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chelle21689's avatar

What are some arguments against the idea of reincarnation?

Asked by chelle21689 (5207 points ) October 3rd, 2012

First off, sorry for being on this topic. It’s been on my mind for the past week. I wish I could stop thinking about it but I can’t. Anyways….

Other than “there’s no scientific proof” or “it’s not in the bible” what else is there?

I’m agnostic but after much reading I’ve concluded that I am beginning to believe the possibility of consciousness existing after our body has died. Reading further, many people give convincing ideas that reincarnation does happen but the only problem with it is I HATE the concept.

I don’t want to start all over a new life, I don’t want to be a different person, I don’t want to forget the ones I love, I like who I am and I don’t want to change. If I’m in a better state why would I go back to some planet/dimension where pain, suffering, and such exists? Some people who believe in reincarnation say it’s possible my husband may come back as my son in another life….WEIRD O.o

The reason I find it convincing is because in documented near death experiences, some people have been able to describe particular instruments physical design in detail without ever seeing it. Keep in mind they are unconscious. Some scientists have a theory that our energy lives on and that’s one explanation. Believers in reincarnation keeps science in mind with energy is not created nor destroyed but transferred thus transferred in a different body.

Some people argue that “There’s more population now than there ever was before so how is it possible?” One explanation is that souls are not finite, there are other planets/dimensions, souls are not limited to just humans.

Can anyone convince me with theories on why reincarnation doesn’t exist? It seems convincing to me and I don’t want to believe in it although I’m not 100% sure in anything. I’d RATHER believe in NOTHING happening but I can’t force myself to believe that. Ideally, I’d want some how to just be eternally happy in some state, do whatever the hell I want, and if I want to see my loved ones I’m able to do that but of course this isn’t logical and neither possible to imagine.

Sorry for this. It’s just been bugging me and that’s been on my mind all the time.

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54 Answers

Shippy's avatar

If it is true, this could be your 6th or 20th time round and you wouldn’t know it. So don’t worry about it. (Plus if you are really nice to everyone, and live a kind life your next life will be a piece of cake).

chelle21689's avatar

Yeah, I know that but what’s the point of it you know? People say it’s to better your soul but after your soul is perfected then what? I know I have a good heart and I’m kind to people but that doesn’t make me feel any better about a “next” life.

lol, boyfriend says I need to stop thinking about this. I only think about it when I’m sitting down nothing to do with a laptop in front of me. When I’m active doing other things I don’t think about it so much.

Seek's avatar

We have all had past lives – our bodies are composed of atoms that once made up burning stars! We are all made of star stuff! And in seven years every cell in your body will break down and those atoms will go on to new lives.

I don’t understand this: “Other than “there’s no scientific proof” or “it’s not in the bible” what else is there?” What else do you need? If faith doesn’t cause you to believe and science gives no reason to, what more is there to convince you? This life is precious because it’s the only one we get. We get to live on through our children and through our contributions to humanity and to our planet. That’s enough afterlife for me.

marinelife's avatar

The point is that you are not supposed to worry about past or future lives. You do not remember them because you are supposed to be focusing on this life.

Worrying or thinking about this takes you out of the moment.

chelle21689's avatar

@Seek Kolinahr, when I say arguments against reincarnation I’m just simply asking for your own opinion. Not in a scientific way but just a theory. A theory that is your own and not just some theory handed down from generation to generation for thousands of years such as Christianity, Muslims, Jews, etc.

Qingu's avatar

What mechanism would transmit your past life’s consciousness into your new life?

Your brain is a computer. When you smash a computer and grind it into dust, that computer’s programs have no way of “reincarnating” into a new computer that is built later.

“Some scientists have a theory that our energy lives on and that’s one explanation.”

Which scientists? No serious scientists believe in reincarnation. Your energy is transferred, when your corpse decomposes—but not your intelligence or conscious experience.

chelle21689's avatar

There are some scientists that believe in this theory. Have you researched it? There is a neurologist, don’t know if that’s considered a scientist but something with the likes of it.

