As virtual reality progresses, we may assume that it will also add more and more sensory inputs to VR user.

Also, we can assume, that personal, portable virtual reality device providing to user sensory pleasure (or pain) as they wish will one day be introduced into markets.

Part of religion is personal relationship with Divine being.

Having all assumptions met, we may assume, that someday, someone will program a virtual reality where you can meet Jesus... personally

(And not only Jesus. Any divine being you wish, including sensory overload, providing user true "divine" feeling as many religious people live through during religious mass)

The question is: How will religion be changed when such program is introduced to personal VRs? How will society react to fact, that if you feel like meditating, you can meditate next to Buddha himself at any time you wish?

  • $\begingroup$ The phrase "personal relationship with God" is a distinctive marker of the Protestant Reformation and its aftermath globally. If you want to ask about how Protestant-like or -informed religions might react to VR effects, so be it, but you cannot generalize about religion in this fashion. For instance, quite a number of distinguished Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist thinkers through the ages would take the phrase "personal relationship with divinity" to be intrinsically blasphemous, nonsensical, or both. $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Apr 15 '15 at 3:31

There are only 2 options here.

  1. The virtual reality will match the expectation of what a deity would be like, the person will meet and chat with them and every idea they had would be met. In this case it wouldn't change anything, apart from maybe allow the person a bit more assurance about their faith.

  2. The virtual reality will not match the expectation of what a deity would be like, in which case the person experiencing the VR would not be able to believe they are speaking to their deity, discredit everything they heard, and it wouldn't change anything.

Maybe more people will be recruited to less mainstream religions, like cults, because it is easier to manipulate people and assert a faith upon someone who is weak minded using a VR device, rather than someone choosing a faith for themselves based on what they believe.

  • $\begingroup$ Surely there are other options? Virtual reality does not match expectation, and this is taken as revelatory. Virtual reality does match expectation, and this is taken as so much advertising-effective packaging. Virtual reality spawns whole new conceptions of what religious "experience" is. And so on. $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Apr 15 '15 at 3:27

How will religion be changed when such program is introduced to personal VRs?

I expect that many will claim it as blasphemy, or at least dismiss it as "not really God" and then go about their business. Some will debate the various Jesus programs and argue about which is most authentic. Some new ones will sprout up and make a new deity that only lives in VR. Some others will form around the "VR is evil" camp.

But mostly, it won't change. Religions aren't about your personal relationship with deity, they're about faith.

  • $\begingroup$ Religions are often "spiritual etiquette" too - how you need to interact with each other, and the religion's deity(ies), in order to be considered an adherent. $\endgroup$ – BrettFromLA Apr 10 '15 at 16:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BrettFromLA - shrug but deviation from the etiquette doesn't make you atheist, just some other church/sect/denomination. $\endgroup$ – Telastyn Apr 10 '15 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed! I was just saying that while religions are about faith, they are also about behavioral expectations / requirements. (BTW, I gave your answer an upvote.) $\endgroup$ – BrettFromLA Apr 10 '15 at 18:17

Loss of inhibition, auditory and visual hallucinations, beings (avatars) that are not in the VR world what they are in the real world... Virtual reality has many of the hallmarks of inebriation, except loss of muscular control. There are religions based on mind-altering experiences involving drugs, alcohol, sleep deprivation, etc. They might remain unaltered.

However most sane religions consider frequently getting drunk to be a character defect or a sin, so I would think that excessive VR experiences would alienate a person from God. Such alienation creates feelings of guilt, physical symptoms (psychosomatic indigestion, muscle pain, headaches), psychological problems, etc. The bliss of the VR world would be counterbalanced by the ailments of the real world, causing cognitive dissonance. VR experiences can make a person feel powerful, which appeals to pride. When the person's achievements in the real world do not match up, anger and despair could result.

  • $\begingroup$ Discussions of religion that include phrases like "most sane religions consider" are exceedingly dangerous, because they predicate decency and legitimacy on one set of standards. By this measure, for instance, a number of important Indian sects would be held "insane," where they might argue that the world in which you pretend to live is not only insane but evil and illusory. We shouldn't be trying to make absolute judgments about such matters in an offhanded manner. $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Apr 15 '15 at 3:29
  • $\begingroup$ To be an authentic person, I speak as I believe. If I did not believe this, I would not say it. After once rooming with a recovering alcoholic and knowing people whose family members jumped out windows to their death while on drugs, my opinion is not lightly held. Furthermore, I came to this belief through the agency of people unafraid to share their mind with me and say things I once thought offensive. True change cannot come without something offensive being said and received. $\endgroup$ – Paul Chernoch Apr 15 '15 at 13:57

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