Grand Theft Auto fans push for ban on the Bible

After Target and Kmart in Australia decide to stop stocking the game, fans of Grand Theft Auto demand that the Bible is also banned as it is misogynistic.

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Does the first-person nature of GTA V take it to a new, more disturbing realm? Rockstar Games/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

We tend to believe that our values are the right ones for everybody.

Many people's definition of "liberal" seems to be "say and do whatever you like, as long as I don't find it repulsive." Just as many people's definition of "freedom" is, in fact, "free to think and do only those things of which I approve."

And so it is that a great battle of values has emerged in Australia. The country's Kmart and Target stores have decided to ban ." I'm not sure why it took them five versions to get there, but it's clear the stores were moved by a petition that was signed by 50,000 people.

It declared that the game "encourages players to murder women for entertainment." It added: "The incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get 'health' points." It concluded: "Games like this are grooming yet another generation of boys to tolerate violence against women."

Many will surely have sympathy with the petitioners. The issue of violence against women remains central to every society in the world.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, some GTA fans are deeply unamused. They're now calling for Target and Kmart to ban the Bible.

Posting their own petition in the same place as the anti-GTA V one -- Change.org -- these petitioners declare: "Withdraw The Holy Bible -- this sickening book encourages readers to commit sexual violence and kill women."

Its wording tries to mirror that of the original petition. For example: "This book means that after various sex acts, readers are given options to kill women by stoning her unconscious, Setting them on fire, cutting off their hands, and killing their children!"

And then there's: "One of many fan passages on In The Holy Bible depicts woman being set alight for having sex. "And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire." (Leviticus 21:9)."

Clearly this is more of a sardonic statement than a real attempt to get the Bible banned. However, GTA V has begun to incite even more heightened reactions than the previous versions.

As Gamespot's Danny O'Dwyer pointed out, the addition of the first-person mode in GTA V means that the player no longer had the excuse of third-person objectivity.

"I felt guilt," said O'Dwyer, as he performed shootings himself in the game.

There's no universal agreement about whether violence in games motivates violence in real life. But, as O'Dwyer explained, Grand Theft Auto occurs in a world less of fantasy and more like our own.

He believes that GTA V allows us "to censor ourselves." But how many will? And how many will find a more extreme pleasure in truly feeling like the brutal agent of destruction?

Banning the game from Kmart and Target is symbolic more than effective. It's not as if it isn't available in many other outlets. It's not as if the game hasn't been available for a long time. Its sales are somewhere near the $2 billion mark. The current furor surrounds the fact that it was re-released in November to be played on newer consoles.

Still, as games become ever more realistic, as the likes of Oculus Rift tries to make the virtual world as tangible and visceral as the real one (if not more so), will humanity's essential decency continue to reassert itself -- at least most of the time?

The GTA V's supporters might choose to add of their anti-Bible stance that more people have been killed in the name of religion than in any other name. They might explain that targeting this game at this point seems little more than a strange piece of customer-pandering. It's not as if there isn't still a lot of R-rates content available at these stores.

But there's something about entertainment that has always been more, well, liberal about violence than, say, about sex. Does this reflect some deeper psyche? Does it reinforce it?

Banning things rarely achieves its aim. It's down to you, humanity. Feeling guilty yet? Or just having fun?


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