I don’t know where exactly it is in the documentary but if you watch through it you can watch it here.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN8bsq2Ic-4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6R654H_qOvA

I’ll try to google the others

BhacSsylan's avatar

“Believers in reincarnation keeps science in mind with energy is not created nor destroyed but transferred thus transferred in a different body.”

No, they don’t keep science in mind, because science flatly denies reincarnation. This is also a huge fallacy to say that conservation of energy has anything to do with the concept of a soul. Yes, it is true to say that energy is conserved. But the form of that energy changes constantly, and that change is essentially always irreversible. Just because some amount of energy that once powered your body now heats someone else’s doesn’t mean that there is any connection there beyond the mundane.

There’s also conservation of matter, too, but I’m pretty sure you would agree that a sandwich you eat is rather different then what comes out of you afterwards.

As to NDEs, those in general have been very heavily debunked. They are mostly the product of your brain doing crazy things as it nears death which have little to do with a ‘soul’. And those stories that come out of people ‘floating above their bodies’ and seeing things they ‘can’t’ know always fall apart under scrutiny. Usually they either could know and had forgotten, or they just turn out to be completely fallacious, such as the case of ‘Maria’s shoe’, a very widely spread story that is still shared, even after it’s been absolutely destroyed by the light of day. Here’s some more reading if you’re interested: http://www.skepdic.com/nde.html

BhacSsylan's avatar

And the above is why I didn’t go after that quote specifically, there are crackpot ‘scientists’ just like there are crackpots in the general population. But a few fringe scientists saying stuff doesn’t make it true. There are ‘scientists’ that think homeopathy works, too, and they’re wrong.

Also, I find it telling that they get his profession wrong. He’s not a neurologist, he’s a neurosurgeon. Yes, it’s quite different, and he’s not a scientist.

chelle21689's avatar

BhacSsylan, I’m agnostic so I’m not saying THIS IS what it is. I know about certain types of hormones, drugs, or whatever you want to call it that flood the brain as you are thinking you’re dying…but what do you call of documents and causes that tell us that this woman who had her eyes closed and objects covered up able to recall what they looked like when she was in an unconscious state? Her brain waves were flat, she had those things in her ear, etc. If you watch the video, please let me know. I hate when people try to argue this without even watching the video. lol Not saying that your belief will change, just saying that it’ll back up your facts better when you watch.

BhacSsylan's avatar

I also find his account wholly unconvincing. His account is completely consistent with what actual neurologists know of what happens when the brain shuts down. It gives nothing beyond that.

And I have watched your video. That’s why I know they got his profession wrong. And which he misrepresents. Saying he can’t model the dream he had (and it’s a dream) is just silly. An actual neurologist would tell you that in a minute. You obviously didn’t read my link, or you would know this.

And do they they go to a neurologist? No, they go to a psychologist, another MD, another non-scientist. And he’s completely misrepresenting the field. Saying “the brain has no complex thinking” during blackout is just silly. Has he not heard of dreams? This is all silly psuedoscience. Doesn’t help that he brought up “quantum consciousness”, which is also a thoroughly dubunked idea. It’s my field of study, I should know.

Also, they never mentioned any woman seeing stuff in that video, what do you mean? Though I also addressed that in my post.

wonderingwhy's avatar

If you’re going to discount a lack of evidence or testable hypotheses then scientifically the argument is pretty much over.

If such a system is in place it seems pretty clear our grasp of existence beyond our current state is beyond us. When you say you “hate the concept”, you’re stating an opinion against something that, by default, not only do you not understand, you can’t understand. Being “against” it makes little sense, like a preschooler arguing against going to class, as they have no grasp on the larger picture. Their objections may be valid but only to their limited perspective. That’s what we have, a limited perspective.

