To start with, let us assume that reincarnation indeed takes place. What do the Vedic literatures tell us as to why it does take place? Two reasons have been given: Firstly, we're being given a chance to live out our desires. Secondly: We're being given repeated opportunities to attain spiritual realization, break free from material entanglement, and resume our eternal nature in the spiritual world. The Vedic writings are meant to guide us in achieving this goal.
However, if we do not accept that reincarnation indeed takes place, then we have to delve a little further and ascertain whether it makes sense for it not to take place. The concept of reincarnation will fall apart if one denies the existence of God. The goal of this article is not to answer the atheists. The objective is to explain reincarnation to the theists. I will admit that the concept of reincarnation cannot be substantiated if God was to not exist. So, for basic question here is: Given God exists does reincarnation take place?
Let us then come to the point of 'Eternal fire and/or Eternal hell'. There are two major issues with these phenomena: (i) It implies that God who is not only all-powerful, but also all merciful God, is cruel -he does not give us a second chance, (ii) It also implies that God is extremely unfair-he favors some souls compared to others. This is basically a flawed evangelical Christian concept. For instance, one born to good Christian parents naturally gets opportunities to hear about Jesus Christ, and, according to Christian teachings, is saved. But if one is born in an atheistic family -well, go to hell. Obviously, the all-powerful, all merciful God cannot let this happen.
Why is one person rich, another poor, one healthy, another diseased? If we live only once, then the best explanation is: "It's just chance" - which is no explanation at all. The Vedic- Krishna Conscious answer to all these confusions is that at the end of one lifetime we embark upon another. The Bhagavad-gita says, "As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones."
To an inquisitive and intelligent theist, this is the only explanation that can make sense. We cannot look through 'the window' of present life and be bewildered as to why there are differences when God is the supreme father to all. If we take that window as a sliding one passing through many lives, it will make more sense. At this point it is natural and easy to understand reincarnation as a natural cause and effect reaction to our karma. Also, it will only make sense to realize that karma is carried over from one life to another. Having understood this point, one is not bewildered by any of the seemingly anomalies one encounters due to presupposition of one life concept. Reincarnation therefore, is a critical part of theism. Without this, the very notion of the personal loving God who is also all-powerful falls apart. Reincarnation is therefore, the most credible aspect to the intelligent theist.