Art Imitates Life? How Civilization V faithfully tells the faith story

By: Andrew S
June 28, 2012

This past weekend, I entered a self-induced virtual coma. The long-anticipated expansion pack to the latest edition to my favorite game series had recently been released, and the weekend was my first chance to play it. But what was the game? Civilization V: Gods and Kings.

Civilization V: Gods and Kings LogoThe name of the expansion pack gives away the major new addition to the game — for the second time in the series, Firaxis Games was formally addressing religion.

I’ll repeat that last part — this is the second time that the Civilization series has implemented religion to the iconic explore-expand-exploit-exterminate strategy God-game franchise. The first time that the series addressed religion was in the fourth game in the main series, Civilization IV.

The introduction of religion to Civilization IV was somewhat controversial when it was first advertised. Perhaps that led Firaxis to be particularly cautious about offending anyone with strategic programming decisions. Whatever the case was, in Civilization IV, all the religions followed the same mechanics…although the particular names for the various religious buildings would differ (so cities with Hinduism could build a mandir, while cities with Islam could build a mosque, and so on with cathedrals [Christian], stupas [Buddhist], and synagogues [Jewish]), the function would be basically the same — no matter what the name of that building is, it provided +50% to culture, +2 happiness is that religion was the state religion, and +1 happiness from Incense.)

In this way, there really was no real difference to having one religion over the other. It’s just that each religion arrived with a particular technology in the technology tree to simulate the historic founding of the real-world religions in time. For example, whoever first researched the medieval era technology Divine Right would found Islam somewhere in their territory, whereas Buddhism would come much earlier with the discovery of the very early Meditation technology. Surely, though, if your state religion differed from that of a neighbor, then that would lead to diplomatic tensions for as long as the difference in state religions existed. So much for ecumenism.

The reintroduction of religion to Civilization V: Gods and Kings starkly contrasts the previous debut. In this game, religions are most definitely differentiated from one another, but the differentiation has a twist that prevents any major fuss about favoritism or stereotyping of any real-world religion. In fact, unlike Civilization IV, which tried to tie the in-game religions to their real-world counterparts by tying their inceptions to a particular order based on the technological research requirements, Gods and Kings doesn’t tie religions to historical real-world religions much at all. The extent that the real-world religions play in the game is that they lend their symbols to the religions in the game, and they are the default names for the religions available. (Also, I don’t know if this has been confirmed, but the different civilizations appear to prefer to pick the religion that most closely related to their real-world religion — as long as it’s still available. )

Easily, I can say that the way that Civ V has addressed religion is far superior to how Civ IV addressed it, even if in many ways, its treatment is unhinged from history. To explain the reason, I’ll walk you through part of one game that I was playing, as the Mayans.

All Hail Pacal the Great!

Just for you all, the first pic I’ve taken has gotten through all of the loading, and I’ve already played through the first few turns…I just want to show you what my immediate starting location looks like. When playing any Civilization game, it’s important to scope the surroundings. What kinds of resources are available? The wise leader decides where to found new cities based on the terrain, as well as any strategic and luxury resources available.

Civilization V Before the Pantheon

Clicking on any of the images in this article will show the full-sized picture.

All of the little circle graphics indicate a location of a resource. In this case, around my capital, Palenque, there are three sources of fish — and additionally, there are even more sources to the northwest and southwest. (What you don’t see in this picture is that fish are far more plentiful in the landscape — along with salt. I have no idea if the historical Mayan diet centered around salt and fish at all…but ours apparently will.)

So far, my analysis hasn’t been anything that couldn’t apply to any Civilization game, however…the difference in Civilization V: Gods and Kings is in the bottom right corner of the picture — I have earned enough “faith” to be able to found a pantheon. Pantheons are the prototypes to religions in Gods and Kings…and when you see what I can do with pantheons, perhaps you’ll see why pantheons make the game more fun:

Civilization V Pantheon Beliefs

See, when I select the option to create a pantheon, it lets me pick one pantheon belief from this smorgasbord of options. Like Burger King, you can have it your way.