If you don’t want to believe in reincarnation, don’t. Believe our current state is a transitional state to something greater. Consider alternatives, invent your own. You say you want a state of eternal happiness, why isn’t it logical? What makes reincarnation so much more “logical” than any other possibility. In the end there’s no sense in worrying and certainly none in worrying about that which we have no capacity to truly understand – at least until we are in a position to gain a better view – if such even exists.

Don’t stop thinking about it, that would be a shame. But remember that it is just thinking, an exercise in what might be, not what will be or what is. There are some things, today, we can’t know, that’s one of them. But that doesn’t make them not worth considering.

For my two cents, I think it’s possible. If true, I’d like to think it’s a cycle of teaching through experience, honing a greater “us” into a better being. Or perhaps we’re not so separate as we think, maybe we are all connected beyond what we know and each of us is a “process” that contributes to that oneness. Then again what’s to say we reincarnate at all or beyond ourselves. I wouldn’t bet my life on any of that, for now it’s just an exercise in imagination.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Why would some people be reincarnated as a baby with a deformed head and 2 weeks to live?

Buddhism would say that cripples, the blind, the deaf, the deformed, all did something bad in their past life, and now this is their punishment. If that is the case, why be kind to cripples?

BhacSsylan's avatar

Here is a much longer article, but it is also very good on the subject, and includes a full reference to the ‘Maria’s Shoe’ story which I mentioned: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/HNDEs.html#maria.

Again, this is a very oft-repeated story of the type you refer to, of someone seeing something in their NDE that they ‘couldn’t possibly know’, which investigation showed to be completely without merit. And yet the story is still told. This is the case with most, if not all, of such stories.

Coloma's avatar

I don’t like the idea that we cannot be reincarnated back as a different species. I’ve already been a human, why can’t I come back as a dolphin or a seagull or a tortoise or a goose? Bah!
I want to come back as a pet that is owned by someone like me. lol

Qingu's avatar

@chelle21689, I can’t watch the videos right now, but here is a question:

Let’s say NDE’s reflect something real (which is questionable). Why do you think the best explanation for NDE’s is reincarnation? I’m honestly confused as to why you think reincarnation even has anything to do with NDE’s in the first place. Why do you think an NDE implies reincarnation?

chelle21689's avatar

I don’t know. I guess I’ve been trying to find the best place to discuss the after life and the forums I have found ended up being 99% of people believing in reincarnation which I didn’t realize until recently. Still agnostic :) Still up for there being NOTHING and up for an eternal heaven or some sort rather than having a new life unless you want that I guess but eh o.O I don’t think you get to choose if it does exist like some people say.

@Coloma, lol interesting. That actually gives me an argument against reincarnation. I know most believers say we never “devolve” but continue to evolve. Who is to say that being a pet isn’t evolving in your mind and thinking it is a better life than a human or whatever extra terrestrial that is smart? Thanks!

LostInParadise's avatar

What does it mean to be a reincarnation? You still have to learn everything from the start. How could you tell who or what you are a reincarnation of? If you did know who you are a reincarnation of, what would you do differently? You still have to make choices for yourself. It seems to be an empty concept. It does not make a difference one way or the other. The problem is not that it is untrue, but that it is meaningless.

chelle21689's avatar

I wish I could stop thinking about it and just live and focus what’s NOW because what I have is good..

BhacSsylan's avatar

Well, how you do that depends on you and what works, but I do find that working through things, the how and the why of them, does help me. Knowing that it’s ridiculous, and that the evidence shows it to be false, helps me to realize it’s not something to care about for myself. From @LostInParadise, recognizing that it doesn’t actually mean anything is another way to ignore it (and very well put, by the way). It all depends on how your mind works and what’s holding it up. Why do you think it has it’s claws in you, even though you don’t want it to? Do you think it’s because you believe it’s possible, or because you are worried about what it means to be ‘you’, or something else entirely? If you can find out why it resonates, you may have an easier time pushing it away.

chelle21689's avatar

I guess one thing I’m scared of is not accomplishing what I want in life and it being cut short. I don’t really mind the idea that nothing happens once I’ve lived to an old age looking back at my life happily but the idea of reincarnation is what scares me if it does happen. I just don’t know anything and I want to know.

