The Atheist Video Game

So far, Christians have had all the video game action.

Now, a University of Virginia graduate student has created a game for atheists.

Think long and hard about what a game like that would have you do…

And then check out the actual goal of the game:

The object of the game is to stop the spread of Christianity and Islam by murdering Abraham and the authors of the Bible, before beheading Muhammad.

*sigh*

Atheists piss me off sometimes…

But the game isn’t all about violence, says the creator, who won’t tell us his name, because he’s scared for his safety. (I wonder why…)

… [the creator says the game] has a message to young players, helping them imagine a time when the world’s two largest religions were new and less organized.

“It’s the idea of being able to go back in time and sort of nipping the problem in the bud”…

By murdering and beheading.

And here I was thinking someone had created Wii: Hitch where you have to run around, throwing shots of scotch on the bad guys.

On a side note, I still like Ze Frank‘s atheist game.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Lindsey Ward[/tags]

  • Richard Wade

    This isn’t another really bad joke, is it? No spoof, no satire? If not, then this person is a raging, flaming, flying, screaming, ASSHOLE!

    This is going to get into the mainstream press and I want the two atheist organizations of which I am a member to denounce and repudiate this publicly, loudly, unambiguously and immediately.

    This game does not “give atheists a voice.” It gives theists another reason to hate and fear atheists. If anything, atheist haters will like this because it gives them more ammunition and credibility.

    ASSHOLE!

  • Siamang

    Maybe we should make a game where you go back in time and stop him from being a complete douche.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Right. Because murdering a religious leader NEVER makes a martyr out of them…

    I mean, I’ve played time-travel games where you pretend to go back and, among other things, kill — or prevent the killings of — assorted people, to make the time-line come out differently. (Chrononauts, anybody?) It’s not like I object to the very idea of a game like that. But to present the idea of stopping religion by killing its leaders as “speaking for atheists” … that’s some fucked-up shit right here.

    I’m with Siamang and Richard. What a douche. This guy does not represent atheism. He does not speak for me.

  • Jason

    But what if he goes back in time and kills them, only to find out that he is a distant descendant of Abraham, and therefore divides by zero?

  • http://www.atheistrev.com vjack

    That game sounds awful. I think I’m about as likely to buy it as I am to buy the Christian version – not at all.

  • http://www.secularplanet.org Secular Planet

    We could always whip out and modify a common Christian response to stuff like this on their side: “He’s not a true atheist!”

  • I like tea

    I’m as against murder as everyone else here, but I’m finding it difficult to get angry about this. Even the normally eloquent Richard Wade can’t muster anything better than “asshole”? It’s not that big a deal.

    I’ll just never get behind the idea that a piece of media is inappropriate by virtue of its content, as long as nobody is harmed in the process of production. I’ve enjoyed a few Tom Clancy games, but that doesn’t mean I support Clancy’s moronic might-makes-right nationalism. But if the game is fun, I play it. A game about killing religious figures is less likely than normal to be fun, since such a heavyhanded purpose could get in the way of focusing on making fun gameplay (see: Left Behind), but if it turned out to be some groundbreaking experience a la Portal, you can bet I’d play it. Doing so wouldn’t mean I support murdering people for ideological reasons, but I certainly wouldn’t let real-world moral scruples get in the way of what I do in a fake world.

  • Alex

    Ok, so we go back in time and do what to Jebus?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    We could always whip out and modify a common Christian response to stuff like this on their side: “He’s not a true atheist!”

    Yeah, what’s up with that response?

    Of course this guy’s a “true atheist.”

    But he doesn’t represent me, and I’m sure others would say the same.

    Let’s not imitate Christianese and say he’s not a real atheist. That type of phrasing will just come back to bite us.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    Am I the only one reminded of that doctor who comic?

    That’s kind of messed up. You know it’ll be a crappy game too (sturgeon’s law).

  • siamang

    alex is right. We go back in time and do what to Jesus? What could we do that Mel Gibson didn’t beat us to?!!

  • Jeff Satterley

    The thing that annoys me the most:

    Atheists have never really had anything to speak for them like this.

    Is he joking? Has he never read anything by Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris, Russell, (and of course Mehta :-). Not to mention works about science and philosophy in general: stuff by Hofstadter, Kurzweil, Minsky, Darwin, Einstein, Strawson, Hume, etc (I could go on). There is so much I have had the pleasure of reading, and plenty more I have on my list. I have found a number of books which not only reflect many of my values as a freethinker, but also stimulate me to think more about science and religion.

