The Erroneous Belief in Reincarnation, Part III
We have examined in the past two posts (here and here) the most common ways to understand reincarnation and their fundamental incompatibility with the existence and work of Christ. Let us now conclude by examining the utter failure of such new age “Christianity-cum-reincarnation” perspectives from a more practical point of view.
In order to do so, one must decide whether Indians are a people intrinsically or even genetically prone to violence and cruelty, or not. If one decides that they are, one subscribes to a racist vision of the world which is the contrary of what modern followers of reincarnation tend to (at least consciously) believe. If one doesn’t, he has a problem.
It is in fact clear from the most superficial exam of the Indian society that a high level of cruelty and ruthlessness, unknown to Christian societies, has dominated its social structures for a long time. The suttee, the habit of burning the widow at or around the death of her husband, is in my eyes a clear evidence of the consequences of reincarnation. I am not interested here in the details of the practice (how consistent it was with Hindu spirituality; whether it was more often voluntary or forced; whether it was common or rare, etc.); rather with the fact that such practices never existed in the Christian culture. And really, whilst one does not necessarily need to believe in reincarnation to commit suicide or being killed (a lot of atheists commit suicide or kill even by us), it is difficult to imagine that such practices would have been even imagined without a belief in reincarnation spread through the veins of the Indian society. The problem here is not whether Suttee is compatible with Hindu spirituality, but whether it is compatible with the belief in reincarnation…..
Similar considerations can be made for other aspects of the Indian society, less evident now but still not eradicated: the existence and toleration of castes by otherwise decent people can only be explained with the belief in reincarnation.
Never in Christian countries have people died of starvation in the middle of the road among the general indifference; not even in times of pestilence. Never in Christian countries have people been considered unworthy of being touched, or even their shadow being considered defiling. Never in Christian countries has the gap between starving poor and shamelessly rich reached the scale of the Indian subcontinent found by the British colonisation. I could give further examples of cruelty and utter disregard for the dignity of the human being.
Still, no sensible person could deny that in that same country one could find a multitude of excellent people; compassionate in their own way, lovers of family and friends, sometimes extremely spiritual as clearly showed by an impressive spiritual tradition. It is therefore fair to say that it is the belief in reincarnation which made the cruelty, the suttee, the starving of people under one’s eyes & Co. acceptable in the eyes of decent people. I do not want to say that an individual who believes in reincarnation must perforce accepts these things; rather that a nation that believes in reincarnation will end up accepting them.
The problem of today’s society is that too many people are ready to see as “cool” and “spiritually advanced” everything that comes from the East, but do not think to the end about the consequences of the beliefs they are trying to import. They consider a “cruelty” that a priest (a man who has made an adult and free choice) is not allowed to marry, but never consider that a child brought to a Buddhist monastery to be raised as a monk never had a chance to choose, or to protest. They never ask themselves how would they feel if Catholic priests or friars were selected in the same way. They are so vocal in the defence of animals and will love to tell you how nice Indian people are to cows, but will readily forget how less nice they are to the starving and to the widows. (Yes, many widows die in India today of strange domestic accidents. Doesn’t happen by us, strangely enough).
This doesn’t want to be a generalised condemnation of Indian society. I am sure many excellent people (Hindu, Muslim etc.) live and have always lived there. But you can’t take Sodom out of Lot, and you can’t avoid the belief in reincarnation causing an amount of indifference and acceptance of starvation and violence just inconceivable by us.
And so it happens that whilst Western countries nowadays provide up to one fifth of the GDP of countries thousands of miles away, out of sheer compassion for people they’ll never see, Sri Lanka drowns in a sea of corruption even after a disastrous tsunami, with entire categories of citizens enriching themselves out of the money meant to save their own people from tragic death and utter destitution.
Christian societies work. They are far more compassionate than any other. They have never allowed mass starvation, not even in the darkest hours of hunger and misery and plague. They have never burned widows like the Indians, or exposed sickly children like the Greek. Not even in the hardest circumstances.
Reincarnation is not only wrong but when applied to entire populations for generations, sooner or later it will create the conditions for the toleration of every aberration.
Posted on September 24, 2010, in Catholicism and tagged Catholicism, Christ, Christian, conservative catholicism, India, Reincarnation, Religion and Spirituality, Sri Lanka. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.
Very fine post. Look no further than India for how colossal the misery a false belief system can impose upon a people. Not for nothing is ‘falsehood’ included in the last of the Good Friday petitions – ‘rid the world of falsehood, hunger and disease’. The Truth does indeed set us free. We seldom ponder the lot of the hundreds of millions of India’s dalits. I’ve never been attracted to India, nor have I bought into the faux mysticism that some attach to the place.
