A sincere religious community is developing within the synthetic atmosphere of Second Life.
Leaders of Christian, Jewish and Muslim sites estimate about 1,000 avatars teleport into churches, synagogues or mosques on a regular basis. Hundreds more list themselves with Buddhist, pagan, Wiccan and other groups.
The extracted video, both beautiful and eerie, gives me the willies, and I’m not exactly sure why. On one hand, it’s no more or less odd than any other simulation of the real world that takes place within the game. On the other, religion is all about community, and the religious community in 2L is virtualized – people never meet, and yet they do. Not sure what that means for things like religious involvement in local charities (are there soup kitchens in 2L too?), but I suppose it’s not so different than a drive-in church.
Thinking now of Europe’s great cathedrals and the centuries of hard labor it took to build them. Since Second Life is so heavily construction oriented (everyone’s both an architect and a contractor), will avatars set themselves to toil and construct some of the grandest and most ornate places of worship ever conceived?
Parallel question: Is Second Life a game, or is it something else? I know what Wittgenstein would say, but I’m not sure even the Second Life community itself have an answer to that one. If it is a game, what would that say about engaging religion within it? Perhaps “It’s only a game if you treat it like one.”