    Now obviously no book will speak to all atheists, since all we necessarily share is a belief that there is no god. But a video game, particularly one with an overused and cliche story type as this one, will not speak for any rational person’s ideals as an atheist.

  • Jen

    I mean, yeah, stupid, but stupider than other video games? I don’t know. Video games in general strike me as a waste of time.

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    Ok, so we go back in time and do what to Jebus?

    What’s the point? He’ll just come back…

  • Dale

    That’s really stupid and unproductive, but on a lighter note it will make a lot of intolerant Christians and Muslims hate atheists even more. Good job! Thanks a lot for making life that much harder for all of us.

    I would also point out that without Abraham, you’ve got no Muhammad either, since Muslims are people of the Book, along with Jews and Christians.

    Finally if we kill Abraham and some Biblical dudes, maybe we would stop Abrahamic religions, but then we might see the ascendancy of Baal, or Mithra, or some other desert religion that would undoubtedly become equally despised by this kind of atheist.

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/531 benjdm

    What Richard Wade said.

  • Pseudonym

    Why do I get the feeling that there’s a corollary to Poe’s Law waiting to be formulated?

  • Tom

    Well, as long as they don’t use REAL characters for the game;-)

    …No matter how low a blow this game might be, the makers still shouldn’t fear for their safety for making this. However, if they wanted to use the media of video games to criticize religion (video games, which is as valid a way to send a message as any art form or blog IMO), this sure isn’t the way to go.

  • Mark Browne

    This bit interested me:

    because he’s scared for his safety. (I wonder why…)

    Saying “I wonder why” implied to me that he deserves to be frightened because of what he has done. Just because he is stupid doesn’t mean that he should live in fear of the people he has offended, and perhaps that is the point he is pushing – if he says the same as some religious people say (“kill people who disagree with me”), they don’t like it.

  • http://www.secularplanet.org Secular Planet

    Yeah, what’s up with that response?

    Of course this guy’s a “true atheist.”

    But he doesn’t represent me, and I’m sure others would say the same.

    Let’s not imitate Christianese and say he’s not a real atheist. That type of phrasing will just come back to bite us.

    I was being sarcastic, Hemant. I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  • http://www.secularplanet.org Secular Planet

    I mean, yeah, stupid, but stupider than other video games? I don’t know. Video games in general strike me as a waste of time.

    Aren’t all hobbies supposed to be wastes of time? When I hear people say stuff like that, it’s seems judgmental, like they never do anything just for fun.

  • http://heathendad.blogspot.com/ HappyNat

    Right. Because murdering a religious leader NEVER makes a martyr out of them…

    Yup, if someone had just killed Jesus back in the day then there wouldn’t be any Christians . . .er . . .nevermind. :)

    Ok, so we go back in time and do what to Jebus?

    We make a video game where we go back and keep people from killing Jesus. In different levels we protect him from the Romans, the Jews, the Devil, etc. The last few levels are sitting around with Jesus serving him tea and biscuits and waiting for him to die of old age.

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    The last few levels are sitting around with Jesus serving him tea and biscuits and waiting for him to die of old age.

    In the words of one of the great philosophers of the 20th century: “It’s better to burn out, yeah, than fade awayyyyy.”

  • stogoe

    I mean, yeah, stupid, but stupider than other video games? I don’t know. Video games in general strike me as a waste of time.

    Aren’t all hobbies supposed to be wastes of time? When I hear people say stuff like that, it’s seems judgmental, like they never do anything just for fun.

    No, but, er, you see, um, the thing is, uh, the hobbies that Jen likes are good and noble and actually fun and stuff and, like, totally way better than the dumb videogames that you like. Like this one time, Jen’s friend let her play Mario Kart with him, but she totally lost every single time. So video games are worthless. Totally.

    Anyways, it’s presumptuous and assholish of the game’s creator to say that it speaks for atheists. Regardless, I might give it a shot. The “going back in time to kill Hitler” schtick intrigues me. But in all probability there won’t be a high concept beyond “gun down mohammed hee hee” and the controls won’t work well.

  • Siamang

    What about the old Zen saying “If you meet the Buddha, you must kill the Buddha”?

