Folklore and Reality
Believers in reincarnation sometimes say that many ancient cultures believed in some form of reincarnation.
A good number of ancient myths do point to some kind of reincarnation theory but, at the same time, many cultures contained figures opposed to these ideas.
For instance, the ancient Greek and Indian materialist philosophers of the Epicurean and Charvaka schools, respectively, forcefully argued against any kind of immortality of the soul.
Rarely was life so simple in the ancient world that everyone embraced just one philosophy or outlook on life. In fact, the better scholars of religion and myth say it’s doubtful that everyone believed in their prevailing myths, even if these myths did happen to involve reincarnation.
Just like today, people probably faked it by showing outward signs of belief to avoid the repercussions of being different from the horde.
But even if, for the sake of argument, we momentarily agree that reincarnation does figure prominently in the ancient world, this doesn’t tell us much. It’s almost like saying
Every Christian child believes in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, therefore these folkloric characters exist.
Most Christians would say that folklore enriches childhood and even adult years. But they would add that at a certain point in one’s spiritual formation fascinating stories are put in context and more insight is gained by allowing the intellect to follow faith–and not the other way around.
Accordingly, Christians tend to see reincarnation as a limiting theory one hopefully grows out of.
The words of Saint Paul illustrate this perspective well:
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
1 Corinthians 13:11
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