I recently reblogged How to Spot a Fake-Azz “Occult Expert” in Two Words, which refuted some of the lies some Christians circulate against British author J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books (and their movie adaptions). For some reason, when it comes to popular culture, Christianity has long had a problem with paranoia and outright lies. Harry Potter is a good example. The Satanic Panic is another. More recently, some Christians have sought to misportray the Netflix shows Lucifer and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina as promoting satanism & portraying God negatively, both of which claims are not only far from the truth, but impossible to make by someone who has actually seen the shows.
For some reason, it is relatively popular to make accusations of satanism and occultism without evidence – or with FORGED evidence – which plenty of people always lap up and accept as gospel truth – no matter how ridiculous, outlandish, unsubstantiated, or disproven it might be. Look at all the poor souls who still vehemently insist that Rowling is a witch and/or occultist, and that Harry Potter contains real spells that work just like in the movies (seriously, HOW ON EARTH can such a claim be taken seriously?!) – or those who think that Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame is based on Jesus Christ (because a purple alien trying to commit the largest genocide in history sounds SOOO much like Jesus to them).
I grew up with such paranoia, and my parents still have it to some degree. While there’s really no harm in personally choosing to avoid fantasy, the other part of that paranoia – judging anyone (especially a fellow Believer) who likes a fantasy that you personally don’t (or that you personally avoid), viewing them with suspicion and questioning their very faith & salvation – is very dangerous, stupid, and Pharisaical. There are some sheeple who STILL use a pastor’s endorsement of Harry Potter as evidence that his/her ministry is heretical.
Here is the first of several excellent refutations of the bold-faced LIES that some have spread about Dungeons & Dragons and its players.
I should add a disclaimer that I’ve never played or touched Dungeons & Dragons in my life, and I have no interest in doing so (Role-Playing Games (RPGs) simply don’t interest me).
I should also add a note that the author of the following refutations himself wrote, which applies to this and to most similar discussions (including movies & books):
I’m not here to give spiritual advice to anyone, but I would like to bring up an important point. There is a usenet posting that has been on the web for some time that was written by David Fisher, an ex-gamer who gave up the hobby because he felt it was damaging his relationship with God.
In the introduction, he goes to great lengths to explain that he is not condemning gamers, only explaining why he chooses not to play anymore. He then goes on to condemn gamers anyway, by comparing our hobby to some very horrible things. (If you like, you can read it in the Escapist Archives.)
But in this article he does make an important point: each of us should weigh everything we do with how it affects our spiritual life. Not just gaming, but everything. If you can honestly say that something you do as a hobby has changed you for the worst, made you unhappy, or damaged your relationship with God (or Budda, or Allah, etc.) then you need to give it up. This is your own decision based on your own feelings and experiences, and should never be decided for you by someone else – especially someone babbling about it on the internet (and that includes myself).
Meanwhile, please keep in mind that your choices are your own. You may encounter others who feel that their hobby is fully compatible with their spiritual life. In fact, this can be said about almost every gamer. They have made their choice. Please respect it.
With that in mind, let’s start dismantling some lies. (And lies only come from the enemy, so nothing refuted here is a “just” or “justified” or “righteous” lie. They’re simply lies.)
First is a page-by-page commentary on Pat Robertson’s anti-Dungeons & Dragons pamphlet:
Dungeons & Dragons: Adventure or Abomination?
The 700 Club’s Anti-RPG Pamphlet
During the 1980s, Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games grabbed the attention of many religious groups who saw it as a dangerous influence on young people (or, most likely, a way to get donations from worried parents). One of those groups was Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, who published a pamphlet entitled Dungeons & Dragons: Adventure or Abomination?, and offered it to anyone who requested it.
This section of the website presents this pamphlet in its entirety, along with comments and corrections on the claims that are made within. Please bear with the poor image quality – this is a photocopy of the pamphlet that I acquired from the CAR-PGa‘s archives. I contacted CBN while preparing this page, and confirmed that this pamphlet is no longer available from them.
The copyright on page 8 says 1992, but a statement made within suggests that it was written sometime in 1986 (page 2, first paragraph), during the height of anti-RPG paranoia.
While this pamphlet may be a bit dated, CBN’s attitude towards role-playing games hasn’t changed at all. In a March, 2010 story celebrating Pat Robertson’s 80th birthday and over 30 years of reporting, CBN News referred to their warnings on the imagined dangers of Dungeons & Dragons as “landmark work.”“The news department also did landmark work on such stories as the dangers of the artificial sweetener Aspartame and the game Dungeons and Dragons.” [article]
Funny thing is, since the release of this pamphlet and CBN’s reporting on this “danger” back in the 80s, Dungeons & Dragons has been going strong: it has seen three new editions, attracted millions of players, been translated into several languages, and made appearances in films, books, and television shows. Numerous celebrities, including Stephen Colbert, Vin Diesel, James Franco, Matthew Lillard, Wil Wheaton, and members of Weezer (to name a few) have told their stories of growing up playing this “dangerous” game. It has become firmly embedded in our popular culture, and inspired a whole new genre of entertainment.
That’s quite an accomplishment for such an “abomination.”
Notes and corrections
Controversy simmered during the early years of the game’s history, then boiled over… – Dungeons & Dragons was widely unknown, and there was practically no controversy over the game, before the Egbert case brought it to national attention. A search for articles on D&D in the New York Times archives, for example, returned no articles on the game dated before Egbert’s disappearance.
