Virtual Reality is getting Religion
It has finally happened, virtual reality is getting religion! It started yesterday when I read a post on UploadVR (a great resource for VR and related news) about a Bible app for Google Cardboard called Bible VRX. Bible VRX, developed by Derek Ham, puts users in different scenes from the Bible with, "a mission to use advanced technology to communicate the stories of the Bible, stories of faith, hope, and love”.
One can see in the video below some of the scenes it is possible to visit. According to the article this app is just a prototype that Derek hopes to build out with other scenes that have music, narration, and animated effects.
So this got me thinking. Religion is such a integral part of humanity and this is probably the first virtual reality application I have heard of anyone doing. There were plenty of digital religious experiences back in the heyday of virtual worlds so surely this cannot be the case I thought. To Google I went to find other religious VR experiences and what I found, or didn't find, surprised me. There are no virtual reality applications that popped right up.
Top of the list is a book by Rachel Wagner - Godwired: Religion, Ritual and Virtual Reality, that looks at the role of games and religion. In a video of her lecturing on the subject, she discussed what the rise in a digital, algorithmic culture means for religion, how religion is depicted in video games, and what video games mean for religious practice and ritual. Interesting but more focused on screen based games and not immersive VR ones.
Figuring there have to be VR religious experiences in the works, I went to Kickstarter and lo and behold I found one. Called Virtual Reality Jerusalem, this Kickstarted project (that just launched today ironically) looks to use virtual reality for exposing and educating visitors to the geography, structures, and locations from religious scripts. The team behind it is called VR Disciples and while their website doesn't say much beyond what is on the Kickstarter site, further investigation shows that Destiny and her team have been thinking about this since April 2015 (when they posted the video below).
While I consider myself more a spiritual than religious person, this seems like a cool project and I decided to put some money toward it. Who wouldn't want to see ancient Jerusalem and other places from religious history. They claim to release the app for $1 if they hit their goal or make it free if they surpass it. Go donate your $1 and let's make VR religion history!
I really hope these projects make it and more begin to come out. I feel we are at a time in world affairs where those with different faiths need to be better understood and this is among the better ways to do it. Plus, the business of religion is a multi-billion dollar industry so I really expect we will see more companies like these in 2016.
Virtual reality is a great way I feel for believers to connect more strongly with their faith in a way that puts them in the narrative. Like with other things this story starts with just a man and a woman, but I have faith that what Derek and Destiny have begun will turn into a VR Garden of Eden for all faiths and followers for experiencing religion like never before. I say to them both God bless and may you achieve your goals of bringing virtual reality into religion.
**Thanks to some folks on Facebook, I was exposed to this other VR app named Sermon on the Mount by Immersive Faith.
. . .