Final Fantasy X and the Death of God (On Games)

Posted By on March 5, 2020


[Pentecostal preacher] Thus says the lord
of hosts, the God of Israel, you’ve seen all the calamities that I’ve brought on Jerusalem
and all the cities of Judah and behold this day they are in desolation. And no one dwells
in them. [unintelligible]
That’s why he calls us to repentance over and over again
So the narrative of the game I would like to discuss today I think has a lot to tell
us about religious belief in our contemporary moment. As someone who has if I’m being completely
honest has been very profoundly hurt by religious institutions, as a lot of people like me have.
I’ve grown very sensitive to the fact that people can so frequently underestimate religious
belief. How so often whether we like it or not it’s
at the very center of all kinds of human societies. Where Final Fantasy X comes into play here
has a whole lot to do with the changes and the evolutions that we’ve seen in religious
belief, theological ideas, and religious practice over the past couple hundred year.
It intersects with the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, in a funny way Marx is in there as well, as
well as this particular theological movement that is not really all that widely discussed
but I think gives us a glimpse into an expansion of the contemporary religious imagination.
The world of Final Fantasy X is called Spira. It’s populated by a small variety of peoples
and various cultures and, most importantly, there is a monotheistic religion that is based
off the practices of this god-figure called Yevon.
A mysterious figure with the absolute devoted following of the vast majority of the various
peoples in Spira. There’s plenty that’s unclear about the church
of Yevon, especially in the beginning of the game, but what we do know is that it’s administered
first by this series of temples throughout Spira. And secondly by a central authority.
The church seems to administer the civil affairs of all of Spira.
This church of Yevon appears to be well-connected, wealthy, and very powerful.
Some other things that are unclear are parts of the teachings of the church of Yevon outside
of a few key points. First is the institutional of ‘machina’
machines that non-magic users created in Spira. Yevonites have a series of historical prejudices
against these users of machina. A race of people known as the Al Bhed.
They’re these sort of techno-scientific desert people who live in diaspora.
Meaning they live sort of scattered away from their original homeland.
The Al Bhed are subjected to very intense scrutiny and quite blatant, socially accepted
and encouraged discrimination After the forbidding of machina, the second
major point of the teaching of Yevon involves summoners
magic users who undergo a very special training that’s overseen by the church
The plot of Final Fantasy X centers on one summoner’s journey to fulfill her religious
destiny Yuna, a woman of half-human half-Al Bhed parentage
meaning half magic-user half non-magic user who travels the world on this pilgrimage of
peace who does so with a group of devoted followers
from a variety of places and backgrounds who appears to be able to commune with and
in some ways manipulate non-corporeal entities who walks on water
the one who saves the souls of fallen people by performing a ceremony that sends them to
this place called the Far Plane basically a place where their soul can rest
and most importantly who is trained and destined to, by the church
of Yevon, confront and defeat the most destructive force in the history of the world
a monster called Sin [quiet wind howls]
Do you see where I’m going with this? The temple and the teachings of Yevon say
that Sin emerged as a punishment for the use of machina and the only hope for everyone
to survive Sin is to bring about what everyone calls the Calm
The costs of defeating Sin are incredibly human and includes the lives that were lost
the people who didn’t make the journey and as well, the people who actually managed to
get to the end of it First, a close friend or family member sacrifices
their life to become what they call the Final Aeon
the being that’s called forth during the final summoning
Then the Summoner too looses their life
[slow harp music] Nietzsche is often placed in this binary opposition
against Hegel, basically Marx’s chief influence and I think this can often obscure some important
points [slower harp music]
I think Nietzsche and Marx were in many ways correct regarding their respective critiques
That modernity and its claims regarding things like the origin of meaning, truth, and morality
produce societies and cultures that are alienating and unsatisfying
Meaning exists outside the dominant systems of belief as we know that and humans should
seek to find that meaning elsewhere By either:
I also agree with their other critique
how the constraints of their day, be them material or immaterial, metaphysical, or spiritual
that these ideas and systems were preventing people from achieving their true potential,
whatever they thought that meant because systems of belief that are supposed
to encapsulate the spirit and the purpose of humanity are still around and as Marx suggests,
still in many ways symptomatic of capital An individual rational as the supreme form
of self expression and identity Consumption as the extreme form of that expression
of that identity Neoliberal rational as the supposedly winning
formula for economics The supposedly logical conclusions to the
evolving historical rationality of the free market
oh yeah that’s a thing
The hope in the authority of liberal structures, even with all their contradictions and paradoxes,
to supposedly give us opportunities to achieve and construct our own meaning
usually by consuming things and by telling people about the things we consumed and why
they’re our favorite things And here’s where we come to, thankfully, the
central point for today. When we place Friedrich Nietzsche in a continuum
of thought we can see that while Nietzsche’s critique is important
the sort of justification he has for his alternatives are not very useful to me
While I see very very clearly in front of me the contradictions of the dominant modes
of thought that both Nietzsche and Marx are sort of talking about from different perspectives
and how the supposed rationality of neoliberalism causes us to internalize that we see and reinforce
the justifications for them I can see how the supposed rationality of
capitalism has in some ways suppressed some my inner desires
These are conditions that keep our imaginations narrow and our expectations low
So I guess Nietzsche was right about that We should critique this system of belief
We should also critique the institutions from where it came
However What I’ve found is that a lot of scholars
and scholarship that try and continue this conversation with and through Nietzsche continue
to ask questions about who God is, what form God takes, what it means to be a religious
person and practice a faith When you place these theologians in conversation
with Marxism and a materialist world view one thing that comes out is that the death
of God doesn’t have a long extended funeral procession. But that it’s the presentation
of various opportunities The protagonists of Final Fantasy X engage
in a critique of idolatry and they do so in this material space
It’s the faithful who intervene against the people who constructed this giant idol breaking
an historical cycle of death and violence and giving the people who were previously
under these religious leaders an opportunity to start again
to build something new All of this was done by the protagonists from
the bottom-up side-by-side with those were previously marginalized
by the church it’s a video game but if you think about it
that’s kind of cool Their desire to harness the strength of a
deity to defeat an historic evil the church structures presented to them at
the beginning of the game were no longer useful for them anymore in fact they were now standing
in their way they’re forced to band together and take all
that they know and call forth something radical from within themselves to bring the change
that they want to see
I think all of this is a decent example
of not just one way to put religion and theology in conversation with the contemporary left
in the 21st century Maybe this theological lens, when we combine
it with Marxism, can demonstrate some of the ways in which when being reaches out up from
below to sort of exert its presence in the world how it does so materially
and that this somehow corresponds with the production of working class identity or the
production of working class culture Because when I look at this I see not just
the possibility for the emergence of an individual will to power but perhaps these individual
wills to power situated on this matrix of various working class identities
Until we figure out how to move past the systems of thought that are in front of us I don’t
think we’re going to be able to fully capture the imagination of a working class sense of
self and identity inside the gesture and mechanisms of neoliberalism
because when you really think about it, working people have been told for years and years
that they should wait for the intercession of some outside source to come in and reconfigure
the contradictions that are present within their lives
If they seek something much greater than this something greater than they can imagine
if they seek a utopia even if they seek the kingdom of God
what they need to realize is that the kingdom of God is within you
When we realize this our sense of self can become quite unifying
because when they told us we were individuals and they told me that this is all that matters
but I still don’t know who I am all I really seem to know is that I’m alone
and I don’t feel like I have any way to move forward
Then something crazy happens considering what I know now
that the true heir to a moral, just, and good future lies with the working class
I know that I can’t accept this because whenever I try
my inner self moves me forward and usually toward people who have suffered much, much
more than me when none of us had to go through that
I am not satisfied because I have found and I know at the very least what motivates me
comes and rises up from within me only to just explode out of me I feel like
my heart could disintegrate And even for this just fleeting moment and
even in periods of pain and sorrow and mourning that I can feel within the deepest recesses
of myself that I am not alone
There Kyle goes again arguing for a Marxist theory of ontology
That’s really all I care about

