May Catholics believe in reincarnation in place of hell?


I have a question about reincarnation and eternal hell. One of the reasons I left Christianity and became interested in Hinduism and Buddhism, is because I rejected the idea of an eternal hell, and found that reincarnation (which is merely the process that continues until one is liberated from that process) helped explain the injustices in the world. But now I’m re-exploring Christianity, specifically Catholicism.

My question is: is it possible to believe in reincarnation – while maintaining belief in the ultimate resurrection of the dead – and be a Catholic at the same time? If not, are there any good Catholic resources (other than the Church Fathers, since they were more interested in battling Gnosticism, rather than Buddhism or Hinduism) that compare reincarnation with resurrection? Thanks.


Dear Sedes,

I think it would be helpful for you to consider whether you really want to know the truth regardless of the price or if you only want to consider that which is the least demanding—even if it isn’t true.

If you opt for the latter, there will always remain under the surface of consciousness, the question: if it isn’t true, what’s the point of considering it? There is in all of us a desire for truth—even if it is painful.

The truth of Reality is not up to us. Wishful thinking has never changed the course of life. Hell is not an inviting concept to think about. Divine Revelation tells us that we are meant for far better than hell. It also tells us that we are not the center of the universe and that God is in charge.

Most recently founded religions (Mormans, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, et al) don’t have a teaching about hell. If most of us were going to found a religion, we probably wouldn’t retain it either. But to found a religion is to create something that is no bigger than we are. I would hate to think of the god my limited resources would conjure up. But most of all, the creature cannot create the Creator. Who God is and what He expects from us is not up to us!

Frankly, the notion of reincarnation is too ephemeral for Christians to take seriously. It reduces the body to a matter of clothing; a nod to minutia. For the Christian we are incarnate spirits. Our bodies, along with our souls are us. Every part of us speaks of our Creator. Every aspect of us is a tell-tale sign of our Author. When God became incarnate is Jesus Christ, He did not simply wear His body as a set of human coveralls. He was true God and true man. When His body suffered and died on the cross, His human nature suffered and died on the cross; HE suffered and died on the cross.

So long as one prefers to look for the religion that meets one’s requirements, he is playing in the land of make-belief. It is only when one is willing to meet the God who expects us to meet HIS requirements that we are brought to the silence that the Divine Presence demands. It is then for us to bow down in worship and know His peace.

I would suggest that you read “Why did Jesus Have to suffer for our forgiveness?” which was posted earlier today. You are in my prayers.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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