When Fantasy Meets Virtual Reality
The secular community should be concerned that Facebook’s multi-billion dollar, all-in investment in metaverse development includes millions of dollars to upstart Virtual Reality churches. The metaverse is the immersive, virtual reality digital world that includes video games such as Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, others, and a host of non-gaming platforms that allow the user to create an avatar and interact with others active on the platform in digitally constructed environments. The partnership seems to be a no-brainer, says Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Meta Platforms until leaving in August of last year. “Faith organizations and social media are a natural fit because both are fundamentally about connection.” Reading between the lines, we get: both are about amassing more and more followers, and thus, more money and more influence.
Some say that VR churches won’t be replacing physical churches and actual person-to-person interactions anytime soon, or that replacing real, live physical church attendance with VR churches may never happen at all, and the popularity of VR churches themselves could wane and even disappear over time.
In virtual or augmented reality, the user is aware that the images, avatars, and environments are nothing but symbols and images of the actual universe we live, work, and play in, and by interacting with a computer simulation we are temporarily escaping that world. It’s entertainment, it’s a game. The problem with sincerely religious folk entering into a VR platform is they carry the alternative reality of religion with them into another alternative reality populated by others in the same predicament—sort of like a dream within a dream, or Tower-of-Babel Speak convention with no common word between them for the English fact—blindly navigating through the illusions on their desktops and Oculus headsets. It’s just not a recipe for sound mental health.
Nor is gifting millions to religions for the purpose of turning a profit—or any other reason, for that matter.
Marty Bankson, Ed.
January 15, 2023