#YNaijaNonBinary: On reincarnation and past lives

“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.”
― Rumi

Belief of reincarnation is entrenched in certain African cultures – The Yorubas and Igbos come to mind – hence the Yoruba name Babatunde (which means father returns) and the Igbo name Nnamdi (which means my father lives).

It’s also found in Hebrew thought, early Christianity, Native American culture, and most of the religions stemming from Asia like Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism.

It’s not an accepted belief in modern Christianity and Islam, though it’s not unusual to find adherents of either religion who believe in reincarnation. A Christian friend of mine once quipped that every Nigerian must have committed heinous crimes in their past lives to have been born in Nigeria, and ironically even Christians who don’t believe in reincarnation pray against Ogbanje (demonic children who are believed to have a cycle of reincarnating and dying young).

There is no general consensus amongst atheists on the topic of reincarnation. Amongst new age religious practitioners, reincarnation is accepted by a good number of adherents. Some believe that reincarnation explains the existence of queer people, as some queer people had been a different gender in a past life, and still hold on to elements of their past life in this present life.

Asides from religion, have any research been done on the topic?

According to Wikipedia:

“Over a period of 40 years, psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, from the University of Virginia, conducted more than 2,500 case studies of young children who claimed to remember past lives. He published twelve books documenting where reincarnation and biology intersect.

 In his cases, he documented the child’s statements and testimony from family members and others, often along with correlates to a deceased person who in some ways seemed to match the child’s memory. Stevenson also investigated cases in which birthmarks and birth defects seemed to match wounds and scars on the deceased. Sometimes included in his documentation were medical records like autopsy photographs.

Expecting controversy and skepticism, Stevenson also searched for disconfirming evidence and alternative explanations for the reports, but, as the Washington Post reported, in scores of cases he concluded that no normal explanation sufficed.”

But he also has his critics

“Critics of Stevenson’s work include Paul Edwards, who criticized the accounts of reincarnation as being purely anecdotal and cherry-picked.Edwards says such stories are attributable to selective thinking, suggestion, and false memories that can result from the family’s or researcher’s belief systems and thus cannot be counted as empirical evidence.The philosopher Keith Augustine wrote in critique that the fact that “the vast majority of Stevenson’s cases come from countries where a religious belief in reincarnation is strong, and rarely elsewhere, seems to indicate that cultural conditioning (rather than reincarnation) generates claims of spontaneous past-life memories.”

The reincarnation sub reddit on Reddit is filled with stories of people who believe they have walked on this earth before they were born in their present state but it also has its fair share of skeptics.

So, what do you believe? Do you think you’ve been here before or you’ll be here again in another form?  Or do you think you only live once? There are no wrong answers…

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