Why do Christians react so negatively to the concept of reincarnation?

I just finished reading Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Shroder’s book.

He takes a skeptical, investigative reporting approach to the work of Ian Stevenson and along the way references a number illogical rebuttals of Stevenson’s work. I ask myself why do people, especially Christians, react so negatively to the concept? Thoughts?

I am sure you have good intent. However, I have difficulty with this for many reasons. For example, consider Ravi Zacharias describing the conundrums he’s seen. RZ reported on a high caste woman who left her family and station to marry a low caste man she had fallen in love with. After a while, she grew tired of him and left him for another. In despair, the low caste husband killed himself. After she struggled with guilt a while, she visited a priest, who told her that the problem was solved. The reason she could not tolerate her husband was that in a past life, he had raped her.

Guilt and responsibility seem to me to become all messed up with reincarnation. We can trust God to judge justly; scientifically, I see no reason to believe in reincarnation (the evidence for a soul is pretty thin, anyway); and the Bible does not appear to support it (“it is appointed to man once to die.”)

The books of children who “remember” trips to heaven seem to be frequently debunked. I am very leery of stories adults get about any other suppressed memories in this form, as these are often fabricated by impressionable children. Thanks.

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Because it is appointed for a man to die once, and after that comes judgment?

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Many Jews believe in Reincarnation, and I see it as theoretically possible if only one of the bodies is resurrected in the Messianic Age. I also believe that it is possibly implied by Psalm 139:15, and possibly even the notion of man being formed from dust.

If you believe in every living being creating a unique spirit of its own as I do, then any presence of a past life would be an invasion. All evidence for “reincarnation” can equally be considered evidence for possession, overshadowing, or influence by a spirit, and that would only be something an evil, manipulative, selfish, controlling spirit would do. The very idea that an old sinner would be present in an innocent child is totally creepy and disgusting. The whole idea does severe damage to the promise of the hope found in new live replacing it with the sordid promise of nothing but the same sorry old life.

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Thanks for the answers so far. I forgot to add, please say whether you have read Tom Shroder’s book or not. I ask this becuase he covers all of the arguments that have listed so far in the book.

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My suggestion would be to experience your own past lives for yourself (possibly with the aid of a past life therapist or counselor). This, of course, “proves” nothing about reincarnation but it can be an interesting experience that at least opens you up to the possibility of more rigorous evidence, such as provided by Ian Stevenson over decades of extremely thorough research. As always, keep an open mind. Religious dogma (of whatever stripe) is the great enemy of knowledge. (So is “scientific” dogma, for that matter. And most scientists are just as opposed to the idea as many Christians.)

Being “regressed” to a past life, by the way, can be like being inside a hologram that you can fast forward or reverse and it’s not like a dream at all. Purely realistic and for that reason convincing, as a lot of various case studies suggest. (Not that this “proves” anything, but it can open your mind to possibilities and introduce you to a new and amazing source of self-knowledge.)

BTW, I seem to recall reading Tom Shroder’s book some time ago and I skimmed through the excerpt posted above. As I indicated, Ian Stevenson is probably the most respected (because most rigorous researcher) in the field. His work spans decades and hundreds of case studies of children remembering (impressively) verified facts from past lives.

(And if anyone’s interested, I’d be happy to share some of mine…)

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I think it is more a demonstration of the ability to create false memories, something psychiatrists have been doing for decades. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_memory_syndrome

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Dear Mitchell,
So, you have obviously not read Shroder’s critical analysis of Stevenson’s work, nor read Stevenson work? I say this becuase the claim of false memory syndrome was was tested by Stevenson. He looked for any other explanation of the child’s memories that he could find to try to explain the common phenomena over thousands of cases.

My favorite debunking of life after death comes from Neil deGrass Tyson on Larry King Now. I was speechless after seeing this the first time. How can a scientist emphatically say “it does not exist becuase it cannot exist.”

