T Nation

Righteousness; Secular & Biblical


Interested in answers from religious people and atheists. What is righteousness?


Using the right browser.


In a nutshell, a state of legal guiltlessness, right standing and hence general rightNESS with God on God's own terms.


So striving to 'do good' is not enough. There are preconditions such as faith and obeying the laws etc How much 'good' is a man capable of without meeting these conditions?

EDIT: I should point out, I don't mean 'righteous' as in dikaios - observant of customs or law. I mean righteous as in ethical, virtuous, morally upright; using 'honest scales and honest weights' so to speak. How much 'good' is a man capable of doing without faith?


Depends on how he wants to define 'good.' If he defines it conveniently, he can be righteous just by being himself, whatever that is.



Unbelievers accomplish mountains of personally non-saving "good" by the common grace of God whereby He governs, restrains and temporally blesses even them for His glory. Were it not for the common grace of the perfect God men would destroy each other and themselves by dinnertime.

As I said about six moths ago now:

As far as their relationship with God is concerned? Absolutely none in their fallen state. All that is not of faith is sin. Even the above recognized earthly good is as filthy rags before his spotless holiness defined entirely by Himself. Sloth will not agree with this post so I'm not presuming to speak for him. His Catholic view will be much more to the liking of your unbelief.


Very good point. That's why I put it in quotation marks. So let's just assume I mean the ethical points of agreement between atheists and believers. Perhaps 'righteous' is the wrong word to use because of its biblical origins but I meant it in the secular sense. I'm interested in what atheists and believers can agree upon, where they disagree and what they believe in relation to ethics.


Maybe I had that coming. I was quite rude to you when I first started posting here. I didn't realise you were arguing from a doctrinal position that is important to you. I don't know much about Catholic or Protestant theology beyond the basics. However I can assure you I don't 'hate God.' I was interested to learn a bit more about something I'm always defending.


I honestly wasn't responding to any rudeness on your part. I was simply making a statement. What are you always defending?


I don't know. Do atheists have a pope, bishops, a creed, or some sort of authoritative documentation that identifies the doctrines of the one true atheism? I'm not sure atheism attempts to offer an ethical system much less identify conduct unbecoming of an atheist (well, except for a belief in the divine). On an individual level an atheist can 'believe' adultery is wrong, for example. Then again, another could find no fault with it. There isn't really a doctrine or tradition to consult. So, on the individual level, yes and no. As a group, no.


Many, many people have been killed in religious conflict. Contrary to your belief, most religion does not cause peace as it inherently divides people into "us and them".

In response to the original post, I think that righteousness would be benevolence and humaneness toward others. The golden rule if you want to call it that.


I'm always defending organised religion.

I find it disappointing that sectarianism comes up immediately. The reason I identify strongly as a Catholic has nothing to do with theology. It may seem funny to you but I identify as a Catholic because of my family history. For instance, one of my ancestors had her jaw broken with a Black and Tan's rifle stock when she 11-years-old, and left to run the family farm(brothers killed in Belgium/France in service of Britian.) This is just one example. The conflict in Northern Ireland has nothing to do with doctrinal matters or even religion. Merely being a Catholic deprived one of basic rights. This was true in the colonies and the new world also. A Catholic name would usually prevent one from a receiving a commission or a job in the higher ranks of the civil service. This is why my family were so pleased when JFK was elected.

Doctrinal matters are a different thing. I know enough about the history of the Catholic church and the reformation to know that there is much that could be said to reflect badly upon the behaviour of certain higher level Catholics and members of the different Protestant branches(litotes anyone?)

Regardless, I was hoping to start a discussion to find out what people believe about ethics, ethical behaviour etc


I see what you mean by 'as a group.' But it cannot be denied that, although we gained a set of ethics from the Hebrew bible and the New Testatment, polytheist and atheist philosophers contributed much to ethics. Thomas Aquinas for instance, drew heavily from Platonic and Aristotelian ethics.


Like I said, it depends on the individual, not on the atheism. Their atheism wouldn't really be relevant. If an atheist holds that cheating on a spouse is 'wrong', it isn't his atheism which informs him of this. Plainly stated, there is no common ground between theistic religion and atheism. Atheism only claims a disbelief in the Divine. And obviously we disagree with the only atheistic 'dogma' there is.

We can be in agreement with individuals that adultery is wrong, however they arrived at that conclusion. But we can not be in agreement with 'atheists' that adultery is wrong.