The thing about these options is how they form a feedback loop: when you look at pantheon beliefs, you pay closer attention to your own surroundings, your playstyle, your predictions about the aggressiveness of your neighbors, and so on. In this sense, your environment feeds into your decision of beliefs. However, your decision of belief also feeds into what decisions you will make in the future…if you pick one belief, then you now have an incentive to expand your civilization in a way that best maximizes that option.

As you can see from my first picture, I have a lot of fish. Fish are just one resource that is “improved” by workboats…normally, the hex tile of sea that the fish is on provides 2 units of food, and one unit of gold (sea hexes usually imply trade), but with a workboat to fish the fish, the “improved” fish time provides 3 units of food, and one unit of gold.

But if I have the pantheon belief God of the Sea, then my “improved” fish will give me 3 food, 1 “hammer” for production, and 1 gold.

I hope I haven’t bored you with the numbers; please blame it on my being an accountant. The point is this: based on my surroundings, and based on how I intend to play the rest of the game, the pantheon beliefs can give me a little boost.

So, let’s skip forward a little bit in the game:

Civilization V: Great Prophet Born

After a few more turns of building faith, I finally have a prophet who can lead my people out of the mere pantheon worship to which they have been resigned so far.

Using the Great Prophet to create a religion leads me to a screen that looks like this:

Civilization V: Selecting Religious Beliefs

Where, you may be able to guess: for Founder Beliefs and Follower Beliefs, I get yet another smorgasbord of options to pick from.

Here, these options are less on the animistic side, but still, they offer me immense customizability to my surrounding and expectations about the future. I’ll just share with you what I ultimately decided for my options:

Civilization V Found Religion

What does this have to do with real-world religions?

I am guessing that many of you may be lost right now. So far, I seem to have described very ahistorical, rather simplified mechanisms, rather than anything having to do with real religion. I mean, in the real world, faith isn’t something that a civilization automatically accumulates each year just by having a shrine or temple built somewhere. And one doesn’t get a prophet just by spending so many years collecting faith.

So, in what ways did Civilization V: Gods and Kings get me thinking about religions?

The question I asked myself was this: what if religions adapted to their environments and reflected the situations of their adherents and founders?

I guess asking this question could be tricky for a believer in any given religion. After all, if you believe that your religion exists in the form that it does because God revealed it to be that way (or because God has specifically anointed individuals to lead it to be that way), then it won’t make a lot of sense to entertain the possibility that religions are socially and culturally adaptive and adapted.

So, if it helps, try to consider someone else’s religion instead.

The Civilization V approach to religion, quite simply, seems to evoke the way that a secular, pragmatically-minded sort of person might view the development of religion. For such a person in the real world, we could look at how Robert Wright discussed many aspects of religious development in his The Evolution of God.

The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright

One phrase that Wright uses frequently throughout the book is “facts on the ground.” When accounting for how various religions and theologies developed (he mostly sticks to the Abrahamic religions in the book, but has enough details to show how his thoughts could apply elsewhere), he provides context beyond the divine explanations that religious texts and believers usually ascribe to the various aspects of their religion. This context, the “facts on the ground,” show that religious development can be understood pretty well in terms of the social, economic, and political goings on of the day. From the opening of his sixth chapter, discussing the shift from polytheism to monolatry:

…Certainly we’ve seen examples of mundane motivations shaping theological principles. We’ve seen Eskimo shamans tell sinful women that divine forgiveness depended on their having sex with an Eskimo shaman. We’ve seen Polynesian chiefs say that people who irritated them had to be sacrificed to the gods. We’ve seen Sargon of Akkadia fuse Ishtar and Inanna into a single god that served his imperial ambitions. We’ve seen Akhenaten, the engineer of Egyptian monotheism, kill off gods whose priests he found politically threatening. Again and again we’ve seen the divine, or at least ideas about the divine, reshaped by the mundane. Facts on the ground—facts about power and money and other crass things—have often been the leading edge of change, with religious belief following along.

