Do you really think rebirth is realistic?
Even as a Buddhist you might nominally say, "I believe in rebirth" but how realistic do you think such a view is?
The reason I bring this up is because I would argue that if you're raised in a industrialized society, you will probably be prone to thinking of materialist philosophy as default and most realistic because it is what is condoned by our leaders and society as the most realistic and efficacious ideology. It receives state sanction. You'll be naturally inclined to consider matter as a real and dismiss mental events as merely secondary results of chemical activity in the brain. Materialist Neurology, which generally posits that the mind is produced by the brain, is considered realistic and reasonable. Yogic sciences are just things you believe in
and thus it does not receive official sanction or funding from the powers that be.
In such an environment where the views of materialist science are hailed as supreme -- and coincidentally the leading proponents of this school of thought are positioned as authorities on what is real and true -- rebirth, and a lot of the Buddhist model really, for most people will just be belief rather than being a realistic view grounded in reasoned observation and consideration.
Furthermore, I would argue that you can discern to what extent a person feels rebirth is realistic by their behaviour in life. One might state having a belief in rebirth, but they still plan around a single lifetime. In cultures where rebirth of some sort is the dominant view held by people, you see a lot of activities devoted to generation of merit for future lives and people plan for and invest
in their future incarnation. The idea that at death you become nothing and all consequences you might have suffered also become nullified cannot enter into such a vision of reality. You then have a vested interest and stake that is very real, so planning accordingly, which is often done with religious practise and activities, becomes natural just like you would plan for your retirement in this life because of the consequences of not doing so are potentially frightening.
But going back to the original question, in light of all this, do you really think rebirth is real or is it a somewhat fuzzy and uncertain concept that seems less like a realistic view and more like a religious fantasy?
I think this is a really important thing to consider because it heavily influences how you plan your life and what you would feel is important. Basically most of us are probably materialist or nihilist by default even if we purportedly have religious views contrary to it. There is a kind of dualism there: one one hand you have religious views about reality, and on the other you have the views of materialist science which you'll be prone to think of as more realistic than the former.
If you have time, I think Robert Thurman really nails down this point well in part one of the following set of lectures and recommend listening to at least the first part:http://www.shiftinaction.com/discover/a ... e_workshop