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On my world, a magical device known as a Reincarnation Anchor (RA) was invented. The effect of a RA is that any human who spends a significant portion of their life within sight range of a RA becomes subject to reincarnation. Within Sight Range doesn't mean that the RA must be visible, but that the RA is above the horizon of a spherical body the same size and position as the planet. In other words, a mountain can be in the way, but the reincarnation will still work through it as long as it is above the theoretical horizon. Obviously, RAs are located in high places.

Infants need not have spent much time near a RA to have been in its vicinity for a significant portion of their life, and therefore become subject to reincarnation almost immediately. However, someone not born within the area of effect of a RA must spend a significant portion of their life within the area of effect of a RA, the older the person, the longer they must spend there. A "significant amount of time" works out to be around 5% of a person's age.

For purposes of this question, reincarnation works in the following manner:

  • The transmissible personality, memories skills, knowledge and experiences of a person shall be referred to in this question as a Soul.

  • During life, the soul develops alongside the body. At death (the moment that the soul's body ceases to be a suitable vessel to hold it, some time after the cessation of all processes of life), the soul becomes separate from the body.

  • Some time after the death of its previous body, the soul may attach to a newborn member of the same species that is born within sight of a RA. As the newborn matures, the soul progressively integrates with the body and becomes fully integrated at physical maturity. The period of time between death and reincarnation may be as little as a second, or may be many lifetimes, though it is most commonly a relatively short period of time. It may be speculated that one or more 'bad' lives may delay reincarnation, however good lives may also delay reincarnation. There is some correlation between the reincarnation times of a particular soul. Reincarnation is not guaranteed.

  • Reincarnation may occur in any place that is within sight of a RA.

  • A reincarnated individual gains the mental skills, knowledge and memories of the soul which attaches to it.

  • a newborn without a reincarnated soul is not born with a soul of its own, it develops one at some point during adolescence.

  • The effects of brain injury and/or illnesses such as dementia do not become part of the soul. A soul may be considered to function additively, and has no mechanism for externally applied subtractive processes.

  • A soul's content degrades slightly between reincarnations. A soul which has reincarnated many times may typically remember roughly ten previous lifetimes, more if the previous lives were short, or less if the previous lives were long. More recent previous lives are more clearly remembered than older lives.

  • Rarely (on the order of 1 in 100,000 reincarnations), a soul may reincarnate into two newborns simultaneously (taking lightspeed delays into consideration). Such duplicate reincarnations lead to two separate souls, the souls do not become one again after the death of both of the bodies.

  • Where the species' population numbers are rising, there will be many newborns who are not born with a reincarnated soul. Where the species' population numbers are constant or falling, more newborns will have reincarnated souls, to the point where a newborn without a reincarnated soul is very rare.

  • All humans have souls, not only those whose reincarnation will be facilitated by a RA.

  • An individual may choose to reject reincarnation by performing a ritual of unbinding, and moving out of sight range of a RA.

So, the question is:

Is it reasonable that a society (as in a majority of its inhabitants, >50%) might reject reincarnation because it would perpetuate a lack of respect for human life, that when it is known that death is not permanent, killing can become the first answer to many difficult problems?

Note

To those who think that this question is opinion-based, I would agree. It is all about public opinion, therefore all opinions are relevant, and the most upvoted would obviously be the most relevant. How can WB SE allow questions on [social norms] which are all about public opinion without soliciting opinions? The thing that makes the answerers' opinions relevant are the votes each may attract.

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    $\begingroup$ Brainstorming convincing reasons is too open ended and opposition based to be a good fit for this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Aug 4 at 8:10
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    $\begingroup$ @sphennings Have a look at my edit. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Aug 4 at 8:16
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    $\begingroup$ Seems like you're still soliciting opinions about something pretty subjective, each member of this site will have their own definition of reasonableness. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Aug 4 at 8:42
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    $\begingroup$ You probably want to read up a bit about Buddhism, and especially the concept of Samsara as suffering $\endgroup$
    – Ottie
    Aug 4 at 10:13
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    $\begingroup$ @VentifactsandYardangs The former personality is remembered in subsequent incarnations, but is not imposed. A reincarnated soul may have a significantly different personality to its previous incarnations. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Aug 4 at 15:15

9 Answers 9

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What happens to dead people? The situation you've presented here solves half the mystery of death, namely that humans do in fact have souls. Yay.

Unless I misread your intro however you don't seem to have specified what happens to souls which don't reincarnate. If a society believed that there was a destination for souls after death that was important, then that society could be heavily against trapping the soul in this place when it is supposed to move onto the next.

Is there definitive proof you not killing baby souls? Another strong motivator would be if a nation doubted your godly ordained point that children only develop a soul during adolescence. If there was any suspicion that reincarnating souls took the place of baby souls then the process of reincarnating could be viewed as a parasitic one where newborn souls were killed off for the benefit of the older generations. If such a suspicion existed, there would definitely be large groups of people who would abstain from reincarnation and seek to protect their babies from being infected by reincarnating souls.

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  • $\begingroup$ The question (maybe after edit) states that all souls will reincarnate eventually, it just may take longer if there are less body than lingering souls. $\endgroup$
    – toolforger
    Aug 5 at 9:57
  • $\begingroup$ If I understand your point correctly I'll clarify that I'm talking about the souls of people who choose not to be reincarnated, not the souls of reincarnating people who have a long waiting list to get a new physical body :p $\endgroup$
    – Alot
    Aug 5 at 11:45
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    $\begingroup$ Yes you did understand correctly ;-) $\endgroup$
    – toolforger
    Aug 5 at 13:01
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Proletariat Uprising

The government of this country had a heavy partisan split that prevents it from effectively funding public infrastructure, so it was up to individual localities to fund reincarnation anchors. Through restrictive zoning, predatory pricing, and a little gerrymandering, the towns and neighborhoods around reincarnation anchors became rich people exclusives. The company that makes reincarnation anchors was complicit because they get higher paying maintenance contracts from the rich neighborhood associations.

Next, the rich in the country in question were able to legalize financial instruments to pass wealth on to their reincarnated selves. Thus, the rich were able to become functionally immortal, and upon having centuries to each amass wealth, the price threshold of one of the immortal neighborhoods was pushed far beyond what a poor person could make in their single lifetime. Financial mobility approached zero.

With the political system controlled by the lobbying power of the rich and the rich themselves being a large fraction of the politicians (which is already true in the USA), the dissatisfaction of the proliferate continued to grow until violent revolution was the only option. As part of the revolution, all reincarnation anchors in the country were destroyed and new ones were banned by the new constitution put in place.

Potential Plot Twist

After the uprising, the head of the revolution and new leader of the People's Assembly secretly installed a reincarnation anchor in the basement of the First Among Equals Residence. By installing this in the basement with carefully shaped concrete, it was designed such that only the residence itself is in range. By creating a tradition of having children born at home (for security reasons of course), the First Among Equals is able to assure a reincarnated oligarchy retains control of the government while appearing to be a succession of democratically elected leaders.

How and when this ruse will be discovered is a key aspect of the story.

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    $\begingroup$ Not just lobbying, the rich are themselves the politician (and/or the politicians are themselves rich). They've managed to pass down political power as well. Great answer! except that I don't think such a revolution could succeed =( $\endgroup$
    – Blueriver
    Aug 4 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ I also had Altered Carbon Vibes when reading this. $\endgroup$
    – Benjamin
    Aug 5 at 8:08
  • $\begingroup$ If RAs are on mountains and the area of effect is the idealized-sphere horizon, there's plenty of space. $\endgroup$
    – toolforger
    Aug 5 at 9:59
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Dangers of reincarnation

  • The influential, powerful and evil people will try to push weak and good people away from RA range and keep their gang people in RA range to become subject to reincarnation. Slowly the society will be full of influential, powerful and evil people who will keep coming back.
  • If someone could not take revenge against an individual, a nation or a country in his lifetime, he will come back to complete the task.

Reasons to reject reincarnation

  • Dangerous. Some people in the society feel the above dangers of reincarnation and they convince others to reject reincarnation.

  • Souls find a much better place. The souls of people who did a lot of good for the society find a much better environment, body, conditions in some other world and they don't want to come back to your world. (After all, the souls which don't reincarnate, go somewhere).

  • Fresh minds. A society wants to have a next generation with fresh progressive minds and not with same old backward prejudiced minds.

  • Raising a baby owned by unwanted soul. No parents want their new born baby to be captured by some old soul and they are just doing a lot of effort and struggle in raising a baby body which is already owned by an unknown, unwanted soul.

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  • $\begingroup$ Make RA's expensive, and replace evil with rich, and you've got a big slice of Peter F. Hamiliton's commonwealth for a template. $\endgroup$
    – Jontia
    Aug 5 at 8:00
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Possible decrease of respect for human life could be a reason for rejecting reincarnation but there could be another reason

Reincarnation leads to stagnation

If souls are reborn over and over again with memories of their old life(or lives), they will also remember all the superstitions, prejudices and ingrained ways of thinking they had in their old lives. It may be tempting for people who firmly believe that their ideas are right that the future generation keeps those ideas. On the other hand if this nation's society is going through some kind of crisis of conscience and there is a lot of national soul-searching (pun not intended) going on, many people could want their children to be better than them, to be able to start with a fresh canvas.