Of course, sometimes the influence moves in the opposite direction. Religious beliefs, especially in the short run, can shape the political and economic landscape. It’s entirely possible that Elijah had deep faith in Yahweh, and this faith inspired a political movement against Ahab and Jezebel. For that matter, the influence can move in both directions at once: maybe Elijah’s motivation was wholly faith-based but some of his supporters had political or economic grievances against Jezebel and King Ahab.

In short, the whole thing is messy, and focusing exclusively on any one “prime mover” is too simple. Still, I’ll argue that on balance the best way to explain the centuries-long evolution from polytheism to monolatry to monotheism is via concrete social forces. At the risk of oversimplifying: politics and economics gave us the one true god of the Abrahamic faiths.

Religious people often find this claim dispiriting, as it seems to reduce belief in a higher purpose to a mirage, an illusory reflection of the mundane. By the end of this book I’ll argue that the opposite is in a sense true: that seeing facts on the ground as prime movers winds up presenting a new kind of evidence for higher purpose.

As I said, in order to try to understand this, let’s consider a religion that most of us do not follow: Islam. Section IV of the book discusses the triumph of Islam, and in Chapter 14, Wright writes:

…at times Muhammad may have been more like Jesus than Jesus—that is, more like the Jesus of story than was the Jesus of history. Jesus is reputed to have said, “Turn the other cheek” and to have preached the story of the good Samaritan as a parable of interethnic harmony. But, as we’ve seen, he probably didn’t do either of these things. Neither did Muhammad, but he does seem to have said some fairly pacific things, and to have urged religious tolerance: “To you your religion, and to me my religion.” On the other hand Muhammad also said some less pacific, less tolerant things. Such as: “When ye encounter the infidels, strike off their heads till ye have made a great slaughter among them.”

If you read the Koran from start to finish, these shifts in tone, from tolerance and forbearance to intolerance and belligerence and back, will seem abrupt and hard to fathom. One solution is to read the Koran in a different way. Like the Bible, the Koran isn’t organized in the order of its composition. Just as tracing the development of Israelite theology meant keeping this fact in mind—remembering that the second chapter of Genesis was written long before the first, for example—understanding the evolution of Muhammad’s thought requires reordering the Koran.

Wright’s basic contention here is that one can roughly sort the tone of the Koran’s suras based on where they occurred, not necessarily in the order they’ve been organized in the Koran. Today, Islam’s reputation suffers for so many folks because they see the violent lines of the Koran and assume that theologically, there must be conflict between religions in a theological basis. Others counter to say that Islam is (theologically) a religion of peace. Wright points out that whether warlike or peaceful, the reasons for conflict among different groups can often be better explained by political context, rather than enduring theology:

…the Koran’s intermittent hostility toward Jews and Christians isn’t shocking. Muhammad was asking them to accept major amendments: the promotion of Ishmael relative to Isaac, the demotion of Jesus relative to God. No wonder they balked. And if Muhammad was possessed by the conviction that his divinely ordained mission was to bring all Medinans into a common understanding of their relationship to God, no wonder he took their rebuff as grounds for enmity.

At least, that’s the way things look if you view religious belief as the prime mover: the logical incompatibility of beliefs leads to the social and political incompatibility of the believers. But what if you see the causality moving in the other direction, see facts on the ground as the prime mover? Consider this Koranic characterization of Christians and Jews, presumably uttered after Muhammad’s ecumenical mission had begun to falter: “O Believers! take not the Jews or Christians as friends. They are but one another’s friends.” Muhammad is recommending enmity, or at least a chilly reserve, as the proper attitude toward Christians and Jews, but the reason he gives isn’t that they are theologically confused. The problem, rather, is that they aren’t being friendly: they’re not people you can do business with. Indeed, the implication is that if Christians and Jews were friendlier to Muslims, friendship toward them would be in order, notwithstanding their failure to convert to Islam.

