Virtual reality a new frontier for religions

Virtual reality technology is going to radically change what it means to attend church in the next fifty years — and maybe much sooner.

While the technology is still in its infancy, however, virtual churches are limited experiments rather than significant outreach efforts – but this will change.

“Numerous persons and groups have developed churches in the virtual world, mainly Second Life,” Rev. Christopher Benek told Hypergrid Business. “I would venture to say that most have been less concerned with true evangelical success and more focused on what their technological exploratory experience may yield in the future.”

Rev. Benek serves at the largest church in the Presbytery of Tropical Florida, the First Prebyterian Church of Ft. Lauderdale, as the Associate Pastor of Family Ministries and Mission. He is also enrolled at Durham University in England where he is working on a Ph.D. in theology focusing on the intersection of technological futurism and eschatology.

For most traditional churches, virtual reality isn’t even on the horizon, he said.

“But for those of us who tend to be more inclined to the developments of human technology, we are keeping abreast of the important advancements that are occurring in the virtual world,” he said. “Personally, I think that as technology like Oculus Rift becomes more developed, immersive, and available to the general public, we may soon be able to easily develop virtual worship and Christian education experiences. This would be a great asset to the church universal, as it will enable the infirm, homebound, and potentially even the poor to participate from afar regardless of their personal mobility or lack of affordable transportation.”

There are a number of other ways in which churches can benefit by removing physical obstacles to worship, he added.

“Congregants and pastors will be able to visit and pray with greater numbers of people more often,” he said.”Small groups will be able to meet more frequently, even at great distances. The way that we currently do care and discipleship will radically change as will our expectations as to what it means to participate in those aspects of the church.”

….“I think the Church, as well as other religious organizations, would benefit from proceeding further in this direction of virtualizing and even open-sourcing their rituals,” Lincoln Cannon, President of the Mormon Transhumanist Association, told Hypergrid Business. “Imagine authenticating to an neurally immersive online temple in which you participate in the mythological re-enactment, adapting the imagery to your personal spiritual needs, perhaps in concert with or according to the guidance of spiritual friends or authorities. I don’t have a particular platform to recommend, but I do feel a great deal of inspiration from this vision of customizing and revitalizing ritual to such extent that re-enactment transcends itself and actually becomes reification: the expression of salvation mythology itself becomes transfiguration to godhood, and the expression of creation mythology itself instantiates new worlds.”

….The story of LifeChurch.tv in Second Life is told in the book Virtually Sacred – Myth and Meaning in World of Warcraft and Second Life, published in 2014 by Oxford University Press, by Robert Geraci, Professor in the Department of Religion at Manhattan College. Geraci argues that virtual worlds can play the role of sacred spaces, places of power where believers can engage in compelling forms of ritual behavior and form online religious communities.

The book reports that many groups in mainstream religions, including Christianity and Islam, established a virtual presence in Second Life, often bypassing institutional channels and creating grassroots communities instead. These virtual communities are often independent of traditional religious hierarchies, and much more open to inter-faith dialogue and alternative lifestyles….

The chapter “Sacred Second Lives” of Virtually Sacred is dedicated to new, emerging religious movements in Second Life. Perhaps more than established religions, new “native” metaverse religions will be able to take full advantage of the endless possibilities of virtual reality and offer a spiritual home to multitudes of people worldwide, especially those who search spiritual meaning independently, outside the legacy framework of mainstream religions….

Of course everything – even religion – runs on money, and how to finance virtual churches will need to be addressed. Many religious communities are self-sustaining through donations, and that financing model will still be viable. Virtual worlds have built-in payment methods, from the Linden dollar to the Bitcoin-like crypto-currency planned for High Fidelity, so that collecting donations in virtual reality will be even easier than in physical churches.

Besides recovery of survival expenses, it’s well known that religion can be a profitable business as well. Other forms of financing include membership fees, merchandising, pay-only events and virtual adventures, donations from wealthy patrons, and discreet sponsorship – or even blatant in-service advertising if the virtual parishioners are willing to put up with that.

By Giulio Prisco – Hypergrid Business –

Alternative Media Future and Risk

The seemingly futile plight of Western Civilization can best be explained that the inhabitants of European heritage are vastly unaware of their own history and have adopted an apathetic attitude to their own survival self-interest. The horrors of the last century go unnoticed as the offspring’s of the baby boom generation continue to experience life in a virtual world. The inadequacy of a government school education is evident, when the MTV culture is stripped away and the core foundations of deficient understanding are exposed. The rapid spread of a global police state relies upon the suppression of truth and factual reality.

In this electronic age, when reading a book is considered a sentence of torture, the hash tag in a tweet is held out as grand sophistication. If surveyed, how many working age adults have ever read an Encyclopedia Britannica in a hardback edition? The point is that perception in images and sound bites is no substitute for thought, reflection and discernment.

The political messages and agenda for acceptable discourse are provided through filtered lenses presented as establishment news. The main stream media, print, broadcast, televised, electronic and cultural all have in common a coordinated “Political Correctness” in content. The claims of diversity appear in every color, language and customs, while pushing the same reign of terror over the minds of critical thinking individuals.

The term alternative media is a pejorative slur to the power elites and screams out as an independent source of honest reporting to intrepid truth seekers. That often suspect source, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia states: “Proponents of alternative media argue that the mainstream media often perpetuate traditional hegemonic power relations via their selection of content and their rhetorical and structural framing of news and information.”

As a reader of social and political commentary on BREAKING ALL THE RULES, it should be self-evident that the choice of that name has significance and purpose. The following list is a sample of sites that have supported our efforts and published BATR articles. If you are an avid and aware political observer, most of these publications should be regular sources of trusted information….

By Sartre – Breaking All The Rules –

Obama declares war on ‘extremism’ – Are you an ‘extremist’ according to his definition?

By Michael Snyder | Economic Collapse Blog

Do you know what an “extremist” is? In the wake of the horrible terror attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in France, Barack Obama is speaking very boldly about the need to win the war against “extremists”, and he has announced plans to host a major global summit on “extremism” next month. And on the surface that sounds great. But precisely how are we supposed to determine whether someone is an “extremist” or not? What criteria should we use? As you will see below, your definition of an “extremist” may be far, far different from the definition that Barack Obama is using. When you do a Google search, you will find that an “extremist” is defined as “a person who holds extreme or fanatical political or religious views, especially one who resorts to or advocates extreme action.” According to Wikipedia, “extremism” is “an ideology (particularly in politics or religion), considered to be far outside the mainstream attitudes of a society or to violate common moral standards. Extremism can take many forms, including political, religious and economic.” Please notice that neither of those definitions uses the word violence. In this day and age, you can be considered an “extremist” simply based on what you believe, and as you will see later in this article there are now tens of millions of Americans that are considered to be “extremists” and “potential terrorists” according to official U.S. government documents.

When you use the word “extremist”, you may have in your mind a picture of ISIS fighters or the terrorists from the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

But for elitists such as Barack Obama, the word “extremist” has a much broader meaning. In recent years, it has become a code word for those that do not have an “enlightened” view of the world. If your views on politics, religion or social issues are extremely different from the liberal, progressive views of “the mainstream” (as defined by the mainstream media and by “mainstream” politicians such as Barack Obama), then they consider you to be an extremist. (Complete list of definitions follows)

By Michael Snyder – Intellihub –