the accuser as being backslidden; wayward; attacking “God’s anointed one”, the “righteous”, “the servant of almighty God”; exhibiting a sinful spirit of rebelliousness, or being un-submissive.  In some cases, rallying the support of a church disciplinary team to take action against the victim of the psychopath minister.  It fosters an attitude of “them” vs. “us”, leaving the victim feeling alienated and tormented for trying to get help.  Psychology tells us that once a person is marked as an “enemy”, the other “true” believers rally around their in-the-closet psychopathic leader to form an even stronger protective shield.
  8. Psychopath ministers hold a position of authority which not only is associated with trust but often demands it.  When this happens, people are quick to be less cautious, and quick to turn a blind eye to questionable practises.
  9. Predators or psychopaths in ministerial roles are quick to realize that if called into question for their actions, their position of spiritual authority makes it very easy to evoke a higher deity, claiming they were acting under God’s direction.
  10. Most religious organizations do not provide any form of psychological screening for those seeking ordination, making it very easy for psychopaths and predators to slip in “under the radar”.
  11. As a minister, it’s very easy to feed a self-absorbed trait, by raising one’s self up above the members of the congregation.
  12. In a church setting, most parents would rarely imagine that their minister would act inappropriately if left unattended around their children.

Spiritual abuse is very real in this day and age.  Spiritual Abuse describes any process by which a religious authority misuses their power and the trust of their congregational members individually or collectively in order to meet their own needs or the needs of the system.

It’s important to state that many evangelical churches which appear to stand behind sound and solid Biblical doctrine can be considered as identifiable dangerous cults when they practice techniques of mental, psychological, social, relational, or physical manipulation and indoctrination.




Hare, RD. 1993. Without Conscience. Guilford Press: New York, NY.

Hare, R. (1991) The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised. Toronto: Multi-Health Systems.

Hare, R. (1993) Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths among us. NY: Pocket Books.

Hare, R. (1996) Psychopathy: A clinical construct whose time has come. Criminal Justice and Behavior 23:25-54.

Hiatt KD, Newman JP. 2006. Understanding psychopathy: The cognitive side. In: Patrick CJ, editor. Handbook of Psychopathy. Guilford Press; New York, NY, pp. 334–352.

Kiehl, KA., and Buckholtz, JW. 2010. Inside the mind of a psychopath. Scientific American Mind, September/October: 22-29.

Lilienfeld SO, Andrews BP. 1996. Development and preliminary validation of a self-report measure of psychopathic personality traits in noncriminal populations. Journal of Personality Assessment 66:488–524.

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