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How to Explain to Your Friends That There's No Such Thing as Reincarnation
“Death is the end of man's earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When ‘the single course of our earthly life’ is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives: ‘It is appointed for men to die once.’ There is no ‘reincarnation’ after death.” (CCC 1013)
By Angelo Stagnaro
Avoid the nonsense of those arrogant philosophers who do not blush to liken their soul to that of a dog, who say that they have themselves formerly been women, shrubs, or fish. Have they ever been fish? I do not know, but I do not fear to affirm that in their writings they show less sense than fish. – St. Basil the Great, The Six Days’ Work 8:2 [A.D. 393]).
According to the pseudo-philosophy of reincarnation, everyone receives a new body after death. This is just a pernicious and hackneyed variation on the gnostic/Manicheanism/Albigensian heresy that matter is evil and the spirit is good.
It's odd to think that anyone would believe in reincarnation but refuse to believe in Christ's Incarnation or, indeed, His Resurrection in which He showed His disciples the wounds in His hands, feet and side. This should serve as sufficient proof that early Christians didn't believe that those who return from the dead are given "new" bodies" but rather their bodies are perfected as was Christ's. (John 20:17)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear when it comes to reincarnation―it doesn't exist. "There is no 'reincarnation' after death." (CCC 1013) Even the Catechism of the Council of Trent states: "Man is, therefore, to rise again in the same body with which He served God, or was a slave to the devil; that in the same body He may experience rewards and a crown of victory, or endure the severest punishments and torments."
How do Christians know? How indeed do reincarnationists know they're correct? They're only armed with their "feelings" and are pitifully devoid of hard facts and common sense. And, technically, the Christian perspective is metaphysical and can't be proven on empirical grounds. If reincarnation is real, surely they can point out countless examples of it being reified.
2nd century St. Irenaeus makes an excellent point against reincarnation in his Against Heresies:
We may undermine [the Hellenists’] doctrine as to transmigration from body to body by this fact—that souls remember nothing whatever of the events which took place in their previous states of existence…Plato...attempted no kind of proof, but simply replied dogmatically that when souls enter into this life they are caused to drink of oblivion by that demon who watches their entrance, before they effect an entrance into the bodies. It escaped him that he fell into another, greater perplexity. For if the cup of oblivion, after it has been drunk, can obliterate the memory of all the deeds that have been done, how, O Plato, do you obtain the knowledge of this fact…?" (Against Heresies 2:33:1–2)
And if all it takes to believe that reincarnation is real is one's "firm conviction" then I offer my own firm conviction that reincarnation is a great deal of hooey.
A more useless life philosophy or life concept than reincarnation can scarcely be found.
Tertullian noted that if reincarnation is true, then the population should remain the same as the original number of souls. However, as has always been apparent, the population of the earth is increasing. It follows that reincarnation is nonsense.
If one is truly trapped in an endless, or near endless, cycle of lives, from which we all gain in wisdom and virtue, then one would then presume that our present world would be replete with saints, scholars, heroes and gentlemen and yet, very few of them can be found.
And if we're all coming back as lower animals with limited intelligence and sentience, how exactly are we then to "gain in human wisdom?" 3rd Century Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius (c. 250–c. 325), an early Christian author who became an advisor to the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I, also had no use for the "transmigration of souls" as he described in his Epitome of the Divine Institutes:
What of Pythagoras, who was first called a philosopher, who judged that souls were indeed immortal, but that they passed into other bodies, either of cattle or of birds or of beasts? Would it not have been better that they should be destroyed, together with their bodies, than thus to be condemned to pass into the bodies of other animals? Would it not be better not to exist at all than, after having had the form of a man, to live as a swine or a dog? And the foolish man, to gain credit for his saying, said that he himself had been Euphorbus in the Trojan war, and that when he had been slain he passed into other figures of animals, and at last became Pythagoras. O happy man!—to whom alone so great a memory was given! Or rather unhappy, who when changed into a sheep was not permitted to be ignorant of what he was! And would to heaven that he [Pythagoras] alone had been thus senseless! (Epitome of the Divine Institutes 36)
Indeed, if humans are "punished" by being turned into animals without any human ability to reason, how would they understand they were being punished and how would they learn from their errors?
