Hinduism and Buddhism have convinced tens of millions of people over centuries that human beings survive the grave. They neither cease to exist nor await a restitution of their physical bodies once for all at the resurrection of the dead. Rather, our good and bad deeds produce good and bad outcomes (karma) in the next and subsequent lives (reincarnation). Especially in the past hundred years, scores of Westerners (whether Hindu or Buddhist or not) have embraced the doctrines of reincarnation and karma.
I argue that reincarnation and karma, while appealing on the surface, are riddled by deep intellectual flaws. Neither Hinduism nor Buddhism affirms the existence of a personal creator and designer. Therefore, their accounts of karma and reincarnation cannot rely on such concepts. This leaves them bereft of a key conceptual element of their view. Karma is seen as an impersonal law that somehow records good and bad deeds and assigns karmic outcomes from one lifetime to another. Yet the notion of moral evaluation and the assignment of karmic outcomes through reincarnation is rational only if a personal and moral evaluator and agent is the fulcrum of the system. But the very idea of karma is of an impersonal system.
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