And why weren’t the Christians and Jews being friendly? If belief is the prime mover, the answer is easy: Muslims were asking Christians and Jews to embrace a religion they didn’t want to embrace. But remember: the religion Muhammad wanted them to embrace was a reflection of the power structure he wanted them to accept. He wanted to be their political leader, and for them to signify allegiance by granting that he was the designated spokesman for the one true god. Maybe their resistance to this package deal lay less in its theological dimension than in its political dimension. Maybe they just sized him up and decided they didn’t trust his leadership in day-to-day affairs, or that his political goals weren’t theirs.

Consider the famous “break with the Jews.” According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad successively expelled Medina’s three Jewish tribes (and with the third tribe “expelled” is a euphemism; he executed their adult males). The circumstances are hazy, but in all three cases the most plausible explanations have to do with facts on the ground, facts that point to underlying political tensions.

The first tribe, the Kaynuka, were craftsmen and traders, and so, as the scholar Fred Donner has argued, would have favored good relations with Mecca—a position at odds with Muhammad’s growing belligerence toward Mecca. The second tribe, the an-Nadir, seem to have challenged Muhammad’s leadership of Medina after he suffered a military defeat in his war against Mecca. The third tribe, the Qurayzah, were suspected of secretly negotiating to help the Meccans during a battle that, alas for the Qurayzah, Muhammad finally won. In no case was religion per se the likely problem.

The point here is just that incompatibility of Islam with Judaism and Christianity at the levels of theology and ritual may not have been an intellectual inevitability. Muhammad’s ecumenical project might conceivably have succeeded had its political implications—especially including acceptance of Muhammad’s leadership—been to the liking of more Christians and Jews.

While I have been discussing a religion that in many ways may seem foreign to that of many of the Wheat & Tares’ readership, to bring things back, I will mention that I have been reading Matt Bowman’s The Mormon People. This article has become far too long for me to go into detail, but what struck me about the history of Mormonism was the sense that what it meant to be a Mormon has changed over time. Even more, what it has meant to be a Mormon has often been influenced by the social and political goings on. I can connect just a little bit more with Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and early LDS leaders, when I view these individuals not as perfect theological vessels, but rather as other folks traversing in a world of Gods and Kings.

(Or, I guess, Presidents.)

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19 Responses to Art Imitates Life? How Civilization V faithfully tells the faith story

  1. el oso on June 28, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    Wait a minute, wasn’t the Mayan capital originally Zarahemla? Doesn’t anybody at Firaxis read the Book of Mormon? Also, I always thought that the elimination of monasteries was somewhat ahistorical. Does modern culture really have so little dependence upon religious study?

    On to the core subject:
    So we need to realize the combination of the divine evangelical mandate with the constant persecution as root influences on much of our church teachings? While mormonism has built-in change mechanisms, that does not mean that the removal of these root responses will occur.

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  2. Andrew S on June 28, 2012 at 5:41 PM

    re 1

    el oso,

    Many people have many historical criticisms of Firaxis…I guess we can add Firaxis’s incorrect understanding of Mayan cities to them ;)

    Responding to your second paragraph…I think it’s more than about constant persecution…persecution is just *one* kind of external social force that has (and will continue to) influenced how Mormonism — and other religions — have developed theologically.

    And, depending on how much you want to buy into Wright’s argument, you might say that these social/economic/political impacts really set the stage for what kinds of divine evangelical mandates will arise.

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  3. [...] wrote 3,000 words on that topic at Wheat & Tares…to summarize, I think that Civilization V: Gods and Kings does something rather remarkable [...]

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  4. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 28, 2012 at 11:46 PM

    Which theological trends — or what they mean — are affected by society. Though what Christ “really” said seems to be driven by personal theology when writers start off on that topic.

    Or why Buddist monotheism was so successful in India (sarcasm alert — it failed there) or why China became so rigidly monotheistic (it did not).

    On the other hand, the Civ V part of your essay was brilliant. You need to play the game more and read Wright less.

