I finished Bioshock Infinite last weekend and have been thinking about it since. The game is incredibly well put together; the world and the story are both impressive. Just like the first Bioshock, Infinite shows what’s possible in narrative when it comes to the current world of games.
Obviously this post is filled with spoilers, so continue only if you’ve already played the game.
Go to 4:54 and then to 10:40 then to 14:40 then to 17:35 for the story of Joseph Smith, or just watch the full episode.
Pop culture doesn’t respect Mormonism according to some Mormons (although the story told in South Park video above is what Mormons actually believe). It’s worth noting the creators of South Park went on the create the hit musical The Book of Mormon.
Then how is Moronism portrayed in video games? To be honest I never thought of it until I saw a post about about it. One Mormon practitioner played through Fallout: New Vegas and was quite impressed by how the game developers dealt with Mormon lore.
Here again, Obsidian avoids the lazy cliché of religious people being hypocritically unforgiving and intolerant and has the Mormons of New Canaan forgiving the penitent Graham, embracing him as a returning prodigal.
I’m not sure if Obsidian was touching on the general theme of sin, repentance, and redemption common in most all of Christianity or if they looked more specifically at Mormon history, but this type of story played out repeatedly in the early history of the Mormon church. There were multiple times that high-ranking Church members betrayed Church leaders by swearing false affidavits (i.e. Mormons planned to overthrow the government) which resulted in repeated imprisonments and even near execution, only to later have the traitors return seeking forgiveness and finding it extended by a magnanimous prophet and people (see W. W. Phelps, Thomas B. Marsh, Oliver Cowdery).
Ever read a comic book and wondered what religion the superhero is a part of? No? That’s OK neither have I, but some people have and they’ve shared their findings with the internet.
The Comic Book Religion Database contains the religious beliefs of pretty much every character to appear in a comic book. The site includes popular characters like Batman to real people who’ve appeared in comics like Mike Tyson. Now you can know that Wolverine was raised Protestant; is sometimes atheist; has practiced Buddhism; and is a skeptical seeker.
Proposition Player (Vertigo’s official page) is about a gambler who is down on his luck then starts to bet souls he thinks are worthless. Turns out souls mean something and envoys from beyond show up to get them back.
One night, during a round of drinks, he is pushed into a proposition that sees him buy the souls of thirty-two people for the price of one free beer each. It isn’t long before those who sold their souls are suffering fatal accidents one by one, and the forces of Heaven and Hell show up trying to put a price on the purchased souls for themselves.
Religion from fiction
Not only is there interest in looking at religion in fictional universes there is also interest in brining openly fictional religions into reality.
CAW’s members, called Waterkin, espouse paganism, but the Church is not a belief-based religion. Members experience Divinity and honor these experiences while also respecting the views of others. They recognize “Gaea,” the Earth Mother Goddess and the Father God, as well as the realm of Faeries and the deities of many other pantheons. Many of their ritual celebrations are centered on the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece.
How can we talk about fiction and religion without mentioning Scientology?
Human, All Too Human is a good introduction to European existential philosophy made by the BBC in the last millennium. It’s worth watching if you’re curious about existentialism. If you want some other philosophy then check out the 90 minutes series.