zangskar wrote:In my opinion it's not a very big issue to accept the teachings of rebirth. I don't find the idea in any way harder to accept than the competing ideas of a) we go to heaven or hell after one life only, or b) we die and it's all gone, there is nothing that goes on, etc. All that is really needed is to accept that we don't know, and neither are we likely to be able to know - well not until we actually die. So it is not a big issue and we can simply give it the benefit of the doubt.
To you who have no predilection for a certain system of competing beliefs it isn't.
However, there are many reasons why some people resist to the idea of rebirth. Some, even without noticing, have been indoctrinated to think in a certain way by their education or the media. Others are more prone to resist because they fear being looked at as gullible by others who consider everything beyond metaphysical naturalism superstition. A certain mentality has developed which states that among educated people, publicly one should reject the belief in anything that has the faintest smell of supernatural (a definition I don't like, since I find rebirth as natural as gravity). There are many reasons, but you can't really find them in the data itself. The fact that technology is a great success and derives from a science that has been operating under materialistic assumptions blinds us to the fact that it still has produced no answers to the explanation, definition, origin or fate of consciousness and this is not a problem due to the lack of technology, but results from a deficient paradigm. I could go on and on discussing this, but I find no use to continue as it is a bit off topic.
It seems that we can find out through meditation if there is a rebirth or not, so we don't necessarily have to die. The idea that meditation doesn't give us any insight regarding the nature of reality is not correct, at least according to the Buddhist teachings.
But it's a very different issue once it gets down to actual claims of previous lives. This is where something that was a relatively abstract notion all of a sudden becomes very concrete, for everyone to see, if claims are made public.
If an empirical claim is made, it is only reasonable that people will want to scrutinize and investigate. If some "fault" appears here then it is not difficult to see that it may feed the fire of doubt, and not just the teaching of rebirth but the entire teaching possibly brought in question. So I think it is important that people do not stretch claims to concrete knowledge, and do not confuse knowledge with some subjective feeling, or with having faith in the teaching.
There seems to be the case that some claims were investigated and only with extremely far fetched theories could the possibility of rebirth be dismissed. It's not that there is no investigation. There has been and the data is there, but then comes the interpretation of data and that's where we find different explanations. In some cases, simply admitting that the current paradigm doesn't allow a plausible explanation seems the most intellectually honest behavior. Instead, now and then we see incredible justifications just to sustain a certain metaphysical paradigm. It's not that most scientists think this way, but those who militantly do make a lot of noise. These areas aren't profitable, so funds for research aren't easily available. Why things are like this is neither a mystery nor it comes from the data gathered, but has more to do with history of science and sociology than anything else.
All in all, I think proving rebirth would mess with the world in such a way that we would see a change happening from economics to philosophy. There are many people to whom the definitive proof of rebirth would become their worst nightmare. If people started acting fully aware that their negative actions would bare inescapable negative consequences, even when others didn't find out, the world would suffer a hell of a change. For the better, I think. If we knew, as clear as dropping an object and see it falling, that we can't escape the consequences of our actions (because we are tired of knowing about crooks who end up never being caught for their crimes, and some actions by people in power that send entire countries to starvation are not even considered criminal and so on and so forth) we would watch a whole new kind of behavior being adopted. Most people, even religious people, think that they can get away with it somehow. Knowing they can't, they would think twice before acting immorally.
All the best,