Religion is, most definitely, an important part of our lives, whether we belong to one or not. Everyday one religious event finds its way to the news, and everywhere we go, we see the signs of religion. Jesus ans Mohammad are both called the most influential people in the history. Many of our holidays, great events, and customs are religious, whether they're rooted in present day religions or in the ancient ones we've mostly forgotten about. Even our names mostly come from religion, Celtic religions, the Bible, or the Qur'an.
So video games, certainly, will deal with religion too. In some games we know the faith of the hero, in some games a fictitious religion is dominant, and in some, we deal with religion at length. Some of these religions are good religions, some are evil cults that are practiced by the villains.
However, they all have one thing in common, they're cool. This Top 10 list talks about the coolest among them.
#10: Christianity in Dante's Inferno (PS3)
Well, you see, back in good old days of medieval era, when Dante Alighieri used to live, Christianity looked a bit different from what it looks today. I mean, today Christianity is a lot nicer, and it spends its time worrying about the dangers of condoms and abortions, while back in Dante's time, Pope was as powerful as Barack Obama is today, and had a nasty habit of burning heretics on the stick, and "heretic" meant slightest disagreements with the Pope within the Catholic faith as well. Furthermore, people really, really, really, were afraid of Hell: nowadays we either secretly don't believe in Hell or we're sure that we're going to Heaven, but at that time, well, the default destination was Hell, unless you could manage to escape the angels and take refuge in the Purgatory.
Just to help people be a little more virtuous, Dante, who, shockingly, didn't wield a sword and wasn't half naked and never went to gym, decided to write an allegorical book called Divine Comedy to instruct people. The first book is "Inferno", the part that you should be scared of, and it's one of the most terrifying books ever written. This book is, unsurprisingly, is esteemed one of the greatest classics in the world, because its great poetry edifies the scholars, its virtuous themes teaches the people, and its violent scenes satisfies the S&M type, while there are some sexy scenes too- if you enjoy hardcore gory porn that's only made Japan, that is.
So these bright minds behind the game we're talking about have come up with a brilliant idea. Let's turn Dante from a boring poet who sold his sadistic fantasies for patronage to a hero who acts them out, let's make it a little bit more graphic, a little bit more violent, and let's just add a female character too, for apparent reasons, for mastur... I mean, romance.
What's the result? Christianity in this game is a very cool religion, very, VERY cool indeed. All those time that you fell asleep in your Sunday school, all those boring lectures, forget all about them. Christianity in this game is about playing God of War in Hell, and kicking Lucifer's ass.
Normally this would make higher on this list, it's just, well, Christianity isn't REALLY that cool. Not anymore that is, not since the Renaissance.
#9: Greek Mythologies in God of War series
If the Ancient Greeks happened to go back to the future, (no matter how they got there the first time), and saw our renditions of their religion(s), they would most probably be amazed. Our main source into their religious beliefs is the two polemic works of Homer, which unveils only one face of many faces of their faith. Homer was an intellectual, and his beliefs were more sophisticated than the average Greeks. So, yes, most Greeks would not recognize what we think was their belief. They would be surprised when they watch Disney's Hercules, and they would not comprehend why we name a peculiar complex which is about raping our mother and killing our father, (or vice versa), after the glorious king Oedipus. But there would be one of our products that would outright offend them, and they would find it really insensitive, and maybe they would even sue it for hate speech. You're right, I'm referring to God of War.
You see, there are some peculiarities about this version of those religions. They can be really generous, and they depose their powers into you as you advance in the game, and strangely, you can kill them if they piss you off. They act totally ungodly, they wait in their palace for you to slaughter their minions one by one and open your way to their temple and fight them and kill them with a cool QTE finisher. I mean, what kind of GODS are they? Couldn't they just send a tornado or something to smash you, and should be they "immortal"?
But, why complain! Religion is cooler this way. Just imagine the next time you failed your math exam you could take revenge, not only on your teacher, but on God! Imagine raiding the Heaven and killing arch-angels one by one! I would totally convert to that religion!
So because of their cool rendition of a religion they deserve a spot on this list.