I think the attractiveness (beside the smell of new, fashionable religion; a bit like rayon in the Sixties) comes from the fact that many Westerners are now kept totally in the dark as to ho wmany reasonable and definitve answers Catholicism gives to the “questions that anguish the modern man”.
Only, the modern man is not taught them at all. Therefore, he’ll be attracted by the first colleague who speaks to him about reincarnation and will very often not even understand how far he is going from Christianity (better: how little of Christianity he has always known).
I am persuaded that when proper catechesis starts again, all these new-age and oriental religion things will soon be abandoned. But it will be difficult as long as we have archbishops bowing in front of hindu altars.
Good Morning, Mundabor,
Wonderful post! As a traveller to India twice, and the mother of two formerly Hindu infants and current host mother of a Hindu exchange student boy from the slums of Bangalore, this post struck a cord indeed.
Let me say this, I observed and was immersed in Indian society twice and experienced many shocking things…several stand out….literally starving beggar mothers of about 12 or 13 with starving infants in arms begging for food. The infants had the copper hair of protein malnutrition. Communities of the severely mentally ill living around the train stations…terribly deformed and crippled people begging at train stations for a morsel to eat…street urchins swarming me and my husband as Westerners, begging for rupees… tiny malnourished laboreres everywhere doing the most dangerous work while shoeless…sections of Bombay where eunuchs stopped traffic begging (who created these eunuchs!????)
Our current host student has many old burn scars on his body, I’m sure from the daily household danger in his life. He is unable to write/send pictures to his mother/brother because he says she has no official address–she likely lives in a lean-to in urban Bangalore. His brother is a taxi driver and earns $100 monthly. Very interestingly, our student went to a Catholic school where he excelled and showed leadership skills. All his documents are signed by a Catholic nun! This boy is being lifted out of his station in life by the Catholic Church in India!
Our state department here has a program called PAX to bring children (high-schoolers of age 16 and 17) for a year of schooling here, living with an American family. The program has targeted Muslim students, but of 92 from India, our Hindu boy was chosen as well. He tells me that only two of the children are from the slums–the other 90 Indians are from middle class families.
I asked him about the caste system, and he told me he was from the caste just one notch lower than Brahmins, but laughed and said it didn’t make any sense, because he and his family were so poor! He told me of a schoolmate girl in India who flunked one subject and was beaten by her parents and then she committed suicide that evening. So, yes, what you say is rampant. As he told me this, he almost seemed matter-of-fact, yet there was a spark of remorse.
The orphanage workers/administrators we dealt with getting our two infants in the 1990s were mostly Hindu, but the organization overseeing and supporting the orphanage was a Christian one out of Eugene, Oregon who set it up. We found the Hindus compassionate and caring for the hundreds of orphans with zeal and tenderness. Truth is truth and in the end will set us free. India honors Mother Teresa, and knows her goodness, and honors Gandhi who wanted to rid the subcontinent of the caste system, didn’t he?
One last thought, what about the Christian Brits who did NOTHING to save the starving Irish in the mid 19th century? That was truly ghastly. Any comment there?
you have written a truly beautiful post and I am so glad to have helped to highlight a real problem.
Personally I haven’t had the direct personal experience that you say, but I have had Indian colleagues who have talked to me in detail about the matter; people I trust and, in their own way, decent enough. What one comes to understand is that their religious beliefs numbs their natural goodness and they end up accepting things like those you have described as they accept the rain and the draught. Still, in my eyes these are matters of natural law and I therefore think that the price for the unquestioning acceptance of such atrocities will be very high.
On the British Empire. The British Empire owns its existence to the fact that they never tried to westernise their colonies. The British style of colonialism was what we would today call “low-impact”: they tried to intrude into people’s life as little as they could and tried to leave the local power structure intact as much as possible.
This was not because they were bad or indifferent, but because nothing else would have been possible. The Empire was so vast that they would have needed 20 or 30 times the amount of soldiers they had (a sheer impossibility) just to keep India under control, or at least to try.
To give you just a tiny example, only the fear (unfounded in reality) that the Empire would try to convert Muslims, Hindu and Sikh to Christianity was a major factor in the starting of the Sepoy Rebellion (yes, I love history…). It is only grace to the extreme value and competence of the British soldiers that India was not lost on that occasion. The British Raj won that and even managed to transform a de facto protectorate in outright colonisation, but that was a very close call, and was achieved with a – comparatively speaking – extremely tiny army. They could never, ever have made anything more than they did. They were empire builders, were soldiers and merchants, not missionaries.
You can make a modern comparison in Iraq, where UK and USA have showed a different approach: the US trying with the “nation building” in the centre and north and the UK favouring their usual, more “laissez faire” approach in the south. It has served them rather well, I’d say.
