4 ways the Sims challenges our idea of God.




How does sims challenge our idea of God.

The Sims seems to be in fashion at this moment in time among university students. It gives them the chance to feel empowered. However, it does seem to create an interesting metaphor to our own God. This essay will be exploring the issues raised by such a metaphor with our concept of God.
  1. Omni-benevolence

We all know the horror stories online of the level of cruelty towards the people in the Sims. The one that has haunted me continually is the story that a person kept on putting a group of people in a church, removing the door and letting them burn to death to create a graveyard. This was made worse when the vicar who was then put in the church went crazy as the ghosts were haunting him. This provides a challenge as it illustrates that the God that created the World does not have to be all loving. He could be cruel. He could be mean. There is no requirement for a being to be loving. Paired with the amount of suffering in the world (death, cancer, suffering) , this seems a reasonable conclusion to come to.  This seems to be a far cry from the God of the philosophers or the God of the Bible.

  1. Free Will

In the Sims, you partially control their decision making. You control when they eat, you control when they wash, you can control when they go to work. However, this takes away their decision making. If we apply this to us, this means we can’t be free. This creates a problem for Christianity. It is believed that when we reach judgement day, we will be put before God to be judged for what we have done throughout our lives. However, it makes no sense for this to occur if we have free will. We would have no control over our actions and so could not be judged because we did not use our moral agency to make the decisions. 

In response to this, it  could be argued that we don’t control all the Sims’ decisions. We don’t tell them to set fire to what they are cooking. We don’t tell them to fail at school or what talents the offspring of the parents have. Therefore, there is still some level of free will which the Sims have and, through metaphor, we do. This is what we can be judged for when we reach judgement day.
However, even if we ignore the issue of whether these events have moral worth, this response fails because the Sims actions are not free as they are dictated by an algorithm within the game. Th Sims have not consciously decided to set a pan on fire. Instead, it is the programming within the game which makes the fire occur. This may seem to be weakening the analogy, but how do we know that our conscious decisions are not the result of an algorithm that God set running. The appearance of free will may be illusionary. It may appear we should be held accountable for our actions due to our human agency. However, the actual case is that we would make them the same way again, no matter the shaping of reality, because God programmed it into us. 
  1. Is God a designer or creator?

When we play the Sims, we may control the lives of the Sims, but we did not make the game. This has previously been made before by programmers. This raised the question of whether God designed the world or if God created it. It could be the case that matter was already in existence but God organised it into the functioning world. However, this created problems. Who created matter? Are these more worthy of worship than the God we identify? Is matter is eternal? If so, do we even require a God for an explanation of the universe? But if God created matter as well as designed it, how could he create matter from the nothingness that existed before? What created God?

This is a mere smidgen of the issues raised by this challenge to God.
  1. Does God observe or partake?

With the Sims, we may have control of what the Sims do. We can also change the environment that they live in. We can change the size of the house they live in or change the furniture within it. But is it fair to suggest that God could do a similar thing? 

There is a strength to the Sims metaphor in the aspect that it demonstrates how we could interact with God when we are in two different dimensions. We may not be able to physically enter the Sims world as we are in the external world whereas the Sims are not. However, we still have access to changing that world through a connection that we have. This seems like a positive realisation for religious believers , as it would explain why God can perform miracles within this world.
However, this may create more problems than it solves due to God’s possible favouritism. We all have our favourites when we play the Sims, whether it is the old granny who we gave a special chair to, or the first Sim we ever made. Often this leads us to treating these Sims better than others, whether it is giving them the bigger houses or making sure their needs are met above everyone else’s. If we compare this to God, then it seems wrong that God should have favourites. This is highlighted through God’s use of miracles . Why should Jesus be able to heal one person and not everyone? It seems that this is deeply unfair for an Omni-benevolent God.
It could appear there is a saving grace here. On the Sims, it is possible to just press play and leave the Sims to live out their lives. It could be possible that God also made this choice and chose not to interfere with the world, until he sent Jesus. 
This has some benefits. Firstly, it explains the epistemic distance between us and God. This was because God chose to leave and not interfere in human life. It also explains free will and agency as we could have been left to decide our own fate.
However, this isn’t a complete get out of jail free card. This ideal creates a sense of abandonment from God. If we press play on the Sims, we could walk away and never return. It could be that God could have set up the world and then walked away, leaving humanity to suffer the world he created. Yet again, this demonstrates a less than omni-benevolent God.
It seems either way, it’s comfortable for religious believers.

Published by Philosopher Ad Absurdum

Student studying MA Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science at the University of Birmingham; First Class BA Philosophy and History from the University of Southampton.

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