Reincarnation is a popular belief among Pagans, and seems to be growing every day. The majority of monotheists reject the idea of reincarnation because they believe there is only one life which we all live, and then our souls go on to some kind of Heaven or afterlife (depending on the belief system in question).
Many times I have rejected the notion of having only one life. I very much believe in reincarnation. However, after giving the matter a good deal of reflection, I find that I can agree with both points. The two ideas seem incompatible–how can a person have only one life yet still reincarnate–but they may not be so incompatible after all.
In the concept of reincarnation, the idea is that a soul lives many lifetimes as different people, but the soul is always the same. A soul may do this in order to learn and grow and advance itself to a higher wisdom.
In the concept of one life, a person lives only once and then the soul moves on at death to Heaven or some kind of afterlife, where the soul remains for all eternity. The soul is not reincarnated, and may not move across levels at all, but remain in one afterlife.
How I now view these two is that I do live one life. I, as the person I am right now, will never exist again. The person who writes as Sita will not come around again. The soul that powers me, the soul within, will be reincarnated as a new person, but the person I am in this life will not be seen again after I’ve died. I do only have one life to live as the person I am right now. My soul, on the other hand, has been many different people with many different names, and those individual people have only lived individual lives. Never again will the women who were hanged live again. Never again will the priestess from an ancient culture live again. My soul, however, could live a life in which it is a priestess or in which its body is hanged, but the soul is not the same as the individual who is aware and talking and walking.
[This post would be easier to write if I could use my own name. To make this a bit easier, I will use my pseudonym, so please forgive me for using Sita as my personal/real name. I do it only for the convenience of this post, not from arrogance.] Never again will my soul be Sita. As Sita, I will only live this one life. My soul, however, has lived as Judy, or Gwen, or Amy, and will live again as Sasha or Amanda or Skylar. But Sita is one life that will not be repeated and cannot be changed once passed. The chances of my soul living another life with the name Sita, in the exact same circumstances, with the exact same choices, is really very low. Not impossible, but so small as to be almost impossible.
I hope that made sense. Because of this, I personally don’t find the two ideas completely incompatible. You can incorporate the two with a little creativity. So when someone says that there is only this one life, I end up agreeing, because I will not have this particular life again. My soul will have another life, but I as this person right now will not.