Playing Gods – You Need This Game!

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, Playing Gods resembles the video game tradition it emulates — 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 — 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.

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  1. I still hate the term “militant atheists.” Until we start blowing up churches and assassinating the clergy we are not militant. The use of words is not militant. Making and playing a fucking game is not militant.

    But, this crowd probably knows this and already agrees with me.

  2. @Vene: Exactly! How insulting is that, to compare a bunch of people playing a board game to a bunch of people flying planes into buildings and exploding bombs on buses.

    Ben Radford is awesome and I’m very happy his game is getting press. I’m optimistic that rational people will read Raschke’s comments and immediately place an order for the game.

  3. I loved this idea when I first heard about it (I think I first heard about this board game on either SGU, Point of Inquiry, or Skepticality, but I can’t recall), and then spent the last couple of days at Dracon*Con wearing the sticker promoting the game (“Be your own God”, greatest. tag line. ever.). I would have gotten one there, but couldn’t really afford it at that time, and technically still can’t (Vaultboy Bobble-head is more important than God based board game apparently).

  4. I saw the game and the hype at Dragoncon, too. I loved the t-shirt with the picture of Buddha (smiling for good luck) with a rotary cannon and the “sound effects” of budda budda budda.

  5. There’s also another game by the name of “Blashphemy” that everyone should take a look at. I wrote about both games at my place today, if you’re interested.

  6. Whoops, I didn’t close quote, that should have read.

    I’m gonna be the cute bunny rabbit of death from above.

  7. I wish I could get a bigger view of that graphic. I’m having trouble reading the font on the board. :-(

  8. Y’know, it say an awful lot about the self-confidence and morale of a religious group when it is getting it’s knickers in a twist over a Board Game.

    Let’s face it, inventing new Board Games has not been a weapon traditionally found in the miltants arsenal, perhaps this guy has stumbled across the key to combating irrationality: the 12 sided dice

  9. I don’t believe violence is the most effective way to solve problems, but I could get behind a militant atheist movement. As it stands now “militant” atheists are as militant as Martin Luther King.

  10. Hey T, Rebby, and the gang! Thanks for the kind words. It’s true what’s said about knicker twisting. I figure if you’re a fundie and my board game is your biggest problem, then you’re doing pretty well….

  11. Yeah, well the game DOES include a Flying Spaghetti Monster sticker! I just finished up a new batch of stickers of things that people worship, including Coffee, Porn, War, McWorld / capitalism, and of course Oprah…

  12. I just got my game in the mail yesterday. I’m torn between which sticker is my favorite: Oprah or Tom Cruise! By the way, Ben sends it to you gift-wrapped, signed (as well as a signed poster!), and topped with a piece of chocolate! I was going to use it as a god, but instead I ate it…

    Who’s the god now!?!

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