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Lives-Long Learning: The Effects of Reincarnation Belief on Everyday Life in England

Walter, Tony and Waterhouse, Helen (2001). Lives-Long Learning: The Effects of Reincarnation Belief on Everyday Life in England. Nova Religio, 5(1) pp. 85–101.

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A sizeable minority of Westerners who have no particular connection with Eastern or New Age religions nevertheless claim to believe in reincarnation. Does this belief affect their practical morality and how they think about suffering and injustice? An interview study conducted in England mapped the range of meanings such people give to reincarnation, and found: 1) Karma was widely referred to, but in the context of Western notions of self-improvement; there was little recognition of the possibility of bad karma leading to 'downward mobility' in the next life, and little linking of karma to everyday action; 2) Reincarnation enabled respondents to make sense of suffering and injustice, but in a rather general way; 3) Despite the sample's elderly bias, reincarnation was not widely reported as a comfort in illness and bereavement. The authors conclude that, outside of a culture or formal religion that embraces it, relatively high levels of personal interest in reincarnation can coincide with rather insubstantial effects on everyday morality, though individuals can and do use it to think about problems of suffering and injustice.

Item Type: Journal Item
ISSN: 1092-6690
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > History, Religious Studies, Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Item ID: 2708
Depositing User: Helen Waterhouse
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2006
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2016 09:47
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