I’ve seen a few threads on here going over this topic, but I wanted to dive a bit more into detail.
I’ve recently seen plenty of information regarding reincarnation research and there is some scary stuff out there. I’ve seen plenty of studies from researchers like Ian Stevenson and Jim Tucker studying children with past-life memories. It’s a bit crazy how accurate some of these stories are. Some of the children are able to remember very specific details that don’t appear to be simply “false memories.”
I have yet to find much arguments against this, from both the Christian side and the science side. Most of the arguments I have seen against the research is that the children just have bad memories. But given the verifiability of many of the statements made, it seems a bit naive to make that statement. There is also a growing hypothesis that consciousness could be a quantum matter and that explains the phenomenon of reincarnation. Of course I myself have no recollection of a past life, but looking at how a majority of the children in the studies claim to have died “violently,” that could explain the memory retention. Some people also argue using conservation of energy, stating that we are energy and that once we die that energy goes somewhere else (or in this case a new body).
I have grown very concerned over this, as I myself have no desire to be reincarnated. I have tried to find research on the subject, but when I Google evidence against it, I don’t get much. What could be an alternate explanation for the accuracies of these “past-life” memories?
When someone claims to have invented a perpetual motion machine, I do not bother with the details. No matter how clever the pitch, I simply dismiss it as a fabrication, a fraud. Others may find that arrogant and unjustified. What justification do I have to write something off without digging down to know more about it? I just don’t care. Perpetual motion machines do not exist, so done.
I take the same attitude to reincarnation - I see no possible scientific or theological basis, so fabrication and fraud, or possibly a good deal of suggestion, are my alternate explanation.
My brief reading of reported cases has involved children who “remembered” a previous life that ended unnaturally,tragically, and before reaching an advanced age. Have you noticed the same thing? or not?.
A fact that supports an argument against reincarnation is that out of the millions of people who have actually died unnaturally, only a few people now living seem to have any memory of ever having lived in a previous lifetime, and I have yet to read of anyone remembering being a nonhuman animal in a previous lifetime. How about you?
From what I can see, a lot of the subjects of Stevenson’s research were from India or other cultures where reincarnation is already a common belief. The power of suggestion can be very strong. Otherwise, I’d be curious how many of the claims made by these children are genuinely falsifiable.
I have recurring dream elements that bear no resemblance to anyplace I’ve actually been and was told once those are evidence of former life memories. For a couple that’s not possible because they involve aspects that are definitely from my lifetime, but some others can’t be so easily ruled out.
I wouldn’t object to being reincarnated if I could keep what I have learned in this life; there are times I find myself thinking that I’ve grown enough that I could handle being a teenager without all the confusion and hurt from betrayal and abuse – so I guess my concept for incarnation would be getting a chance to grow emotionally and spiritually, building on what was learned before; if reincarnation was just a recycling of my ‘soul’ with no remembrance of what I’d learned before I don’t see the point, it would feel like being a rusty can kicked back in the ditch along the road with no hope of getting un-rusted or even back out of the ditch.
As for the accuracy of the alleged memories, an Orthodox priest I knew put a Jungian spin on it, saying that memories that are heavily emotionally charged resonate in the racial subconscious and from time to time connect with new souls, so a child can have accurate memories from before they were born but those memories aren’t theirs.
I haven’t thought about it much, but from what little I’ve read and heard I like the Jungian racial subconscious idea.
I suspect the Catholics do as well, but I know for a fact that the Orthodox have substantial archives of authorized exorcisms – and since I have experienced a demonic presence I am inclined to believe that they know what they’re talking about.
While that is true, there have been some cases in the Western world. There’s a documentary series called “Ghost Inside my Child” that has several cases from the U.S. including a boy claiming to have died in 9/11 and a high schooler claiming to be a WWII fighter pilot.
I was present when a friend got into an argument with a Pentecostal Christian who firmly believed in reincarnation and was trying to convince a small group of people. My friend pulled out his pocket New Testament and when there was a pause waved it for attention and then read that verse. The reincarnation advocate started to say, “Yes, but” and my friend cut him off, reading the verse again. One of the small audience hadn’t heard it clearly, so my friend read it a third and then a fourth time. The reincarnation advocate ventured that it was a bad translation, so my friend jabbed me with an elbow and told me, “Your turn” loudly enough everyone turned to me. So I got out my Novum Testamentum Graece and read out, “καὶ καθ’ ὅσον ἀπόκειται τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἅπαξ ἀποθανεῖν, μετὰ δὲ τοῦτο κρίσις” and followed it with a word-by-word translation with amplification of the import of each word and the clause as it built. When I’d finished I looked up and said to the guy, “Sorry; reincarnation just doesn’t fit there”.
Turned out he was a “reincarnational universalist”, a position that maintained that everyone will get saved, it just may take multiple lives for that to happen.
Which reminds me of the time I was at a Foursquare Church gathering and someone spoke in tongues, followed by an “interpretation” that talked about getting reincarnated – I’ll just say that someone a bit bolder cut in and rebuked the interpreter and original tongues-speaker, quoting this verse.
A person who believes in “soul sleep” and who rejects other people’s word for exorcism and alleged protestant prayer for resurrection, (better known as near-death experiences) is an authority worth heeding.
I’ve heard about a teenager who maintained he was a tail gunner in a WWII bomber and died when the plane lost power; everyone else bailed out but he couldn’t. Apparently the details matched a certain B-17 loss over the English Channel including details not publicly known.
I would like to point out that the basic theme of episodes in the TV series “The Ghost Inside My Child” are separate cases described by parents of children who recount “previous” experiences, “facts”, and exhibit behaviors that appear to adults, parents and/or non-parents, that seem to be "from a previous"lifetime. Ergo, a biblical citation or your, my, or anyone else’s beliefs or opinions are not likely to cure or change the child’s mind.
I have had nightmares and these are NOT the same kinds of experiences of the children in the episodes.
Did the kids make everything up? That strikes me as naive.
Sure, I have no problem believing that some kids in the US have these experiences too. And I’m sure it’s disturbing to the parents involved and they want to do what’s best for their children. There are also stories of children seeing ghosts or angels or other things that scare them. I don’t know what to make of those. I’m sure the experiences feel very real to them. I would still be skeptical of reincarnation stories, especially since there is usually no way to corroborate anything.
I also forgot to mention that in a number of cases in Stevenson’s research (35%), children claiming of past lives had birthmarks that corresponded to the deaths of their “previous lives.” It could be a coincidence but it’s a pretty big number. How can this be explained? Here’s the paper for more info.