The Question Marks of Reincarnation

Reincarnation – the soul being reborn in one or more successive existences – is a crucial belief in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Wicca, New Age groups, Eckankar, Rosicrucians and other religious minorities.

It’s a subject that is frequently romanticised in alternative spirituality books, music, movies and public lectures.

A survey shows that one-third of Europeans believe in reincarnation, with Lithuania having the highest (44%) and Germany the lowest (12%). A Barna survey also indicates that a quarter of Christians in the US believe in reincarnation.

In Hinduism, reincarnation (samsara) is a migration of the soul in successive cycles through which it is reborn as human, animal or plant life forms.

In contrast, Buddhism does not believe in soul migration, as Buddhism: An Illustrative Guide notes, it views reincarnation as “a suffering-laden cycle of life death and rebirth without beginning or end.”

Jainism believes reincarnation is the passage of the soul (or atman) through cycles of rebirth, and depending on the karma, a soul can be reborn in heaven, hell or earthly realm.

In Yoruba religion, a component of the departed soul is said to return to earth in a form while the other form, the guardian or ori remains in heaven. This idea reflects in some Yoruba names given to persons e.g. Babatunde (“father has returned”) etc.

The Blind Law of Karma

In Eastern religions, reincarnation is not all bright and sunny. In Hindu thought, the world is seen as a place of terror, suffering and pain – like an evil forest – from which mankind should escape.

But in Western pagan spirituality, these “negative” talk about suffering and pain is bad for marketing, so they adhere to a convenient form of reincarnation – one which blends with Western ideals of hedonism and exploration of human potential.

So, while the East teaches that one can return to earth in a lower form as a bug or maggot, the West teaches “progressive” reincarnation, that humans will always return to earth as humans or higher life forms.

Karma, the universal law of cause and effect, regulates all natural existence and human experiences.

The word “karma” comes from the Sanskrit root words meaning “to do,” “what is done” and “a deed,” and its function is to reward people for every past deed, thought and word with future good or suffering.

But the rewards for all thoughts, deeds and words are too many for one lifetime, so a person must return again and again to pay off his karmic debts. This is where the “warm fuzzies” of reincarnation wear off.

For example, if a husband beats his wife, he has accrued a negative karma, so in the next life, he must return as a woman beaten by her husband to work off bad karma. Since her husband too has generated a bad karma by abusing her, he will also have to return in the next life as a woman to be beaten by her husband and on and on it must go until the scales of karma are balanced.

Or, if a person murders a fellow, he must be reborn as a victim of murder, after all, there’s no forgiveness in karma. This indicates that karma and reincarnation, perpetuate evil and sin rather than provide a solution to them.

In the Eastern versions, a person’s soul must undergo rebirth until he reaches a state of perfection or liberation (moksha) and becomes united with the divine or universe. In Buddhist belief, he ceases to exist or goes into blissful nothingness (nirvana).

In Western versions, with each rebirth, a soul gradually evolves upward by learning his lessons until he reaches the pinnacle of perfection as an “ascended master” or a super-human being. Essentially, he may have to be reborn in each race, status, gender or zodiac sign in order to evolve. That means a person will probably have at least 10,000 years to attain his goal!

Oskar Bernhardt, a 20th century German adept, wrote:

Through an Eternal Law, you are burdened with an irrevocable obligation to make atonement which you can never cast upon others … your thoughts, words or deeds can be redeemed by no one but yourself” (The Grail Message, Vol. 1, p. 43).

There are two problems here. First, the law of karma can’t be “eternal” since this earth isn’t eternal. It has a beginning and definitely has an end.

Second, in this system, you are obligated to make atonement for yourself and also redeem yourself from bad karma. In karma, there is no sin and consequently, no Saviour or Redeemer, so how can this self-atonement and self-redemption be achieved? Opinions vary.

Hindus seek “liberation” through ethical living and meditative practices such as yoga.

