Does Karma & Reincarnation Solve The Problem of Evil?


Does the idea that human beings after the end of their current embodiment (incarnated) are embodied again (re-incarnate) merged with karma, the idea that embodiments are based on the moral quality of the previous embodiments solve the logical problem of evil, namely God and existence of evil are logically inconsistent?

Let us assume that the doctrine of reincarnation that includes another doctrine of karma is true.  Let us assume that Yajnavalkya saying in Brhadaranyaka Upanisad: “A man turns into something good by good action and into something bad by bad action.”(Upan 3.2.13) is correct. Does the moral justice unfolding itself throughout a series of embodiments solve logical problem of evil?

Agreeing with Keith E. Yandell[1], I think it does. A person who believes in reincarnation and karma can solve the problem of evil by pointing out that evil is a result of just punishment of bad actions(karma) from a person’s previous embodiment(s). Actions done in previous embodiment(s) can explain why bad things happen to good people or why infants suffer, et cetera and the verse.

Borrowing Yandell, a reincarnation and karma believer could argue:

For any evil E that occurs to a person in lifetime N, E is the just consequence of wrong actions by that person in lifetime N or in her lifetimes prior to N.(Yandell 1999, 124)

It appears that a person who believes in reincarnation and karma would have, if argued in such manner, succeed to show that God and existence of evil are logically consistent. The problem of evil is thus not a problem for those who believe such Eastern doctrines.

Yandell, Keith E. (1999) Philosophy Of Religion. Routledge: London and NY

[1] Yandell and I do not believe that doctrines of reincarnation and karma are true.

19 thoughts on “Does Karma & Reincarnation Solve The Problem of Evil?

  1. The only solution to the problem of evil is found in Christ’s unique death on the cross, a.k.a., “powerful weapons” of God’s self-revelation with capability of destroying strongholds, false arguments and proud obstacle put up by all religions (including Christianity).

    • You are very correct. God in Christ on the cross reconciling the world to Himself is the only solution to the problem of evil. I do not think easter doctrine are the solution, far be it from me. I present them to show my philosophical friends that their is no logical inconsistance between God and existence of evil.

      • In the interests of change in our way of thinking, evil (such as idolatry) prevails where there is religion, a.k.a., “proud obstacle”, raised against personally revealed KNOWLEDGE OF GOD and faith based on but independent of the Scriptures.

        (Matt. 16: 13-28, esp. vs. 22-28; 27: 50-53; in principle and practice, respectively.)

  2. I need to say something. First of all it can be looked at that Reincarnation/Karma is an explanation of the world that is consistent with a totally compassionate God whereas other beliefs seem to be very insistent that some people will make it to heaven and some won’t. The real difference is that one idea consists of a world that is ONE and the other is that the world is divided into Good and Evil. A polarity of choice rather than an ascension up the ladder. Of course this would also entail a belief in Universalism.

    In this manner there is the idea that God in a Tough Love Teacher as opposed to other systems that God is the determiner and judge of our ultimate (or permanent) fate. I myself in dealing with others have to occasionally say “you can do it if you like but you won’t like it. It’s up to you.”

    In a world of Reincarnation/Karma there are no externalities. Everything is connected. Everything is ONE. There is no finality, end-all, completion of existence. Karma is not a hand out of the sky, a “Deus ex machina.” Karma should be seen instead as like a kaleidoscope that no matter which way the dial is turned it still shows a pattern of uniformity and symmetry. No matter which way we turn, we learn lessons. Some are harder and some are easier. The Karma Kaleidoscope shows one picture with everything connected.

    I don’t think that Reincarnation/Karma is a “way to explain away evil.” Instead, I too, take the position that I must steward my actions and take account of my intentions. It’s very, very serious. It’s not just an idea that sits on the shelf.

    Doctrines are usually thought of as isolated and disparate beliefs that are taken or not. What if Reincarnation is more than a doctrine? What if it was a natural law, like gravity, light, electricity, orbiting planets? Then it would not be like mere doctrine. Mere doctrine could be described as ideas like the concept of hell or the concept of substitutionary atonement.

    Again we should do unto others as you would have them do unto you. What goes around, comes around. The Golden Rule. Thus Karma is both a backward correction and a forward momentum. It is a Universal Mill Grindstone that grinds down to make a renewed substance in refined Spiritual Flour. It also works like a Universal Weaving Loom that is constantly creating new weaves of Love and Opportunity. The one(the mill) is wearing and grinding down the supposedly useless weeds into a Renewable Spiritual Nourishment while the other(the loom) is building newer and finer tapestries of Spiritual Cohesion and Fabric.

    If we ask ourselves what idea can encapsulate Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, and Science? The answer is Reincarnation. Thanks.

    • I have also responded the evidential and logical problem of evil many times in my articles. I do not think Karma & Reincarnation are true nor persuasively solve the problem. It does show that God and evil are not incompatible.

  3. I agree, in a sense, that karma and reincarnation logically explain evil, but they do not solve its origin or perniciousness. Evil is one of the paradoxes of creation that we are to steward, not explain away. It is a mystery to be pondered, not a puzzle to be solved.

  4. Interesting. Of course, regarding Buddhism there is no godhead, so simply inserting a Christian notion of your Middle Eastern god into their belief system is essentially wrong as it negates the very idea of the circle of life. Still, as an explanation for evil it works very well.

    • I am glad you agree John that these Eastern doctrine explain the computability of god and evil, thus the logical problem of evil is not as challenging as it prima facie appears.

      • Well, it is a problem for Christians. You’re lumped with the problem of evil. You can’t just go redefine your Middle Eastern god because it’s omni-everything is awkward for you.

        You do claim, of course, that your Middle Eastern god is omni-everyhting, right?

        • John, why loaded language (“my Middle Eastern god”)? Do you mean the God I believe as revealed by Middle Eastern Jews and finally by Jesus?

          What do you mean by omni-everything? Do you mean omnicompetent?

          • Because it is your “Middle Eastern” Christian god. Temporally speaking, the god of the Pentateuch is entirely absent from all but the last 1.25% of human history, and even after its literary debut in the 6th Century BCE failed to register as anything other than a minor Middle Eastern artistic anomaly envisaged by no other culture on the planet. It didn’t materialise independently in mainland Europe, emerge unassisted on the British Isles, or rouse a single word across the entire Far East. It inspired no one in any of the 30,000 islands of the South Pacific, energised nothing across the African continent, stirred naught in North America, and didn’t move anything or anyone in Central or South America. No one across the vast Indian Great Plains or Russian steppes ever heard of it. No Azorean fisherman suddenly spoke of it, no Scandinavian shipwright carved its name in a stone, no Japanese mother ever thought she’d heard it speak in whispered tones, and no Australian aborigine ever dreamed of it. Outside the pages of the bible there is positively nothing in the natural or anthropological landscape which might even remotely lead a person blissfully ignorant of the claims made in bible to suspect that that particular Middle Eastern god had ever inspired anything except the imaginations of a few linguistically specific Iron Age Canaanite hill tribes looking to add a little supernatural spice to their otherwise perfectly terrestrial lives.

            Yes: an infallible, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient god; a supernatural, magical, anthropomorphic, personal being which pervades all that is, will be, and has been. Or have you redefined your god? If so, perhaps I should hear how you define your god?

          • You are correct I understand God correctly expressed by Judeo-Christians.

            Dealing with the problem of evil, I do think God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent. But I am not sure we understand these attribute in the say way. Could you let me know what each, as you understand, mean?

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