This essay uses Final Fantasy X as the lens through which to examine Nietzsche and Machiavelli’s opposition to religion. The essay draws on Machiavelli’s non-Prince work, so it’s not in maximum edge mode, but it does still describe the situation of FFX like this:
The people of Spira suffer for the promise of an otherworldly reward. They want the Calm, but the religion preaches something more. Beneath the veneer of the Calm is also the complete eradication of Sin, which can be accomplished by the piety of the people. They shun technology as forbidden, in the hope of this potential reward. But should they?
“Sin,” by the way, is the name of the kaiju that constantly wrecks Spira until someone manages to kill it, which results in a temporary period of peace called the Calm before Sin’s inevitable return. So, don’t be fooled into thinking that “the complete eradication of Sin” is a reference to some promised utopia. It’s just a military objective. Also worth noting that the shunning of technology, though taken as a matter of dogma by the people of Spira, also serves a military purpose: For various convoluted backstory reasons, Sin wants to keep the people of Spira too low-tech to explore the ocean, and will prioritize places that use technology for attack. There’s no actual connection between the piety of the people and the final defeat of Sin, so that part actually is pure dogma, but it’s not like the true secret to defeating Sin is being kept secret (the theocratic government is keeping some secrets from the populace, but they don’t know how to perma-kill Sin). People are just turning to faith to give themselves hope in what otherwise seems to be a hopeless situation. Without knowing the secret truth about the Final Aeon (the only weapon known to be powerful enough to destroy Sin but which, unbeknowst to its wielders, also allows Sin to regenerate), Sin is ultimately indestructible.
The weird thing is that trying to attach an afterlife to the Yevonite religion of Final Fantasy X is not hard. There is an actual afterlife that you go and visit. It’s called “the Farplane” and it’s a place where weird astral spirit things called pyreflies congregate. Pyreflies are released by creatures upon death and, when successfully sent to the Farplane, reform into visages of the departed. According to the heretical Al Bhed, this is just pyreflies reacting to memories of visitors, and the reason why the departed can’t hold intelligible conversations is because you can’t remember a new conversation. According to the Yevonites, it’s just a limitation of being dead. The people are still there, they just can’t talk to you.
The ending of the game implies the Yevonites are actually correct, in that (spoiler alert) protagonist Tidus dies and either (possibly metaphorically) ascends to the Farplane with the dead father he’s finally reconciled with. Sort of. In the final battle, he expresses continued spite towards his father, but then in the ending cutscene they’re friends. Tidus being angry that his father died before he ever got to tell dear old Dad how much he hated him was an ongoing theme of the story, so I think at the final battle, confronted with his father’s departed spirit possessed by an evil demi-god (it’s complicated), he just felt the need to get it out of his system, despite having come to understand his father better during the quest.
Final Fantasy X always gets me sidetracked like this. That game’s plot makes sense upon close analysis, but dear God is it a mess in the telling. The important thing here is that the Yevonites do have an afterlife, which could either be a real thing where the spirits of the dead end up or else a natural phenomenon without any particular deep spiritual importance, and the essay ignores that to instead talk about Sin, the evil kaiju which presents an inarguably real military threat to the world, the end of which would be a better world for entirely non-spiritual reasons. It has to do this, because its whole point revolves around people making worldly sacrifices for otherworldly rewards, and Yevonites don’t do that. They do have a false dogma about Sin being a punishment for Spira’s transgressions, but the actual actions taken by the Yevonite religion to fight Sin are simply using the most effective weapons they have to destroy a worldly, military threat.