    It’s like he’s giving religion exactly what it wants!

    I vote for Happy Nat’s game. SAVE JESUS BEFORE HE SAVES YOU!

  • Anthony

    There’s really no need for that; after all, if you’ve played RPGs as much as I have, you’d know that one of the most common themes or cliches in RPGs ported from Japan is one of corruption in a church.

    It’s very, very common to find in those games that if there’s a church order or population, they’ll either be inherently corrupt, or run by a corrupted leader. Some take it a step further too… I just recently beat an RPG on the DS where the end of it is you killing their creator god, and instead live under the power of nature.

    And I naturally didn’t buy it for that reason or knew it going in; it’s just a very common thing, and making such an in-your-face anti-christian/muslim game wouldn’t do anyone favors.

  • Richard Wade

    I like tea, you said:

    I’m as against murder as everyone else here, but I’m finding it difficult to get angry about this. Even the normally eloquent Richard Wade can’t muster anything better than “asshole”? It’s not that big a deal.

    Aw c’mon. Cut me some slack. It’s hard for me to be eloquent when I’m livid. There’s more to me than well turned phrases. I have blood in my veins like anybody else. Believe me, compared to how I feel, “asshole” is generous, gentle and kind. But now that I’ve had time to take many deep, slow breaths I’ll try to eloquently persuade you that this is a reprehensible thing that will cause us problems and could cause you, I like tea, problems. It will be a big deal if trouble comes your way.

    First of all, any question of whether the game itself is stupid is completely missing the point. The game is a published product that will have the following description attached to it: “It’s a game that has kids go back in time to kill Abraham and the authors of the Bible and then cut Muhammad’s head off to stop Christianity and Islam.” This will be repeated millions of times and anyone who has ever played the telephone game knows that the tale grows in the telling. Soon it will be described as, “Its a game that has kids kill Jesus and the Apostles and oh yeah Muhammad too so atheism will take over the world.” That is a quick little sound byte that takes only half a breath to utter and is ripe with possibilities for more elaborating and embellishing. For some people it will go all the way to “Atheists want to kill us.”

    The damage is not done by the game, it’s done by the sound byte. Another scary, ugly and stupid idea will be attached to the word “atheists.” If instead of the game the author had written an inflammatory book, the book could be argued over, its strengths and weaknesses discussed and it would rise or fall on the merits or flaws of its arguments. Even if only 100 copies of the game are ever sold, that mental picture of evil, ruthless, murderous atheists indoctrinating children to be like the Thuggees of Kali will multiply and circle the globe. Like an urban legend it will live on for decades after the game is no more.

    Atheists are becoming more assertive. We are emerging from our fear and isolation, gaining confidence and becoming more vocal in the social and political square. That is already creating a counter movement, a resistance. We are going to have more and more confrontations with theists who will want to protect their social and political hegemony. Whenever those confrontations are centered around rational argument we will have the advantage. When those confrontations are rooted in fearful, hateful rumors and prejudicial myths, people are going to get hurt. We already see nonreligious political candidates losing elections, social shunning, job discrimination, the kind of abuse that the Smallkowski family faced and all the way to violence. That is probably going to get worse before it gets better.

    I’m not saying that this game all by itself will wreak all this havoc. I’m saying we don’t need any more crap stuck on our public image than we already have. I’m not saying that we should cower or tiptoe around, or not keep asserting ourselves. I’m saying that our assertive process should have the dignity, rationality and decency that we want in the final outcome of that process. Our method must live up to the qualities of our goal, not descend into the same kind of abuse and hatred that we decry in theism. Idiots say “we will give as we get.” Wise people know that we will get as we give. Religion is slowly diminishing and atheism is gaining but we will be the minority for at least two more centuries. Religious people are well trained at believing what they hear and repeating it. They keep ugly, scary myths about their competitors going for centuries, despite how ludicrous and unfounded they are.

    So to conclude, I will coolly, calmly and eloquently repeat my assertion that this person is an ASSHOLE!

  • Cade

    So far, Christians have had all the video game action.

    Really, aren’t most games pretty much atheist games? Like Halo. There’s no mention of God, and you control your own actions. Sounds like an atheist game to me. Go out and spread the word that (one of?) the worlds most popular game is an atheist game! ;)

    Really, if this was a true atheist game, He would have gone back in time and brought science to the world ~4000 years sooner. Or some such fantasy.

