Doing my duty as event guy at New World Notes, I’ve been noticing that there are lots and lots of events being sponsored by a new Hare Krishna group in SL. Which has made me wonder, what are the limits of religious tolerance in Second Life?
If you head over to Grimes (Teleport SLURL) you can check out the new Hare Krishna center that has been built there. It’s a rather modest build with a small park, a pretty crude "temple," and a store where you can pick up Hare Krishna paraphenalia (orange robes, altars, pictures of their saints, etc.).
At a certain level, this is just part of the general trend of religious groups finding their way into the virtual world, from my own faith the Quakers, to the Unitarians, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, and the various flavors of Christianity. So why not the Hare Krishnas?
The difference being that for many people the Hare Krishnas are considered a cult. They have been the frequent subject of parody — like the scene in the movie "Airplane" where Leslie Nielsen takes on what looks like an army of aggressive Hare Krishna recruiters in an airport. Their leaders have been convicted of child abuse, racketeering and conspiracy to murder. I see a bunch of them chanting and drumming on the street and I head in the other direction.
And yet in the larger scheme of things they seem like the most harmless of faiths. Their practitioners emphasize peace and harmony through chanting and clean living. While they do evangelize, no one is forced to join. Their food centers apparently feed thousands of hungry people around the world every day.
Given their poor public image, I think it is quite likely that the Hare Krishna center will be the subject of griefing and their practitioners potentially subject to harassment and attack in-world. This is of course a clear violation of the SL community standards. So it will be interesting to see what, if anything, is done to remedy acts of intolerance that takes place against the Hare Krishnas. And what kind of sympathy, if any, arises from other residents.
As for me, as much as I find their form of spirituality unappealing, I think virtual space is much more interesting having them there, with the Scientologists, the Moonies and the Church of Elvis. Hare krishna hare krishna hare hare krishna krishna….