In his essay on wrath, Jack Miles writes that the wrathful God of the Bible changed when he came down from heaven to save his fallen creation. Miles sees the God of the New Testament as a more merciful God who has given up smiting and punishing. While different religions have varying visions of the wrathful or merciful qualities of God, nearly all agree that believers must eschew anger. Use this guide to see where the five major religions stand on wrath.

A Buddhist precepts insists, "Don't be angry." Buddhism teaches that anger is a result of attachments.

One of the most important Buddhist texts, the Dhammapada, devotes an entire chapter to anger. Anger is a fetter, an attachment that keeps one in a cycle of rebirths. "Abandon anger," the Dhammapada says. "Be done with conceit, get beyond every fetter. When for name & form you have no attachment--have nothing at all--no sufferings, no stresses, invade.(Dhammapada 17) "

"Conquer anger with lack of anger," the Dhammapada advises in the same chapter.

The Sodhanna Sutra teaches that becoming angry is the best way to please one's enemy, since anger brings about seven things that are pleasing to an enemy. For example, a person overcome with anger, says the sutra, is ugly, sleeps badly, has a poor reputation, and has other qualities pleasing to one's enemy. Read the complete section on anger from the sutra here.

Buddhists believe that meditation can soothe anger. Sensei Pat Enkyo O'Hara has written that working to experience one's anger can help one allay it and learn from it.

Anger itself is not always a sin in Christianity, but anger can be especially harmful if one commits further wrongs while one is angry. "In your anger do not sin," Paul cautions (Ephesians 4:26).

As Jack Miles has written, Christianity turned previous notions of godly anger upside down. While the God of the Old Testament is often depicted as a wrathful God, Jesus preached love and forgiveness instead of anger, and reconciliation over vengeance. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus denounced anger: "But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire (Matthew 5:22)."

The New Testament's Epistle of James contains one of the most explicit Christian condemnations of anger. "My dear brothers," James says, "take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires (James 1:19-20)."

Jesus rebuked his disciples for leaning toward vengeance when they were angry, instead of toward reconciliation. When James and John ask Jesus, about the unbelieving Samaritans, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?," the Gospel explains, "Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village (Luke 9:54-56)."

Hinduism teaches that anger is one of the qualities that results in rebirth and inability to reach Brahman. As the Bhagavad Gita says, "Life after life I cast those who are malicious, hateful, cruel, and degraded into the wombs of those with similar demonic natures. Birth after birth they find themselves with demonic tendencies (16:19)."

As it further explains, renouncing anger is necessary to reach life's ultimate goal. The Gita continues, "There are three gates to this self-destructive hell: lust, anger, and greed. Renounce these three. Those who escape from these three gates of darkness, Arjuna, seek what is best and attain life's supreme goal. Others disregard the teachings of the scriptures. Driven by selfish desire, they miss the goal of life, miss even happiness and success (16:20-23).


One Hindu story in the Mahabharata teaches the difference between a man of forgiveness and a man of wrath. The Mahabharata describes the man of wrath as someone "surrounded by darkness," who "is hated by both relatives and strangers. Such a man, because he insults others, suffers loss of wealth and reaps disregard and sorrow and hatred and confusion and enemies."