Gaming vs. God: Could XBox Make You an Atheist? by Tom Bartlett

Virtual gaming appears to suppress the propensity for religious/spiritual experience, whereas text-based gaming tends to promote it. What?

by  • The Chronicle of Higher Education


Whether violent video games make you more aggressive has been much debated. Much less discussed is whether video games make you an atheist.

OK, not make you an atheist—that’s too strong. But a new study in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion does find that playing video games reduces a sense of the numinous, i.e., the feeling that there is a force out there beyond ourselves and the physical world.

In the study, two Canadian researchers first had 56 undergraduates take two short surveys, rating their agreement with statements like “I often feel a strong sense of unity with all the things around me” and “Sometimes I have felt my life was being directed by a spiritual force greater than any human being.” A couple of days later, the researchers brought the students back to the laboratory and assigned them to play either a video game called Uru: Ages Beyond the Myst or a text-based game called Zork: The Great Underground Empire.

After a mere half-hour of gaming, the subjects took the same surveys again. Those who had played the video game scored lower on the numinous scale. Those who had played the text-based game actually registered an increase in their numinous scores. In both cases, to the researchers’ surprise, there was a drop in “unitive experience,” the feeling of being connected to others.

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