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  5. Bonnie on June 28, 2012 at 11:52 PM

    I like you, Andrew, so I persevered through that first part despite being regaled by my boys and their friends for some years now with the intricacies of various strategy games. My eyes rolled back in my head a couple of times, though. I couldn’t stop them. I’ve not been able to always stop them when faced with the people to whom I gave birth having this same conversation.

    However, your final point is extremely well-taken. I think religions, even the ones with divine mandates and prophetic captains, do adapt to their adherents and reflect the climate of their time. I don’t think doctrine changes, but the “facts on the ground” (also one of my favorite phrases) are a matter of the interpretations of individuals. No secret that we all interpret doctrine according to our own lenses, picking and choosing our favorite ones not only along personality lines but along cultural expectations. After all, churches are at their essence voluntary communities of like-minded individuals – birds of a feather, flocking.

    As I’ve matured I’ve found great solace in the humanity of early leaders of this dispensation, as well as my personal favorites preserved from previous (yes, I think Elijah rocks the party.)

    And I’ve quite often drawn “reality” as an illusion, and I’ve written about that recently, though I didn’t say “game” or “virtual reality” anywhere. Life is a useful illusion: illustrative, practical, and interesting.

    I’m sorry, though – I’d rather plant flowers IRL than in a game, so I’ll leave the Gods and Kings expansion to you. Your eyes are bloodshot, btw.

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  6. Julia on June 29, 2012 at 12:55 AM

    Bonnie – I found it hard to get through all of the virtual reality parts of the post, but I could go on and on about a lot of my favorite authors and books. Thanks for expressing that struggle better than I could have.

    I generally like doing things in real time too, but extended bed rest has given me a different perspective on “real.” I especially identified with the idea that instead of an individual “prime mover” creating history, the messiness of cultural, economic and technological context plays a huge role in shaping religions. Technology, whether a game, a blog or email, radically impacts pretty much every part of my life, including religion.

    While on bedrest, I have watched BYU tv on Sundays when I can’t make it to church. A hundred years ago I wouldn’t have found a blog like Wheat and Tares in a “real world” format, and I wouldn’t be able to participate from my couch or bed, even if it existed.

    If I didn’t have my internet connection, I wouldn’t have met several new friends. Almost all of them live at least 1,000 miles away. I would not have run into them at church, found them at the park or met them at a community activity. Making friends who live across the country, in other countries, and who are different ages and from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. Are they part of my “real life” if I haven’t met them in person? Since their friendship has an impact on my daily life, sometimes more than my neighbors and people in my ward, I consider them to be “real” parts of my life.

    Even 35 years ago, when I was born, the idea of friendships, without in person interaction, wouldn’t have been reasonable with the technology of that day. My good friend Tali, who is an artist who lives in Alaska, has inspired a number of the poems I have written in the last few months. (You can see a few of my poems and her artwork at http://poetrysansonions.blogspot.com/2012/06/beauty-as-seen-by-talya.html?m=0 ) Artists of different eras have always adapted and transformed art using the technology that is available. Today video game programers are artists who use computer code to create their art. Those games have visual art, written stories, and they spark the imaginations of the players, just as any good novel, great sculpture, well crafted poem or evocative painting.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post. Since I haven’t spent time playing many video games, this gave me a new perspective on them as both art and a place to find sociological perspective.

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  7. Jenn on June 29, 2012 at 6:39 AM

    LOVE this post. Now I have to go buy a Civ expansion as well as a new book… thanks for that:)
    I absolutely 100% believe that religion- even revealed religion- is adapted to the audience. We KNOW this is true: look at the religion of the children of israel, with the lower law they received, versus what we have now. Heck, look at the early church under Joseph Smith versus what we have now: things that we consider very eternal, universal truths have in fact changed quite a bit in the last century and a half, or at least our perception of them has.
    I’d venture to take it a step further and say religion is adapted to individuals too. Not only do I project onto mormonism what I need it to be, God seems to back that up. Which is how I can get “personal revelation” that seems to contradict the “personal revelation” of another person- and that’s ok, so long as it is all within our own stewardships and those stewardships don’t conflict. Does this make God inconsistent (or even a liar, if he tells us some Truths are eternal and necessary and universal when they may not be)? I think perhaps God has a different priority for Truth, and a much wider perspective. I’m not too worried about his integrity and am glad He knows me well enough to tailor a religion that works for me, if I just listen closely enough to him to hear.

