Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The old {Dungeons & Dragons = Satanism} meme: still around?

This thread over on maxminis contains some very sad stories about children being prohibited by church groups and parents from playing my favorite game. It also becomes a discussion about the truth of the Bible and the validity of Christianty. My post doesn't come until page 6 (and quoted below for your convenience):

This thread has been absolutely fascinating to me.

Regarding the whole D&D=Satanism meme that flourished in the early 80's:

I'm surprised and saddened by many of the stories related here. I didn’t know the fear and hatred of our hobby was so strong in certain subcultures. I'm hopeful, however, that we'll be hearing fewer of these kinds of stories in the future. Back in the late 70's and early 80's, fantasy culture and geek culture in general were not as mainstream as they are now. I don't think there was "geek chic" in 1981, and now there is. I think Bill Gates (whatever you think of his business practices) showed that a geek can be a spectacular success. Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings movies brought huge exposure to the whole “sword and sorcery” genre. And the video and computer game industries have grown enormous and ubiquitous. So I hope that geeky, fantasy-related stuff won’t be so scary to the people who found it so alien and frightening before

Heck, Dungeons & Dragons can seem downright QUANT compared to Diablo (talk about Satanic imagery!), Grand Theft Auto III, hip-hop lyrics, and Internet Porn. So I would hope that negative religious reaction to Dungeons & Dragons would be on the wane. But I have never really encountered such reactions face to face, so I don’t know for sure which direction they are heading.

My worry about D&D is not that it will be condemned by puritanical zealots, but that people's attention spans will shorten to the point where they won't be willing to invest the time and creativity into it.

Regarding the question as to whether Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship the same God: My understanding is that most scholars within the three traditions believe that all three faiths worship the same "God of Abraham". Indeed, to an atheistic Unitarian Universalist like me, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity appear remarkably similar: all three proclaim the existence of an almighty God, all claim that this God should be worshipped, all claim that this God has revealed important things through prophets and that these revelations have been collected in sacred texts, etc.

I am frightened by the poster who stated that Ghandi is in Hell while Dalhmer is in Heaven. I understand that within a certain interpretation of Christianity this is a logical consequence of how the universe works. It’s like gravity: you may not like it, but that's the way it is.

But my sense of fairness and morality balks at the injustice of such an arrangement. But then I calm down, because I remember that (in my worldview) there is no God, no Heaven, no Hell, and no immortal soul. But just as one can get inspired or exasperated with a character in a fictional story, I can get inspired or exasperated by moral cosmologies and Bible stories, even ones I don’t think are accurate depictions of reality.

And I find the moral cosmology in which Ghandi is in Hell and Dahlmer in Heaven pretty horrendous from a moral standpoint. Why would God set up the universe in such a perverse way? If a human were to reward a person who did awful things and punish a person who did virtuous things, we would condemn that person as unjust. Should we not condemn God for acting in such a way, or at least, like Job, vent our outrage? This difficulty (called by philosophers the problem of Theodicy-justifying God’s ways to humanity) has never been solved to my satisfaction.

Of course, this isn’t a huge problem for an atheist like me.

Congrats to everyone on keeping things civil. Geeks of all religious stripes should support each other!


Blogger Anthony said...

At risk of sounding even more depressing than I already do on my blog, I've had personal experience with the whole D&D is satanic thing - I come from a mission high school. I hear their latest target is banning Harry Potter from the school libraries (they won't do LotR because it's a well established fact that Tolkien was Christian beyond belief).


I'll write about theoidcy maybe on my blog. Thanks for dropping by!

5:58 PM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger Mad Latinist said...

Nothing bothers me more than monotheists suggesting they don't all worship the same God. Um... don't we all agree that there's only one of those things? I mean, I suppose you could argue something like "All gods in the Greek pantheon are imaginary except for Zeus. But THEY believe that all gods are imaginary except for Hades." But that strikes me as a bit silly. More logical to think that there is only one God, but "they" don't understand His nature.

It will always be hard for Christians of that stripe to accept D&D, because one of the few "Old" Testament commandments they still accept is "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live": sorcery is satanic, and evil no matter what your alignment. One, rather more reasonable, Christian D&D player I know got around this problem by declaring that in his campaign, wizards all slowly went insane: you could use sorcery for good, but only at a terrible price.

8:23 PM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

But D&D isn't even real Sorcery (which doesn't even exist anyway!)! It's pretending to be a Sorcerer! So even if witches must be burned (because they're made of wood, of course), is even pretending to be a witch evil? An actor who plays Richard III in the Shakespeare play of that name is certainly pretending to be someone evil. But Puritanical Christians don't rail against the theater...oh wait, never mind.

11:43 PM, April 11, 2006  

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