St. Ambrose of Milan mirrors the sentiment when he writes in his treatise Belief in the Resurrection:
But is their opinion preferable who say that our souls, when they have passed out of these bodies, migrate into the bodies of beasts or of various other living creatures? . . . For what is so like a marvel as to believe that men could have been changed into the forms of beasts? How much greater a marvel, however, would it be that the soul which rules man should take on itself the nature of a beast so opposed to that of man, and being capable of reason should be able to pass over to an irrational animal, than that the form of the body should have been changed?
And who exactly oversees the vast celestial bureaucracy that keeps track of every living creature, from microbes to humans (and even scary space aliens) who are part and parcel of this Great Re-Cycling of Life?
And by whose moral standards is the "Universe" to determine good and evil to judge each of our lives so as to make the transition into a new lifeform? That is, is the extreme, and often violent, patriotism of ancient Rome and 20th century Japanese Shintos dedicated to the Cult of War better than Quaker pacifism? Who is to say? Certainly not reincarnationists who are more given to moral relativism.
Further, as long as PETA-niacs and other so-called "animal rights" aficionados insist that lower animals are our equals in every way, what's so bad about being reborn as a slug? Or, is it the Hindus and other reincarnation-advocates who've got it wrong? After all, they can't both be right.
I recall a cultural anthropology text that insisted that Hindus believed that being reincarnated as a foreigner is by far worse than being born a mangy, flea-infested cur in the streets of an Indian city. That is, when an Indian dog who has been "bad" all her pitiful life dies, she comes back as a Western Christian. If this is true, then why do Hindus flock to Christian institutions and individuals such as Mother Teresa for succor? Why indeed do devout Hindus send their children to study in the "morally-vacuous" wasteland of Western civilization? If Hindus were as generous and compassion as "non-reincarnated Christians" why indeed are there no Hinduistic challenges to Mother Teresa's clinics in the slums of Calcutta?
By the way, Hindus would also believe that coming back as a man is a great reward after having slogged through life as a woman. In addition, it's a belief in reincarnation that created and props-up the worst social travesty in human history―the 5000-year Hindu caste system which still discriminates and abuses so-called "lower-caste" individuals.
A little logical and moral consistency would be in order here, folks.
If reincarnation is the truth and the rest of us poor saps who are fairly sure the human race isn't subjected to infinite cycles of birth, death and rebirths are wrong, where are the great philanthropists and humanitarians who are convinced of the truth of reincarnation? That is, we can easily find great Christian saints running soup kitchens, food pantries, hospitals and schools for the poor but where are the New Agers and their philanthropic institutions? I suspect they're hiding them along with the ones atheists pretend to operate because even atheists are hard-pressed to name a single one of theirs.
But, more importantly, what is the benefit of such life recycling? Is it an accumulation of wisdom, virtue, and experience? If so, all of that is useless unless such knowledge is readily available to the individual. But, by their own accounting, those who believe in past lives must go through costly "past-life regression therapy" to figure this stuff out. Is that what the "universe" or "karma" had in mind? Enlightenment via our wallets? If so, I'm glad I’m a Christian. Even Tertullian, never one for a sense of humor, reminds us, "Nothing of God costs money."
And why exactly are highly dubious past-life regression and aura-readings offered by charlatans who are often connected with other fraud crimes? Why are they always so expensive? Why aren't these self-serving, benighted people offering their services to the impoverished instead of accepting filthy lucre from the "open-minded" who are too easily separated from their money?
I've often given money to charity. Is that proof of my countless previous reincarnated lives? Personally, I believe it’s the presence of God's grace in my life. If not, then those who've been duped into believing in reincarnation can similarly point out the many examples of their generosity as well. And yet, none can be found.
