Many people around the world were affected by the recent covid lockdowns. However, Americans were the ones who had the hardest time. They are still committed to their religious traditions. On a typical Sunday, most people in the US go to their church and participate in various activities.
Due to the ban on group meetings, people in the US started to organize meetings using virtual reality and the Internet. Initially, it was mainly for meditation and group prayers, but eventually, various rituals such as baptism and communion started to appear online.
Through virtual reality, people were able to participate in spiritual experiences that were not available before. This new format allowed them to experience a different kind of spiritual experience. In just two years, this phenomenon has become a promising and natural phenomenon.
Metaverse for religions
Even before covid, the concept of virtual churches had been around. In 2016, DJ Soto, an American shepherd, resigned from his parish and moved to the US with his family. He then started holding his own sermons using AltSpaceVR, a platform that allows users to create and share virtual churches. Within a year, he had already established a virtual church.
Many people who were not religious at all were surprised by DJ's approach to the issue of faith. They found his sermons very interesting and helped them think about their own beliefs. The regular presence of non-religious people in his sermons has also made a huge impact on their spiritual lives.
Since 2018, he has been holding virtual baptisms. He is currently planning on adding interactive elements to the church so that it can provide its members with a deeper understanding of the Bible. He also hopes to avoid having a Calvary location with a lot of quests.
In China, Pastor Yilok of the Baptist church created a virtual church that is designed for people with disabilities and those who find going to the temple to be inconvenient and boring.
According to some Protestants, such as Baptists, religion should not be regarded as a type of temple or icon. This concept fits perfectly in the metaworld format, as it allows people to communicate with their inner self and God without having to go to a place of worship.
In 2002, the Catholic Church completely rejected the idea of allowing a virtual worship service. It stated that the central element of a worship is the communion, and this is not allowed online. The clergy also considered the practice of digital copying of one's own body sinful.
Then, the Church started to look into creating a virtual world that would serve as a recreation of the Vatican. This idea was eventually confirmed, and it is believed that the site would allow people to participate in spiritual processions. It is not clear if this will happen. The church also reportedly plans on creating a virtual art gallery with the help of NFT.
During the pandemic, the Orthodox Church created a virtual church that can be accessed through its website. However, this type of map is only a 3D representation of the church, and it doesn't allow people to perform any actions or movements.
The Muslim faith started in the metaverse after believers were unable to make the pilgrimage to Mecca due to the pandemic. In 2019, a German developer created a 3D virtual reality app that lets users explore various locations during the Hajj, such as Mount Arafat, Mina, and the Muzdalifah. The creators noted that this isn't a replacement for a real pilgrimage, but it did allow people to see people crying in virtual reality.
In 2021, Labbaik VR created the Wuzu app, which provided a high-quality virtual tour of the Kaaba using the latest technology. Then, Saudi Arabia launched the Virtual Black Stone Initiative, which allows all Muslims to visit the main shrines of the world using VR. This project is already an international initiative.
The goal of the project was to provide pilgrims with an alternative way to experience the rituals of the Hajj without the risk of getting trampled in the heat. Unfortunately, this project was met with international criticism. Also, VRChat, which is a social media platform for spiritual groups, started to form. Bill Willenbrock, a pastor, founded a Christian community on the platform.
According to Willenbrock, the anonymity of virtual reality allows people to keep their private thoughts and feelings private. He noted that many people who are unable to face their problems due to financial constraints often turn to social media to seek help. Some of the topics that are commonly discussed in virtual reality communities include addiction and suicidal thoughts.
Through VRChat, users can participate in group meditation or a baptism while watching a video that's being played by a banana in a suit. It's also a relaxing experience because you know that everyone can be in the same room, even if they don't look like they are wearing a certain type of dress. Usually, people are not criticized or threatened during a meeting in isolated locations.
Criticism and reviews.
Due to the increasing number of questions that have been asked about the use of virtual reality in religion, the clergy members have faced new questions about the concept and practice of religion. Some of these include the possibility of transferring the church to VR and performing rituals in the virtual environment.
This is considered to be logical and expected since religion is a traditional and very traditional field. However, the effects of this activity are very subjective and cannot be compared with the reality of the situation. Also, it is important to note that many priests from China and the US have supported the movement toward virtual reality. Some of them believe that the church will eventually be in the metaverses.
This service is available to everyone from anywhere in the world. It's also beneficial for those with health restrictions, as it allows them to experience the natural beauty of the world through virtual reality headsets. Thirdly, the immersive environment created through these headsets can additionally be used to enhance the spiritual experience.
Although it is still not considered a real hajj, some people still believe that one can still read and pray at a cloud above the ground. This is, in fact, a way to avoid certain household issues that can spoil a person's mental attitude. However, Turkey's Department of Religious Affairs criticized this new trend. It also stated that the practice of visiting multiple shrines in the world's metaverse is still allowed.
Although the Islamic community generally supports the use of virtual reality for religious purposes, some believe that it is not real. They also stated that the feet must touch the ground in order for it to be considered real. According to some users, the immersive environment created through these headsets greatly improved their spiritual experience. They additionally claimed that their prayers became more effective and brighter as a result of their experience.
It's one thing to go somewhere, park, and feel like you have an elevated mood. It's another thing to sit at home and watch a pastor deliver his sermon in a similar manner. Having a peaceful moment at the shore of a lake or on top of a mountain is another thing.
Future Religion in Metaverse
It may take a decade or more to fully accept the new reality, especially since it is still in its early stages. No one is talking about the replacement of real experiences with digital. However, it is important to consider that the goal of spiritual practice is not to create physical sensations, but to enhance emotional experiences. This means that the simulation can provide a more accurate and satisfying experience.
People will not go to a virtual church just for show. Instead, they will seek to improve themselves and become more useful to the world. This means that there will be only those individuals who are genuinely interested in becoming better. In addition, offline platforms will not function, like, for example, landline telephones. They will become completely different from other interactions, and they will be completely unusable to others.
For instance, the pastor of a mobile home church in the US, Father Miguel Soto, was able to help people find peace and hope. He was genuinely interested in helping them find their way. It has been shown that people are more likely to seek new experiences after experiencing a remote church or a different kind of establishment. The increased interest in spiritual searching led to a renewed vigor, and this is good. However, it is also important to note that people can still be susceptible to the sinful thoughts of their minds.