To make you another example, Italy had still a different kind of colonisation. Mussolini really wanted to spread the light of Italian civilisation in the colonies. As a result, immense amounts of money were spent, and I talk here of enough that they could have given a wonderful infrastructure to all of the (underdeveloped) Southern Italy. The Raj never had such expensive, emotional, messianic approach.
You don’t build lasting Empires by chance.. 😉
Thank you for your outline of the thrust and philosophy behind the British Raj. My gestalt told me the Brits were not villians in India for the most part, but many of those that lived there did act as if they were royalty and the natives were a sub-species and this a real turn off to me. I’m glad they got kicked out. How much of a legacy have the Anglicans left in India? Pondering this makes me wistful for the England of the 11th and 12th century. How different the world would have been if not for Henry the 8th and the turning of England to a national heretical church. All these Islanders (English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish) living lives so much more paltry than they could have been had they remained Catholic. Britain is so weird because it is so Protestant. Italy is not weird–it is Catholic. And Britain’s Protestant legacy has tainted America ever since the founding of this republic.
You have not answered the question of the problem of the Brits and Ireland. Why did a so called Christian country, England, turn its back on Ireland during the potato famine? That goes in the face of your theory that a Christian country could never allow people to starve wholesale. But the Brits did.
I do imagine that some people will have been very arrogant. I also imagine that the reciprocal esteem was limited to individual cases. But in the end the ones were the masters and the others the subjects, there’s no way this can be forgotten. Even in Italy (a country of lovers of women, not wars) if you can’t keep your indipendence against a very small army you won’t be esteemed much.
I disagree that they “got kicked out”.
Whilst I doubt that the English would have been willing to support the cost of a war for many years, there’s no doubt in my mind that the decision was of the Brits to go, not of the Indians to kick them out.
The Attlee government (the reddest thing this country has ever seen) wanted to spend on welfare, not on colonies and after the precious help given from the Indians during WW II it would have been difficult to deny them their wish.
Besides: expensive thing a colony, when you can get your raw materials on the commodity markets. Doesn’t really make sense.
But kicked out? No, absolutely not. If the Brits had wanted to pay the cost, they’s still be sitting there and no mistake.
Extremely tough people, these Brits and I tell this with admiration. Their soldiers would have eaten every Indian army for breakfast, every breakfast.
The Brits are the only ones to have ever defeated the Afghans. And they ‘ve done it twice. Present conflict not counted.. 😉
Thanks again for increasing my understanding. Yes, I know the Brits are tough and are a basically honorable people.
Still waiting for an answer on the Great Famine, Mundabor! 😉
What do you mean, Mimi?
Am I missing something?
In redvelvette’s first comment:
“One last thought, what about the Christian Brits who did NOTHING to save the starving Irish in the mid 19th century? That was truly ghastly. Any comment there?”
In redvelvette’s second comment:
“You have not answered the question of the problem of the Brits and Ireland. Why did a so called Christian country, England, turn its back on Ireland during the potato famine? That goes in the face of your theory that a Christian country could never allow people to starve wholesale. But the Brits did.”
As an Irishwoman (who does not think as highly of the Brits as you do), I have been awaiting your reply with interest. 😉
I must have missed these questions.
Well you will have to ask other people there who are better informed than I am.
However bad the Brits mighthave been on this occasion, I hope we do not compare this with the Indian system and say that there are therefore no differences between Hindu and Christianity.
encouraged from you lines, I have gone to check a bit on Wikipedia what has happened.
Whilst I agree that idiocy has been at times at work there, I ‘d say that the assertion that England abandoned Ireland to its destiny doesn’t hold. You may complain about inefficiency, ideologic idiocy or blind faith in the markets, but it is not fair to say that the British government (at the times already with a lor of Irish MPs in it, so not a colony in any strict sense) has just looked the other side whilst people were dying of starvation. I accept thatthey were Anglicans and the one or other fanatic may have been among them, but it can’t be said that they had a Hindu attitude towards the problem, at all.
On the “liking” of the English (last answer I promise) 😉
Yes, all in all I do like the people here. It is different from Italy or Germany in that here there is a very clear class differentiation, and this colours social relationships. One must learn to understand the cultural climate. Still, I’d say that in general they are nice people, when sober ;).
What I admire them for, though, is their being very tough in times of adversity and wonderful soldiers. I lived in Germany and couldn’t understand how the German could end up with a military superpower, as they haven’t anything of that anymore (Germany is now a sissified country, big time; even compared to Italy). But living here I can perfectly understand how they could build such a vast Empire.
Doesn’t mean I think them perfect, though: collectively speaking they drink far too much, they enjoy queues too much 😉 and there are still too many atheists and socialists around ;).
Stunning sense of humour, though. 😉
No, no, they didn’t have a Hindu attitude to the problem — just a superior English colonial, Protestant, anti-Irish and anti-Catholic attitude. 😉