Thank you everyone though. I appreciate your views.

downtide's avatar

Reincarnation relies on there being some part of a human – a soul, for want of a better word – that is totally non-physical and can exist independently of the body. Since we know already that our personalities, memories and everything we think and feel is down to chemical and electrical impulses in the brain, there isn’t anything left for a soul to “do”. So even if by some chance it did exist, it would be totally unable to carry anything forward from one life to another. Being a totally non-physical entity it would have no means of data storage.

Which basically means, reincarnation is scientifically not possible.

so why do I still believe in it? I have no idea, but I do.

chelle21689's avatar

That’s funny that you know scientifically is not possible but you still have faith in it.

bkcunningham's avatar

If everyone is coming from a reincarnated soul, how is the population increasing? Where are the new people coming from?

BhacSsylan's avatar

Does reincarnation have anything to do with your life being ‘cut short’, though? I don’t see how the two are connected at all. Your life will end when it ends, regardless of what you believe happens afterwards.

chelle21689's avatar

@bkcunningham, I don’t think you read my information. I already answered that those who believe in it will tell you that the soul is not finite, the soul is not limited to humans, and that it is not limited to this planet.

Oh, well..I’m scared of dying young and not accomplishing what I want in life.

With the reincarnation, I’m scared that if there is an afterlife that exists I will not remember anything. As I said above. I hate the idea and concept and I think it’s terrible. I don’t want to keep living and living, I don’t want to become something else I like who I am, I don’t want to forget those I have loved, I don’t want to start all over again. I don’t want to forget. Some say it will not matter because I won’t remember anything but the idea is just depressing to me.

ragingloli's avatar

- There is no evidence that it actually happens.
– There is no mechanism proposed, based on current scientific understanding of how the brain works, that would allow reincarnation to take place.
The Brain is a neural net, and a person’s personality, intelligence, memories, etc. all directly depend on the brain’s physical structure and chemistry, that is unique to the person.
What is the mechanism to transfer the source brain’s physical structure to the target host?
Keep in mind that long term memories are achieved by chemical alteration of neurons, so you have to transfer the exact atomic state of the source neurons into the target host as well.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I see that the atoms that make up our bodies will someday, sooner or later, be used to make up something else. Our conscious being, however, I guess, will die with our brain, which scares me and makes me very sad. As @Qingu and @ragingloli both explained, there is no biological way for us to be reincarnated as “us”, only with a wiped-out memory. If there was any way, I would be ecstatic. But as a rational being, and knowing at least the basics of how the world works, I know there is no way.

kess's avatar

Life is a spiral upwards.

Consciousness of self is the last round.

Death comes so that you can on the next level up.

When self is fully realised, death is no more.

dabbler's avatar

As others have said, ignore the other lives and focus on what is important in this life.

Whether or not you have or will reincarnate, your observation is worth keeping in mind “I guess one thing I’m scared of is not accomplishing what I want in life and it being cut short.” That is insightful.
It is a useful focus, can be a useful part of your overall philosophy, and can help you accomplish what you need to in this life.
Whether or not you’re racking up karmas for another is a distraction.

Seek's avatar

Once upon a time, I did believe in reincarnation. Mostly during the tumultuous time of leaving the Uberfundie church and admitting my own atheism.

Sometimes I still think of certain people as “Once-Borns”: the unwise people who regard other humans with contempt – or worse – indifference, the assumption being that anyone who lived more than one lifetime would understand that other people matter, and that we are all in this together.

rojo's avatar

I have often wondered if the past life thing is maybe something in our DNA. Not like we actually lived before but that it is residual memory from our ancestors.
One problem I see with this is that you could not possibly remember what occurred to your progenitor AFTER they passed on their DNA to the next generation so you would have no recollections of old age.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@rojo The discovery of DNA is the only thing that makes me think that reincarnation is possible. A blueprint for another “you”, how intriguing!

