Monday, January 21, 2013

Religion in Games

This Mythopoeic Monday sees post #400!  Huzzah!

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it is fitting to have an explicitly religious posting today.  A friend of mind recently directed me to three videos on Penny Arcade TV.  In my professional work, I've given a lot of consideration to the issues around faith and rationality, and I've witnessed a lot of close-minded vitriol from those who are convinced that they know what, for example, science and religion are all about, and are unable to entertain any challenging or broadening of the mind.  So I was impressed at what the folks at PATV put together, but not as surprised as they were by the response their videos garnered.

So for a very good perspective on what faith is, on the relationship between faith and science, and for some starting points for consideration of how one includes these in one's gaming, check out these videos.  Though the videos are made with an eye towards video games, they can just as well inspire your thinking about religion in your RPG.


Religion in Games Part I
Religion in Games Part II
God Does Not Play Dice

1 comment:

  1. As friendly as this series is to religion and as honest as it is about the scientific method, I have to take issue with a number of its preconceptions:
    1) Religion and science are not equal. They do not ask the same questions nor can they answer the questions that the other asks. Science cannot answer the question “Who is God?” no matter how blue in the face various atheists who rely on science try to say other wise. As a Christian, I can say that God created all things, but Christianity cannot answer the specifics of how that creation actually functions in a mechanistic way.
    2) Modern Americans grossly underestimate the consequences of the mechanics of religion (as categorized by Penny Arcade). For example, the scientific method (which their writer has proclaimed to be the greatest thing in human history) necessitates a Judeo-Christian understanding of the universe. The faith that we can observe and experiment with the material world comes out of an understanding that God created the material world, declared that it was good and created human beings to be co-creators in His image and likeness. To take an extreme counter example, the scientific method could never arise out of a Gnostic world view, because it views created matter as evil and thus whatever observations made about it could never be trusted. Similar mechanical consequences exist in ever other religion when it comes to the basic assumptions of science. This is why the scientific method arose in the Christian West — it requires a Judeo-Christian world view in order to exist at all. Much of the animosity and absolutism that the folks at Penny Arcade encountered over this subject is due to the fact that we have forgotten this mechanical consequence and have attempted to divorce science from its foundational principles in Judeo-Christianity and somehow replace them with science itself.
    3) Faith is much more complicated than the binary system they propose for game use. In Scripture there are eleven different ways that faith is defined, understood and used. The most widely used form within the NT has to do with a personal relationship with God and humanity, not a belief that something is true or something works (as is it defined by the folks at Penny Arcade).
    4) In painting Albert Einstein’s obsession with disproving quantum mechanics as a bad thing, Penny Arcade fails to understand that one of the most important aspects of the scientific method is failure — which can sometimes be more beneficial and important than success. The fact that Albert Einstein spent so many years trying to disprove quantum mechanics and failing is as much a contribution to science as his theory of relativity.

    There is one thing, however, that I did truly appreciate about the series (though they could have spent more time giving examples of why it is true). One cannot talk about religion as a whole. To do so fundamentally misrepresents the specific religions that fall under the umbrella of religion. For example, the way in which Christianity and Islam answer the question “who is God?” are fundamentally different and have radically different consequences in how each views the human person and creation. To talk as if the two were the same is to be willfully ignorant of both (and therefore disrespectful of the entire conversation).