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What Some Believe

What Some Believe


view suffering as a consequence of a person’s actions, committed in either this life or a past one. A person can reach moksha​—a release from the cycle of rebirths—​ through achieving a state of mind that is detached from temporal things.


view suffering as both a punishment for sin and a test of faith. Tragedies are a reminder “to remain grateful to God for all our blessings and cognizant that we must support those in need,” says Dr. Sayyid Syeed, president of the Islamic Society of North America.

Jewish tradition

holds that suffering results from one’s own actions. Some Jews say that there will be a resurrection, after which justice will be rendered to the innocent who suffered. Kabbalistic (mystical) Judaism teaches reincarnation, which gives a person repeated opportunities to atone for his errors.


believe that suffering is experienced over many lifetimes, a cycle of rebirths that continue until a person’s negative actions, emotions, and cravings cease. By means of wisdom, virtuous works, and mental discipline, a person can reach nirvana​—a state in which all suffering has ceased.


attribute most suffering to “human failure and error,” says A Dictionary of Comparative Religion. Confucian doctrine recognizes that while suffering can be reduced through virtuous living, much of it is caused by “spiritual agencies beyond man’s control. In such cases, man must stoically accept the decrees of Fate.”

Some tribal religions

attribute suffering to witchcraft. According to these beliefs, witches can bring good luck or disaster and their activities can be tempered through various rituals. Thus, the rites and medicines of witch doctors are believed to counteract the work of witches when a person suffers from illness.


trace suffering to the sin of the first two humans, as described in the Bible book of Genesis. However, many denominations have embellished that teaching. For example, some Catholics say that personal suffering can be ‘offered up to God’ to request that he benefit the church or that he apply that suffering toward the salvation of someone else.


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