Like most of the people of the Christian faith, Catholics believe that our life here on earth is only one part of our soul’s journey – a relatively small part of our journey in the grand scheme of things, too.
No, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Catholics believe in reincarnation (most – including the official word from the Catholic Church – do not). But it does mean that there’s a belief in resurrection, a belief in the afterlife, and a belief in our soul continuing on after our mortal body is no longer.
Let’s dive a little bit deeper into the ins and outs of the Catholic belief in life after death.
Catholic Reincarnation Beliefs
A lot of people outside the Catholic faith misinterpret what Christians are really saying when they recite the Apostle’s Creed.
Many of these people hear Catholics affirm their faith and their belief in Jesus as well as what they believe will happen to them after they pass. They hear the Catholics say “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting” and conflate resurrection with reincarnation (often unintentionally).
While yes, Catholics say the Apostle’s Creed and confirm that they believe in a life beyond our mortal existence they are not necessarily saying that they believe they will be reincarnated the way that other faiths around the world believe.
The Difference Between Resurrection and Reincarnation?
No, you see, Catholics believe firmly in the idea of resurrection but most reject the idea of reincarnation completely.
The resurrection is a cornerstone tenant of Catholicism, after all.
The biggest holiday and celebration of the year for those of the Catholic faith is Easter Sunday – the day that Jesus rose from the grave after sacrificing himself to pay for the sins of humanity. “He is Risen” is taken very, very seriously by those of the Catholic faith.
If you pay attention to the Catechism of the Catholic Church it very clearly says that there will be a resurrection of the flesh (a key component of the Apostles’ Creed) and that not only our mortal souls will live on beyond our passing but that our mortal body will one day be a resurrected and rejoined with our soul as well.
Catholics are incredibly confident about the resurrection of the dead. It ties back into the core tenant of Christianity – the idea that Jesus was resurrected on Easter.
Most believe that since we are all children of God and made in his image (like Jesus) we too will be resurrected in a similar way.
Leaders in the Catholic Church aren’t shy about saying that salvation is resurrection and that when we are brought into the kingdom of God that is the true realization of our faith.
Why Many Catholics Reject Reincarnation?
The main reason that Catholics reject the idea of reincarnation versus resurrection is because reincarnation stands diametrically opposite the pathway of salvation offered by Jesus Christ.
In the New Testament Catholics learn a lot about the resurrection, salvation, and the sacrifice that Jesus made to save humanity.
It also illustrates very clearly that our bodies are “embodied beings”. Reincarnation severs the connection of our soul and our body, relating it to only an accidental connection by happen chance rather than an intentional creation and combination from our Creator.
Christianity in general, but especially Catholicism, firmly believes that you are a creation of God, made in his image, and a distinct and completely separate entity from any other ever created.
The idea of reincarnation – that your soul could recycle through different bodies, different forms, and different existences – is anathema to this perspective.
Yes, it’s true that there are some modern Christians that are beginning to embrace the idea of reincarnation alongside resurrection.
According to a survey conducted in 2018 by the Pew Organization nearly 30% of Christians in the United States alone had at least some belief in reincarnation.
With Catholics specifically, however, the idea of reincarnation was significantly lower.
Again, that all ties back to the idea and firm belief that Catholics have about our soul and our bodies being two halves of one being, and the belief that at some point our souls and our bodies will be resurrected and will be made whole again (just as Jesus was).