Many of you probably know that I am very religious. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Or, to use a term you might be more familiar with, I am a Mormon. Religion iis a massive part of my life. It is a significant element defining who I am as a person. I spend much of my time and energy engaging in my belief system, pondering, praying, studying, worshipping, etc.
Gaming is another important part of my life. My second favorite video game of all time is Final Fantasy X (right behind Ocarina of Time). Religion is extremely important in the game and in the world of Spira. I would like to share a few thoughts with you that I have had in regards to this game and how it relates to my religion, specifically, and religion in general. A few quick disclaimers first:
1-I do not intend to disparage any religion. I hope you will not think that I am attacking your beliefs, or anyone else's.
2-I am not trying to convert you to my religion through this post. If anyone ever has questions about my beliefs, I'll be more than happy to discuss them in the comments or through private message. But that's not my purpose with this post.
3-That said, I will be openly discussing my beliefs. If you don't want to hear about what I believe, turn back now.
With that out of the way, here we go:
The religion in Spira is called Yevon. It is named after a powerful Summoner named Yu Yevon, who existed 1000 years prior to the main story. Yevon is the power in the world. It is a theocracy. It is the government. It controls the military. It controls trade. It controls pretty much all law. Everyone in Spira follows the religion, except for a race called the Al Bhed. They are considered Heretics. They are kind of like Gypsies, in a way. Yevon is run by four Maesters. These are the High Priests of the religion. They are in charge of all of the day-today operations of the religion.
These four guys (one is not pictured) rule the world. As the plot moves forward, these three guys are revealed to be scumbags. The guy on the left is actually one of the greatest video game villains ever, I feel.
Lesson 1: Evil people will use religion for evil purposes. They will use it to control and manipulate people. They will use it for power and personal gain. They many use it to hurt and to kill. All the while, they may believe they are doing the right thing. We need to watch for this. In any religion, we must be aware of monsters. The bible warns of false prophets who appear in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. These people are real. They exist in the world. We must resist them at every turn.
Lesson 2: Question with boldness. These religious leaders taught things that were lies. Change was only brought about when people started to ask the hard questions. Like Martin Luther with his theses, the main character of the game recognizes that there is something fishy going on and he is determined to find out what. We must do he same thing. We must never hesitate to seek the truth.
In the game, Sin is a giant monster. It makes Godzilla look like a kitty cat. In our world, sin is an abstract concept. Every religion of which I am aware has some concept of sin. Philosophers have struggled with it for thousands of years. They call it The Problem of Evil.
Lesson 3: Sin is very real. it affects everyone. It is unavoidable. Everyone tries to resist it in one way or another. In the game, some use religion to combat it. Others use technology. In our world, some use religion, some use social justice, some use law. One way or another, we are all dealing with sin. We must discover for ourselves what we believe sin is. And then we must decide upon a plan of action through which to resist it on every level.
Here we have a Sending. It is one of the most magnificent cuscenes in the history of gaming. Yuna performs a ritual to guide the souls of the deceased to the afterlife. This functions as a funeral. In the world of the game, it actually works and successfully prevents lost souls from wandering around and tormenting the living.
Lesson 4: There is power in religion. Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, grief is real. When you lose a loved one, you have to cope with it somehow. Some people can never get over it. Religion helps many people. It is the only thing that comforts me when I lose a friend or family member. I know that I will see them again. You can say that's preposterous. But you can't deny that my belief has a very real power in my life. It makes a colossal difference for me. A positive difference. It does the same thing for billions of other people.
In the world of Spira, summoners sacrifice themselves to defeat Sin. Yuna's father gave his life to bring peace and prosperity to the people. He saved countless lives. He banished Sin for years. Essentially every religion throughout human history has had a Savior figure, most of whom sacrificed themselves for their people. Jesus Christ is the obvious example. He was crucified to atone for our sins.
In the game, Yuna does not end up sacrificing herself. But Tidus does. He passes away to save Yuna and to end the cycle of death and destruction.
Lesson 5: Religion requires sacrifice. You have to be willing to give something up if you want to reap the rewards that religion offers. Joseph Smith, the founder and first prophet of the Mormon church once said: "Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation." I believe this to be a true principle. Sacrifice is necessary to bring blessings. Personally, I sacrifice time and energy. I pay tithing to my church. I abstain from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea. I don't partake of Pornography. These are a few small examples of the ways in which I have chosen to sacrifice in order to obtain the blessings that are very real and powerful in my life.
So there you have it. There are five things I have gleaned from Final Fantasy X that teach me more about religion and about my own beliefs. If you've stuck with me, I hope you've learned something about me. I hope you think about your own beliefs and what they mean to you. I hope you think about how art, including video games, has influenced your beliefs.
Do you have any thoughts about what FFX has to say about religion? How about any other games? Please share!