Shirley MacLaine has claimed that, in a previous life in Atlantis, she was the brother of a 35,000-year-old spirit named Ramtha channeled by American crackpot J. Z. Knight. Why does everyone who comes to some "epiphany" as to their previous incarnations always associate themselves with royalty, genius, "virtue," wealth and prestige? In reality, the vast majority of humanity have been slaves, simple farmfolk, serfs, hunter-gatherers, the homeless, street urchins, riffraff, outcasts, pariahs, reprobates, vagabonds and ne'er-do-wells.
Many others were rapscallions and black sheep, beachcombers and deadbeats, good-for-nothings and malingerers, shirkers, slackers, slouchs, sluggards, hooligans, miscreants, scalawags, scamps, scoundrels and swindlers.
And a great deal more have been marauders, thieves, highway men, mountebanks, arsonists, guns-for-hire, desperados, and otherwise, thoroughly disreputable people. If not, none of us would have locks on our doors. Why aren't reincarnationists eager to admit they use to be rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, train robbers, bank robbers and Methodists?
And if you use to be a prince, potentate or pope in a previous lifetime, how bad must you have been to have been downgraded to Economy Class this time around?
How come no one is eager to take on the mantle of being the "metaphysical descendent" of Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky, Pol Pot, Mao, Tito, Mussolini, Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh, Deng Xiaoping, Plutarco Elías Calles, Kim Il-sung, Nicolae Ceaușescu, Slobodan Milošević or Napoleon? All of them were atheist genocidal maniacs.
The thing I hate the most about reincarnationists is the smugness and false moral and intellectual superiority of those who believe themselves to have been Cleopatra, Agamemnon, Achilles, Cesare Augustus and Alexander the Great in a previous lifetime. How often do we come across people who've claimed to be Jesus Christ? Wikipedia lists 33 people as having claimed to be Christ just since the 1800s including such noble personages as atheist Jim Jones, Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Baháism, mass murderers David Koresh and suicide cult leader castrato Marshall Applewhite and an inordinate number of Mormon leaders.
By the by, atheist Jim Jones also claimed to be Akhenaten, the Buddha, Vladimir Lenin and Father Divine. It's odd that no one has ever claimed to be the guy who delivered Vladimir Lenin's milk every morning. How come no one was the guy who mucked out Alexander the Great's stables whose wife routinely cheated on him? Or the fattest prostitute in ancient Alexandria? How about the first person who taught if they drank enough seawater they'd live forever? Or the first woman to mistakenly befriend a rabid dog?
I suspect it's because those given to these fables lead relatively uninteresting lives and want to adorn themselves with an exoticism that can be neither proven nor falsified. It's like the Italian proverb―"He who travels can make himself out to be prince or pauper."
Consider carefully the next person who insists he or she is the reincarnated form of some famous personages. Listen carefully to see if he or she is not also a magnificently insecure narcissist eager to say or do anything to impress you with their lives.
It's a great deal of gobbledygook suggesting that the reason someone is found of hats is because they were bald in a previous lifetime. Why would they be? Nothing is as it seems in "reincarnationism" but rather, their explanations have no more validity than an atheist conspiracy theory which explains the "true hidden meaning" of everything. But, how does the reincarnated person know he's correct about his previous baldness? How can he be sure his fondness of hats wasn’t because he was a Parisian millenary or Canadian haberdasher? Maybe his previous incarnation was befriended by a man wearing a hat. Maybe his cat was once killed with a particularly heavy hat. Maybe his surname was "Hat" in Swahili or Cornish or indeed Algonquin.
But, as they say, "And maybe if your grandmother had wheels, maybe she'd be a wagon." The Argumentum ad testes is the logical fallacy in which one creates a series of "maybe" statements all dependent upon the other which ultimately is a house of cards which can't bear logical or empirical enquiry.
Further, if we are all locked into an endless and futile cycle of incarnations, then there is little, if any, motive to change one's life at all. In fact, satori or, as it's known among the uneducated masses, "enlightenment," is merely self-extinguishing or the destruction of the soul and not at all the Judeo-Christian concept of eternally blissful Beatific Vision in Heaven.
