A very private belief: Reincarnation in contemporary England

Tony Walter, Helen Waterhouse

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25 Citations (SciVal)


Survey data indicate a substantial minority of westerners who have no attachment to Eastern or New Age religion but who nevertheless believe in reincarnation. This paper summarizes the findings of a small intensive interview study of a group of English people who take seriously the possibility of reincarnation: 1) Many of them hold reincarnation alongside Christian belief; 2) Most are less than dogmatic about their belief; 3) Some entertain the possibility of reincarnation because of experience (first or second hand), for others reincarnation solves intellectual problems, e.g., concerning theodicy; 4) They see bodily incarnations in the context of long-term spiritual progress, and they value spirit over body; 5) Their belief in reincarnation has rather little effect on the rest of their lives. It is concluded that rising belief in reincarnation heralds neither a spiritual nor a moral revolution, but fits easily into the privatized religion that characterizes contemporary western societies, and England in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-197
Number of pages11
JournalSociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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