Residual memory from our ancestors – we actually have proof that animals learn from the mistakes of their ancestors, even if they never met. It’s kind of like instinct.

I believe there is a lot about life that we don’t know anything about. Blinking out to never experience any form of consciousness again after death doesn’t seem right to me. I fully expect to open my eyes again, even though it might be different eyes.

downtide's avatar

@bkcunningham maybe the excess human souls are coming from animals that are going extinct.

(just assuming for a moment that reincarnation exists).

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Could be that there are billions more souls than live people at any given moment in time. We just take turns!

YARNLADY's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt And then, again, maybe cockroaches and jellyfish have souls.

Qingu's avatar

Maybe bacteria have souls. Maybe viruses have souls. Maybe atoms have souls. Maybe souls have souls!

Or maybe there is no such thing as a “soul” as a discreet thing, and rather, what we ought to talk about here is consciousness — an emergent property of brain activity.

Roby's avatar

Folks who believe in reincarnation also believe the world is flat and the moon landing was a hoax. When your dead your dead..get over it. Damn!!!

mazingerz88's avatar

I’d start believing in the possibility of reincarnation once there are at least a million people claiming they were someone else in another life. I want them to give some data about which schools they attended, people they dated and favorite snack. Otherwise it’s all in humanity’s fertile field of imagination.

As for NDE’s. I have a friend who made the statement they were real. He cited as an example of documented evidence a number of people who experienced near death. Saw their bodies on the operating table, saw a light and all that. Same experiences he said. Documented he said.

I just told my friend that is not documented evidence. Documented evidence is a few of those people contacting a CNN camera crew and interviewing them while hovering above their bodies or staring at a mysterious light. That’s documentation.

How can there be reincarnation if there is no existence of clear memory from the past? Assuming there is reincarnation, but no memory, why should we even bother analyzing anything about it? Was it in the Bible where it was written that in the afterlife, we would not know who we were? ( not sure ) If that’s the case, why even care?

_Whitetigress's avatar

It’s really hard to say. We all live in our own world. We all perceive on our own. Even if were following anothers order we are only agreeing to follow but act so in our own universe. Does this make sense? I believe when I die, my spirit, a comprising factor of activity in the brain and potential to ratio of personality type merely ceases to exist. Does this make sense? Sort of like how a battery gets drained of it’s energy and the shell is gone, and so is it’s functioning capabilities. I don’t know. Reincarnation can be both physical and mental. John Lennon is dead, I’m sure every day however, some kid picks up a John Lennon song and thus John Lennon is reincarnated in someones mind? I don’t know it’s late, I gotta go wash some bottles..

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Well, my feeling on the subject, life/death/reincarnation/mortality can be best summed up with these words from Mike Nesmith, while giving tribute to Davy Jones:

“I am of the mind that it is a transition and I carry with me a certainty of the continuity of existence. While I don’t exactly know what happens in these times, there is an ongoing sense of life that reaches in my mind out far beyond the near horizons of mortality and into the reaches of infinity.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. That is my philosophy, and I really don’t care if there is scientific evidence to the contrary.

orlando's avatar

I have the same problem as you. I severely dislike the idea of reincarnation, yet still belive the consciousness itself survives death (as its origin is not in the brain itself). Now from the transpersonal perspective if that’s true, two things can happen;

1. Consciousness itself (that’s not your sense of self mind you, just the awareness itself) reincarnates again in another body OR

2. Your small consciousness melts/merges back into the great undifferentiated ocean of consciousness it originally came from and does not incarnate again.

