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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Let’s run with reincarnation a bit, shall we?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26798points) December 4th, 2015

OK, let’s assume reincarnation is real, the logical and technical impossibilities notwithstanding. Would not that make mass murders, killings and terrorism more appealing? Think of it, a person for some reason feels they have a crappy life, got the shortest end of the stick and doesn’t want to be on this planet anymore. To know they will come back from the great white zephrum at some point, they can seek an escape by SBC and ruin the day of many other people on the way out, even if they know those people they wasted will be back as well. It would be good logical motivation to be a mass murder and getting killed after going out in a fight.

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28 Answers

SavoirFaire's avatar

Most accounts of reincarnation say that our actions in this life affect the form we take in our next life. Coming back might be inevitable, but coming back better off is not—and the best way to make sure one does not return better off according to these beliefs is to engage in acts like mass shootings.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^ Most accounts of reincarnation say that our actions in this life affect the form we take in our next life.
That would be one of those implausible technical points. One, it is an interpretation of some men who would not have full knowledge that it works that way. Second, to determine how one comes back based off how they lived here, would imply something making a judgement. If reincarnation is just an occurrence like hot or cold, pressure, or gravity, then nothing controls it, it is just what it is, thus someone can do things here very detrimental to his fellow man and still come back in a better more privileged life than the one he left.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

What if you get to live life again groundhog day style? You would not know of the previous except that they were there. Would you live it differently knowing that it is your eternity? I think yes.

Seek's avatar

Depends on whose version of reincarnation we’re hypothetically working with.

Do bad people come back as rodents or insects? Or do they come back as the wretched poor? Or do they come back with another roll at the roulette table of life with no prior knowledge?

elbanditoroso's avatar

I always thought that reincarnation meant you brought your junker to the a car demolition place and it magically became a Maserati.

My thoughts on reincarnation are pretty much the same as they are on ghosts, or for that matter, religion and miracles. I’m not closed to the idea that it exists as a phenomenon, but I would like to see, empirically and provably, that it exists.

And to expand on what @Seek was saying, would a reincarnated object know it was reincarnated? And would they be able to utilize that knowledge?

I’d also like to question @SavoirFaire ‘s assertion that the life you live know in any way affects how you would come back. What’s the rationale for that? That implies some sort of management intelligence (external to the reincarnatee) that decides what’s the appropriate form for the reincarnation to take. And that gets into some very weird questions – who or what is managing the reincarnation process, and to what end?

Summary: I’m skeptical about the whole thing,

Bill1939's avatar

Hell and reincarnation exist to mollify the sense of injustice that arises seeing those who do wrong yet die without consequences. If they escape justice in this life, justice awaits in the next. Belief in reincarnation may also reflect the hope for immortality. Yet most theories of reincarnation hold that the you that you think you are will not be part of the consciousness of the newly incarnated. Your soul may have manifested in the physical universe again, but you have ceased to exist. The belief that the true reincarnation is from our mortal physical bodies to our immortal spiritual bodies is more commonly accepted.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central “That would be one of those implausible technical points.”

And you’ve asked us to ignore those complications and just assume that it’s real anyways. And if it is, then that’s how it works.

“If reincarnation is just an occurrence like hot or cold, pressure, or gravity, then nothing controls it, it is just what it is”

Maybe. But the same is true of gravity, which still follows identifiable rules. Perhaps the rule of reincarnation is just “do things like this and you get a better next life. Do things like that and you get a worse next life.” And then it turns out that the actions we typically call virtues get you the better life and the actions we typically call vices get you the worse life (maybe that’s even why those things came to be called virtues and vices). This would allow reincarnation to work the way most accounts of it say it does while still being non-judgmental. We are the ones making the judgments (about both the actions and the lives they get us).


@elbanditoroso “I’d also like to question @SavoirFaire‘s assertion that the life you live now in any way affects how you would come back.”

It’s not my assertion. I was just explaining how most people who believe in reincarnation (aka not me, since I don’t believe in it) say it works. It’s important to understand the theory we are being asked to think about before we discuss it—particularly since the question orders us to ignore the implausibilities of it and just asks us to consider a hypothetical world in which reincarnation really does happen.

thorninmud's avatar

The kind of reasoning you’re describing is more typical of believers in heaven than of believers in reincarnation. If you believe that you can both vent your wrath against your enemies (who are, of course, also God’s enemies) and get an upgrade to life in heaven, then why not? That has been a major selling point for carnage ever since heaven was invented.