In ol'Shirley MacLaine's very appropriately entitled book, Out on a Limb, she writes:
The theory of reincarnation is recorded in the Bible. But the proper interpretations were struck from it during an ecumenical council meeting of the Catholic Church in Constantinople sometime around A.D. 553, called the Council of Nicaea. [sic] ― Out on a Limb, pg. 234–35
This is a common, slick charlatan's trick to claim the Bible (and God) agree with them but once the passage in question is examined, the charlatan will offer a conspiracy theory to deflect attention from their lies―inevitably involving the Catholic Church having no more intelligence or academic integrity than the average Dan Brown novel
In actually, this nonsense is derived from the ramblings of yet another charlatan named Geddes MacGregor who wrote in his 1978 book, written without the benefit of footnotes or historical citations, speculating that Origen's texts supporting a belief in reincarnation somehow disappeared or were suppressed. Admitting he has no evidence whatsoever, MacGregor doubles down by writing, "I am convinced he taught reincarnation in some form."
And I'm convinced MacGregor doesn't know what he's talking about. After all, between the two of us, I'm apparently the only one who's read the transcripts of the two ecumenical councils of Nicaea. Had MacGregor, he would have known that the opposite was true. In fact, there was no Council of Nicaea in A.D. 553. Further, the two ecumenical councils of Nicaea (A.D. 325 and A.D. 787) took place in the city of Nicaea (hence their names)—and neither dealt with reincarnation. What did take place in A.D. 553 was the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople. But records from this Council show that it, too, did not address the subject of reincarnation. None of the early councils did.
Frankly, if MacLaine's nonsense can be taken as Gospel Truth, than it follows that Sachi Parker's, Shirley's estranged and apparently mercilessly abused daughter, autobiography Lucky Me: My Life With – and Without – My Mom, Shirley MacLaine is ineluctable fact despite Shirley's protestations. Apparently, Shirley refused to raise her own daughter citing all lack of maternal concern or feelings.
Did Shirley fail at winning a "Best Mom in the World" mug at the fair because of her long schlep through human history "perfecting" herself? If so, she needs to go to the back of the line and start again. Without having had the benefits of multiple lifetimes, even I know you need to pay attention to your kids and not abandon them penniless on the street especially when you're rolling in the dough like Shirley is.
And, at this juncture, I enjoy pointing out that Anthony Hopkins said MacLaine "was the most obnoxious actress I have ever worked with." Is her obnoxiousness the result of countless lifetimes of gaining wisdom? That's highly doubtful.
By the way, Shirley has often claimed to be God…as in The Eternal One, El-Shaddai, Hashem, Adonai Elohim. So, let's not take her off the hook quite so quickly. She's got some 'splaining to do
She also said that Ronald Reagan was kidnapped by space aliens who begged him to consider a career change and become a politician. It's hard enough to believe space aliens have faster-than-light technology and universal language translating skills but are we now to believe that they also are anti-abortion, anti-communist Republicans?
Shirley also claims to have been an Egyptian princess and a citizen of the mythical city Lemuria―wherever that is…
And though she retains "memories" of being thusly situated, Shirley seems to be incapable of speaking either of those languages let alone remembering specific details like names, places and dates.
In addition, she claims to have had numerous encounters with UFO’s at her home in New Mexico because of its "high crystal concentration" and that "crystals amplify the consciousness" and that aliens are "attracted to that crystal amplification."
In her defense, I've heard crystal meth does, indeed, do all of those things.
By the way, if you're looking to pick up some crystals on the cheap, all you need do is go to the beach. You can shake them out of your towel once you get home. Alternatively, you can pick up a package of salt on your way hope―it also comes in crystalline form.
It's hard to take someone seriously who insists she has mastered most, if not all, of the universe's secrets AND to have glibly entered into an adulterous affair with Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme for no other reason than two had supposedly already been a mated pair in the 9th century when she used to be a Moorish peasant girl and Olof was King Charlemagne the Great.
How do I know for a fact that Shirley McClaine wasn't really Charlemagne's Moorish snuggle-bunny? Because I use to be Charlemagne and I still don't want anything to do with Ol'Crackpot Shirley.
If Shirley's words "prove" her to be correct then my words prove I'm right.
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