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  8. Andrew S on June 29, 2012 at 7:07 AM

    re 4:

    Stephen,

    Interestingly enough, some people dislike the Civ V part, found the Wright stuff more interesting…different strokes for different folks.

    I don’t think that we should take Wright’s hypothesis to mean that the entire world’s theology will converge (to a similar looking theology)…so to say that India isn’t monotheistic and the China isn’t monotheistic doesn’t really speak against Wright’s hypothesis…rather, what we have to ask is: in what ways do societal developments in India and China differ from those in “the West” — and shouldn’t we expect similar changes in religious structure.

    That being said, it would be interesting if Wright had “The Evolution of Gods” where he focuses less on Abrahamic religions and more on the rest of the world.)

    On the Christian example…you seem to say that what Christ said is dependent more on personal theology…but personal theology doesn’t exist in a vacuum. In other words, the big deal of Christ being the Messiah in the first place is the social setting of the Jews…the theological innovation, really, was that the Messiah wasn’t an earthly war leader, but rather someone who advocated for a higher kingdom.

    But still…Christianity isn’t just about what Jesus said. We really do have to look at why it spread versus so many other mystery religions. It’s easy to say, “It spread because of God” — if we will concede that Islam’s rapid spread is because of God, and that Mormonism’s less-than-rapid spread is because of God.

    Rather, Wright focuses on what Paul did from a social/economic perspective to spread Christianity. He had his own theological inventions (making Christianity more than Judaism…reaching out to Gentiles…), but we can think of those inventions in terms of marketing appeal, living in a Roman sphere of influence, etc.,

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  9. Andrew S on June 29, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    re 5,

    Bonnie,

    In the future, I must try even harder to make gaming more accessible to the general public…

    Either that, or may religion more accessible to the gaming public?

    I think that your point is a really good one — I think that Wright definitely looks at his hypothesis on a macro level (that is, doctrine *does* change based on facts on the ground)…but we don’t have to take it that far…we could view a weaker hypothesis as being that it affects individual *interpretation* over time and space.

    re 5,

    Julia,

    I really liked the first part of your response…I think the interesting thing is that while video games are still somewhat niche (although this is quickly changing…so that now, video games are getting the attention and resources to make some really popular titles), a lot of people have favorite authors and books that they could talk about in depth. In fact, even though novels are fictional (and, I guess many people aren’t really attracted to reading), as a society we do not disdain books and what books can teach us through a fake society.

    It’s just interesting how different media have different levels of legitimacy. Literature and film? You can write college theses on these, and plenty of people do. Video games? People don’t consider them as enlightening, apparently.

    As you continue to describe, the internet absolutely has been making it possible to meet people that we never would have met in the past. That’s why I try not to use “in real life” as the opposite term to “online” — offline may be different from online, but both are real life.

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  10. Andrew S on June 29, 2012 at 7:21 AM

    re 7,

    Jenn,

    Thanks for commenting! As I had commented to Bonnie, I like the idea of splitting Wright’s basic hypothesis into institutional and individual levels.

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  11. Mike S on June 29, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    I love video games, but I think it is very much a guy/girl thing. I grew up playing every iteration of video game there was, yet my wife hates them and doesn’t understand them. It is supremely ironic when boys come over to the house to hang out with my high school aged daughter and her friends, yet end up playing XBox with my middle school aged boys while the girls talk. So, I enjoyed that part of the post.

    I also enjoyed the second part. I’ve read the book and think there is a lot to be said for it. While we believe that that religion is inspired of God, at the same time, religion has to exist among men. There are macro and micro adaptations that religion makes to social customs.

    On a macro-level, much like you talk about, many religions are based upon and reactionary to the environment in which they started. Islam makes the most sense in the setting of the culture and neighbors in Arabia. Buddhism makes the most sense seen as a reaction to Hinduism. Early Christianity is intimately connected with Jewish practices and beliefs.

