Afterlife and Reincarnation Part 5 Critics of Reincarnation

An explanation of the beliefs different religions have about the afterlife and reincarnation, the critics of reincarnation.

Afterlife and Reincarnation

Reincarnation has been attacked from many points of view. Some say that it leads to apathy--that if you see a person dying in the street you will say, "Oh, it's his karma," and let him lie there. It is true that the rigid Indian caste system was a product of early reincarnationist thought which maintained that it was your karma to be born into a certain position in life, and that you could not change this. Every religion has its positive and its negative aspects (Christianity had its Inquisition), and this cannot be denied. However, the enlightened reincarnationist holds that helping the dying person may earn positive karma, that there may even be a karmic debt involved, and so he helps. Some believe that this would involve the same soul: i.e., "A" needs help, and "B" gives it because, whether they are aware of it or not, either "A" helped "B" in a previous life or "B" harmed "A." "B" now has a chance to cancel the debt. A less personal credo holds that karmic debts are to humankind as a whole, and an act of kindness may cancel a debt even though it is not to the individual involved in the original debt.

Skeptics say that reincarnation is wishful thinking on the part of those who don't like to face the prospect of death. However, for many people reincarnation is not desired, because the aim is to perfect oneself beyond the need for further earth lives. There is also a growing quantity of scientifically researched material suggesting that reincarnation may be more than wishful thinking. Ian Stevenson of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville has a huge collection of cases in which people have claimed to remember previous lives. In many cases a young child has given sufficient information to enable its family to find the family to which the child says it used to belong. There are cases in which Stevenson could find no way that the child could have gained information about the "previous family," and yet he or she gave a great deal of information later found to be accurate and specific to that family. The claim that these people are possessed by the spirits of the previous individuals is sometimes countered by actual physical evidence, such as birth-marks that exactly resemble scars or death wounds of the previous personality.

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