I’d highly suggest chapter 8: The Mystery of karma and Reincarnation from the book Cosmic Game: Explorations of the Frontiers of Human Consciousness who deals with this problem extensively. Buddhist and Hindu religions also discuss this issue in great depth.

chelle21689's avatar

yeah both sounds depressing and doesn’t help me feel better. And other religions such as Christianity that don’t believe in it don’t help because I have no faith in their belief

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@orlando I like your option #2, except I would say that one’s consciousness melts/merges back in to the great ocean of consciousness that it originally came from, to some day awaken again.

rojo's avatar

@orlando is consciousness Self?

orlando's avatar

@chelle21689 I’m sorry it doesn’t help you feel better. But these are good questions you ask and I would keep asking them and continue your search. You may be surprised where they might bring you. May I also gently suggest you read some biographies of people who were troubled by similar questions? Such as “The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness” or “Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life”?

@Skaggfacemutt Could be. It could “awaken again” from that ocean, why not. Then again it could be like a drop of water back in the ocean. Once there, it’s gone.

@rojo yes, sea of consciousness could be described as Self. I believe a lot of people use that term.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Gone? No, a drop in the ocean is still there. That is my whole basis for reincarnation – everything that makes up “you” is still here. Everything that ever existed is still here, element-speaking, except the things we shot off into space. Even they still exist – just not on this planet.

orlando's avatar

You’re right. The drop is still technically in the ocean :)

But where in the ocean is it? Can you find it or compose it again from the ocean and make it the exact same drop as it was before?

The way I see it, the only thing that changed was the form. The drop rose from the ocean, went on a journey, and returned to the ocean, dissolved. Yes, new drops continue to rise up from the ocean, but that particular drop is no longer a drop, and can never be that particular drop again… it has dissolved back into its original form. Its boundaries have melted. That’s what I originally meant by saying “it’s gone”. It’s structure is gone. It’s content (water) stays and can never be destroyed.

Anway, that’s my preferred way to look at it as I don’t very much like the idea of reincarnation. In the final analysis, who knows…

lloydbird's avatar

That people who eperience Near- Death Experiences often say that they were met by formerly deceased members of their family. So, how can they (those who have died) be there and also back here?

rojo's avatar

@lloydbird I liked your answer! but I suppose the answer could be that they have either not chosen or been chosen to be reborn yet.
In addition, it does pose an interesting question: Do groups that believe in reincarnation have NDE’s or does that only occur in religions that believe in a heaven or afterlife?

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@orlando I don’t expect reincarnation to be like getting that exact same drop of water again. I think a person might experience consciousness again, but in a different body, and as a different person.

jackson10's avatar

Some great responses here. I also loathe the thought of reincarnation. I have had a great life, but look forward to the spiritual world without all the constraints of this physical world. One thing I find annoying is how the western new age world has reworked the eastern religions to make it more palitable as far as this reincarnation thingy. ie I think someone mentioned that we evolve and don’t deevolve LOL….whatever. That certainly isn’t the original message or reincarnation the the “philosphers came up with centuries ago. Why is it that no one reports coming back as a animal…..LOL I am sure the reincarnation buffs will start reporting this now that someone has questioned it——just to support their belief. The fact is no one really knows for sure and will never know until the day we die. Why can’t we just be happy kind and compassionate, less selfish and help each other out in life. Why do we trun a blind eye to the atrocities in life and the abuse of other humans…I say yup you will probably come back as a frog for doing so. Reincaration just makes no sense on many levels for me. I would rather has nothing than an endless cycle of lives. Been happy with my life and I would prefer my conciousness doesn’t return to this dark world were greed and human abuse is prevalent in many parts of this world

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I really don’t “believe” in reincarnation at all. But it is certainly an interesting concept.

Inspired_2write's avatar

An intersting book called “Many Lives Many Masters” by Brian L.Weiss,M.D.
Provides a thought provoking take on this subject.
His book provides case histories to support reincarnation.
He is a traditional psychotherapist who uses Past Life Therapy to help his
patients to live a more meaningful focused life.
Very interesting.
Arguements against reincarnation?
This is all subjective and not scientifically proven yet.

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