I Have Faith in Thee, Lord: Criticism of Religion and Child Abuse in the Video Game the Binding of Isaac

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Abstract

The game The Binding of Isaac is an excellent example of a game that incorporates criticism of religion. Isaac is a roguelike dungeon crawler with randomly generated dungeons. Both from the perspective of narrative and of game design, McMillen built The Binding of Isaac around the Biblical story of Genesis 22:1-19, which has the same name in Jewish and Christian tradition, but he placed it in a modern-day setting in which a young boy is endangered by a mentally disturbed mother who hears “voices from above” that instruct her to sacrifice her only child. Multiple critical references to Christianity can be found in addition to the narrative: hostile embodiments of the seven deadly sins, rosaries, Bibles, and crucifixes, and unlockable characters, such as Mary Magdalene, Judas Iscariot, Samson, and Cain, who are all depicted negatively in both Jewish and Christian traditions. McMillen’s inspiration came from his own experiences with his family, which was made up of both Catholics and born-again Christians. The game describes both the dark creativity and the mental and physical abuse associated with religion. In this article, we analyse the narrative of The Binding of Isaac by performing an intertextual comparison with the Biblical narrative of Genesis 22:1-19. We then analyse the three-fold narrative structure of the game which enhances and nuances the criticism the game directs at religion.
Original languageEnglish
Article number133
Number of pages17
JournalReligions
Volume9
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Bible
  • Catholicism
  • Isaac
  • child abuse
  • criticism of religion
  • studies
  • theology

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