Thoughts on Reincarnation
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Thoughts on Reincarnation
We all have a personal sense of identity – a consciousness that has subjective feelings that is often called the soul. Could this “soul” have more than one trip here on earth? There are people who believe that they have existed as humans previously, but I am skeptical of their claims. I have no memories of a prior existence, and neither do the vast majority of people. It is curious that many who claim to have such memories describe themselves as important or powerful people, whereas chance would favor them being among the masses. The mind can play tricks on us, convincing us that fabricated mental images reflect reality, and perhaps many of these claims have been honestly expressed mental illusions. Therefore, I do not believe in the classic notion of reincarnation, in which there is a single, ongoing story that involves continuity of the self from one existence to the next. I find no evidence for the notion of karma that evil deeds in one life will result in punishment in the next or that good deeds in one life will be rewarded in the next.
Nonetheless, the mystery of our existence – why our conscious self exists in a certain body at a certain point in time – encourages speculation that this conscious self might exist in other bodies at other points in time. If that were the case, then our conscious self might have existed in the past or might exist in the future. And why not in the body of a nonhuman being? All evidence points to nonhumans having unique conscious lives with subjective experiences that resemble our own.
Therefore, we might be wise to work for a world in which humanity does not treat nonhuman beings with the extreme viciousness that currently characterizes how humans interact with well over 99% of the nonhuman world. Anyone who takes their Christian faith seriously should treat all God’s living beings with respect, and I suggest that self-interest is another good reason to work toward the Peaceable Kingdom (Isaiah 11:6-9), in which no individual harms another. 

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