• David Schrader, PhD

Calloused Consciences



If you have watched any US news over the last several months, you cannot help but notice a disturbing trend towards a conscienceless society.


Normally, a person who has a conscience is said to have an innate sense of what is right or wrong. This is the result of God's laws being written on everyone's hearts. This is true even of people who have never acknowledged God's existence. The Apostle Paul describes the role of conscience as follows: "Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right (Romans 2:13-16)." This was evident, for example, in the life of the 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant when he believed in God, freedom, and immortality on the basis of conscience.


The existence of conscience argues strongly for God’s existence and reveals something about his nature; namely, that God always does what is right and that he punishes the transgression of his laws. The Christian knows that behind conscience is a God who is personal, ethical, self-revealing, and the Creator, Sustainer, and moral Governor of the universe.


So, how do we account then for those individuals who appear to have no conscience at all? Society labels them as psychopaths, sociopaths or narcissists. It's not that these people have no conscience, even though it may appear like that, it's just that their conscience has become calloused and hardened. The Apostle Paul says that these types of people have consciences that are dead, or as another translation puts it, "seared by a hot iron" (1Tim. 4:2). And, elsewhere, a person's conscience can be said to be even evil (see Hebrews 10:22).


At one point, these types of people seemed like they were the exception; but now they are fast becoming the norm – and they are getting younger all the time.


For example, recently, two Texas 14-year-olds were charged with murder in the death of a 31-year-old Fort Worth mother of three who was killed while dropping off an Uber Eats delivery. [1]


In another instance, two teenage girls ages 13 and 15, were charged in the death of 66-year-old Mohammad Anwar, an Uber Eats delivery driver. They tasered him while attempting to carjack his car, causing his car to crash and forcing Anwar to be fatally flung from the car.[2] After the accident, the only visible concern on the part of one of the teens was where her cell phone was. Their sentence – juvenile detention for six years. [3]


The lack of culpability and concern for Anwar, who was lying dead in the street, prompted one person to post the following comments to the news story, "Absent from the teens lives? Lack of parental responsibility, control, guidance, values, and most of all respect for others and self. This is the result of moral decay."[4]


There was also the case of 18-year-old Darriynn Brown. Video footage from a baby monitor, exclusively obtained by the DailyMail.com, shows Darriynn Brown, breaking into a Dallas home and taking 4-year-old Cash Gernon in the early Saturday morning hours. Gernon had been asleep near his twin brother when he was kidnapped.


Cash Gernon's body was found about an hour and 45 minutes later with multiple wounds, lying in a pool of blood on a street about a half-mile from his home. Authorities said he was stabbed with an "edged weapon." Brown was reportedly wearing an ankle monitor at the time of the incident. He has since been charged with kidnapping and murder. [5]


And what can be said for the carnage that happened on the July 4th weekend in the US where 189 people were fatally shot and over 500 were injured across the US? [6] Many of the victims and perpetrators were young people.


How can we explain such calloused behavior and such disregard for human life? Some will attribute this to social ills and mental illness. But if that is so, then how do we explain the thousands of Nazi troops who disregarded their consciences when they killed millions of Jews during WWII? Were they all just socially disadvantaged and mentally disturbed or had their consciences been overcome by evil?


Hitler and his health minister made it known to leaders in the medical field that, according to a secret decision made at the highest level, it was necessary to get rid of "useless mouths" — the insane, the terminally ill, children, and elderly people. Few in the German medical profession believed it worthy or good to refuse. Thus, instead of bringing assistance and comfort to the sick people who needed them most, these doctors became their executioners. [7]

Nazi doctors did their work without any apparent crisis of conscience. Thus, the doctors who tortured, tormented, and killed men and women in the concentration camps for "medical" reasons had no moral misgivings. Human guinea pigs, prisoners both young and not so young, weakened or still in good health, operated on without anesthesia were subjected to unspeakable suffering and agony in laboratories managed by doctors from the best German families and the most prestigious German universities. [8]


And now, seventy-six years later, what is to be said of a society that fought against Hitler but now allows thousands of children to be killed by medical practitioners through abortion every year in Canada? We have apparently learned little in our regard for life. We are witnessing an ever expanding conscienceless society?


