The New Tomb Raider Made Me Think About Going Back To Church

The New Tomb Raider Made Me Think About Going Back to Church

Lara Croft's latest adventure is surprisingly religious. It's not just about the good aspects of a communal belief in a higher power. Rise of the Tomb Raider's main bad guy is a true believer, too.

The plot of the new Tomb Raider revolves around Lara's search for a mythical figure called the Prophet and his connection to something called the Divine Source.

Major spoilers follow.

The New Tomb Raider Made Me Think About Going Back to Church

Early on in the game, I was struck by the familiarity of the story told by artifacts that Lara comes across. One artifact, for example, is a reliquary that seemingly once housed a body part of the Prophet. I grew up Catholic and these parts of Rise of the Tomb Raider reminded me of learning about the religious persecution suffered by early Catholics centuries ago.

The New Tomb Raider Made Me Think About Going Back to Church

Religion is a tricky subject for me. The older I get, the more tempted I feel by atheism. I don't go to Mass anymore and feel increasingly beset by a world where everyday injustices makes it hard to put faith in a divine plan. I can't say I don't believe in God, though, mostly because I refuse to accept that my mother isn't in the heaven that she prayed to. I generally feel ambivalent talking to my four-year-old daughter about God, but I know I'm invoking the ideals I learned from Catholicism when I tell her about how treating other people nicely is something that makes the whole world better.

Those same values show up in Rise of the Tomb Raider when Lara encounters a community of people called The Remnant, who have been protecting the Divine Source for centuries. The Remnant don't trust Lara at first and are hostile to outsiders. For all their isolationism, they have also been committed for generations to a central, altruistic myth that tells them to help others in need. It doesn't just feel like a plot beat when Lara starts helping them; it feels like she's coming around to what they believe.

Descended as it is from the same archeological pulp lineage that informed Raiders of the Lost Ark, the new Tomb Raider also has paramilitary bad guys in search of the Divine Source. They want to rule the world, of course, and there are vague noises made about securing power and/or eternal life for those who they deem worthy. This part of Rise of the Tomb Raider's story isn't just a genre convention trotted out for familiarity's sake. It's a callback to how religion has been used to justify some of mankind's worst crimes against itself. Slavery, ethnic cleansing and wars throughout history have all been aided and abetted with the cooperation of religious powers-that-be.

When main bad guy, Konstantin, kneels to pray, I didn't receive it as posturing for effect. I can accept that he believes that God is on his side, because that's been the case with many powerful corrupt men.

Later in the game, Lara witnesses what looks like a miracle after her friend Jonah gets badly hurt.

Again, the prayer in the scene feels essential. It's not just some weird undefined mysticism that makes Jonah's wound get better. It's the faith in the words uttered by the man laying hands on him.

These moments from Rise of the Tomb Raider felt bold. When religion gets used as a macguffin in a video game plot — as has happened the conspiracy underpinning the Assassin's Creed games — there's a comfortable distance with regard to how it informs the characters. The religion in this game feels up close and personal, true to how it's lived by many people in the world. I'm glad Crystal Dynamics didn't shy away from showing the power that faith can give people, good and bad.


    I have no issue with people having their individual faiths, their beliefs, whatever helps them feel safe and comforted as long as they don't use it as an excuse to bring harm upon others (or at least one of many excuses to do so), as I've been witness to it being used as a reason to bring good to many others too, having grown up in a religious environment.

    But I will say: Don't do it Evan! Church is so damn boring! lol! I'm an ex-Altarboy, it's sooooo damn boring!

      I try to not be a dick about it but nearly all religions set back human rights advancements in the law and technology consistently and are the primary reasons for the worst wars we have ever had.

      Last edited 15/11/15 10:59 am

        This is a massive misnomer of course, since I've started studying history and teaching it, the surface reasons for wars are often attributed to religion and this is one of those 'internet based facts' that everyone picks up and runs with these days because it's a fad, however the *actual* reasons for wars come down to three things: Land, Political Power and Wealth.

          I'm pretty sure ww2 had some heavy racial cleansing for religious reasons that really had nothing to do with a land or wealth grab tol though. Sure its about power and wealth as well, but some would argue that's really all religion is really actually about as well.

          Last edited 15/11/15 3:15 pm

            WWII was most certainly about land, power and wealth.
            It was entirely economic with religion as a small part of a broad propaganda strategy.

            This is yet another factually inaccurate thing stemming from the internet. The murdering of the Jews has little to no relevance to religion. What it actually has to do, is with Hitler and Germany blaming the Jews for Germany’s economic depression and the country’s defeat in World War I.

