The newest show on HBO, Westworld (adapted from a 70’s sci-fi movie of the same name), is apparently the godless world the religious have warned us about. The argument that, without a God, there would be nothing to stop humanity from raping, killing and otherwise destroying ourselves has been around for a while. Most atheists would agree that morality is not interdependent on religion, and you can be a moral person without joining a cult or religion, but believers still make this argument. What does this have to do with a sci-fi show?
Well, in this show, “guests” are normal folks who can afford to pay the entrance fee to the “park” where “hosts,” robots who are way too human, interact with them. The park set in the late 19th-century Wild West, and guests can interact with hosts at varying levels ranging from simple “hey bartender, give me a whisky” to complex plots where the guest can shoot the bad guys, rob a bank or save the girl. Herein lies the rub, there are little to no consequences for shooting a host. That’s right, if you felt like it, you could just wade into town and start gunning down hosts at your pleasure. Bullets from a guests gun can destroy a host, but bullets from a host’s gun only sting the guest a little. The hosts are also programmed NOT to harm a guest (other than maybe a light slap or ouchy bean bag bullet).
That’s the crux of my argument here; is Westworld the world that believers think will happen if there is no God to direct them. My argument against this moral vacuum has always been “well, do you, as a believer, think that if you didn’t have God or church, you’d just walk out your door and begin killing and raping people?” In essence, is morality dependent upon your belief in a higher power and is that the only thing keeping you from becoming a monster. I’d wager that for most “normal” people, the answer is no. If you were given irrefutable proof that there is no God tomorrow, would you just walk out your door and start shooting your neighbors? Sure, there are some crazies out there for whom God is the only impediment to their murderous rampage, but no, humanity as a whole can have morality without God.
However, in Westworld, these same people spend tens of thousands of dollars to apparently just show up in the park to, at the very least, have sexual interludes with robots, or, at worst, rape and kill them. Obviously the show is making the point that the humans are the monsters and the robots victims of their basest desires, but there seems to be a preponderance of people willing to spend a lot of money to commit the most heinous and violent acts against the hosts. Who are these people? Am I just being naive in thinking that most of us do not want to go to a park where all bets are off and we can rape and murder at will? The show is aiming at making the hosts sentient (SPOILER? I don’t know that, but I’m presuming it based on the episodes to date; six). The guests would not know this, so they are going in thinking these are just robots, but even so, is everyone out there just waiting for the day where they can do this?
I know the next argument, “but video games have all these things now!” True. I am no shrinking violet when it comes to playing video games. The GTA games alone make me wonder at my own, moral compass. Granted, the plots in the games only give you a very limited number of choices, but sometimes, after I’ve beaten the game, I like to just fill up all the weapons and armor and go around the city causing mayhem. I don’t think I’m alone in this? When there are no consequences, and I’m not hurting anyone, how will I behave. Apparently like a raving maniac armed to the teeth waging destruction upon all who cross my path.
So therein lies my quandary. While I am repulsed at the idea of people paying to go to a park where they can kill damn near sentient robots that look like real people, I have no problem doing same (minus the rapey bits) in a digital world.