    It’s the general atheist premise that the world might be a better place without some of those religions

    Since when are there “atheist premises”?

  • stogoe

    Really, aren’t most games pretty much atheist games? Like Halo. There’s no mention of God, and you control your own actions.

    Isn’t there a sect of Reptoids in Halo 2 who turn their back on their religion?

  • I like tea

    Finally if we kill Abraham and some Biblical dudes, maybe we would stop Abrahamic religions, but then we might see the ascendancy of Baal, or Mithra, or some other desert religion that would undoubtedly become equally despised by this kind of atheist.

    There’s no reason to assume that any religion would become dominant in the West in the absence of Abrahamic monotheism. Mithraism and Baalism weren’t missionary religions, and they had no real compulsion to spread their worship to other cultures. It may have spread on its own, what with the whole Roman Empire deal, but it wouldn’t have muscled its way to the top the way Christianity and Islam did. If Judaism and its successors had never existed, it’s possible that there would be many smaller religions and no large ones.

    We make a video game where we go back and keep people from killing Jesus. In different levels we protect him from the Romans, the Jews, the Devil, etc. The last few levels are sitting around with Jesus serving him tea and biscuits and waiting for him to die of old age.

    That’s actually an awesome idea. How could anyone object? It involves deliberately not murdering a religious figure! People would object, of course, but they wouldn’t be on very solid ground when they tried to describe how vile atheists are.

    But now that I’ve had time to take many deep, slow breaths I’ll try to eloquently persuade you that this is a reprehensible thing that will cause us problems and could cause you, I like tea, problems. It will be a big deal if trouble comes your way.

    No, I really don’t think it’ll cause me any problems. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’ll be forgotten in a month or so. I guarantee you it’s not going to result in any mob violence against atheists, and anybody who’s dumb enough to judge atheists as a group based on the actions of one probably isn’t going to make an intelligent judgment about it in any event.

  • Richard Wade

    No, I really don’t think it’ll cause me any problems. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’ll be forgotten in a month or so.

    I hope you’re right, but I doubt it will be forgotten so soon. I think we’ll hear it on Fox News by the end of this week and for years to come from the the likes of Dinesh D’Souza.

    I guarantee you it’s not going to result in any mob violence against atheists,

    I was very clear in saying that probably won’t happen, but my point is about not needing any more problems with the public’s already lousy perception of us. It’s the cumulative effect of things like this that I’m talking about. If, as an atheist you think that you are not right now negatively affected by the public’s beliefs about atheists, then you are not paying attention.

    and anybody who’s dumb enough to judge atheists as a group based on the actions of one probably isn’t going to make an intelligent judgment about it in any event.

    Exactly. I’m not worried about people who make intelligent judgments, I’m concerned about those who make stupid judgments. We have a never ending supply of those.

  • I like tea

    I’m not worried about people who make intelligent judgments, I’m concerned about those who make stupid judgments. We have a never ending supply of those.

    Well, the people who make stupid judgments are going to make them no matter what. It’s not that you’re wrong – you’re right, in fact – but it’s not this guy who made the game that needs to change, it’s the people making the stupid judgments. Should he have taken into account the probable reaction to his project? Perhaps. Given the obvious reaction, was his decision to publicize (not to make; whether or not he makes it is his business) his project unwise? Perhaps.

    But he’s not the asshole. People who take stupid grad school projects personally (or as “signs of the times” as the pastor in the article says) are the assholes. Provoking assholes is kind of assholish in itself, but I’m still madder at them than I am at him. I don’t get mad at the artist (well, calling him an artist is a bit generous, but I’m generalizing here), even if he makes a piece of shit; I get mad at the people who refuse to criticize it on an intellectually honest level and instead demand that it be destroyed.

    As you say, that’s inevitable. But I’m not going to argue that a piece of media shouldn’t be made because it might piss off fundamentalist religious followers who refuse to engage with the media in any meaningful way, because they’d rather see it burn. Sure, the whole idea behind this game may be shitty, but if we tell this guy he shouldn’t make it because it pisses off fundies, we’re setting a dangerous precedent, one that’s already affecting real art and real artists in Western countries.

