How do I see karma? In the Hindu framework I have set out above, it reflects the confluence of reincarnation and the law of cause and effect.
As we paddle as best we can on our personal rivers of life, we exercise our free will to pay our personal cosmic debts, to access any opportunities to learn whatever we need to learn for our personal development, and to prepare for the next life.
We thus effectively create, as a consequence of bumbling through life as best as possible, the cliffs through which our river of life will flow during our next sojourn on Earth, and the rocky impediments and chasms we will find on the way. How we deal with these and the cross-currents created by other personal destinies related to us will determine our future lives. No gods, saints, or spirits are therefore necessary as determinants. However, they may be able to intrude, to help, if they choose to; presumably they too have free will.
Since each of us is an integral part of a number of collectives, there will result a complex network of personal destinies. The expected web, and possibly nested mesh, of personal destinies would presumably be reflected ultimately in tribal and possibly national destinies. These might influence species development, although a major contributor might also be genetic mutations, which are truly accidents of nature.
What place is there for the major religions? Divested of the detritus of dogma deliberately designed to distinguish each sect or faith from the others, and then to enable a claim of an unwarranted theological superiority, and thereby an exclusive path to heaven, two core beliefs are shared by these religions, except Buddhism. First is a claim of a creator god. The second is that, since humans are the products of this creation, we are bonded to one another.
(The above is an extract from the chapter ‘On religion’ in my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door’)