On the other hand, if you believe in reincarnation, you face the prospect of going back into the world. If you shat upon it when you made your exit, then you reenter a shittier world.

ucme's avatar

I wanna come back as Kate Beckinsale’s vulva…just sayin.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Yes it would be rather satisfying to know that those who leave life shooting up crowds of people might return to wind up in one of those crowds.

kevbo's avatar

If that postulate were true, there’d be more Hindu and/or Buddhist mass murderers or shooters or terrorists. Although I don’t know what existing statistics on Hindu/Buddhist violence of this sort might be.

I think it is more likely that belief in YOLO in its various forms is correlated more closely with that kind of violence because the belief adds weight and importance to one’s actions in the present and justifies the carnal arithmetic that somehow killing 14 other people means you win.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I rencarnate into my younger self when I die or regret the past.

dappled_leaves's avatar

That sounds like a brilliant strategy if one wants to come back as a garden slug.

Plonk's avatar

I don’t really understand the idea that if you have to die, you might as well take as many people as possible with you. Mind you, I’ve had the fantasy, but it is not something I ever would act on, and now that I’m older, I never have the fantasy any more.

I guess when I was young and unhappy and angry that I would have to die one day, I thought I might take out my anger on others. I’m a little more sanguine about the idea of being dead, now that I’m sure that I won’t be conscious to know I’m dead.

But suppose I knew for sure I’d get a second chance at life. But then again, everyone would get a second chance, too. If you went out, killing a lot of people, then when you were reincarnated, you would have a lot of really pissed off at you people reincarnated at the same time. There would probably be a BJR—Bureau of Justice Reincarnate, and there would be a lot of people with grievances at you, and you’d just been born.

Of course, reincarnation only works if you get to be reincarnated with all your memories intact. If you have nothing but vague memories of past lives, then it’s the same as being born anew, innocent. It’s not reincarnation at all. For reincarnation to be meaningful, you have to be born knowing all that you knew in a past life.

Imagine what would happen to all those mass killers in a next life? Suppose reincarnation lasts forever. Mass killers would be born, only to be punished—either in jail, or executed, just to be reincarnated again, just to be executed, and so on and so on.

Or suppose you could get away free as long as someone you had murdered wasn’t reincarnated with you yet. So in the first reincarnation, you are executed, but in the second reincarnation, you get to live until someone from your past is reincarnated with you, points the finger at you, and you are executed again. Maybe you would kill yourself, over and over, just to put some distance between you and the people you murdered.

Maybe there would be special agents whose job was to kill themselves and chase you through reincarnations, in order to bring you to justice. Imagine a murder mystery with that plot!

And suicide? If you died to get away from this life only to be reborn with all your memories intact, then you would be just as miserable. Maybe even more miserable, knowing that not even death could take you away from your pain. Now that would be a true hell, but I think there are so many disincentives to die in order to get away with or from something, that people would have an even stronger interest in staying alive as long as possible. Indeed, death would become a much more feared thing.

And all of us would have been reincarnated so many times. Perhaps there would be a cap on population, because you couldn’t be born unless there was a dead person who was to be reincarnated in that little baby. Imagine the tests that babies would go through to find out who they had been in past lives. Would parents even want to have kids, knowing the kids weren’t really their progeny? That they would be bringing up someone who might have just as many lives as they have?

Parenting would be very weird in such a scenario. But what if you could have a true newborn—who didn’t have any past lives? How would such a thing come to be? And what would happen to protoreincarnates while they were waiting for a new body to be prepared for them? Would there be some way of bringing the right soul into your new child’s body? Would there be competitions to be the next parents of Gandhi or Mother Theresa—or God help me, Jesus!!! And could Jesus only be reincarnated into a virgin woman? Would there be cults of virgins all hoping to become the next Mary???

Ok. My mind is boggling now. Please. No more hypotheticals. Just imagine who might be after you in your next life, @Hypocrisy_Central!

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Seek _ Or do they come back with another roll at the roulette table of life with no prior knowledge?_
That would be the most logical way reincarnation would work, if it could work, it would be a crap shoot. One could be a shithead, die, and still come back born to royalty or a wealthy, powerful family with all the earthly trappings.

@elbanditoroso And to expand on what @Seek was saying, would a reincarnated object know it was reincarnated?
I could not see how they would. If they were able to know their prior lives even if centuries ago, after about two centuries the world would be an utopia with no one harming anyone else because they would know if they did, they might come back worse, as the believe goes, and if not, then the world would be really Klingonish, with people knowing what they did to others had no effect on how they came back.

