Righteous indignation is typically a reactive emotion of anger over perceived mistreatment, insult, or malice. It is akin to what is called the sense of injustice. In some Christian doctrines, righteous indignation is considered the only form of anger which is not sinful, e.g., when Jesus drove the money lenders out of the temple (Gospel of Matthew 21).
This is one element of life in which science and religion agree. Righteous, in a religious context (Christian in paragraphs 1 and 2 although Judaism and other religions agree), means acting in accord with divine or moral law or free from guilt or sin. It may also refer to a morally right or justifiable decision or action or to an action which arises from an outraged sense of justice or morality. (See third paragraph below) "Indignation" is anger aroused by something unjust, mean, or unworthy. The Standard Dictionary describes indignation as a "feeling involving anger mingled with contempt or disgust".
Daniel Whitby argues that "Anger is not always sinful", in that it is found among non-sinners. For example, Jesus was "angry with the Pharisees for the hardness of their hearts; yet He had no desire to revenge this sin upon them, but had a great compassion for them". In Scott's comment on Ephesians 4:26, he notes that "...on many occasions, in the management of families, in reproving sin, and even in ordering their temporal concerns", anger is permitted of Christians. Nevertheless, Scott cautions that Christians should aim to "....be very circumspect and vigilant to restrain that dangerous passion within the bounds of reason, meekness, piety, and charity; not being angry without cause, or above cause, or in a proud, selfish, and peevish manner." Scott argues that Christians should not express anger in the "language of vehement indignation".
In scientific context, Newton's Law of Motion states every action produces an equal and opposite reaction. 'Equal and opposite reaction' applies to more than motion. It is universal law with which most religions agree. Any reaction, scientific or personal, must be tempered by original action. Science has no choice in tempering reaction to action. We humans do. The accepted dictionary definition of 'righteous' is 'morally right or justifiable.' It is moral code among most non-criminal, sane populations in civilized societies. Self defense is righteous indignation. Laws in many nations agree. Defensive behavior in reaction to insult or damage to one's life, state of mind, family, possessions, finances, lifestyle or other component of life is righteous and just as long as it is in measure with action. Scott is correct. Vigilance is necessary for justifiable (equal and opposite) reaction. Killing someone for a traffic infraction is not righteous indignation, it is vehement and out of bounds with reason. Anger at someone who cheated you is morally right and justifiable as long as reaction is proportionate to offensive action.
- Craig L. Adams. "Righteous Indignation". Homepage.mac.com. Retrieved 2010-03-19.
- Daniel Whitby, D.D. "A critical commentary and paraphrase on the Old and New Testament and the Apocrypha". www.archive.org. Retrieved 2011-01-03.
- An Open Letter to Researchers of Addiction, Brain Chemistry and Social Psychology. David Brin, science fiction author: Brin encourages researchers to explore whether emotional states such as righteous indignation might be just as addictive as many illegal substances.