This past Easter Sunday, some church members walked into Jesus’ tomb, peered at the rock that sealed the entrance, and toured a replica of the cross where Jesus was crucified.They did this by using an internet connection and a VR (Virtual Reality) headset. They are members of VR Church, a virtual reality church.
The VR Church claims to be one of the first fully computer-generated religious institutions. Having roughly 150 members at present, the church uses the social media platform Altspace VR and is the product of D.J. Sota. The VR Church not only conducts worship services but also has special events, including comedy nights and cyber open-mic nights.
Another virtual reality church is Churchhome Global run by Judah and Chelsea Smith. Members on their site can pray for fellow members by pressing their thumbs against prayer emojis. Small groups are also associated with the Churchhome Global site.
All of this is intended to attract unchurched people, which is a fast-growing percentage of the American population. We would suggest that using a virtual church enables people to stay uninvolved. Lauren Hunter, who is the founder of ChurchTechToday, said: “In parts of the country, people are expected to attend Wednesday, Sunday morning and Sunday evening services. That’s a lot of commitment.” That is exactly right. Personal contact with other believers, having communion, getting involved in the struggles of brothers and sisters is all a part of the Church that Jesus established. Many people don’t want that kind of commitment.
“I will praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: your works are wonderful, and I know that deep in my soul.” Psalms 139:14.
We can see one of the best examples of the wisdom of God’s design in the incredible complexity of the human body. Just being able to stand up and walk while keeping one’s balance is far more sophisticated than most of us realize. Walking uses, among many other things, our visual system and our vestibular system. The vestibular system involves fluid-filled canals and specialized membranes in our inner ear. We get “seasick” when that system senses motion, but everything our visual system sees is motionless. The brain is getting conflicting information on different sensory channels, and the result is motion sickness. The word “nausea” is derived from the Greek word “naus” meaning ship. You have probably had the experience of being on a ship or maybe a simulation of a ship and having nausea overtake you.
In virtual reality (VR), there is also a mismatch. Your eyes see that you are moving in a virtual world, but your vestibular system senses that you are not moving. A recent study at the University of Minnesota found that 78% of the women playing the horror game “Affected” in virtual reality reported feeling sick. In that same trial, 33% of the men felt sick, indicating that there is a gender effect in the virtual reality experience.
Virtual reality has become a big business. In 2014 Facebook bought the virtual reality company Oculus for about two billion dollars, and the industry is estimated to be a $100 billion business. Premium headsets run around $400 for Sony PlayStation or $800 for an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. Audi, General Motors, and Vroom are building virtual reality showrooms, and architects are using virtual reality to walk clients through buildings that don’t yet exist.