VR Mediated Content and Its Influence on Religious Beliefs
This article discusses technical features and perspectives of current "Virtual Reality" (VR) technologies and their potential impact on religious beliefs. The arising questions should be assessed in regard to the use of hard- and software devices in religious educational contexts. While touching the history of VR only marginally, this article focuses on observations and considerations regarding the players’ and users’ personality development in the context of their socialization and enculturation. In addition, an insight to VR applications in the fields of education, training and psychotherapy is provided.
Examples of research illustrate that today VR has become more than just a game or a tool for the visualization of objects and spaces. Can the technology, however, be used or applied in religious contexts? Would it give rise to new questions or can old questions be revised to facilitate a different approach?
After a definition of the term and basic functions of VR are provided, perceptional and emotional aspects as well as questions concerning transitions and boundaries that actually exist between real and virtual reality are discussed.
In individual practice, religiosity is mediated through objects, texts, rituals and community as well as certain expectations of believers, their duties and rights and, of course, through multipliers like clerics or teachers. However, are all of these necessary, existent or even realizable in VR?
Ultimately, a few questions are asked about the different implications of religion in virtuality: how do rules and rites communicate? What is the role of fellowship? How are believers and non-believers depicted in VR? Who is included or excluded?
Although the article cannot provide definitive answers in the face of a rapidly evolving technology, it would like to draw attention to important issues that can be harnessed in religious education and presumably also theology.