To coincide with the season of gift-giving, a deliciously ironic board game is making a splash across the media because it…oh noes! treats all religions equally! That is to say, it treats them all with the same healthy dose of satire that any self-respecting religion would understand is not a direct attack, but a fun way of making a sensible point: most religions have some cruelty in their history, many have violence in their present, and all are equally absurd when reduced to a small plastic icon.
The reduction of dogma is what I love about the game, Playing Gods, which was launched by friend-of-Skepchick Ben Radford at this year’s DragonCon. Players take the role of whichever religious or spiritual leader they want, from Buddha to a tactfully-un-named Islamic guy with a beard and a bomb. Snork. You can even invent your own leader, for example choosing to play as Tkingdoll (an excellent decision, if I do say so myself), or David Tennant. Or ALF the lovable alien. Whatever or whoever floats your boat as the disher-out-of-smitings.
I’m delighted to see that the game is making headlines, precisely because of the point it makes. Yes, it could be considered offensive to reduce beloved gods to the status of the boot or the dog in Monopoly, if you’re the type easily offended. Yes, it does seem to be saying that religions can be the cause of violence and genocide, and yes, it is most definitely saying “isn’t it slightly absurd that any one religion can claim truth over another?”. The world needs this dialogue right now, and the media interest the game is attracting can only be a good thing, in the same way The God Delusion has spawned debate. I hope Ben doesn’t attract the same sort of vitriol as Dawkins, but it goes with the territory and I for one am glad someone is prepared to stand up and say, boldly, “NO SACRED COWS!”.
As for the response, consider the quote that USA today included in their coverage, a cynical attempt at balanced commentary on their part but in my opinion rather heavy-handed.
In that respect,Â Playing GodsÂ resembles the video game tradition it emulates â€” fantasy violence for entertainment, says Carl Raschke, professor of religious studies at University of Denver.
The game’s perspective “has no basis in historical reality and doesn’t actually represent any religion. It just appeals to people who hate religion to begin with â€” the hip subculture of militant popular atheists,” says Raschke.
“These people are fanatics, for the most part, themselves. Their thinking is rigid and hostile and not much different from jihadists who don’t use their minds or study what they are dealing with. They start from their own dogmatic perspective.”
Offensive? Says Raschke, “Of course it is. But it sounds too stupid to go far.”
Hee hee! If there’s a hip subculture of militant popular atheists, then call me Dawkins McNoGod. To Prof Raschke, I say this: I don’t hate religion. I dislike those who seek to limit my freedoms because of their pet beliefs. Further, I dislike those who are unable to laugh at themselves or accept that violence has been a part of religion since religion began. But most importantly, I say that anyone who is afraid of a board game has more to worry about than a few “stupid” atheists.