David’s blog on Dalits and the caste system is well worth exploring in terms of worldviews. Why are so many Dalits / untouchables believed to be cursed from birth? The following true story is illuminating. A Dalit woman living in India was asked why she wouldn’t take her baby son to the doctor. He was very ill. She replied that the illness was part of the boy’s karma. He was being punished for something he had done in a previous life. She asserted that it was the boy’s fate to suffer!

Karma defined – All the good and bad deeds we have committed in this life and previous lives give us spiritual ‘brownie points’. These spiritual ‘brownie points’ determine what kind of body we will inhabit in future lives.

Does anyone know which religions teach the doctrine of karma?

Answer – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, Druidism, Theosophy, Cabala, Sufism and many others.

The world’s most famous philosopher believed in karma and reincarnation. His name was Plato. For Plato we don’t belong here but we belong in heaven. Our immortal souls have fallen from heaven and entered this prison of earth and the body. Salvation will only come to philosophers who live the life of reason. The rabble (i.e. thick people who aren’t rational enough) will be reincarnated in the bodies of women, animals, and worst of all… female fish.

It’s vital to understand that this belief in reincarnation has been phenomenally popular. Surveys indicate that 1 in 3 British people believe in reincarnation. Some religions even teach that we can be reincarnated into vegetables! Some people, including the Neoplatonic philosopher Plotinus, believed that there could be an immortal soul lurking in a humble tomato.

Karma is a very influential religious belief.

Mark Roques

Mark Roques

For eleven years Mark taught Philosophy and Religious Studies at Prior Park College, Bath. As Director of RealityBites since 2005, he has developed a rich range of resources for teachers and is a popular speaker at educational conferences in the UK, Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. Mark is the author of three books, including the Religious Education textbook The Good, The Bad and The Misled, and his innovative approach has led him to appear on television (Channel 4) and radio.