Published on Oct 22, 2014
In "Remembrances of Lives Past," an article that appeared in the New York Times this weekend, Newsweek's religion editor Lisa Miller takes a look at our nation's growing belief in reincarnation. According to data released by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a quarter of Americans believe in reincarnation (interestingly, according to the Times piece, women are more likely to believe in reincarnation than men, and democrats are more likely to believe than republicans). This emerging belief in reincarnation is a steep departure from the traditional Judaeo-Christian narrative that most Americans are familiar with: In religious terms, the human narrative — birth, life, death and rebirth — has for millennia been relatively straightforward in the West. You were born. You lived. You died. After a judgment you went to heaven (or hell) forever and ever. Eternity was the end: no appeals allowed. But nearly a billion Hindus and a half-billion Buddhists — not to mention the ancient Greeks, certain Jews and a few Christians — have for thousands of years believed something entirely different. Theirs is, as the theologians say, a cyclical view. You are born. You live. You die. And because nobody's perfect, your soul is born again — not in another location or sphere, and not in any metaphorical sense, but right here on earth.