Virtual reality is hitting practically everything in existence right now. From entertainment to exploration and beyond, it seems like there’s nothing virtual reality won’t have a hand in. But will it have a place in religion? Before any cries of blasphemy are made, it would be prudent to consider how virtual reality could affect religion, and maybe even make it more immersive and tangible for some people.
Virtual reality could be used in many ways to alter how religion works in society, and one of the most prominent ways it may do this is through travel. Almost all religions have sacred places. Jerusalem, Mecca, and the like are just a few examples of holy locations that are sacred to certain religions. Many followers of those religions would like to visit those places, and in some cases they are technically required to.
But unless Mecca is just a hop and a skip away, it’s not easy to get there. Not only is it time consuming, in some places in the world dangerous, but expensive as well. With virtual reality, pilgrims may be able to visit their holy location without ever actually leaving their own country. Whether or not this would be accepted as equivalent to a real physical journey is particular to each religion, but the point still stands: virtual reality could allow pilgrims to essentially visit places of religious importance.
But it could also be used to teach. The majority of religions have a holy book or something similar that details the past of that religion, as well as their doctrines and beliefs. While reading them from a page is certainly one way to learn, what if you could actually be there? How would it feel to sit at the feet of Jesus or Mohammed or any significant religions figure as they taught their message? Without a doubt, it would be a very different kind of experience, and may even help followers feel more attuned to their religion as they get to physically see figures of importance.
84 million Americans attend church weekly but that number is declining for a number of reasons, says Pew Research in their 2015 report on America's Changing Religious Landscape. Virtual reality offers a way for people to connect spiritually, from home.
These are just a few of the ways in which virtual reality could influence religion. Without a doubt, some religions will not accept the idea of incorporating technology into their means. Others may accept it with open arms. Either way, the potential is extremely vast, and in the end virtual reality will likely become a major part of various religions, limited only by the ingenuity of the programmers that work on it. Only time can tell how much of an influence virtual reality could have on our churches, synagogues, and mosques, but it’s an exciting anticipation that will no doubt bring some great wonders and marvels along with it.