Buddhists observe yamas or niyamas (truthfulness, non-stealing or non-violence). The Jains adhere to asceticism while Sikhs claim it’s by devotion to God and good works. Most agree that Ahimsa is the key. Ahimsa literally means “compassion” or “harmlessness.”

It means you must live your entire life without ever harming any living thing, especially because they all have the spark of “divine spiritual energy” in them. Thus, hurting them brings bad karma.

Ahimsa has an extraordinary status in the ethical philosophy of Jainism. Jains take a solemn vow never to hurt any life form with words, deeds or thoughts.

To avoid stepping on an insect, they don’t go out at night and when they walk, they carry a little broom with which they sweep the ground. They live a strict vegetarian diet, eating nuts and fruit which they say, are freely given by the trees.

They don’t eat honey – that’s violence to bees – and they also wear masks covering their mouths to prevent them from breathing in or ingesting a microbe. Some Jains don’t even farm because it could kill or injure insects or worms!

This sort of lifestyle may be quaint, but if anyone is going to make it in the karma game, the Jains are. Others who sweetly teach reincarnation but are not emulating them are just hypocrites.

The irrationality of this belief becomes obvious when, for instance, you are in a situation when you have to protect your life or that of your family (like in a war), ahimsa flies right out of the window.

And lest anyone put some hope in this folly, our body’s immune system attacks and kills millions of microbes every day, so, the karma debt is beyond what any man can pay.

This is where the truth and logic of the Bible shine brightly: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law” (Rom. 3:20).

No amount of right actions will save us from eternal doom because “our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

God’s gift of eternal life is free of charge and we neither pay for it nor work to earn it. It’s simply received by faith in Jesus Christ.

Fatalism, Memory and Justice

There’s another problematic outcome of karma: fatalism. It’s asserted that the law of karma cannot be limited to the sphere of human conduct.

By karma, the sun, moon and planets keep their appointed courses, the tides rise and fall, the winds blow and all animate creatures pass through all the stages of their life from birth to death (Edgar Thompson, The Word of the Cross to Hindus, 1956, p. 102).

In other words, whatever will happen has already been fixed by karma. If a ship carrying passengers sinks in the ocean or hundreds of children die in a gas explosion, that’s their karma.

In this system, one’s karma (or higher self) – instead of God – is the judge. It judges your actions daily and tells your future what rewards you deserve.

That is, you make your own policies, keep your policies and enforce them, ergo – you are your own judge. That was what Oskar Benhardt painted in rainbow colours in his Grail Message.

Whatever happens to you is what karma or your “higher self” decides is the best for you.

Now, try to imagine the influence of this belief on cultures that have embraced it. If you see a starving woman with a sick child scavenging on the trash dump of Mantola, don’t you dare help her! She is working out karma.

If you take her in, give her a good meal, treat her child and give her a good job, she will just have to return in another lifetime and become a scavenger with a sick child all over again.

So the beggars, destitute and invalids in some Asian countries are left that way because to help them is to interfere in their karma. This is why these regions didn’t have hospitals or charity organizations until Christian missionaries set foot there.

From the reincarnationist’s view, the 2012 gang rape in New Delhi was karma. Perhaps Jyoti Singh’s “higher self” had decreed that she would be raped on that day, so preventing the crime would have messed up her karma.

The World Trade Centre attack was karma too, since the “higher selves” of those 2,977 victims simply worked together with the “higher selves” of the 19 plane hijackers.

The 2008 earthquake in China which claimed 69,195 lives must have been karma too, after all, death is just a “transition.”

You see, if we are just puppets on a playground playing out an unchangeable script, then we have no real purpose in life. If we are here on earth just to get recycled into another form like paper, then life is meaningless.

Aside from that, if we have all lived before, why do we not remember? Most people live and die without knowing about their past lives or what they are supposed to be “paying back.”

A school of thought says that souls of the dead drink from “the river of forgetfulness” before they are reborn but their past memories can be recovered through occult meditation or mediumship.

This entails expending so much time, energy and money to know one’s previous lives or pay off karma. In some climes, “seekers” sit in lotus position for weeks, literally doing nothing, with all their bodily needs being cared for by others. Must we go into a permanent state of catatonia to know our “past lives”?

I read a book published by the Hare Krishna Society on this subject in 2008. The author says if a woman is thinking of her husband before death, she will return as a man. If she was thinking of a pig, she would return as a pig.

I would like to ask: what about persons who reincarnate as cactus plants or mealy bugs, do they also remember their past lives and work off their karma or are such creatures capable of human thinking? That’s why reincarnation works well with Animism. One delusion makes way for another.

How can karma or reincarnation be a “learning experience” if rewards and punishments are meted out to people who have no conscious knowledge of why they are being rewarded or punished?

If a 10 year old girl dies of cancer for being Adolf Hitler in her previous life, but never knows that fact, is this a gesture of justice? What lesson did her cancer teach her about her past life since she couldn’t remember it?

How do we learn our lessons if we are never told our mistakes? Why do the gods or the universe (or whatever!) punish people for bad deeds in their past lives which they don’t know?

Is it not sadism to put people through misery while withholding the very knowledge they need to solve it? Is this just? Is this sane? Absolutely not. Even from a human standpoint, reincarnation is senseless.

“Proofs” of Reincarnation?

Some people have claimed to remember their “past lives” through hypnosis, but in the court of law, memories recovered via hypnosis are not scientifically reliable.

Dr. Ian Stevenson, has published case studies of 2,500 children who claimed to have remembered their past lives over a period of 40 years.

Keith Augustine reviewed this work in The Case Against Immortality, stating that “the vast majority of Stevenson’s cases come from countries where religious belief in reincarnation is strong, and rarely elsewhere, which seems to indicate that cultural conditioning (rather than reincarnation) generate claims of spontaneous past life memories.”

A true scientific experiment must eliminate all other variables except the control, but since Stevenson’s works (and other such “testimonials”) haven’t done this, then these children must have obtained their information, however accurate, from demon entities which have been in existence for ages.

Buddhist sage, Dalai Lama boasted: “If science can disprove reincarnation, Tibetan Buddhism would abandon reincarnation.” Of course, science has disproved several ancient beliefs, but they are seldom given up.

Reincarnation is invalidated even by demography. The world population in 1350 was near 370 million, but as of March 2016, it is 7.4 billion and it’s estimated to increase to 11.2 billion by 2100.

If we are all being recycled, why is the human population increasing exponentially? Where are all the new babies coming from? Or how did 200 souls emerge from one corresponding soul from 8 centuries ago?

To affirm the existence of a Creator creating new spirits totally negates the pantheist worldview. The linear view of human destiny is supported by credible evidence, but the cyclical view of human life ties in with mystical twaddle, lies and subjective fancies.

We are told reincarnation results in human upward evolution, but where is the evidence for this? Aside from progress in science and technology, can we say humanity has made any significant progress in the last two centuries?

Think of the two bloody world wars in the 20th century and the crises currently brewing in several nations of the world. We boast of medical breakthroughs, only for more deadly diseases to strike the earth.

We invent satellites, computers and split atoms, only for human depravity, deception and wickedness to rise to another level.

Mankind has not evolved. In fact, if reincarnation is true, India and Nepal, with their arcane spirituality and traditions, should have been the most civilized utopian nations on earth by now. But if what we see happening there today are the ideals of reincarnation, then it’s truly lamentable.

Reincarnation in the Bible?

Some people argue that John the Baptist in the Bible was a reincarnation of Elijah. But when John was asked “Are you Elijah?” He answered “no.” (Jn. 1:21).

His office was similar to that of Elijah in the scale of repentance (Mal. 4:5-6). Elijah didn’t die and certainly didn’t reincarnate.

John 9:1-3 doesn’t support reincarnation either because Jesus said: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” The Bible is clear: “People die once, and after that they are judged” (Heb. 9:27).

The Bible teaches resurrection instead of reincarnation and we have a reliable evidence in Jesus Christ who died and rose again.

Jesus didn’t reincarnate; and for religious people who fondly imagine that they can combine reincarnation with resurrection, the question they must answer is, in which of the hundreds of bodies they’ve supposedly being reborn will they be resurrected in and why?

Exactly what proof do reincarnationists have for their belief? Their “higher selves”? Some mystical books? Spirit guides speaking from behind a veil? Vivid memories? Fevered imaginations of deluded gurus? These are not proofs. The physical evidence of what the Lord Jesus offers us blows all these mystical belief systems away into sheer ludricous inanities!

Rather than making us run on the treadmill of karma for centuries till we get it right, the true God offers complete forgiveness and salvation by faith in Jesus Christ (John 5:24).

Reincarnation is an amoral and hopeless lie. It neither atones man’s sins nor redeems him from evil. It’s a lie of the devil, and its goal is to lead many souls to a Christless eternity.

Counterfeit Miracles

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One of the biggest “proofs” Romanists use to validate Roman Catholicism are its miracles. Miracles of saints, icons, rosaries, the Eucharist and the Catholic Mary are used to make up for a lack of convincing answers.

For example, on October 13, 1917, at the Fatima Marian apparition site, 70,000 people witnessed the sun fall from the sky:

Just when it seemed that the ball of fire would fall upon and destroy them, the miracle ceased and the sun resumed its normal place in the sky …When the people arose from the ground, cries of astonishment were heard on all sides. Their clothes, which had been soaking wet and muddy, now were clean and dry. Many of the sick and crippled had been cured of their afflictions” (Our Lady of Fatima’s Peace Plan From Heaven, 1983, pp. 7, 8).

This “solar miracle” has been reported at several Marian apparition sites where the sun seemed to dance, spin or appeared like the communion host, and people looked directly at it without suffering eye damage.

The same happened in Puerto Rico in 1991 before a crowd of 100,000. It also happened in the Philippines in 1993 before a crowd of 300,000.

Similar events were also recorded in places like Medjugorje, Denver, Texas and Bosnia. According to the Queen of heaven, which Roman Catholicism bows to, more miracles are on the way.

In a message received by a seer, she said:

My sign is emerging. God wills it thus. Only my children recognize it, as it reveals itself in secrecy, and they praise the Eternal One for it. Today I cannot reveal my power to the whole world. I must withdraw with my children. In secrecy I will perform miracles on the souls until the number of sacrifices has become full. Then I can reveal myself to the whole world” (Thomas Petrisko, Call of the Ages, Queenship Publication, 1995, 303).

Reading this, from a Biblical point of view, three red flags go up immediately.

First, this spirit entity boasts of being the source of these miracles. The real Mary couldn’t, and in fact, never had such a power.

Second, the purpose of these “miracles” is to gather the whole world at the feet of the Queen of heaven. She has a sense of ownership over Catholics whom she calls “my children,” a statement that the real Mary could never have made.

Third, the entity refers to “many sacrifices” being made unto fullness, but God’s Word makes it clear that only the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is perfect and complete; it can’t and must not be repeated.

The “eternal one” being praised by these miracles is not God but a demonic entity.

Stories of Catholic saints involved miracles too, though most lacked credible eye witnesses. The 17th century saint, Joseph of Cupertine, was said to be able to fly like a bird and see ecstatic visions. He was finally canonized as a patron saint of air travellers.

St. Therese de Lisieux in her biography, Storm of Glory, narrated how she found refuge at the statue of the virgin Mary, which one day became animated and radiated a warmth that “penetrated to the depths” of her soul.

The stigmata miracle – a spontaneous manifestation of bloody wounds on a person’s hands, feet and forehead similar to where Christ was pierced – was experienced by “saints” like Catherine of Siena, John of God, Francis of Assisi, Faustina Kowalska and also one brother Roque from Columbia.

Stigmatists, like Magdalena de la Cruz (1487-1560) were exposed as fakes. In the case of Padre Pio, an Italian monk, the stigmata wounds he allegedly endured for 50 years were said to pay for the sins of the world.

Pio reportedly said many spirits of the dead (and the living) visited him in his monastery cell to thank him for paying for their sins with his sufferings so they could be released from purgatory and go to heaven.

Other monks testified that they heard multitudes of voices talking with Padre Pio at night. Pio’s “stigmata” was later exposed as self-induced with the aid of an acid!

In a certain Catholic video, a stigmatist housewife in Damascus was shown lying on a bed surrounded by Catholic “pilgrims” praying their rosaries. She was screaming with much agony “Take it away! Take it away!”

Suddenly, holes physically appeared on her forehead, hands and feet as if someone was driving physical nails into them and she began to bleed profusely.

If this wasn’t staged, can it be classified as a miracle or demonic torment?

The idea of stigmata rests on the theory that some people can pay for sins like Jesus, but the Bible makes it clear that Christ has paid the full penalty for sin.

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).

There’s nothing left for sinners to pay to receive the full pardon offered by God’s grace. Besides, no man can pay the penalty Jesus paid because it is an infinite penalty. The stigmata is either a self-induced fraud or demonic miracle.

Julia Kim, a Catholic mystic in Korea, claims that the host changes into real flesh in her mouth.

A Catholic church in Venezuela also reported that their host pulsates and squirms within its glass monstrance, like a live human flesh.

Similarly, in 2005, two hosts in a church in Naju were suspended mid-air by themselves and later dropped to the floor and became bloody.

These “miracles” are attempting to accentuate the Catholic belief in transubstantiation and as a result, cannibalism and idolatry. Not a good arrangement.

There have been cases of oils, water or sweet fragrance exuding from statues or icons.

Catholic pilgrims once rushed to Our Lady of Velankanni in India in 2012, where “miracle water” was allegedly exuding from the foot of a crucifix.

While they were collecting this “holy water” with joy, a skeptic, Sanal Edamarku, successfully debunked this “miracle” by demonstrating that the water droplets exuding from the feet of “Jesus” at this crucifix came from a drainage in a nearby washroom through capillary action.

Sanal soon became a target of angry Catholics calling for his arrest, for ripping their sacred cow into shreds. While I do not deny the reality of the supernatural in Roman Catholic reports of miracles, a number of them are no more than hoaxes, pranks and mere superstition taken afar.

Indeed, there have been real cases of  statues or icons that supernaturally bled. Personally, I can’t find anything glorifying God in seeing a bunch of statues bleeding like butchered cows.

I remember years ago when a statue of Mary in Anambra State, Nigeria bled, some Catholics said it meant Mary was weeping for “the many sins in the land.”

But why weep blood? Is that not kind of … gory? Besides, our sins are committed against God, not against Mary. So that shoots it down.

There seems to be a common trend in Catholic miracles: a morbid obsession with human flesh, blood, death and suffering. These things do not “pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).

In another Catholic video, one woman was interviewed, and she said, “I attached my rosary to the cross hanging outside the home and it actually turned from silver into gold.”

Is this also demonic? To answer this, we need to turn away from subjective experiences and look into the Word of God.

1. In Scripture, when God does a miracle, they are all practical –  the sick got healed, the lame walked, the red sea divided.

God doesn’t do a miracle in a sense of glorifying an object, making a show or dazzling people with euphoria.

Satan and his servants love showbiz and manipulating human emotions e.g by causing fire to descend from the sky “before all men” (Rev. 13:12).

The Catholic “miracles” of the golden rosaries, relics or dancing sun fall into this category.

2. The source. Miracles can either come from God or Satan. Therefore, just because someone experiences a miracle, does not mean that it’s from God.

The magicians of Egypt were able to duplicate 3 out of the 10 plagues God sent upon Egypt through the agency of demonic powers (Ex. 7:11, 22, 8:7).

Satan is able to control the elements like the wind and fire, so making the sun appear to “dance” is pretty easy (Job 1:16, 19).

The Bible says the Antichrist’s coming is through “the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9) and we are told about “the spirit of demons that do miracles” (Rev. 16:14).

3. The focus. In the Bible, whenever a miracle came from God, the long result is praise, awe or fear of His majesty:

“The man immediately stood up in front of them… Praising God, he went home” (Lk. 5:25).

“The man was walking, jumping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8).

“The news about this spread throughout the city of Joppa, and as a result many people believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:42)

Every true miracle directs people to focus on God or Jesus. It never leads people to pray to Mary, or a dead saint or exalt a human personality. This is exactly what Marian apparitions do.

No one in the Bible ever built a shrine or pilgrimage site to Jesus or the apostles or Mary over a miracle they received

4. The intent. A true miracle does not substantiate errors or endorse superstitions. The Holy Spirit always leads Believers into the truth (Jn. 16:13) and that truth is based on the Bible.

The “miracles” of Rome are intended to endorse falsehoods like purgatory, transubstantiation, rosaries etc.

5. If the miracles of Roman Catholicism legitimize it, then they must also prove other false religions true as well because they too have their own “miracles.”

Hindu literature is full of tales of miracles of “saints” like Nambi Ambar, Jnanadeva, Chaitanya or Manikkavasagar.

Zoroaster was also said to have cured a king of paralysis. There are some modern examples too.

A video footage at the Pu Xian Buddhist mission in Malaysia once showed Buddha statues emitting light, blinking their eyes and moving their mouths.

In early August 2006, thousands of Buddhists in Sri Lanka flocked to their temples to see “miracle rays” which appeared visibly around the statues of Buddha, resulting in a heavy traffic all through Colombo. This event was reported by Sri Lankan newspapers.

On September 21, 1995, thousands of Hindu worshippers in different countries were shocked when they offered milk to their gods and the milk disappeared from their spoons. This same phenomenon occurred in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

The statue of the Buddha in Lhasa, Tibet reportedly cries ‘tears of pearls’ in the temple so much that the Lamas are moved. A German reporter took 5 of these pearls to Munich where a Chemist analysed them and said they were “love pearls.”

If the bleeding statues of “Mary” echoes a point, the pearl-weeping statues of Buddhism raises a louder one.

Here in Africa, there are several pagan rites that are used to restrain rainfall, invoke spirits to materialize, heal people by removing live animals from their bodies or gain immunity to bullets or knife cuts.

I have personally witnessed a man who took a sharp knife and cut an orange with very little effort, then turned to his companion and used the knife to slice the back of his head. There was no single cut or mark there.

In New Age or Witchcraft circles, many of the “miracles” Catholics love to brag of do not move them an inch. They experience them all the time.

Of course, all these religions cannot be true since they contradict one another and oppose Bible Christianity. So who is the brain behind their miracles? Satan and his demons!

Miracles or supernatural signs do not guarantee truth. Satan “deceives the whole world” through false religions and uses false miracles accompanying them to blind the people trapped in them to think they are on the true path (Rev. 12:9).

As we move closer to the end of the age, these phenomena would be more common, not only in Catholicism, but also in the world, but those who stand firm on God’s Word, will not be deceived.

The Origins of Purgatory

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The idea of Purgatory was neither taught by Jesus nor His apostles. How it became an integral belief of the Catholic Church today can be seen by looking at its origin, development and purpose over the centuries.

1. Prayers for the Dead

Purgatory belief can be traced to the unbiblical practice of praying for the dead. Writings of some early church fathers contain references to prayers for dead loved ones to have ‘refrigerium’ (refreshment or pleasures of paradise).

Mohrmann Christine in a philological study comments that the term “refrigerium” refers to “heavenly happiness” that “Among the later Christian writers, refrigerium is used in a general way to denote the joys of the world beyond the grave, promised by God to the elect” (Le Goff Jacques, The Birth of Purgatory, University of Chicago, pp. 46-47).

While prayers for the dead can be found in their writings, they do not contain the idea of purgatory as Rome believes it today. William Webster stated that:

“For at least the first two centuries there was no mention of purgatory in the Church. In all writings of the Apostolic Fathers, Irenaeus and Justin Martyr, there is not a slightest allusion to the idea of purgatory. Rome claims the early Church nevertheless believed in purgatory because it prayed for the dead. This was becoming a common practice by the beginning of the third century but it does not, in itself, prove that the early Church believed in the existence of a purgatory” (Church of Rome at the Bar of History, Banner of Truth, 1997, 114).

2. The “Architects” of Purgatory

The practice of praying for the dead led to belief in a third state between heaven and hell. This doctrine can be majorly linked to 5 church fathers:

(a) Tertullian (A.D. 160-220): He was the earliest church “father” to pray for the dead though he admitted that there is no direct Biblical basis for it.

He wrote: “If you look in Scripture for a formal law governing these and similar practices, you will find none. It is tradition that justifies them, custom that confirms them, and faith that observes them” (De Corona Militis 3:2-3).

Note this statement carefully the next time a Catholic quotes some Bible verses or church fathers to try support purgatory.

In Tertullian’s time, the act of praying for the dead was merely a practice – not a doctrine, let alone a dogma. Tertullian only spoke of this concept after he had joined a heretical group called the Montanists.

(b) Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-220): He was a key proponent of purgatory. During his time, the issue of baptismal regeneration led to much debate and in order to explain where those who sinned after baptism would go, the idea of a place where they can be purified by fire after death was adopted.

(c) Origen (A.D. 185-254): He and Clement of Alexandria were the two main architects of purgatory beliefs. Much of what these men wrote cannot be believed by most Catholics or Protestants today.

They both engaged in allegorical interpretation of the Bible, ignored its literal, historical-grammatical meaning and mixed it with strange ideas.

Through his absurd bible interpretations, Origen denied the existence of Hell; believed that Satan would be saved and also believed in the pre-existence of the human souls. He adopted the idea of an afterlife corrective, punitive cleansing of the soul from Greek philosophy and dualism.

(d) Augustine (A.D. 354-430): He also endorsed prayers for the dead. It seems his thinking was influenced by his mother’s dying wish to be remembered in his prayers.

Though he wrote about salvation by faith, he also popularized the theory of purification after death through sufferings.

(e) Gregory the Great (A. D. 540-604): This bishop of Rome, though ignorant of the Biblical languages, wrote extensively resorting to silly, allegorical twisting of the Bible.

In his work, Morals on the Book of Job, he twists the names of people, things and even syllables in the book of Job giving them mystic meanings. He claimed Job represents Christ: his wife represents the carnal nature; his 7 sons represents the apostles; his 3 daughters represents the faithful laity who worship the Trinity; his friends, the heretics and Job’s 7,000 sheep, the faithful Christians!

(Note that Gregory the Great rejected the canonicity of the apocryphal books of Maccabees).

His ideas of purgatory emerged in his dialogue with a Roman archdeacon named Peter in his work, The Dialogues. In it, he described “in incredible marvels and visions of the state of departed souls.” However, he admits transmitting hearsay, that he didn’t see these alleged visions himself (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. III).

3. The Fruit of Purgatory

For about 500 years after Gregory cooked up purgatory, it didn’t become an official doctrine. In the Medieval era, it made way for all manner of extortion and outright deception.

The fifth century Irish “saint” Patrick was said to have been frustrated by his people’s refusal to believe in purgatory, so he “prayed that God would help him convert the people.” Then Christ allegedly showed him a pit in the ground which is said to lead to purgatory.

Some people were let in into the pit and came up to tell others terrible tales of hell (Biebler Ludwig, The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 1960, 93:137-44).

This “entrance to hell” remained for centuries. After investigations, the pit was called a grievous fraud and finally closed on October 25, 1632. (It seems purgatory and hell were not distinguished from each other at that time).

By the 19th century, the specific site of this pit is no more certain.

Some scholars declared that sparse documentations from 5th century Ireland support this tale and that “St.” Patrick never visited Lough Derg where the “purgatory pit” allegedly was. It was a 12th century horror tale cooked up to fill the pews of the Catholic church (The Medieval Pilgrimage to St. Patrick’s Purgatory, 1988, 8-9).

The Catholic crusaders were promised that they would bypass purgatory if they died in those wars. This also led to Indulgences – remission of temporal punishment through certain conditions laid down by the Church – which generated great wealth for Rome by selling the people a bogus ticket to heaven.

In 1170, Pope Alexander III decreed that no one could make a valid will except in the presence of a priest. Anyone who disobeyed this law was to be excommunicated – a decree feared more than death in those days.

Since the priest was often the last person to be with the dying (to administer the “last rites”), one can be certain that this ploy was meant to enrich Rome.

During the time of Martin Luther, the pope needed money for the construction of St. Peter’s in Rome, so he sent a Dominican monk, Johann Tetzel, to sell indulgences to the people.

Tetzel would carry with him a picture of the devil tormenting souls in purgatory and repeat the statement written on the money box: “As soon as the money in the casket rings, the troubled soul from Purgatory springs.” It worked like magic and the coffers became full (Martin Luther, Wider Hans Worst, 1541, 538).

Even today, Catholics who have no one who could say Masses for them after death fear being forgotten in purgatory, so they join the Purgatorial Society and donate to them yearly so they will say Masses for them after death. That’s Rome’s “insurance policy.”

4. The Purpose

Not only did purgatory bring Rome influence and loyalty, it also boosted papal control over nations. A Catholic historian explains:

“It had been said before that the power of God’s vicar extended over two realms, the earthly and the heavenly … From the end of the thirteenth century a third realm was added, the empire [rule] over which was assigned to the Pope by the theologians of the Curia- Purgatory” (Ignaz von Dollinger, The Pope and the Council, 1869, 186-7).

Medieval Gnostic works such as Apocalypse of Peter or Paul, which presented a view of the afterlife in tune with Greek paganism had also shaped the views of the people.

These were the factors that influenced the Council of Florence of 1439 to make purgatory an official dogma. The council of Trent and modern catechism rely on this Council of Florence in defining purgatory.

5. Pagan origins

Purgatory was already known in paganism before its adoption into Catholicism.

Virgil, a pagan Latin poet who lived between 70-19 B.C. divided the departed souls into three different places in his writings: Elysium for the very good, Tartarus for the very bad and Erebus for the indifferent or moderately good (Bell’s New Pantheon Historical Dictionary, John Bell, Charles Thornthwaite, 1790, Vol. I, 379).

Greek philosopher, Plato (427-347 BC) spoke of Orphic teachers in his day “who flock to the rich man’s door, and try to persuade him that they have a power at their command, which they procure from heaven and which enables them by sacrifices and incantation … to amend for any crime committed by the individual himself … Their mysteries deliver us from the torments of the other world, while the neglect of them is punished by an awful doom” (Homer Smith, Man and His Gods, Brown and Co., 1952, 127).

Stoic philosophers taught that there was a place of fire after death that was for enlightenment and the purging of the soul from the corruptions of material life before one could enter spiritual peace. They called it Empurosis (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 22, 660).

Hindus and Buddhists “also believe in heavens and hells where souls who are not immediately reborn spend time. They then spend some temporary time there. These are in effect the equivalent of purgatory because they are temporary states in the soul’s long progress towards eventual salvation” (Encyclopedia Americana 23:19).

Zoroastrians also believe that there are 12 stages of purification after death before they are fit for heaven.

Catherine Beyer in her article, Purity and Fire in Zoroastrianism, stated that Zoroastrians believe that “all souls will be submitted to fire and molten metal to purify them of wickedness. Godly souls will pass through them unharmed while the souls of the corrupt will burn in anguish.”

In contrast to these pagan systems, the Bible doesn’t support the idea of an afterlife “third state”. Jesus’ consistently spoke of the evil and the good (Mt. 5:45) the narrow way and broad way (Mt. 7:13-14), the wise and foolish virgins (Mt. 25:2) the sheep and the goat (Mt. 25:32) without any reference to a “third” or “neutral” group, because there is no “third state.”

There are only two eternal destinations beyond the grave – Heaven and Hell.