On the Importance of Being Ordinary

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 29 August 2013 0 Comments
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I have heard you support the Unity Church for many reasons. One popular belief, held by Unity, is reincarnation. Do you believe it is possible for persons to be reincarnated?


Dear Jack,

Unity appeals to me because of that church’s positive view of human potential and because they do not wallow in guilt and sin as so many Christians seem to do. I have met people in Unity who are inquisitive about reincarnation, though this is clearly not a core teaching of the Unity movement.

Prior to writing my book on Eternal Life (Eternal Life: A New Vision-Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell), I made an intensive study of reincarnation. I came out of that study completely agnostic about that question. It seems to me that reincarnation plays the same role in Eastern religious thought that heaven and hell play in Western religious thought. I feel its primary function is to control life here and now. Instead of reward and punishment being meted out in some place after life like heaven and hell, it is meted out in the next incarnation. Sinful people come back as lower caste people or sometimes even as animals. I am not interested in playing the game of judgment.

I found no evidence that supports the idea of reincarnation and most of the evidence cited is anecdotal and, to my mind, bogus. It is more a human hope than a human reality. So put me down in the negative column or at least the unconvinced column. I would rather try to master the meaning of the life I have than to speculate about some future or past reincarnation.

My best,

John Shelby Spong




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