    On a macro-level, even our own Church is best seen in the context of the culture of its founding. Many of the topics addressed in the Book of Mormon are reactionary to Joseph Smith’s time. A faithful LDS member might feel that a tacked-on chapter in Moroni about infant baptism shows inspiration taking place 1500 years before – a cynic might use it to suggest that Joseph Smith made the whole thing up – but either way, it does make the most sense seen as a reaction to beliefs in early America. Similarly with Freemasonary being incorporated into the temple or whatever, much of Mormonisms founding was reactionary to the surrounding culture.

    On a micro-level, the Church continues to be influenced by society. Polygamy was once taught by prophets as a major and eternal principle essential for salvation, with monogamy established by the devil himself. Practicing polygamy will now get you excommunicated. The influence of US Prohibition was profound enough to get us to remove wine from an ordinance set up by Christ Himself in mortality – around that time the apostles stopped using wine in the temple for sacrament. And so on.

    This is a great post. While we like to think that everything in our religion and others is purely inspiration from God, the reality is that it all occurs in the context of society and is profoundly influenced by the society, while at the same time it influences that society. Great post.

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  12. Jenn on June 29, 2012 at 8:42 AM

    To be fair, some girls love video games too:) (says the video-game playing wife). No offense taken though, I definitely know I’m the exception- as is keenly felt at RS activities when everyone is chatting about pinterest and I want to discuss the latest games.

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  13. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 29, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    Lets talk Age of Mythology and gods in that game.

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  14. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 29, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    Or we can talk good & evil vs law & chaos in D&D.

    I do not doubt Wright has some interesting things to say, I just tend to get derailed when someone adds in what Jesus “really” said. I read the Egyprian experience a little different too.

    But that is like letting Campbell’s misreading of the Ishtar cycle throw off a discussion of hero quests.

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  15. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 29, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    “On the Christian example…you seem to say that what Christ said is dependent more on personal theology” — no, what I meant is that what an author emends the Bible to detail what Christ “really” said (vs the text) that tends to reflect the author’s bias more than anything else.

    As for personal context, I am very much in the weak Saphir Worf model that what we can hear Gos say is dependent on our context, experience and language. That all revelation is contextual.

    That was one of my early take always from reading what Joseph Smith and Brigham Young had to say about revelation.

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  16. Andrew S on June 29, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    re 11,

    Mike,

    I think that it would definitely be interesting to discuss all of the things in the video game ecosystem that can make it appeal more to men than women…because I don’t think that video games, in an of themselves, are a “guy thing.” However, I do think that many video games are developed with guys in mind (e.g., male gaze, implausibly dressed female characters, etc.,), and that’s a shame. And then, of course, many gamer men happen to be misogynistic (and homophobic, but that’s a different issue.)

    I think your analysis of the various ways that Mormonism has been influenced by society is spot on — and that is, of course, true, regardless of if you believe in its divine provenance or not.

    re 13, 14, 15,

    Stephen,

    Great thoughts…I’m not as as familiar with Age of Mythology (I don’t think I ever played that one), so I wouldn’t be the best person to cover that…

    I think a discussion of good/neutral/evil, lawful/neutral/chaotic in a D&D context would be interesting.

    I guess I can see what you mean now on your criticism of Wright…trying to figure out what Jesus really said is a crapshoot…anyone can make Jesus sound however they want him to sound.

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  17. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 29, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    One of the Age designers was (and still is) LDS. The D&D expanded alignment system was also developed by an LDS guy.

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  18. Morgan D on July 1, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    I tore myself away from the game long enough to read this pst. I’m busy being the godless Attila the Hun and I’m simply conquering everybody busy earning faith and buying great prophets.

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  19. Andrew S on July 1, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    Morgan D,

    haha, this is always the problem I face as a player who likes to turtle and build culture and faith in peace — someone else always notices that my cities are woefully under-defended and declares war…

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