            In 1933, Germany introduced new laws to force Jews out of civil service jobs, university and court positions, as well as public areas of life. In April 1933, laws proclaimed at Nuremberg determined Jews to be second-class citizens, still a holdover from their determination that Jews were responsible for World War 1's loss.

            These Nuremberg Laws defined Jews, not by their religion or by how they wanted to identify themselves, but by the religious affiliation that their grandparents held. Between 1937 and 1939, anti-Jewish regulations saw segregation of Jews increase, making daily life almost impossible, turning them almost into prisoners in their own countries. Jews could not: attend public schools; go to theaters, cinemas, vacation resorts, meet in large groups in public or reside or walk in certain areas of German cities. It was the Germans who selectively used Religion as a way to categorise people in order to discriminate, not utilise Religion itself to discriminate against people, there's a gross difference here and people ALWAYS overlook historical fact here in favour of 'Raaaar they killed the jews in the name of religion!' when the simple fact is this: The hatred for the jews stemmed from *economic* reasons.

            Between 1937 and 1939, Germany was increasingly persistent in exiling Jews Germany’s economic life. Nazis seized Jewish businesses and properties, forcing them outright to sell them at rock bottom prices or to give them up to the state in some cases for nothing. seizing them as 'government assets'.

            The systematic destruction of the Jews, increased until World War 2, when they were seen by Hitler as a scourge upon Germany, to be obliterated, his 'final resort' was to excise them from life. We all know how that went. This again, is an internet fallacy that it was 'christianity vs judaism', it was again, stemming from an economic based reasoning. The simple fact is, like it's always been, religion is the mask of blame attributed to things, it's the surface reason handed to simple minded plebs to placate them and to make them grab their pitchforks, it's an easy excuse to hand them to make them unite, however the underlying REAL reasons are far more insidious, because it's the simple minded evil of man, the greed and hatred, that drives all these decisions, that's a fact.

        As @weresmurf said, land, power and wealth.

        The reason for the worst wars in history and the issues you mentioned is and always will be people.

          South Park actually nailed it *perfectly* in their Wii episode with the Otters vs Humans. It doesn't matter if Religion does or doesn't exist, it won't ever matter. Humans will always find a reason or an excuse to destroy themselves. They'll choose something, be it science, eye colour, hair colour, genetics or whatever. They will always find something to segregate themselves over and to start wars over. Like the song says 'it's in our nature to destroy ourselves'.

            From what I understood that episode was more about athiests who treat certain promenant people as nearly akin to priests, therefore really being part of a religion. Yeah if religion was around there would still be wars, but maybe not for the stupidest of reasons.

              That was one aspect, the deeper meaning was that we idolise what we can, creating deities out of anything we can to make meaning out of life in any way we can. Making deities out of Sagan, Degrasse, Hawking etc, was just one way of taking the piss.

    "I’m invoking the ideals I learned from Catholicism when I tell her about how treating other people nicely is something that makes the whole world better."

    Yes because only Catholics treat people nicely right?

      that's not what hes saying. he's saying that that is what Catholicism taught him.
      it doesn't mean that if he had never been a catholic, he wouldn't have learnt the lesson elsewhere.

    @riavan :

    Funny you should say that, when Jesus was the original SJW, religions were often responsible for ensuring people's rights or fighting against the injustices of the ruling class, and that many of the great advances made during the medieval period were made by religious people, if not outright members of the clergy.

    I'm also failing to see a religious motivation behind WW1, WW2, Vietnam, the American Civil War, the Crimean War, etc etc.

    Last edited 15/11/15 11:05 am

      Yeah but Christians still held back gay rights for years, so original sjw? Not really, but I'm sure Christians tell themselves that they are somehow on the side of social justice. Let's not forget all the female rights issues with Christianity not long ago too.

      Also world war 2 was started based on religious cleansing of other religions. You know, the biggest war. The war in afgan/iraq as well.

      Last edited 15/11/15 3:23 pm

        You'r stereotyping a little there. Also, as others have said; people, especially ones with power, use/ manipulate/ twist many tools to deceive/ gain influence/ justification for their actions. Religion is unfortunately one of them. It's still, normally, the people at fault, not necessarily the teachings.

        So? Christians were also instrumental in increasing the age of consent for girls to 16 in the UK and played large roles in the ending of the slave trade and racial segregation. There are also plenty of Christians in the pro gay marriage camp.

