Public Perception Versus Actual Experience

The following was from SkepDic.com’s article on reincarnation.  Keep in mind that throughout their article- which glosses over the ideas long traditions in Eastern faiths and focuses heavily on New Age spirituality and Scientology, this paragraph is the sum total of their actual argument against the subject:

Finally, since there is no way to tell the difference between a baby with a soul that will go to heaven or hell, a baby with a soul that has been around before in other bodies, and a baby with no soul at all, it follows that the idea of a soul adds nothing to our concept of a human being. Applying Occam’s razor, both the idea of reincarnation and the idea of an immortal soul that will go to heaven or hell are equally unnecessary.

Though this is technically right in strictly scientific terms, I have one crucial problem with this: it only addresses religious belief in reincarnation and treats it like a religious issue.

My experience has been the opposite; since recalling apparent past lives, I’ve actually approached religion largely as an outsider.  My views are decidedly less cynical than those of the average Internet antitheist, but I have not, to date, given my devotion to any one religion and my explorations of religion in general are secondary to the fact that I had a weird experience.  I kind of like Buddhism and Gnosticism, but I’m not there yet and I’m in no hurry to convert to anything.

To discredit someone who was using reincarnation as a handy explanation in a religious context, SkepDic’s explanation works.  But like so many similar arguments, it’s based on a narrow and caricatured view of the subject and its persistence in culture and doesn’t address the complexity of individual experience that defies the label of “religious.”  It’s easy to discredit Scientology, though, so they go for the easy victory with gusto, even if it is a bit like picking on the slow kid in class.

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