Although his disappearance was said to be unrelated to his obsession with D&D… – More than just being “said,” Egbert’s disappearance was proven without a doubt to be unrelated to D&D. Egbert himself admitted to investigator William Dear that he ran away because of extreme pressures at school and some dark secrets that he was keeping from his family, and Dear published these admissions in his book The Dungeon Master. Also, Egbert was hardly “obsessed” with D&D – at the time of his disappearance he had not played the game for some time, and at the time of his death, he had not played for over a year. Those are hardly signs of an obsession.
…and hired Dr. Joyce Brothers to tout the benefits of the game to school administrators… – Dr. Joyce Brothers touted the virtues of roleplaying before and after working with TSR to promote Dungeons & Dragons in schools, because the activity is beneficial in so many ways. This is an attempt to discredit an expert opinion (the closest that this pamphlet ever comes to one, in fact).
…convinced CBS to take the cartoon off the air after three years. – This was a myth that any “landmark” reporter should have researched carefully before publishing it. According to the notes and commentary on the original DVD set for the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, CBS cancelled the series for two reasons: declining viewership and increasing animation expenses. Saturday morning cartoons usually had very short runs, usually because of the everchanging tastes of the target audience. Three years was a fairly average lifespan for a program of this type. Plus, according to the Wikipedia entry for the D&D cartoon, the show ran from 1983 to 1985, and went into syndication afterward. This means that re-runs were broadcast by CBS for some time after the show was cancelled – not the sort of thing that happens when a network takes a show off of the air due to controversy. If this was the real reason for axing the D&D cartoon, it would never have continued into syndication.
Intense lobbying by anti-D&D critics proved effective when Mattel discontinued their popular D&D computer program games. – This is an outright fabrication. It wasn’t Mattel’s D&D games that were “discontinued,” but their entire electronics division. In fact, Mattel was planning to release a version of one of their Intellivision D&D games to the Atari 2600 when the entire video game market crashed. Mattel Electronics took a nosedive when people stopped buying video games in the mid 1980s, and was completely shut down in early 1984. It was an unexpected sales trend that discontinued these games, not the “intense lobbying of anti-D&D critics.” You can read more about this on the Wikipedia entries for Mattel Electronics and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin.
What is D&D? The answer depends on whom you talk with. – No, it doesn’t. Truth isn’t determined by the opinions of who you happen to be speaking to at the moment. There’s a difference between fact and opinion. Taking this sort of attitude makes it easier to ignore the claims of real experts, and it is what helps create things like the “D&D is dangerous” myth. For anyone reading this who genuinely doesn’t know what Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games are, a much more accurate explanation can be found in this site’s FAQ pages, particularly in the Basic Gaming FAQ.
Winston Mathews – The good news here seems to be that Mathews lost his bid for attorney general (despite running at a time when anti-RPG hysteria was very high). The sound bite he provided for CBN demonstrates how little he knows about D&D. The game does not “teach Satan-worship, spell-casting, witchcraft, murder, rape, suicide, and assassination,” and while much of the game involves fighting monsters and other opponents, the essence of the game is not violence
Notes and corrections
“The game tells you to make your own weaponry.” – Dungeons & Dragons does not “tell” anyone to make real-world weapons, nor does it provide instructions for doing so. All weapons are imaginary and used against imaginary opponents. This is identical to the way the game handles spellcasting – there are no real spells, no real instructions on how to cast them, and no real-world effects whatsoever. This is a myth that D&D opponents consistently restate.
…she filed suit against the school principal, the two teachers, and TSR. All suits were dismissed. – What CBN seems to offer as evidence of a cover-up is actually a very clear picture of how ridiculous Pulling’s claims about D&D were.
“Sulfur and garlic are used to conjure up demons.” – While no source is given on how we should know that these are actual demon-summoning materials, note carefully that Dempsey doesn’t mention finding any sulfur and/or garlic in his son’s room, only that he smelled them. The odors he encountered may have come from a firearm being discharged in an enclosed area.
Notes and corrections
“It’s a fairly simple matter to come up with our own magic system – designs, rituals, fictitious myths – that would mean nothing, that would make the game 100% fantasy.” – Sanchez is setting up the biggest straw man that he can manage, and accusing TSR of not letting him knock it down. Here are the main problems with his statements:
First, the magic system in Dungeons & Dragons is already “100% fantasy.” There are no real-world spells that permit people to cast fireballs, lightning bolts and magic missles, summon animals to do their bidding, purify food and water, control weather, or any of the other fantastic effects that can be found in the Player’s Handbook. There are no spellcasting rituals detailed, and the myths are, by definition, things that don’t exist in reality. This might explain why his report was discarded, since it was suggesting changes that were totally unnecessary.
Second, changing the system to something else wouldn’t make a difference to critics of RPGs, who consider any references to “magic” as “occultism” – even the magic found in Disney movies. Without a clear definition of “occult” and “occultism,” it is all too easy to use those words to describe anything that someone feels is objectionable.
I would REAAALY like to include several more pages from the site going into more detail such as the lie that D&D is linked to suicide, the lie that it contains authentic rituals/spells, the lie that it praises/promotes/condones Hitler, rape and murder, etc, etc – but the word count is just so damn high! I’ll save it for later posts.
It’s a sad state of affairs that one must be as vigilant reading Christian sources as one must be reading non-Christian ones.