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 –

Faith On The Final Frontier

“The final frontier” — since the mid 1960’s these words have characterized Star Trek’s perception of the adventure and the discoveries to be found in the distant reaches of outer space. Yet can this vast interstellar ether really be said to be the final frontier in terms of providing an ultimate foundation or purpose? For despite all its wonder, at its core the cosmos is not that much different than ourselves in that its external composition is simply another manifestation or component of the physical universe.

Thus, no matter how far man might one day voyage beyond the confines of the earth, he will still require belief and value systems through which to process and understand the role of the mysteries he is likely to encounter both within the human mind and those external to himself with which he has had little prior experience. Often the fields of science fiction and future studies are used as tools by which to forecast scientific and technological developments. However, in Religion 2101 A.D., Hiley H. Ward shows these speculative methods can be used to gauge the form religion might take in the distant future.

According to Ward, the astounding breakthroughs of the future will force humanity to rethink the most basic of concepts as these will be stretched beyond traditional understandings in light of extraordinary circumstances and conditions. For example, Ward points out that the very concept of what it means to be human might be altered beyond current recognition. With the advent of artificial organs and the possibility of growing replacements in a laboratory, there could come a day when death might be delayed indefinitely.

Many would no doubt embrace existence as a cyborg (an organism half biological and half mechanical in its physiology) if the interchangeability of parts presented the likelihood of staving off the grim reaper as long as possible. Eventually, man might no longer have to endure the inherent limitations of an organic body as range, perception and locomotion could be enhanced by directly interfacing the brain with a computer controlling an array of exploratory robotic sensors. In essence, some could live out their lives as a stationary central processing unit while their secondary android bodies simultaneously explored both the depths of the ocean and the peaks of Mars all at the same time.

Ward predicts that these kinds of innovations will spark profound renovations in man’s religious consciousness. Faced with the overwhelming enormity of the universe, man may feel forced to cope with the daunting fruits of this exploration by downplaying his individuality by fully embracing his place as an insignificant cog in a machine. In biological and sociological sciences, this theory is known as “macro life”, the propensity to view the individual in society as analogous to a single cell in an organism.

Such a framework places worth and value instead on the overall group as a whole….

By Frederick Meekins – WebCommentary.com

Where virtual reality is going

Right now, companies are selling improved tech that allows a helmet-wearer to see landscape and people in a wider perspective, and hear layers of sounds to the left and right, and above and below him. He can also walk inside the virtual set up.

He can’t touch everything he sees yet, but that’s coming. And perhaps one day, he’ll be able to sit down at a lavish meal and smell and taste the food.

Sight, sound, touch, smell, taste. A five-sense envelope.

He’ll leap off a cliff, fly through the clouds, and attack a monster coming his way, and he’ll win. He’ll do this over and over, and begin to control his own attendant fear. (You can see the obvious military use.)

But…the money men behind virtual reality will want more. They’ll want to program the user’s reactions AHEAD OF TIME; his feelings, sensations, nervous-system responses, endocrine outputs, brain signals.

The full package.

“Press Button A on your remote and receive the complete experience as we give it to you.”

Eventually, there won’t be a button A. Buyers will want what they’re given.

That’s the threshold, the crossover:

Why try to imagine and create your own reactions? Why try to minimize your Pavlovian responses? The VR techs already have the answers for you.

And their answers are very much like a medical protocol.

Entrainment on multiple levels. This is where virtual reality is heading.

In the process, the basic principle of elite reality-building will be expanded: cut off the individual’s imagination; bury it; exclude it; make it unnecessary.

Why?

Because that imagination, and its ability to invent new unpredictable realities, is ultimately what stands between a locked-down planet and a planet that has a chance of freedom….

By Jon Rappoport – No More Fake News –

Ten Horrifying Technologies That Should Never Be Allowed To Exist

By George Dvorsky –

As we head deeper into the 21st century, we’re starting to catch a glimpse of the fantastic technological possibilities that await. But we’re also starting to get a grim sense of the potential horrors. Here are 10 frightening technologies that should never, ever, come into existence….

 
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