#8: Unitology in Dead Space (PC)
Unitology and Scientology have a lot in common. The most important one is that they both end in tology, like some other respected world religions, such as Appliantology, Blainetology, Prismatology, and Practicology. The second similarity is in the origin, they both first appeared in sci-fi media. Thirdly, both religions sound a little bit.... alike, like in, well, um, every aspect. Even Tom Cruise is in both religions; in the game, he plays the role of Infector.
Unitology is founded by L Ron... I mean, Michael Altman, which believes that Marker brings about eternal life, a cool device with a lot of uses (strangely one of them is not writing on white board with). They keep most of their beliefs covered up, (that reminds me of...) and it would cost you heavily to know them. (Why that sounds so familiar?)
However, it really IS a cool religion. You have to play the game and you'll agree with me.
#7: Ormus in Xenosaga series
Xenosaga is a futuristic game and it ponders upon the future of everything, including Christianity. Apparently, in the future, Christianity will evolve into Ormus, which is a brand of medicine today.
In the future Christianity will share a lot with oriental religions such as Zoroastrianism. There's something called Zohar- which in Persian means Venus- which serves as a source of power, and they believe that to be divine. They really try their best to achieve the original Zohar, and they would even do bad things. Furthermore, their leaders have long boring names with numbers- such as Patriarch Sergius XVII, and they wear funny clothes.
What I really like about the depiction of religion in Xenosaga is the fact that it's accurate. They've worked out a complete theology, the tenets are believable, the followers aren't merely devil worshipers trying to resurrect anti-Christ, and religions really do evolve into each other historically.
So, it's really nice work, we should salute them.
#6: First Church of LeChuck, Orthodox in Escape from Monkey Island (PC)
To those, like me, who have wasted their early childhood in the satanic industry of video games playing the games published by Darth Vader, and are already a fan of Monkey Islandian humor, the very idea of a church dedicated to LeChuck is so cool that would make it on this list. Add normal Lucas Arts (the name of Darth Vader's company) humor to the mix and the result is irresistible.
The church is ran by priest called Allegro Rasputin (historical allusion) who's killed by LeChuck. Normal ghosts would haunt LeChuck but instead he builds a church and starts worshiping him. He writes him a bible which Guybrush dubs "the most unholiest of bibles".
They have a bit unusual way of marriage. There's a river of lava flowing through the church, and the couple should take a boat ride and... die. Then, they can marry as ghosts. Something like, instead of "till death do us part", "since death do us join".
LeChuck is the savior. Guybrush is Anti-LeChuck, and his name shouldn't be spoken. When Guybrush points that he's Anti-LeChuck the priest reminds him that "The Anti-LeChuck is three meters tall, has a prehensile tail, a forked tongue, and the number "1138" stamped on his forehead."
They believe that LeChuck and Elaine should marry, and they "don't recognize Elaine's blasphemous marriage to the Anti-LeChuck."
Darth Vader is one oft he greatest humorists of all times.
#5: Church of the Children of Atom in Fallout 3 (PC)
A little back story: When nuclear war broke between China and America, many parts of America turned into dust, and what was once a global superpower became a big apocalyptic Wasteland. Washington D.C. suffered this unfortunate fate too, and now is known as the Capital Wasteland. One particular bomb fell on earth but didn't explode, and some folks gathered and built a town around it- called Megaton. Some of these folks began worshiping this bomb which is about to detonate. They called their religion the Church of the Children of Atom.
A man called confessor Crowley is the priest of this cult. He stand beside the bomb, preaching his time away, praising the bomb, (strangely he doesn't suffer from any radiation), and you can talk to him about his faith. Do so. It'll be one of your exceptional experiences.
The story is, each single atom contains a Universe. When each atom splits (AKA: nuclear explosion) many new universes are created (where?) and therefore atomic wars aren't destructive, but they create life, nuclear explosion should be blessed, and we must all look forward to nuclear bombs falling on our heads.
The only part I can't comprehend is this: Why the HELL donating to these lunatics is a GOOD thing to do and increases your karma?
Trivia: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the most famous follower of this cult.