Well I don't like atheists as a group and I'm not defending atheism. I wouldn't call myself an atheist either. But amongst atheists and agnostics there would presumably be many who have yet to receive the word or who are struggling with their faith.

I'd like to see an end to sectarian disputes over doctrinal matters amongst the branches of Christianity. I'm not saying they have to come to terms on doctrinal matters, just find ways to further their shared interests and resolve tensions. I would also like to see more bipartisanship on social issues with atheists/agnostics. And when I say 'bipartisanship' I'm thinking the heathens should have to make massive concessions to the religious right on social issues...as a group that is. But maybe that's too much to expect.


This is untrue. Although the only bible study I did was at school and I didn't pay much attention, I spent two years at an Anglican school where I vaguely remember some convincing arguments disputing authorship and other arguments against various Jesuit 'dogma.' I have a great reverence for the ceremony and pageantry of the Catholic church though. But I also admire the austere nature of Calvanism and Lutheranism. Spiritually I would probably veer more towards some form of Protestantism. Possibly Anglicanism. But I have a sort of cultural allegiance to Catholicism like many of the Jacobites had. I find it difficult to culturally reconcile with Anglicism. And I'm interested in hearing about doctrinal interpretations/explanation but the idea of the thread was to find some common ground on ethics.


I would like to commit venial sins with her.

EDIT: I have clicked on that image to enlarge it several times. I do appreciate your contribution. ")


The God I'm talking about hates the "religion" you're talking about infinitely more than you do.

I'm not.

You are being very decent to me, "good" if you will, in this thread so it is with some regret that I must disappoint you further.

The reason Sloth does not agree with my above post has everything to do with theology. However your theology free identification as a Catholic is very very common =] Actually there's a whole satanic movement in protestantism that also strives to be theology free called the "emergent church". Identification with the gospel of Jesus Christ on the other hand is by definition a theological statement and one with clearly identifiable parameters set by God Himself outside of which there is no righteousness.

This is the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ the apostle Paul warned the Corinthians not to be led astray from by the serpent like he did mother Eve. The Roman Catholic Church is the, I do mean THEEE textbook, THEEE divine dictionary definition of abandoning the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ and teaching as doctrines the traditions of men. Doctrines of demons I might add.

What does this have to do with this thread? Everything. The RCC teaches, since Vat.II, that there is divine truth in all religions and shoot, actually divine good in their members. Peaceable islamists for instance who pursue God to the best of their ability with the light that they have may indeed receive the grace of Christ for their effort despite overtly denying everything He said about Himself. People of all religions should cooperate to bring a greater state of peace, tranquility and prosperity to the world. See? Now don't you like that better than what you'll call my version of "good"? Of course you do. Because despite your being cordial to me here, which I do appreciate, you are an unbeliever with no desire to see the risen Christ of God glorified. Your desire is to see man, you, made more comfortable and you perceive "organized religion", practiced non theologically of course, as a means to that end.

That word, thought or deed is formally "good" insofar as it conforms to the law and character of the creator God who is THE definer and sovereign ruler of absolutely everything. That is not the same as that word, thought or deed which is acceptable to God which is only possible if carried out in self conscious submission to the living risen Christ. I say again. For the 10,000th time. EPISTEMOLOGY IS EVERYTHING. Until we know HOW we know anything at all, questions of WHAT we know about anything at all are meaningless.

The reason I opened my eyes this morning and the reason for everything else I am or have is to see the glory of my beloved Lord shed abroad in the earth. Any other reason is sin from which no righteousness can be spawned.


I appreciate your answer. I must say I am concerned about anti-Catholic rhetoric in some branches of Protestantism but I am interested in learning about important doctrinal differences. I will be following the "free will" thread with interest. Perhaps tomorrow I might have some comments about your above reply. I'll need to give it some more thought.

EDIT: RE free will; I've always had a strong belief that man has free will. But that doesn't necessarily rule out predestination. I also believe that there is a force of 'good' and a force of 'evil,' and that they have both acted upon history and that they are both connected with the destiny of mankind.


I don't know? On social issues like gay marriage and abortion there really isn't room for bipartisanship. Again, an atheist, as an individual, could or couldn't have a pro stance on either of two . It's not like a council of atheists can credibly agree with Catholics, for instance, on the wrongness of the two. Well, they could, but they'd only speak for themselves. As for sectarian disputes, that can't happen so long as there are sects. It should simply remain peaceful and civil. And most of us understand the proper place and time for engaging in such disputes (through word, not sword). So, we often do have time away from yelling at each other in order to work together on shared goals (pro-life movement, etc.)