  • Richard Wade

    I like tea,
    First, thank you for the back-and-forth on this with me, I’m enjoying it. I see your point about the intolerant, irrational and reactionary theists in the world being the “assholes” at whom you are angry, while the author of the game should be able to create what he wants without fear of reprisal. You’re arguing from a view of the way things ought to be, which has it’s validity, and I agree in principle, while I’m arguing from a view of the way things actually are right now. I tend to view the religionists surrounding us as part of the landscape, a feature that at least for now we’re stuck with and have to cope with in realistic, pragmatic terms. Two analogies come up for me:

    1. We’re hiking quietly through a narrow mountain valley with heavy snow layers on either side. It’s an avalanche waiting to happen. This guy, the author of the game suddenly decides that he wants to practice his opera singing at the top of his lungs. While one might argue that he has a right to express himself artistically, I’m going to be tempted to pick up a log and crown him with it.

    2. We’re making our way through a jungle populated by dangerous natives. We’re in delicate negotiations with them for safe passage, when suddenly this same asshole decides he wants to loudly mock and threaten them, and says that he speaks for us. Yes, he’s got his freedom of speech but once again, the log solution comes to mind.

    I know my analogies are not perfect, but bear with me.

    Just to be clear, I’m not advocating censorship. Any call for the game to be censored I would be against from my principled side, and on my pragmatic side I know it would probably backfire and make the game more popular.

    The point is that he is not going to hurt himself, but he could end up hurting others. He will remain safe in his anonymity while other atheists for whom he incorrectly claims to be speaking will be thwarted in their efforts to negotiate better working relationships with theists. That is why he qualifies very well as an asshole. If and when the poop hits the propeller in the media, all we can do is to have our various organizations and spokespersons denounce and repudiate the game and its implications. We’re limited to damage control that will probably not be very effective.
    Hopefully you will be right and the whole thing will just quietly pass by.

  • I like tea

    As far as the idealism versus pragmatism goes, while obviously you’re right that the fundies are there no matter what, kowtowing to them on any level doesn’t sit well with me. Maybe it’s because I’m young and pretty inexperienced, but I feel that if we don’t act like we’re living in an ideal world, we’ll never get any closer to it. Fundies are losing legitimacy (or so I’d like to think) these days, so maybe pissing them off won’t be quite the “avalanche” you describe. :D Speaking of which, your analogies were pretty good (and funny), but I’d like to think we could stand up to a fundamentalist onslaught better than we could against an avalanche.

    Of course, the real issue here, which I’ve sort of been missing for some reason, isn’t so much that he made the game as that he claims to speak for atheists. As others have pointed out, he displays a great deal of ignorance in this regard; perhaps he’s one of the few atheists he knows and is unaware that they make up a small but significant portion of the population. So yes, I’m just as irked by his claims to represent atheists as a whole as you are. Which makes him more misguided than an asshole, perhaps. But I really do think this will blow over without too much incident, and I’d certainly like to believe that one college student who’s grasping at his 15 minutes of fame can’t harm the atheist cause in any meaningful way.

    I guess that’s about where we’re at. Sorry for ignoring the latter point for so long. Sometimes I get too worked up at any perceived notion of censorship.

  • Richard Wade

    Maybe it’s because I’m young and pretty inexperienced, but I feel that if we don’t act like we’re living in an ideal world, we’ll never get any closer to it. Fundies are losing legitimacy (or so I’d like to think) these days, so maybe pissing them off won’t be quite the “avalanche” you describe.

    Although young and inexperienced you can still be on the right track, and I’m beginning to be convinced that you are. Acting as if we are living in that ideal world might get us closer to its realization, and I am willing to give your optimism a try. My caution has come from disappointment and bruises, but perhaps my pace is a little too slow and we need to move forward boldly anyway. I am inspired and encouraged by the idealism and optimism of the young. It wasn’t so long ago that I had it too, and maybe I still do.

    Somewhere there is a balance between patience and effort. Too much effort without enough patience can be destructive recklessness while too much patience without enough effort can be stagnation.

  • I like tea

    Heh, glad to have convinced you somewhat. That said, your last paragraph is definitely true; sometimes we do have to pick our battles, and if this game ended up being a major issue (I doubt it will, but hypothetically), it’s not a battle I’d pick. I’d just rather not stake the legitimacy of my worldview on a school project. Hence patience, I guess.

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