- Jains believe in a never-ending, cyclical time cycle, with phases of “rising” and “falling” happiness. Each phase lasts several thousands of years. This is all fiction, of course.
- Jains believe that they can accumulate and shed karma and this impacts their future lives (reincarnation). There’s no evidence of this.
- Jains support being free of materialism — not because it can be destructive in and of itself, but because it’ll allow you to more easily break free from the cycle of reincarnation. They’re doing a good thing for the wrong reason.
- Jains don’t believe in a god, per se, but they do believe in supernatural beings who have broken free of the reincarnation cycle to attain Nirvana. In fact, there are 24 beings who have done that… and we know their names. We memorized their names as children. Though there’s no evidence any of them ever “attained Nirvana.”
- Jainism encourages an 8-day-long (or worse), unhealthy fasting during the holy time of the year. During the fast, you may only consume water that’s been pre-boiled.
- The Jain rules regarding a vegetarian diet seem like they’re made up on the spot. Eggs are bad, but milk is ok. Potatoes and other food from the ground are bad, but there are exceptions depending on the day. Alcohol is forbidden, but young Jains go to bars all the time. The rules make hypocrisy rampant… but almost unavoidable.
“There are plenty of difference between Hinduism and Jainism; the biggest being the gods” said [Jainesh Mehta (no relation), vice president of the Jain Vishva Bharati-Preksha Meditation Center]. “Essentially, we don’t believe in the same things; we share eight demi-gods with Hinduism but even then we don’t worship them like a Hindu would. But we do have similar faith traits, that being giving up world materials to achieve Nirvana.”Demi-gods, nirvana, “next lifetime,” karma? Those beliefs sound like something out of Scientology. But Jains take them very seriously.
“The karma you accumulate in this life and previous lifetimes will determine your condition for your next lifetime,” Mehta said. “We associate karma to be like a black cloud. The more karma you have the more ignorant you are; the less karma you have the more aware you’ve become.”
The funny thing is that so many Jains go into scientific fields, and yet, I never hear Jains say this stuff is untrue. They find a way to compartmentalize it and ignore it. When you ask them what they believe, they’ll say “Non-violence”… but they won’t mention the several levels of Hell and multiple levels of Heaven.
They’ll do research in a lab one day, and then sing a chant praising prophets, saints, and “liberated souls” the next, without ever realizing the two worlds ought to be colliding. (I sang that particular mantra every day growing up. Can you imagine how I felt when I finally figured out what it actually meant?)
As far as religions go, Jainism isn’t the worst one you’ll find. But there are plenty of lies that it spreads that we need to call out. Young Jains should be concerned with the truth and they ought to know that the religious leaders in the temple are trying to lead them away from it — as most religious leaders everywhere do. The fact that even the most outspoken atheists put on kid gloves when dealing with it is upsetting.
It’s always nice to see a religion that advocates kindness and respect, but that shouldn’t make it immune from criticism when it’s warranted. Jains are very bad at being self-critical, and it has plenty of beliefs that are untrue. I’d love to see a Jain organization, or blogger, or adherent offer up the evidence for their supernatural beliefs because I’m convinced there is none.
Note to my parents (who’ll probably never see this, anyway):
This is why I never had a desire for you to set me up with a “nice Jain girl.”