How many believe in reincarnation in the Western culture?
From statistical investigations:
Europe Western Germany USA Canada
1969 20 % 25 % 20 % 26 %
1978-1982 21 %*
1981 21 %
1990 23 % 26 % 31 %
2005 20 %
* of persons who had own religious experiences: 36 %!
For USA 2005: “yes” 20%, “maybe” 20 %, “no” 59 %.
Newer results about the belief in reincarnation:
For USA: 27 %, of them 23 % are men and 30 % women
40 % of age 25-29, 14 % of age over 64
21 % Christians, 40 % non-Christians
For Europe: 24 % – increasing
24 % Protestants and 27 % Catholics in Germany
25-33 % in mainly Catholic countries
15-20 % in mainly Protestant countries
23 % in France
30 % in the UK – Catholics: 41 %
18 % in the Netherlands
29 % in Austria – age 15-30: 33.7 %
20 % in Sweden – age 15-30: 26 %
In Sweden, according to an older Demoskop investigation from 2002:
overall 15 % yes, 34 % maybe, 50 % no,
age group 15-24 years: 20 % yes, 39 % maybe, 41 % no.
According to the Buddhist Jian Shakya some statistics show as many as 60 % of Americans consider reincarnation a “reasonable probability”.
This doesn't mean that they actually believe in it, but that to them it at least might be a possibility.
As concerns Eastern Europe, survey data show that the belief in reincarnation is particularly high in the Baltic countries, with Lithuania having the highest figure for the whole of Europe: 44 %. The lowest figure is for Eastern Germany (the former GDR), 12 %. In Russia, about one-third believes in reincarnation. The effect of communist anti-religious ideas on the beliefs of the populations of Eastern Europe seems to have been rather slight, if any, except apparently in East Germany.
According to survey data from 1999-2002, 22 % of respondents in Western Europe believe in reincarnation, which is not in line with the dominant doctrine of the Christian Churches, Catholic or Protestant, since the number will include many Christians.
A 1990 Gallup poll found that 25 % of Catholics in the United States believe in reincarnation. And it's not just America. Another recent survey, by the University of London, concluded that 28 % of the people in France believe in reincarnation, while only 57 % believe in God.
Mark C. Albrecht: Reincarnation, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., 1982
Richard Friedli: Zwischen Himmel und Hölle, Universitätsverlag, Freiburg (Switzerland), 1986
European Values Survey
“Three in Four Americans Believe in Paranormal”, Gallup Poll June 16, 2005
From a Gallup poll in Slovenia in 1993:
15 % believe in reincarnation
29 % believe in life after death
Source: Aura magazine 43/1993, Ljubljana
From an investigation report Reincarnation in contemporary England
„The numbers of westerners interested in reincarnation greatly exceed the numbers of westerners attached to Eastern or New Age religions.
… If there is a private belief par excellence, it could well be reincarnation…
… Our interviews confirm that it is perfectly possible both to go to church and to believe in reincarnation, and that those who entertain the idea of reincarnation need not accept large chunks of a “New Age” or “alternative” package…
Entertaining the idea of reincarnation has little to do with their membership of a church…
It has little to do with the New Age… Our respondents were not notable for displaying the lifestyle trappings, Aquarian hopes, or holism of the New Age.
Reincarnation is one way of tackling issues of suffering that Christianity struggles with, but this private solution need not entail leaving the institutional church.”
The results reported in this investigation clear away a bit of a myth. It has repeatedly been alleged by the Church that the increase of the reincarnation belief in the West, which can be observed to day, would have to do with the New Age movement. It is certain that one believes in reincarnation in the New Age, but the belief was here in the West long before was a New Age existed. It has also been alleged that the belief would have been brought to the West with the Theosophy of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. The belief was here long before there was a Theosophy. The Vikings, Celts and other ancient European cultures had there forms of reincarnation belief. Greek philosophers wrote about it. Cabbalists and Gnostic Christians believed in it, and so did later Gnostic movements like the Cathars and the Manichaeans. Most of the so called “secret societies” believed in it. They kept their doctrines secret in order to avoid the dangers of the murderous Inquisition, but to day their beliefs are no more very secret.
It is also not true that the belief in reincarnation would originate from India. It has survived there, whereas it disappeared in (or with) other cultures. For example, the great indigenous cultures like Incas and Mayas could not have had their belief in reincarnation from India. The belief seems to go like a “red thread” through almost all cultures and religions. Where the belief is no more to day, it usually was earlier.
See also Reincarnation, Modernity and Identity by Tony Walter (Sociology, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 21-38).
Review by an Icelandic expert
Prof. Erlendur Haraldsson (Iceland) – a.o. known for several investigations of cases of children who talk about a previous life – has published a study in Network, No. 87, 2005 (pp. 22-24): “West- and East-Europeans and their Belief in Reincarnation and Life after Death”, downloadable from his webpage. Based on data collected 1999-2002, he finds that as an average in Western Europe 22.3 % believe in reincarnation and 57 % in a life after death. In Eastern Europe (the former communist countries) 27 % believe in reincarnation and 47.6 % in a life after death. Of the Western Europeans who believe in a life after death, 36.8 % believe in reincarnation, but as many as 50.2 % of the East Europeans!