Religion, Crime and Punishment – CAUSES OF CRIME

Causes of Crime

There are many factors, which may lead a person to commit a crime:

  • Upbringing – if a person is brought up surrounded by crime or never taught what actions are considered wrong then this may lead them to a life of crime
  • Mental Illness – a person may struggle to understand right and wrong or not have any sense of consequences. Some may be easily led into crime or have been victims of an abusive upbringing
  • Poverty – a person may have no job or money and have no other way to survive
  • Addiction – a person may turn to crime to feed an addiction such as drink, drugs or gambling
  • Greed – some criminals simply want what others have
  • Poor education – often linked to poverty as those with few qualifications may struggle to find a job
  • Opposition to existing laws – some people will break the law as they see it as an unfair law. Sometimes laws have to be broken in order to change them eg Martin Luther King


Exam Tip – Make sure you can explain some of these causes of crime. However, also try to question each one eg do all people in poverty turn to crime? Do those suffering from mental illnesses need more support to help them avoid crime?


Good and Evil

There are those who would suggest that those who commit the worst crimes are evil.  Many thought that Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were ‘evil’ due to the nature of their crimes, which involved the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of innocent children.


What would religion say about evil?



  • Evil is the abuse of freewill given to humans by God. Humans choose to do evil things. God gives us freewill as it is the most loving thing to do but humans often abuse that gift.
  • Human nature is naturally slanted towards carrying out evil acts. This is due to the ‘Fall’ of mankind after Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit. This is the idea of Original Sin. Many Christians believe all humans are born tainted by the sin of Adam. (See section on Original Sin in Beliefs and Teachings Revision Guide)
  • Many Christians believe that a fallen angel called Lucifer became the Devil after being expelled from Heaven for challenging God. Evil is the result of the Devil tempting humans to behave badly.
  • Perhaps evil allows us to understand what good is? Can good sometimes come out of evil eg the positive response to terrorist attacks when people work together to care for others.



  • Muslims also believe in the Devil called Iblis. Iblis was a sprit called a Jinn. Allah cursed Iblis for refusing to bow down to Adam as Allah’s greatest creation. Iblis was also responsible for Adam and Eve’s disobedience. For Muslims, criminal activity shows that a believer has given into temptation caused by Ibis and acted against Allah’s will. Humans can be weak willed and make mistakes.


Non Religious Views On Evil

  • Some would say that all humans have the potential to do evil but other factors such as a poor upbringing or poverty might make some people more likely to commit evil acts. Evil is a psychological force


Exam Tip – Look at these possible 12 mark questions. Think about how you would answer them. Remember, you need to show arguments both for and against the statement as well as religious views and quotes wherever possible. If you are not sure, please ask your teacher in class or via e mail.


  • ‘All humans are born with the ability to be evil’
  • ‘People are not evil, they just do evil things’
  • ‘Evil has to be punished severely’

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