Many Indian religious traditions, including Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism, have the idea of karma as one of their core beliefs.
Although there are nuances and variations in the way karma is perceived between these different religions, the key ideas about karma are common to all of them.
Karma is the idea that there are consequences to our actions. A good deed or act reaps goodness, and similarly, a bad deed will reap badness. The things that we do affect the things that we experience in the future.
The first obvious problem with this idea is that good and bad are subjective terms. Whenever we speak of good and bad we must always ask: good and bad according to whom? There is no absolute goodness or badness in the world. Therefore a believer in karma could never know whether they were doing good or bad, which is a significant problem.
The next problem with the idea of karma concerns free will. The Indian religions have in a sense created the same problem as we find in the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism). In both schools of thought we have the idea that some actions are freely undertaken, and others are the result of an outside moral force which has the power of judgement and of inflicting repercussions.
The dividing line between what is free action and what is not free is disastrously unclear. For instance, if at a certain moment in time one is experiencing the consequences of previous actions, one would have to argue that there is no freedom in that moment. But what has happened to the freedom that existed previously? It doesn’t make sense.
Both the Abrahamic religions and the Indian school of thought say there are moral consequences to freely undertaken actions. The only question is whether those consequences are the result of God’s will (as in the Abrahamic religions) or of some kind of natural cause and effect law (as some Indians who do not believe in God would argue).
It is hard to see how some kind of natural karmic law could understand good and bad which are subjective moral ideas that depend on the perspective of a personal agent, whether that person is a human being or God. Therefore the idea of a natural karmic law is problematic. For all those who do believe in God, it is vital to deeply consider what are God’s attributes. If God is omnipotent and omnipresent, as many theologians propose and as I argue throughout my work, then there cannot be free will, which is the foundation of the idea of karma.
A further problem with the idea of karma is that it is a myth that one event leads to another. Because God is omnipresent and therefore actively in control of everything that happens, event ‘A’ will only lead to consequence ‘B’ if God decides for that to happen on any particular occasion. There are no absolute laws of cause and effect outside of the will of God. In any case, cause and effect are just ideas in the mind of a perceiver. In reality, because events flow into one another and have no boundaries, there are no separate events. There is one eternal moment that does not contain intrinsic divisions into ‘past’ and ‘future’ which are merely ideas. Therefore the whole idea of karmic consequence is non-sensical.
If one considers the arguments in this article and elsewhere in my writing, it is easy to see that the idea of karma is illogical. This means that one of the central convictions of the major Indian religions is mistaken.
This above article is a modified extract from my book entitled Ultimate Truth: God Beyond Religion. To find out more or to buy the book, click here. Thank you for reading!