Reincarnation is a death-specific and forward-looking philosophico-religious phenomenon that enjoys a cross-cultural appeal. It represents the theory that when the soul separates from the body at death, it informs another body for another round of earthly life. The debate on reincarnation has, so far, revolved around the reality or otherwise of reincarnation and the associated claims. In this article, we undertake a holistic and critical examination and appraisal of the key arguments underlying the reincarnation debate, with emphasis on the nature and structure of reincarnation, as well as the value of reincarnation belief. The aim is to determine who gets what among the contending parties. Although oral interviews were involved in the exercise, textual and doctrinal analysis of extant literatures on reincarnation formed the predominant source of data for the research. Our finding reveals that although the phenomenon of reincarnation is bedeviled by internal contradictions and belief in it hardly justifiable, belief in it has some positive values, including coping and unifying values that could be harnessed for the well-being of people and society. These observed values of reincarnation and the attendant belief in it, the article concludes, do not constitute a conclusive proof of the reality of reincarnation.
CONTRIBUTION: The contributive value of this paper lies in bringing to the fore the fact that contrary to popular assumption, the notion of belief is in reality, epistemically more powerful than knowledge, at least in the context of religion. Considering that HTS Theological Studies focuses on religious issues and that 'belief' and 'knowledge' are religious concepts, we consider this paper to be suitable to its objectives.
This research is part of the research project ‘Africa Platform for NT Scholars’, directed by Prof. Dr Ernest van Eck, Department of New Testament Studies and Related Literature, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria.