Thursday, March 26, 2015

Do you believe in karma?

Do you think we have good reason to believe in karma? In Hinduism, karma works because that is how people get reincarnated. But so far as this life is concerned, it seems as if people do, for example, get away with murder. They kill people, and it never gets detected, and they benefit from the crime they commit and die of old age in their beds. We might think they are internally tortured by their own crimes, but I would like to see some real evidence that this is always so. In this life, there is crime without punishment. 


PhysicistDave said...


Clearly, since there are a number of unsolved murders, some people do get away with murder.

On the other hand, pragmatically speaking, it seems to me a bad bet: i.e., I have always assumed that if I did something truly rotten, such as murder, there is a pretty good chance I would be caught.

The real issue, I think, is those who openly do something evil as a socially accepted part of their institutional positions: e.g., a lot of people who start wars (i.e., pretty much all of the winners and many of the losers) get away with it.

But, that is largely the fault of all of the ordinary people who tolerate the actions of those who are powerful but evil. No single human being can have all that much power without the support, or the acquiescence, of many other people.

So, the most massive "failures of karma" seem to me a result of all those who are all too willing to "follow the leader."

Dave Miller in Sacramento

B. Prokop said...

No one ever "gets away with murder". The real violence that sin does is to the sinner, and not to the sinned against. To restrict this discussion to violent acts, I can strike another person and do him physical harm, but the spiritual harm I do to myself is far worse. In fact, if I feel no remorse for my act, then that is the worst fate of all, for it means that I have (to the extent I do not repent) killed my own soul.

The case of Saint Maxmilian Kolbe is a perfect example. When Auschwitz Deputy Camp Commander, SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer Karl Fritzsch, condemned ten prisoners at random to a cruel death by starvation and thirst (in order to terrorize the remaining prisoners), Kolbe stepped forward to offer himself in place of one of those chosen. It took ten long, agonizing days for Kolbe and the other nine to die in the cell in which they were imprisoned (I stood at the door to that cell (now a shrine) in May 2003 on a visit to Auschwitz).

The results of that murder? Kolbe is today a Saint. Fritzsch's name is accursed.

Jezu, ufam tobie!

oozzielionel said...

As a Christian, why are you hoping that a Hindu doctrine is true?

B. Prokop said...

I am quite impressed by Hinduism. Were I not a Christian, I would probably be a Hindu. (I certainly would not be an atheist! I'm too fond of reason and logic.)

Jezu, ufam tobie!

Victor Reppert said...

It seems to me that there is very little natural evidence for karma. In Hinduism, karma is an effective cause because it is the law the governs the cycle of birth and rebirth. But if you eliminate any consideration of an afterlife, then it doesn't look as if karma works. People commit murders and get away with it. See the Woody Allen movies Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point. In those movies someone murdered their mistress for fear of exposure, overcame any pangs of guilt they might have had for having done it, and achieved peace of mind.

B. Prokop said...

"and achieved peace of mind"

If I ever saw Match Point, I don't remember it. But I have seen Crimes and Misdemeanors at least twice, and I saw the ending quite differently. As I saw it, the murderer did not achieve "peace of mind", but had rather deadened his soul to the point that he was incapable of feeling anything. Essentially, he had murdered himself along with his mistress.

Jezu, ufam tobie!

PhysicistDave said...

Victor wrote:
>It seems to me that there is very little natural evidence for karma.

The natural evidence certainly shows that sometimes people get away with murder.

But, you gotta play the odds. And, wouldn't you agree that the odds are not good on getting away with murder for the average Joe (i.e., assuming you are not a member of the governing elite)?

And, (again for the average person, not the ruling elite) isn't rational weighing of the odds therefore sufficient to cause rational people to behave themselves?

It seems to me that most murderers (again excluding the ruling elite) are either stupid or irrational people or people who were overcome by temporary passion -- i.e., aside from those who possess the privileges of the ruling elite, rational behavior does mandate moral behavior.

But, alas, many people are not rational.

(Sorry for constantly repeating the point about the ruling elite, but I felt it necessary to make clear that Genghis Khan and John Doe do face rather different incentives.)