Friday, April 16, 2010

What is Religion?

First some background information from Religioustolerance.org, whose third page contains an amalgamation/compromise of the different definitions of Religion.  And I quote, "Religion is any specific system of belief about deity, often involving rituals, a code of ethics, a philosophy of life, and a worldview."


They define worldview as follows: "A worldview is a set of basic, foundational beliefs concerning deity, humanity and the rest of the universe."


This way they would consider ChristianityIslamJudaismNative American SpiritualityWicca, and other Neopagan traditions to be religions. They also include AgnosticismAtheismHumanism, Ethical Culture etc. as religions, because they also contain a "belief about deity." Their belief is that they do not know whether a deity exists, or they have no knowledge of God, or they sincerely believe that God does not exist. (paraphrased from their website).


With that in mind, and with other definitions available, can a video game be considered a religion?  If not one game, can the act of gaming be a religion?


Looking at Wikipedia, they proceed to define aspects of a religion in broad strokes:
"Aspects of religion include narrativesymbolism, beliefs, and practices that are supposed to give meaning to the practitioner's experiences of life. Whether the meaning centers on a deity or deities, or an ultimate truth, religion is commonly identified by the practitioner's prayerritualmeditationmusic and art, among other things, and is often interwoven with society and politics. It may focus on specific supernaturalmetaphysical, and moral claims about reality (the cosmosand human nature) which may yield a set of religious laws and ethics and a particular lifestyle. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and religious experience.


The term "religion" refers both to the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction. "Religion" is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system,"[2] but it is more socially defined than personal convictions, and it entails specific behaviors, respectively."

These aspects of religion such as narrative, symbolism, giving meaning to life, ritual, music, art, interweaving with society and politics, ethics, and tradition.  Also, "communication stemming from shared conviction" is important to note in the above paragraph.

Quoting Tobold: "I sometimes wonder whether video games are the new religion of our secular age. Some people really behave just like religious nutters about their favorite game, treating any open discussion about it as "blasphemy"."

Over at Ctrl-Alt-Del, the main character created his own religion of gaming.

Finally, and most prestigiously, the guys over at Penny Arcade (Jerry specifically) describe gaming as a shared memory, as real as our other memories, that tie us together. (paraphrase about 4:35 into that episode).

So with these resources, and with our definition of religion well in hand, can a game be a religion?
See you next time!