#4: The Brotherhood of Nod in Command & Conquer series
Another villain badass religion. They're a playable faction in one of the most fantastic futuresque strategy games. They are not simply a religious cult for they also function as an army, a corporation, and a military totalitarian state. Like real religions, the actual date of the founding of this religion is unknown, although there are different hypothesis. They draw from all Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Their political activity is world-spread, and many countries in the world support them. They have a good relationship with extremist groups around the globe- Irish Republican Party, Islamic Jihad, and others. They use organized crime to achieve their goals. They began as a secret cult but they grew to this totally badass cool entity. Imagine all cool villains: totalitarian regimes, terrorists, evil organized religions, mafia, all and all, you can find them in Nod. On the top of all this, Nods are on the United States list of terrorist groups.
Add to all of these, a great charismatic leader who is simply one of the greatest villains of all times.I mean Kane. Who else could I mean? He's macho, bald, and evil, and he's on friendly terms with Joseph Stalin. I'm sure if Mr. Joseph D. Kucan had portrayed him in a movie he would win an Oscar for his role.
#3: Worshiping you in Black & White series
The whole Black and White series revolves around a religion. Who's the god? YOU! WOW, this even feels more awesome when time magazine chose you as the person of the year in 2006, isn't it?
Yes, you are a god with all the powers and responsibilities. You can train a holy creature, you can expand your cities, you can work miracles, you can decide what people should do for a living, you can even make them have sex (don't overdo it though, if you don't like a baby boomer era under your nose).
The main objective is this: there are rival gods. You should conquer their followers by winning their faith, and this is done by proving you're either lovelier or more terrifying than their present god, and this done by miracles. Miracles are either destructive, or constructive. You need divine power to make your miracle, and power is achieved through your own people worshiping you and sacrifices. So there you are: an entire game is a cool religion revolving around you.
You can be a good god or a bad god, if you torture your people, sacrifice human beings, rain disasters on poor people you want them to in you, you're a very bad god. And your land will look like Sauron's backyard, and your hand will look evil. If you heal their deceases, sacrifice trees and animals, such and such, you're a bad god. There are two funny guys one asking you to do good and the other asking you to do bad.
Next time they ask me to be god, I would demand that the morality should be written by me too. My universe, my rules. My first commandment would be: "Be fruitful and multiply."
#2: The Mythic Dawn in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PC)
Unfortunately I can't talk much about this awesome cult and its coolest aspects, because The Mythic Dawn is completely related to the plot of this masterpiece of a game and talking about it would spoil the story for you.
The Mythic Dawn is one of many Deadric cults in the game. They are demon-worshiping cults. But their god is the more powerful: Mehrunes Dagon, a Deadra they seek to finally summon. They are very powerful, they posses powerful arsenal and apparel, and they're fantastic at making magic.
The Mythic age was an age in which the normal world, and the Oblivion, a hellish realm full of demons, weren't separated. The followers of these creeds seek to bring that age back. That's all I can tell.
You might say; this doesn't sound cooler than most games in this list, but this particular cult is secretive, and you discover about it as you advance through the game, and all the coolness lies in there.
So that's all I can say: play The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and then you'll find out why I've dedicated the second spot on my list to this game.
#1: The Order in Silent Hill series
If you create any list about video game religions- most horrifying, most evil, most sophisticated, most whatever, The Order would make it to the top. What a name! The Order! A very general name, which you'll grow to be horrified when you hear. There are many sects of this order. All of them are really terrifying and crazy. So far there hasn't been a single moderate sect.
The Order is the most complete video game religion. There's a complete mythology behind it that you must uncover as you advance through each game, and of course, you have to go through all games, and yet, many things remain in secret, which makes things even creepier. With the exception of Silent Hill 2 which was mostly a psychological game all other games are narrated with The Order in the center of the plot, while main antagonists of the games are ardent followers of this cult.
Followers of The Order worship the creatures from the Otherworld. Their main goal is to create an apocalypse which ultimately leads to the purification of the world and brings about eternal happiness. Their moral criteria is not good or evil, but chaos and order. They believe since they will ultimately bring happiness to all, therefore the end justifies their means, which are mostly brutal and violent.