@SavoirFaire Maybe. But the same is true of gravity, which still follows identifiable rules. Perhaps the rule of reincarnation is just “do things like this and you get a better next life.
That is the convenient hook people want to hang their hat on. What if the rule was the most people you step on, victimize, and vanquish got you a better position the next round through? Since there is no way to quantify either, it has to be seen as just a force that effects all equally, just like water would drown a 2 year old girl the same way it would drown the 17 year old babysitter molesting her.

@thorninmud The kind of reasoning you’re describing is more typical of believers in heaven than of believers in reincarnation.
Not any I have fellowshipped with…..maybe somewhere in the world, but I have not met them.

@dappled_leaves That sounds like a brilliant strategy if one wants to come back as a garden slug.
Who says that will happen? The life force of a human might only come back as a human, regardless of how they behaved while they were here last.

@Plonk But then again, everyone would get a second chance, too. If you went out, killing a lot of people, then when you were reincarnated, you would have a lot of really pissed off at you people reincarnated at the same time
Technically impossible (even more than reincarnation itself), just because you murdered X amount of people with you on the way out, there is no guarantee those you murdered would be born in the same year as you, the same generation, or even in the same nation. Even if they remembered the old or last you killed them, they would have to know the new you and the new you would have to exhibit enough of the old you that they can put the pieces together, too improbable.

Imagine what would happen to all those mass killers in a next life? Suppose reincarnation lasts forever. Mass killers would be born, only to be punished—either in jail, or executed, just to be reincarnated again, just to be executed, and so on and so on.
What if they did not keep repeating, what if they killed 27 people on the way out, came back born of royalty and had a cushy life with all the fame, power and earthly toys and comfort and nothing terrible ever happened to them?

Just imagine who might be after you in your next life, @Hypocrisy_Central!
There will be no one after me after I die. I will shed this tent and transition to eternity, only this tent of flesh will die. Born twice, die once, born once, die twice.

msh's avatar

Well hell. If some of those pious, sanctimonious, worthless pieces of bovine excrement don’t have to come back as some of those scary-assed bottom of the ocean creatures who crawl from carcass to carcass… give me a shovel and a pair of garden snips. Dull garden snips.
I’ve got some graves to dig up.
If it turns out that the Egyptions were correct, anyone missing a body part cannot go on across the River Styx and doesn’t get to play with anyone. Just watch them.
I have some individuals and some of their body parts to separate.
Now I have most likely pissed my CA off and I’ll get sliced up too.
Oh, woe.

thorninmud's avatar

“Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.”

How is this different from a suicide bomber who goes into a crowd, shouts “Allahu akbar!”, and blows himself up? Samson was a jihadi.

If you believe in reincarnation, you would have to consider the possibility that, no matter what relationship you have with someone in this life, at some time in the past they were your mother or father, son or daughter. Whether or not that’s true, it certainly leads to a more compassionate way of regarding others.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central “That is the convenient hook people want to hang their hat on.”

Of course it is. But you yourself told us to ignore this sort of complication in the details of your question! Are you taking that back now? Because if you are not, then it is perfectly fair to point out that people who believe in reincarnation believe it works in a particular way.

“What if the rule was the most people you step on, victimize, and vanquish got you a better position the next round through?”

Then we’d probably have a much different perspective on what was right and what was wrong. But of course, we also have to ask about what it means for a life to be better. I don’t value things like wealth or fame, so a better life for me does not include them. And of course, we shouldn’t ignore @thorninmud‘s point: however you affect the world in this life is going to come back to you in the next life (since you are reentering the same world). So if your actions today make the world overall worse, then you are condemning your future selves to living in a worse world. One question here, then, is the degree to which you can contain the effects of your actions. Perhaps only “local” cruelty would be advisable in this alternative version of reincarnation you are imagining.

Coloma's avatar

Yep, @SavoirFaire and @thorninmud nailed it.
The concept of reincarnation involves karma. If you commit shitty acts in this carnation you will return to an even worse cesspool of your own design, and the cycles will repeat into infinity until you evolve to the point where you just evaporate into the white light of ascension lol

Plonk's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central If people don’t know who they were in a past life, then, functionally, there is no reincarnation. For all you know, you have been reborn a gazillion times, and don’t know it. No. If there is reincarnation, people must know it, and that means they know who they were in a past life, and that means they can seek retribution in this life, whether or not they were born in the same year or not.