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    $\begingroup$ While people may agree with this in the abstract, it's much harder to implement in actuality. In the abstract, societal progress is good and if other people have to die for it, that's acceptable. In practice, when it's me who needs to do the dying, that's much less appealing. My ideas are great; it's everyone else's ossified beliefs that leads to societal stagnation. $\endgroup$
    – Zags
    Aug 4 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ I, too, would prefer not dying $\endgroup$ Aug 5 at 3:14
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New Souland

When Reincarnation was invented, many countries started building Reincarnation Anchors to appease the population that controlled the country's wealth, which tended to be rather old (this is purely fictional) and weren't really keen on dying and ceasing to exist. Some other countries rejected the idea, based on religious beliefs that they shouldn't play at being a deity, and didn't build Reincarnation Anchors.

Personal beliefs differed, but only a handful of people in the world could afford their own personal RA, so most people had to settle for what their country decided. However, many middle class folks had the opportunity to move somewhere else, in or out of range of a RA. The problem? RAs were not impossibly expensive for the vast majority of countries, and they were believed to give the country an incredible long-term benefit of not losing their brightest minds to death or brain issues (some were even planning on "resetting" the geniuses by murdering them at the first sign of brain decay and letting them be reborn). So the only countries without RAs covering their big cities were extremely religious.

Of the extremely wealthy, most didn't want to die, but a few of them were perfectly ok with death, and when they realized they were not alone, they saw a big opportunity. They purchased a rather sizable island to the south-east of Australia, and founded a country there: New Souland, where every soul would be new.

The premise: Simple, no RAs in range, ever.

The real advantage: Free from the burden of old knowledge, new souls would bring a new perspective into this world, advancing all aspects of science, society, economics and human development.

The result: Merely 60 years after its foundation, New Souland has become a world power through its technological advancements. It's not a utopia by any means, but it's embracing the future, and shaping it.

The sad part: Unfortunately, the country's founders never got to see their country flourish. It was a pretty bad start, and the project only survived when economic help was given for anyone to move in, bringing in skilled and motivated people that would be the real builders of the country. But they were proud of it nonetheless, and this can be observed in the faces of their sculptures, which serve as a reminder of the fact that the only place where a person should live forever is in the memory of the people they've helped.

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that when it is known that death is not permanent, killing can become the first answer to many difficult problems?

I think the premise is flawed. If "A soul's content degrades slightly between reincarnations. " and I may even have to wait "many lifetimes" before reincarnation, it seems that I would want to avoid reincarnation (i.e., living a regular life to old age). Especially if the population is declining, there may be a point where some people will never be reincarnated again before the end of the species! At that point death is effectively permanent.

Probably a legal system will be put in place to avoid unnecessary reincarnation (death/killing), not too different than our own legal system that addresses both accidental and intentional killing. Even if reincarnation were instant, it will still be years before you are an adult again, and you start off "slightly degraded" to boot.

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Divine Retaliation

If you have proven souls exist, you have to face the possibility that other spiritual beings could exist, namely deities.

People could be very opposed to artificial reincarnation because doing so would be playing God. If a person believes that God exists and judges souls in the afterlife, artificially staying in the material world would be avoiding justice essentially, and could land you in some Hell realm once you finally die for good (which is a guarantee in the grand scheme of the universe and an Eternal Deity)

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You're robbing Peter to pay Paul

While infants may not have a fully developed soul, it is nonetheless present.

Starting at puberty, the reincarnating soul gradually replaces the infant's, eventually killing it when the body reaches maturity. This is an extremely unpleasant way to go; while there is no physical pain per se, there's a lot of psychological trauma as the body's native soul gradually loses its grip on reality. By the end, the soul is a shell of itself, given over to lunacy and psychotic ravings. It is almost a mercy when it's finally killed by the encroaching invader.

The adult public's reaction to this varies. Most people are completely fine with it. They don't really understand what's happening, nor do they really want to; after all, immortality...

On the other hand, there's one religious and/or cultural group which places an immense value on life. As such, they consider the Reincarnation Anchors a despicable evil.

This group isn't prevalent enough in most places to effect any real change. However, there happens to be an especially large concentration of them in this one particular country. As a result, they have enough political and social clout to get RAs banned.

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Family feuds or clan feuds

Over the years the different groups that arise within the society started to bear grudge against each other. Each reincarnation reinforced the hatred for the other party until a blood bath ensued, that nearly destroyed the society. The survivors banned the practice of reincarnation.

Eg No hawkers or Campbells but more extreme.

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