While you kill god in most Final Fantasys, Final Fantasy X is the only one that is about God. Your main goal in the game is to destroy Sin, a monstrous whale that destroys anything it comes across. Sin is believed to come from its namesake; namely that the people of Spira angered the balance of the world and that Sin is their punishment. The world of Spira also has a church devoted to attoning for/keeping balance of Sin, lingering spirits, and even beings called the “Fayth” all which serve to very clearly outline an interrogation of modern Catholicism. I am finishing up my second playthrough; my first in almost 14 years (and my second replay of Final Fantasy games). I’ve changed a lot during that time and I’m finding the game’s themes ring even truer now. I am a bit of a reformed Catholic; I don’t outright deny the existence of a God but I also don’t find the same comfort in the teachings of the church. This paradigm shift colors my views of the characters, their belief systems, and the game’s wider commentary on power, control, atonement, and theology. All of which is to say that I no longer see Yuna’s journey as Christlike, but rather dismantling the very idea that sacrifice leads to spiritual fulfillment.
The church of Yevon is the predominant religion, and governing body, of the world of Spira. Their teachings are not too dissimilar to Catholicism; you are born into the world with Sin (in the game’s terms, that means the literal manifestation) and that you must atone by following the teachings. They also implore that people reject “Machina” (technology) and that Sin is the people’s punishment for becoming too reliant on it and hedonistic. Catholicism also teaches followers similarly; don’t take too much from the earth lest you become too lazy or greedy (and therefore farther from God). The people of Spira have a ray of hope; Summoners who pray and learn the teachings of Yevon to defeat Sin. Through them people are also passed on to the “Farplane” (afterlife) through a ritual called a “Sending.” Without a proper Sending, souls cannot pass to the afterlife much like in the Old Testament before Jesus.
Our main entry point into the church of Yevon is through the character Wakka. Wakka is a devoted follower of the church. He was raised on the teachings but after losing his brother in a battle against Sin (using Machina), he cemented his beliefs. His brother Chappu’s death was a seeming confirmation of the teachings of Yevon and he devoted himself to becoming a guardian, protecting Summoners on their pilgrimage to defeat Sin. He constantly corrects Tidus when he should be praying, how to address church officials, and how he generally speaks about important religious teachings. Growing up Catholic, this rang all too familiar. Catholicism is one of intense rituals with strict rules regarding interaction and language with religious ceremonies. No speaking in mass, no taking His name in vain, and memorizing prayers are all part of the knowledge required to be a good Catholic. Even as I type this, my brain reminds me every time I need to make proper capitalizations when referring to God (and when not to capitalize). I was not too dissimilar to Wakka; I didn’t interrogate my beliefs as they were taught to me as the strict truth. To stray from those teachings meant an eternity in hell; in Wakka’s case that meant death.
I don’t blame Wakka for being reticent or even hateful in his beliefs. The structure of the Church of Yevon makes up his entire worldview, especially after the death of his brother. Chappu’s death provided what many people have with Catholicism; a renewal in their faith with God. The universe had seemingly taught him a lesson and he listened. It also informs his wrong-headed hatred of Al-Bhed; a race of people persecuted by the church because they don’t believe and use Machina. Their existence flies in the very face of the teachings. Like many uninformed prejudices, Wakka only really hates the idea of the Al-Bhed. He doesn’t even realize Rikku is Al-Bhed, but how could he when he has no framing of them as people?
When the rug begins to get pulled out from under him, it’s all too familiar to anyone who suddenly starts thinking critically of faith. Anyone who studies history knows that spiritual leaders failed to follow their own teachings and Final Fantasy X takes this one step further. Long ago, the city of Bevelle destroyed the city of Zanarkand using Machina. Zanarkand was a spiritual utopia, one that combined faith with technology, but was utterly crushed by the advanced weapons of Bevelle. Sin was actually constructed as a direct action against Bevelle, a last ditch effort to preserve Zanarkand. In an ironic twist, The church of Yevon is actually named for the individual who created Sin. Besides just its history, the church is also actively evil. They cover for powerful individuals mistakes (not sending dead leaders, Seymours whole arc) and actively ignore their teachings (use Machina). We may not get moustache twirling speeches from modern religious figures, but past actions are damning enough.
In most stories that would make Yuna, with her sacrificial journey, Jesus. Yuna is a summoner and to defeat Sin, the summoner must give their life. She is part of a long lineage of Summoners as Sin reappears after each defeat ten years later. Spira cycles through a whole host of Christlike figures as they bring the world together again and again, if only for a brief time.
The differences between Yuna’s fate and Jesus’ wrestle with what it means to actually achieve salvation. Before Christ’s sacrifice, the souls of the dead were prevented from entering into heaven. Jesus served to absolve the dead’s sins through his selfless crucifiction. Humanity could never hope to rid themselves of the inherent sin that comes with being born. Yuna and her guardians (apostles) are not resigned to this fate. They choose not to use the final aeon (the supposed key to defeating sin) as all summoners had done before. They choose instead to defeat Sin from within, to destroy it not through noble sacrifice but in a heroic struggle to break the cycle. They choose to completely rid Spira of Sin.
This is in stark contrast to the Catholic teachings. Jesus’ sacrifice was a great debt that everyone must repay. He didn’t rid the world of sin but allowed a path so the dead can pass. Humans will always be evil the church says, so you must always repent. Yuna’s path to enlightenment is one of caring and resolve; she fights for the future to be completely freed of Sin’s violence. She creates a future where the living are not saddled with the mistakes of the past. Old souls trapped are now freed to move on and be at rest. Her selfless is not one of sacrifice or debt, but rather a complete absolution of the very notion of them.
Yuna’s journey to completely absolve the world of Sin rings especially true as a reformed Catholic. “Catholic Guilt” is a heavy weight to hold on you, the notion that you are always sinner and the best you can do with your time on earth is get back to zero. It’s a burden and keeps you tied to the church; the other alternative is eternal suffering. I found that it contradicted what the church was ostensibly about, mainly a place of spiritual enlightenment and fulfillment. The Catholic church can be stifling, especially if you’re a woman or LGBTQ. I never found the fulfillment that my family found because the rules seemed anti-humanistic. It’s exclusionary by design; their rules are the one way to reach Heaven. There are rules to be kind to one another, but if their path is different than theirs then that already creates a false equivalency. They will never be able to truly atone for their sins.
Final Fantasy’s vision is true faith in people; absolve sin completely and set them free. There they can dictate their own path removed from self sacrifice and consistent atonement. It’s a much more positive and trusting spin on centuries old doctrine. Trust that people are not inherently bad from the start and place trust in yourselves and others. Needless to say this resonated with me, an alternative vision that prizes empathy and understanding. It’s a much easier path to allowing people the freedom to live their own lives than the teachings I was raised with.