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 17 comments

  1. X is my favorite FF game and I look forward to going back to it someday with this video in mind.
    Great video, really loved the intro too.

    Reply
  2. Never thought anyone could get me to care about Final Fantasy for 17 minutes. Incredible. On a serious note, in four years of RLST this was not a thing we ever discussed to it is really nice to see this perspective brought! Love it! You’re doing great work, comrade.

    Reply
  3. Thank you for letting me read some quotes! I love how you used Caputo! This was amazing! We need to keep talking about DOG Theology!

    Reply
  4. This is aesthetic and there's some super relatable and "yes!" moments and I need to watch it like 5 more times to absorb all of the info haha
    Nice work!!!

    Reply
  5. This theory is… cute, Kyle, but everyone knows that true liberation for the working class can only come from using the White Materia to summon Holy–that's just science.

    Srsly tho, this was an interesting and ultimately uplifting analysis. (Plus that soundtrack slaps.) It's also sparked a slight interest for me in liberation theology (a sentence I never thought I'd write after escaping my southern, all-male catholic school.) Keep up the great work!

    Reply
  6. Nietzsche's flirting, although possibly unwillingly, with St Augustine about the fact that religious faith is "from another world" can be taken on the opposite way, even more if you realize Tidus' being was actually allowed by Yevon, and not just allowed but actually created by and for, making this being of another world having to clash his own existential praxis with normal people and even its (the new world's) own version of a Messiah (Yuna's walking on water, even if it actually ends with her iconoclast rebellion) and actually falling in love with it as a pre-flooding angel-human analogous situation shows me the fact that he is an icon of capitalism himself with his water football fame of providing entertainment to the masses. Al bhed and their technocractic society which is also a Sign of progress within the system would eventually spiral (wink) in transhumanism to make our lives better and more fulfilling and longer is just science trying to yevonize the control of the farplane if you let it go long enough.

    Sin's demiourgeness, for me, is more of a commentary on society's evolution that will inevitably un-unionize it because of general privilege (monetary, geological, intellectual) and not a critique of religion in and of itself. There's a playful nature in FFX which encompasses if the signs are actually the signifiers too and Sin's entire existence kind of corroborates with that.

    Nice video. Videogames are fun

    Reply
  7. I didn't know a thing about Final Fantasy before this video and I enjoyed it tremendously. Great stuff man, incredible use of music in particular.

    Reply
  8. Like a lot of people, I've been too caught up in the drama of electoral politics these past few days and this video reminded me to take a moment to think about life, society and the role of rituals in kinship and experiencing aspiration together, even if God doesn't mean anything to me. Quality video, both in content and aesthetic.

    On that note, is sapiosexuality getting aroused by men being pummeled to the ground by stacks of books?

    Reply

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