If you want me to play with your hypotheticals again, then you better lay out all the rules before we start. If you don’t lay out a rule, then my assumption rules (pun intended). And in my imagined world, you will get what you have given out in this world. And I mean you, personally, @Hypocrisy_Central.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^ If people don’t know who they were in a past life, then, functionally, there is no reincarnation.
Why wouldn’t they? If a person’s life force was able to be born in another body, even if centuries from the last go around, just because the life force now in another body and time doesn’t remember the other time(s), why would it not be reincarnation, it is after all, the same life force?

If there is reincarnation, people must know it, and that means they know who they were in a past life, and that means they can seek retribution in this life, whether or not they were born in the same year or not.
Then that would be an incentive for some people to be mass murders and such because they would know they were coming back. What if a person murdered a bunch of college students, went out in a hail of gunfire, and remembered in the next life. Then they run into one of the persons they murdered but that person was at that time 11 years old and could not take vengeance, the murderer would just bump him off again before he got grown enough to do anything.

If you want me to play with your hypotheticals again, then you better lay out all the rules before we start
Without belaboring the question with a legal-sized brief, the rules were basic; (A) the person knows he/she is coming back at some point in the future even if they do not remember when they do, (B) they also know those they done dirt to will be back even if they do not recognize them, and© it is just a force like gravity that is not incumbent to how a person lived their life as to what life they come back to. Anything else would be speculative because no one would know for certain how it would happen. There could not be any ”karma” because that would suggest some sort of intelligent direction.

Bill1939's avatar

The debate seems to hinge on whether one should be able to draw upon past life experiences in their current incarnation. If not, as some suggest, other than karma prior incarnations would be pointless. However, a school of thought proffers the notion that one’s consciousness contains all of the knowledge that exists in the cosmos, but because one only sees what they are looking for most information is unavailable.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The concept of karmic debt (as well as reward) is the only easy way out for me after a mere glimpse at the misery and suffering afoot in the world. Otherwise, what’s the point to it all , if not to learn?

Coloma's avatar

Personally, if there were to be such a thing as reincarnation I hope to come back as something other than human. I think a turtle would be great. Few predators, swimming and basking in the sun all day in some idyllic pond setting. Yep, a turtle would suit me just fine. Very low stress life of leisure. haha

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central “Without belaboring the question with a legal-sized brief, the rules were basic; (A) the person knows he/she is coming back at some point in the future even if they do not remember when they do, (B) they also know those they done dirt to will be back even if they do not recognize them, and (C) it is just a force like gravity that is not incumbent to how a person lived their life as to what life they come back to.”

But notice that (C) wasn’t part of the rules in the OP. It’s something you added later because you didn’t get the answer you wanted. Furthermore, (C) actually contradicts the rules given in the OP because there you asked us to ignore the implausible technical points. Changing the rules like this (aka “moving the goalposts”) is a type of self-sealing argument, and it is fallacious.

Brian1946's avatar

“Changing the rules like this (aka ‘moving the goalposts’) is a type of self-sealing argument, and it is fallacious.” It also seems like a form of intellectual fallatio. ;-)

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@stanleybmanly Otherwise, what’s the point to it all , if not to learn?
Taking the stance that this world is just this world, what would the reason of purpose for man other than to create more humans? Man has added little to no value to this planet. Some pundits would even disagree with that being the reason for mankind being that some choose not to procreate and other are in such a way they could care less about procreation or the fact they have the equipment to do it.

@SavoirFaire But notice that© wasn’t part of the rules in the OP. It’s something you added later because you didn’t get the answer you wanted
It was something I had to clarify, I considered it a given. That is why I said in so many words, prior thoughts or mechanics of coming back based off your behavior and such was notwithstanding. People seem to want to pigeon hole reincarnation as some mechanism for fairness and justice, not simply some force that could care less on how the life lived in the last physical incarnation it was in.

Bill1939's avatar

@stanleybmanly the idea that a purpose other than reproduction exists is unsupportable. We are in the early stages in the evolution of sentient beings. Our instinct driven emotions continue to dominate choices that have propelled the self-destructive behaviors of civilizations for some two-hundred-thousand years. Hopefully in a thousand millennium human genetics will have developed to the point where mind, body and their emotions will have achieved a balance. In the meantime, one may discover their purpose arises from learning how they can choose to deny the power of their impulses to elicit action in favor of recognizing and serving the needs of others.

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