To worm my way into the reincarnation discussion here, I'd like to state that Reincarnation can be "explained" by, at least as I believe alternate planes of reality and existence. For example, to a christian especially one who belives ina litteral afterlife, Heaven and Hell both exist, but cannot be reached from our universe until the soul either transcends or descends from the body. Similarly, many wiccans believe in the "summerlands" which is exactly as described above, a temporary "resting place" on a different plane of existence where souls may reside until they either feel it appropriate or are beckoned to reincarnate. Some theoretical physicists have begun theorizing alternate dimensions, which would explain how certain particles are able to appear and dissapear erratically, in different places at the same time. Essentially, what I'm getting at here is that, while a soul cannot exactly be observed here on the physical plane, they are able to move between the borders of multiple different planes which share common "coordinates" within the "matrices" made up of these planes.
Touching on planes and such, I once heard a very interesting theory explaining "ghosts" in very simple quantum mechanics (well, simple for quantum stuff). I don't generally go for ghosts or such, but this one I can actually by into pretty easily.
The whole theory is founded on the semi-fact that there is a multiverse of sorts, and every fork with consequences occurred in at least one universe. That includes people dying. Since quantum frequency or some such is what keeps you in your proper universe, if that gets thrown off, you could shift slightly into another universe (a more-or-less fact quantum computing is based on).
Some of that is based on fact or theories that seem to be working out so far, which is pretty interesting IMO. Scientific ghosts.
Unlikely and impossible are allied, but not identical. - C. S. Goto
Well, unfortunately I lack both the time and patience to read through this entire thread, though I am sure it is fascinating (I say that in earnest- I find religion very interesting). For my part you could say that I am without a formal religion (I still believe in the divine however)- though perhaps you might find a little anecdote about the religion I grew up with of interest. You could say I was born into the Native American "Peyote" Church. My mother and stepfather had been attendees to several peyote meetings and practically lived on a very small Indian Reservation- though neither of them had a lot of native American Blood. When I was a small child I was very sick and a local indian "Roadchief" who lived nearby would come over frequently- to pray for my health and to give me some of the sacrament of the church- that being Peyote. Peyote is a small Cactus that grows Exclusively in a small range in southern Texas and a larger Range in Mexico. The Federal Government classifies it as a controlled substance as it can be used to pruduce the Drug Mescaline. However the Native American Church is allowed to posses Peyote due to it's central importance in the religion. Only native Americans are allowed possesion of Peyote however, but the religion has nonetheless attracted a growing number of "Anglo' attendies. It is a grew area of US law overall. I know a white "roadchief" who gets shipments of Peyote from Texas- with the DEA's stamp of approval. However I digress:
As I alluded to earlier I was sick, which for obvious reasons was of great concern to my family. They allowed the Holy man the roadchief to give me some peyote and I got better. For many years afterwards I attended Peyote meetings in several western states. Mostly on Indian Reservations, though also on the property of church members. The Ceremonies are relatively straight forward, but they last the duration of a full night (on rare occasions they can last longer). The attendies sit in a circle around a central fire inside of a Tipi. Directly opposite the door of the Tipi sits the Roadman or Roadchief, also with him sits the Drummer and the Firechief who attends the sacred fire. There is a raised moon Shaped Crescent of Earth situated between the Roadman and the fire and is called appropriately enough "The Moon". In the Moons center sits a large Dried Peyote situated on four broad sagebrush petals which in turn is situated on a coin- typically a silver Dollar- a Gold "liberty" Dollar or a Buffalo Nickel. Attendees sometimes wrap themselves in shawls and blankets (for protection against the cold) and sit on Blankets and Cushions- some of which can have elaborate decoration. Penalton Blankets are particularly prized for their sturdy construction and "indian style" patterning. The Circle sits throughout the night, singing native american peyote songs with the aid of the peyote drum (a cast iron Kettle filled with water, and coals from the fire) and over which a hide is stretched. The Drum has a characteristic thrumming quit different from the Drums used at Sundances and other native ceremonies, and which is said to characterize a beating heart. The Singing and Drumming is accompanied by a rattle (sometimes beaded with elaborate patterns and leatherwork- the head of which is almost invariably a small sturdy Gourd in which perfectly round pebbles are placed- preferably pebbles made of quartz) and also beaded fans- consisting of feathers- rarely from eagles, more often from Parrots, hawks, Woodpeckers et cettera. The songs generally do not consist of words- or if they do then the words are sparse. Those songs that do have words- often in native American Dialects- rarely in English are prayers to the Creator (sometimes also to jesus as the creator). There is also a ritual Prayer Smoke- when tobacco is smoked in Cornhusk papers and each individual gives a vocal prayer to the creator. as well as other rituals involving morning water ( a godsend after sitting upright all night in a smoky tipi) and breakfast as well as several other communal prayers (people pray individually throughout the night. Peyote is passed around as well. I personally have no opinions on Peyote- but the attendees of the native American Church swear to its healing qualities and use it as a sacrament to put them in communion with the creator. It is a mild hallucinogen- though I have scarce noticed its effects myself (staring into a fire I noticed some colorful abberations once- that was about it).
On the subject of Peyote and other Miraculous substances- personally I am a firm believer that the power of the human mind over the body should never be underestimated- our minds have the ability to react to whatever situation they are presented. If you cut yourself your brain passes along signals that tell the body to knit itself back together. If you get a cold your brain sends a signal telling your body to manufacture antibodies. Why shouldn't they also have the power to cure disease, or other serious maladies? However I have seen some miraculous recoveries in the Peyote church- someone being cured of aids for instance and cancer- personally I believe that their unwavering certainty of divine intervention signalled their minds to heal their bodies- I don't believe that the divine intervention was necessary or that it actually occured.
I personally believe in the divine as an almost elemental force that can be seen most prominently in our mundane existence. Many things about humanity and life in general is quite miraculous- but it is so familiar to us, and so commonplace in our minds that we cannot see that it is infact divine. more on my beliefs later. I hope you find my little explanation of the peyote church enlightening and I will be glad to provide more information to those who are interested. For myself I attended my last meeting a year and a half ago. I have no desire to be part of the Native American Church anymore- personally I find European Mysticism Far more Fascinating and more inline with my own beliefs.
I am a "heathen" although I prefer the term "Nordic Polytheist". I was raised lds but when they wanted to give me my "isrealite name" I left. I will not get into my stance on mormon belief as not to start an argument. I think I got into norse mythology and such because most of my ancestors were germanic.
We have not inherited this world from our ancestors, we have stolen it from our children.