These all may seem similar to other games; but there are some points that make this particular religion better than others:
1) Realistic: Like real dangerous ideologies and sects, they're truly evil characters, but with good intentions. In the real world, we might really fear monsters such as Hitler and Stalin; but they themselves lived their lives with the least amount of feeling guilt, for they believed in horrific ideologies which justified all sorts of monstrosities. This is true about this cult too.
For example look at the character of Claudia Woolf. She's as evil (if not more evil) than most video game characters, but she approaches you with a mission of love and happiness. She's so selfless that she knows she won't be redeemed but she continues to fight for others. Judging by her own standards, she's a saint. Unfortunately the problem lies in that "her own standards" part. This is completely superior to other video game villains who look at destroying the world as a hobby.
2) Various ideas: Members of The Order define The Mother, their founding member, and the Paradise, in different ways. There are 4 different sects. This is true about all religions. In other video games, almost all members of a given cult have identical beliefs, which is impossible.
3) Hierarchy: There's a completely worked out hierarchical system among cult members. This is not true about all religions, (for examples there's no hierarchy in Jainism or Sufi sect of Islam) but most religions that seek political power are hierarchical. This adds deepness to their cult.
4) Rituals: Rituals are an important and vital element to each cult. Look at the video games on this list. although their nice, with the exception of #2 and #3, none of them have worked out accurate rituals. The Order is a very ritualistic cult, all of them accurately.
5) Symbolism: Each time that you saw a cross or a woman wearing hijab, or an allusion to a biblical story, remember that each religion has a symbolic system which is essential to its spread. The Order has a symbolic system as well, and again, this one is also similar only to #2 on my list. For example, the Halo of the Sun, often present while conducting rituals, which is also your saving checkpoint.
6) Evolution: They will try to tell you otherwise, but religions change a lot through history, an awful lot. They change while history advances and they change from place to place. Compare Irish Catholicism to the French one, and compare the Catholic church of 20th century to 17th century, and of course compare any widespread old religion. Along Ormus, The Order is the only video game religion that changes from time to time and place to place like a real religion. For example, The Order is practiced differently in the city of Shepherd's Glen than in the city of Silent Hill.
7) Individuality of the members: If there weren't already enough winning cards; this one is the ace. We must always remember: Religion is not the only element of a person's life. Therefore, their sole motivation doesn't come from their ideology. The ideology might enforce it, and more importantly, it might justify it, and it even might take part in originating it, but the final result has many causes, economic, political, personal, etc. In most video games followers of an evil cult are the complete personification of their weird beliefs and they they don't have individual personality. Not the case in Silent Hill.
Claudia, as I pointed out before, is completely consumed by her crazy cult, but that doesn't mean her own personality is overlooked. The information we get from his insane father, her upbringing, and everything about her, leads us to the fact that her own psychology is a very important element in this matter. This is also true about Walter Sullivan in the fourth game. We know Walter completely, not only what he believes is, but what he suffers from, and his psyche.
Another example is Vincent. He's a hypocrite. There are a lot of hypocrites in the world misusing religion to gain personal goals. In most gamers this part of believers are ignored. Not in Silent Hill.
Silent Hills, all of them, are fantastic masterpieces. One reason is their fantastic rendition of a religion in a game, unquestionably the best one in the history of this industry.
This is it. The 10 coolest religions appearing in video games. Looking back, you'll see that most of them are practiced by the villains rather than the heroes. Why? Is it because it'll make villains more horrifying? Is it because it gives a sense of community to the villains? Or combining two contradictory things- faith and evilness- is fun?
And also, look at the fact that many of these cults seek salvation through destroying world, most of them are apocalyptic sects. Again, why? Is it because villains traditionally seek to destroy the world, or does it have to do with something deeper, with our unconscious fear of our world coming to an end, through many hazards threatening our fragile world- wars, global warming, nuclear weapons, etc?
As we play these games, all good games, some great, and we enjoy our time, these are questions to be pondered upon.
List by Nazifpour (09/21/2010)
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