Remember the McMartin preschool trial that went on for years in the 80s? From the wiki page:

Several hundred children were then interviewed by the Children’s Institute International (CII), a Los Angeles-based abuse therapy clinic … The interviewing techniques used during investigations of the allegations were highly suggestive and invited children to pretend or speculate about supposed events. By spring of 1984, it was claimed that 360 children had been abused…

Some of the accusations were described as “bizarre”, overlapping with accusations that mirrored the emerging satanic ritual abuse panic. It was alleged that, in addition to having been sexually abused, they saw witches fly, traveled in a hot-air balloon, and were taken through underground tunnels. When shown a series of photographs by Danny Davis (the McMartins’s lawyer), one child identified actor Chuck Norris as one of the abusers.

The case actually changed the way that allegations of child sexual abuse are investigated. Young children are highly susceptible to suggestion, and they want to satisfy the interrogator with “right” answers to their questions. These days, there are strict guidelines for interviewing young children, and only highly-trained individuals are allowed in the room.

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The reason we Christians don’t accept reincarnation is that it is simply un-Biblical and that we are warned against adding to the Bible.

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Hmmm… while interesting they never talked about reincarnation in that linked clip.

I doubt that following such guidelines, examining children who made no previous claims like this, would get any of the evidence Shawn claims for reincarnation, but even if it did it would just bring me back to my previous observation about this equally being evidence for possession, overshadowing, or influence by a spirit of someone else.

That is the universal reality of spiritual claims, that there is no way to settle disputes, and thus we have to accept that there is going to be a diversity in how such things are understood.

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Right. Personally, I don’t want to base my metaphysical view of reality on the recovered memories of children under hypnosis. Your mileage may vary.

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I agree with you and @mitchellmckain about placing any confidence in recovered memories, but I would extend that where adults are concerned too. The False Memory Foundation has gathered considerable evidence to suggest that psychotherapy patients who undergo guided processes to recover repressed memories are very far from reliable as well being adverse to their recovery.

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My question is why so many have do not like the concept of reincarnation, not child memories. If you had read any of the work, you will see that Stevenson was full of self-doubt and tried to find other explanations for his results. In addition, he also had physical evidence. He did not go out trying to prove reincarnation, it just became the only logical explanation for the physical and verbal evidence.

I’m not arguing that it’s not, at least not entirely. But in fact, I think there are good arguments that at least some of these memories are not so-called “false memories”. And anyway, why would they have to be all one or the other? In fact, I’m guessing they probably are a “mix” since I happen also to believe in reincarnation based on philosophical considerations, the evidence and my own experience…

Admittedly I don’t think of “souls” in a Christian sense. But what I do think of as a soul seems to arise naturally with each newborn body. I agree with @mitchellmckain: what would be the point of retread souls? Doesn’t seem quite fair for the body’s rightful tenant.

Well, if you are Christian who believes the teaching of Jesus, how else can you expect anyone to fulfill His requirements for entering the Kingdom of God laid down by Jesus?

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matt 5:44–48)

I know Christians deny this aspect of Jesus’ teaching as much as they vehemently deny the notion of reincarnation or the John 3 reference to it.

Well I have no dog in that fight. It seems that remaining consistent with the bible, at least by your own lights, is still important to you. But you seem to attach considerable weight to other sources and that is nothing I can fault you for. I think every book is only as valuable as the sense we can we make of it and the difference it makes to how we live our lives. I’ve read many good books, most of them novels.

I don’t [expect anyone to be able to fulfill Christ’s requirements]. And the last thing my flesh needs in order to fulfill the law of the Spirit (Christ) is … more fleshly lives … to accrue yet more sin and debt. The spirit is at war with the flesh, and Paul longs to be released from his present fleshly prison to be with Christ. Romans 7: 14-25. Yet he has no death-wish. His sentiment is tempered elsewhere (Phillipians 1) where he acknowledged that “to live means more fruitful labor” while “to die is better” (for him - so he can be with Christ). But that is Christ working in his present life - not some future reincarnated life. Christ is our only hope, both for this life and the next. Resurrection? Yes. No mention whatsoever of reincarnation. In fact scriptures tell us that on the other side of resurrection [of the righteous], we are done with death. (Romans 6:9 and 8:13).

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