Hitler knew that too much of a “good” conscience was not a good thing. If you ever visit Auschwitz, you'll see a huge sign at the entrance with Hitler's words: “I want to raise a generation devoid of conscience." Isn't it ironic that Hitler, a madman, attempted to raise a generation devoid of conscience but failed because the civilized world rose up against him? Yet, here in North America, our "civilized" society through moral indifference and permissiveness is doing exactly what Hitler tried to do. If we believe like Hitler, that there is no God to whom we are accountable, no conscience that is to be informed with biblical morality, then what is to restrain us from wickedness or immoral behaviour?

So unrelenting is this decadence on our sensibilities, that many grow numb, finding resignation to be the rational, adaptive response to an environment that is increasingly polluted and apparently beyond our control.


Emile Durkheim, considered to be the founder of sociology, suggested that there is a limit to the amount of deviant behavior any community can “afford to recognize.” [9] So if this is true, then a pressing question has to be asked – “Have we reached our limit, or are there new “heights” to which we will go as a society in our efforts to embrace more aberrant behavior? Durkheim also postulated that as societal behaviour worsened, the community would adjust its standards so that the conduct once thought reprehensible would no longer be deemed to be so. I am sure the reader can see multiple examples of where our society has adjusted its standards to become more accepting of abhorrent behaviour.


When a society is governed by whatever feels right – not by a conscience instructed in biblical morality – we should not be surprised to see the unconscionable happening all around us.


For example, Walgreens stores in San Francisco have had to close 17 of their stores [10] because San Francisco County District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s Proposition 47 made any nonviolent theft of items collectively worth $950 only a misdemeanor, decreasing the penalties for such crimes. [11] Consequently, looters have been caught on video in broad daylight filling duffle bags and walking out of stores while security guards watch helplessly. [12]


When governments or a society in general move their benchmarks from what was once labeled as unlawful in favour of greater leniency, we must ask the following question, “Why is deviancy and lawlessness being defined ever upwards in terms of acceptability? What good can be expected from such leniency? Isaiah warned, "What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter" (Isaiah 5:20-21).


Our consciences are supposed to be smitten with a sense of culpability whenever we do something wrong. And this is especially true if they have been inculcated in biblical morality. But is the legal system attributing to this lack of conscionable culpability? Washington, DC, Police Chief Robert Contee, seems to think so. He said D.C. is victimized by a "vicious cycle" of repeat offenders getting arrested and then turned around to the street less than a month later.[14] Also, in New York State, a cashless bail law has created a merry-go-round of arrest, immediate release, new crime, arrest, immediate release, repeat. [15] How is this response from the courts helping to create a culpable conscience or a respect for law? There is no longer a fear of breaking God's moral laws and the courts in many instances seem to be complicit.


Dear friends, does it not trouble you that you live in a society where people are always victims and never villains; where they are always deprived but never depraved? People now excuse any crime because they can always blame someone or something else instead of themselves. In this “golden age” of exoneration, guilt is dismissed as the illusion of narrow minds, where no one is accountable. G. K. Chesterton once said, "the doctrine of original sin is the only philosophy empirically validated by the centuries of recorded human history."


Our current radical and social experiment in selfish indulgence will never work when people know of no higher basis for morality than their own feelings. We must have an objective moral standard. And I believe that standard is the Bible.


Cultivating a strong conscience though must begin in early childhood. For centuries, we have understood that fathers and mothers taught their children the basic rules of civil behavior and moral conduct. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount for example were taught to thousands of children in Sunday School as a foundation for moral knowledge. These things were the bedrock of establishing a moral consciousness in society and have been so for centuries. But secular humanism and social experimentation sought to correct the "Christian ills" by leading us into a promising utopian era of permissiveness. Instead, they have created a dark dystopian reality.


Historian Will Durant believed that no civilized society has ever been able to survive in human history that did not have a strong moral code. Nor, he added, has there ever been a moral code that was not formed by religion.