        Female rights? Another thing Christians campaigned for.

        And WW2? Nope, nothing to do with religion there. That was just Hitler being batshit crazy, and I doubt you can find a legitimate reference to him using religion to justify his beliefs.

        Afghanistan came about because the Taliban - who, I might add, started off as a rag tag band of civilians hellbent on saving young boys and girls who had been kidnapped and used as sex slaves by the warlords of the region - refused to give up Osama and America had such a murder boner for Osama that they invaded Afghanistan just to get him. Given that the Taliban were receiving funding from Saudi royals who supported or sympathized with Osama, I suspect the Taliban's refusal was economic in nature and not religious.

        Iraq is murkier when it comes to motives, but definitely wasn't about religion. Most likely it was about money and resources.

        As for your comments about Christians merely liking to think that they're on the side of social justice, I would not be alive if not for the social welfare programs of the Salvation Army, and neither would my parents or grandparents. Were it not for the Salvation Army and their programs, my great-grandfather would probably have ended up like his father or mother: dead from heavy or in jail. Further, having spent four months working in a Salvation Army store and having spent a couple of odd days helping out in the welfare office, I can assure you that Christians do make a difference and do follow up on social justice issues. I am not one myself, but I do find you hatred for my friends and family to be disgusting and disturbing.

          Nothing like helping people and trying to destroy their culture by forcing their reigion upon them like most foreign aid organisations. Normal people just help other people, they don't need some kind of belief that their actions will somehow benefit them in another life.

          Religion was always a means for people in power to control the general populace. Both Germany and Japan were driven by religion in ww2, the catholic church even negotiated treaties with the Nazis (who were very much Christians) so the Vatican would be safe, while letting everyone else suffer around them.

          Sure religious texts are full of morals but a lot are outdated and illogical and they usually have a bunch of hate filled bits about other religions (I know the bible and the Quran do for sure).

          And I really don't care if you are offended by how much I hate the horrible things that religion causes. I'm not going to start a war about it though.

            You can hate the horrible things that have been done by ignorant people in the name of religion, noones saying you cannot, however what we are saying, is be educated enough to know what's actually correct and what is hyperbole and internet crap, that's all :)

          see, it think, the economical powers that be are the ones that orchestrated 9/11, war makes a lot of people get rich, especially when you can get your fingers in a few oil wells in the process.
          call me a bit of a conspiracy theorist, but there is a lot of puppetry in the political world by the wealthy.

        When you apply the idea of Cui Bono to the modern conflicts of the Middle East, you find something far more sinister and scary than religion my friend.
        The convenient bogeyman pales in comparison.

    Just picked this game up coz I felt like having a side hoe to fallout, this is definitely the sleeper hit of the year

      I was wondering if the game was good. I haven't heard it mentioned at all because of fallout. Thanks!

        Enjoy it! I've only ever player the first tomb raider but I'm gonna pick this up on Ps4 when it comes out, it's that good

    I'm a Catholic myself Evan, can I just say this was a very interesting and insightful article. Best wishes for your journey :)

    I like when games/ movies etc have the guts explore thoughts/ issues etc. As long as it's not too preachy of course. No one want's to feel shit for their beliefs, eating meat, or cutting down trees. (Just examples)

      how dare you eat meat and cut down trees, your morals are bad and you should feel bad.

    I know I’m invoking the ideals I learned from Catholicism when I tell her about how treating other people nicely is something that makes the whole world better

    You don't need religion to tell people to be nice to one another. It's otherwise known as "don't be a dick".
    If you need a threat of eternal damnation or a promise of eternal happiness as your motivations to be good to other people, then that objectively makes you very much a not nice person at all.

      There is so much ignorance in what you say. The motivations for doing good vary from religion to religion. My personal experience/knowledge is only with Christianity so that's the only one I can comment on.

      In Christianity, you are not encouraged to do good to gain eternal happiness. You are actually taught that as someone who has already been saved by God you should show it. This is an oversimplification of the concepts promoted by Christianity, but essentially you are doing good to say thanks to God. And not so that you are deemed good enough to enter heaven.

      Any Church that teaches otherwise has already strayed too far from the core beliefs of Christianity that they may as well be considered another religion.

        You completely missed the point of what I was saying, then.

        Your example still fits. Let me phrase it exactly for you, then, using your own example.

        If you need to show that you are "saved" by God [whatever that means] as a motivation to be good to other people [other than, you know, the fact that it is objectively the right thing to do], then objectively that makes you very much not a nice person at all.

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