As a believer myself, I was curious to discover how much evidence there was to support the concept of reincarnation. I was gratified to discover so much support for the belief we return to this life again and again until we achieve a state of perfection worthy of our creator. Especially since I could never quite reconcile myself to the idea we’re only given one chance to get our lives right. Why bother? Even under the best conditions, life is complicated and difficult and unfair. Some souls are born into incredible luxury, while others are forced to overcome crushing poverty and insane violence to make their way in the world. The theory of karma being carried over from previous incarnations to account for such disparities takes away some of the sting of life’s most blatant inequities.
Reincarnation remains a central precept of several major religions. Christian believers point to a number of biblical passages that seem to imply reincarnation was an accepted premise of the early church. Some of the most compelling evidence is offered by cases of young children who claim to remember their previous incarnations. When remaining family members of the children’s former incarnations were contacted, they confirmed the children’s memories. They believed the children could only know such things about their deceased loved ones if they were indeed their reincarnated souls.
Opponents of reincarnation argue the biblical passages implying its validity are misinterpreted, its millions of believers are deluded, and the children claiming to remember their previous lives are simply attention seekers. In the most convincing cases of memories from previous incarnations, detractors propose a possible explanation of the existence of a collective, universal consciousness that some souls are able to link to, thus explaining the children’s detailed knowledge of events they could have no possible knowledge of.
It didn’t take me long to realize my research wasn’t going to uncover any definitive proof to support one side or the other. After all, how does one prove what science is unable to verify? What struck me though was how many of the articles I read were less a rational presentation of the evidence and were instead little more than thinly veiled attacks on the intelligence and gullibility of those holding the opposing view.
Regardless of which side we’re on, it is apparently an unenviable human trait that leads us to ridicule those holding beliefs in opposition to our own. When those beliefs are challenged we strike out. If we are unable to successfully challenge the validity of our opponent’s argument, we assault their intelligence, their background, their parents, and even their appearance.
If our smallness of mind constitutes a karmic fault we can work to overcome in subsequent incarnations we should all pray we receive the opportunity to do so. Do any of us really want to carry our prejudices, our petty judgments, and our small acts of cruelty to lay before the feet of our creator at the end of this life? If this one existence is the only one we’re given, shouldn’t we be nicer to each other? Shouldn’t we share our surplus, promote peace in this troubled world, and do whatever we can to alleviate the suffering all around us? Is it wise to waste what little time we have on hate and division?
So maybe wishful thinking does account for a portion of reincarnation’s support. If we are judged by what we do with only this one life, how many of us would leave this world assured of our place in heaven?