An informed conscience, instructed by Biblical morality, can be like an inner compass –pointing and guiding us into righteous behaviour. The biblical author of the book of Hebrews acknowledged this when he said that "by constant use of God’s Word, people can train themselves to distinguish good from evil (see Heb. 5:14)."


Unfortunately, when the Bible is disregarded, and no higher standard is appealed to other than one's subjectivity, then our consciences will be deadened to the guidance and voice of a loving God.


We must guard our churches against such moral subjectivity. If it enters the church and the Bible is no longer appealed to as our objective standard, the church becomes unable to be what it should be, a bulwark against subjectivism, immorality and the corruption of conscience.



[1] Michael Ruiz, https://www.foxnews.com/us/texas-14-year-olds-charged-with-murder-in-death-of-mother-of-three [2] Bradford Betz, https://www.foxnews.com/us/botched-dc-carjacking-victim-flung-from-car-to-his-death-teens-charged-with-his-murder-police [3] Louis Casiano, "Girl, 14, sentenced in death of Uber Eats driver Mohammad Anwar Teen sentenced to juvenile detention until she turns 21", https://www.foxnews.com/us/girl-juvenile-killing-uber-eats-mohammad-anwar, July 6, 2021. [4] Ibid. [5] CBSDFW.com Staff, Darriynn Brown’s Charges Upgraded To Capital Murder In Death Of 4-Year-Old Cash Gernon In Dallas June 9, 2021, https://dfw.cbslocal.com/2021/06/09/darriynn-brown-charges-upgraded-capital-murder-death-cash-gernon-dallas/ [6]Austin Williams, "Shootings killed nearly 200 people in US over July Fourth weekend, Gun Violence Archive says", https://www.fox13news.com/news/shootings-killed-nearly-200-people-in-us-over-july-fourth-weekend-gun-violence-archive-says, July 6, 2021. [7] Elie Weasel, The New England Journal of Medicine, 352:15, April 14, 2005, http://d167fnf1dzauu4.cloudfront.net/2016/07/Without-Conscience-by-Elie-Wiesel-2.pdf. [8] Ibid. [9] Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Defining Deviancy Down,” The American Scholar, Winter, 1993, P. 19 [10] Nikolus Lanum, Geraldo, Leo Terrell slam San Francisco over shoplifting surge: 'Destruction of civilized community', https://www.foxnews.com/media/san-francisco-shoplifting-walgreens-video-geraldo-rivera-leo-terrell [11] Stephane Bagones, San Francisco Walgreens shoplifter seen filling bag with stolen goods arrested while 'clearing shelves':cops, https://www.foxnews.com/us/san-francisco-walgreens-shoplifter-stolen-goods-arrested-police [12] Jorge Fitz Gibbon, San Francisco cops say viral Walgreens shoplifting incident is par for the course,https://nypost.com/2021/06/16/san-fran-cops-walgreens-shoplift-incident-is-par-for-the-course/, June 16, 2021. Jake Dima, Looters ransack San Francisco Neiman Marcus in broad daylight: Video, July 6, 2021. [13] https://twitter.com/kamalaharris/status/1267555018128965643?lang=en And Tyler Olsen, Biden VP pick Harris promoted group that put up bail for alleged violent criminals, Fox News, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/biden-vp-pick-harris-promoted-group-that-put-up-bail-for-alleged-violent-criminals, August 12, 2020. [14] David Rutz and Louis Casiano, DC police chief blasts justice system after latest shooting: 'You cannot coddle violent criminals', Fox News, July 23, 2021. See also, Louis Casiano, New York man arrested 3 times in 1 day; police say bail-reform law to blame https://www.foxnews.com/us/new-york-man-arrested-3-times-1-day-bail-reform-law, Fox News, February 19, 2020. and Emma Coulton, NYPD commissioner asks 'how can they be released' after 10-year-old assaulted in own bedroom, Fox News, https://www.foxnews.com/us/nypd-commissioner-bail-reform-repeat-criminals, Fox News, July 30, 2021.

[15] Lee Zeldin, New York’s cashless bail law endangers law-abiding residents, Fox News, https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/rep-lee-zeldin-new-yorks-cashless-bail-law-endangers-law-abiding-residents, January 17, 2020.

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