Is Karma Real?

Karma: action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in reincarnation.*

Karma is an often used phrased in western culture that has its origin in eastern or Asian religions. Unfortunately, karma is not biblical, and is quite contradictory and incompatible with the existence of God.

In the next few posts (post 2post 3post 4), I will present six problems with the doctrine of karma and show why it cannot exist without using any reference to God or the Bible. I will then show biblically the issues that karma creates.

Problem #1) The Memory Problem: How can I better myself if I don’t know what I’m being punished for?

Many people in western culture do not realize that karma is not something that just happens in this life. In reality, a lot of (if not the majority) of karma is a result of things one has done in past lives.

That being said, since none of us can remember what has happened to us in past lives, it seems odd and even unproductive to be punished for past lives we have no recollection about. This argument is typically used as an attack on the idea that we live multiple lives, but there is also a strong moral issue in question; justice.

Justice means that whoever is being made to suffer for a past crime or bad act knows what they are suffering for and understands why they are being punished. When a child is punished or scolded, they are told what they did wrong in order for them to learn what they can and cannot do.

When it comes to karma, this is not the case at all. Why be punished and suffer for something when you have no idea what it is for? The memory problem renders karma essentially useless as a means of moral education, and this is exactly what karma is supposed to teach us and help us learn.

Problem #2) The Proportionality Problem: Nothing you do in a past life can equal the pain and suffering we see in our world.

There is tremendous pain and suffering in our world. The tsunamis that have struck asian countries in recent years, genocides that go on in Africa, and even something as “small” as birth complications that causes a newborn baby to die; these are all terrible things.

When we are re-born, the sufferings we experience in our present life are typically a result of things that we did in our previous lives. This “eye for an eye” version of the rebirth mentality holds that if one is raped in this life, it must have been because one was a rapist in a past life (or did something the equivalent thereof). After all, what could be fairer than being repaid for whatever harm you caused to others?

Can it then be said that since we are all subject to die sooner or later, it is because we were all in fact murderers in past lives?

Can we really say that what happened to those who were killed in Auschwitz and other concentration camps during the Holocaust did something so evil in their past lives that they merely got what was coming to them? The rebirth theory (that karma holds to) is committed to this “just” position.

If karma is true, than we should feel absolutely no remorse for those in any tragic situation. For example, those who died in 9/11 must have deserved it, and if you don’t agree, then you don’t really believe in the existence of karma.

* I found it to be the most understandable definition.
**This post is derived from Whitley R. P. Kaufman’s essay Karma, Rebirth, and the Problem of Evil.


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