Religious Objections to Pokémon

We all know the tragic tale of the lone Pokémon fan who is unfortunate enough to have a family member who insists that Pokémon is evil. Given the huge diversity of religious beliefs, there are inevitably fringe groups that object to practically any media franchise popular enough to be on their radar, and Pokémon has been no exception.

Religious objections to Pokémon are unfortunately a difficult subject as far as Anti-Anti-Pokémon goes, simply because often these people aren't actually wrong about Pokémon in the first place. While I've never personally read religious anti-Pokémon propaganda that didn't contain numerous factual errors about the franchise, this is incidental and never truly the root of the problem that these people have with Pokémon. The main pertinent claims about Pokémon that they make can often be generally truthful:

"Kids who get into Pokémon might become interested in other games like Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons."

"Pokémon has magic and ghosts."

"There are dragon Pokémon."

"Pokémon is a role-playing game."

"There are Pokémon like Houndoom clearly inspired by the traditional idea of demons, as well as a 'Dark' type."

Some people try to argue with these statements: Even if kids might become interested in Magic after playing Pokémon, it doesn't mean they will. It's not magic per se, it's psychic powers, and ghost Pokémon are made of gas. The dragon Pokémon aren't really dragons. Pokémon is more strategy than RPG. Houndoom once saved a Togepi in the anime so it's not evil, and it's based on Cerberus from Greek mythology, which has nothing to do with the devil or Christianity.

But I think ultimately that's missing the point; the person who condemns Pokémon for containing magic probably doesn't care whether it's called "magic" or "psychic powers", and the actions of individual Houndoom characters in the anime aren't why some Christians flinch at Houndoom's design, which is clearly based on classic depictions of demons and the idea of hellhounds. The real reason most people would say that these religious Pokémon haters are wrong isn't that they're wrong about any of the statements above; it's that to all of them I can say, "Well, sure, but so what?" The problem lies in the second half of the argument, namely where it connects to their beliefs about religion:

"Dungeons and Dragons and Magic are evil because they blatantly contain evil monsters, demons, spirits, sorcery and magic, which the Bible condemns."

"Dragons always symbolize the devil in the Bible, and thus having them portrayed as allies is inherently evil."

"Role-playing games take the player out of the real world and teach them they can be gods of their own world, leading them away from the Lord."

"Associating oneself with demons or representations of them is to choose evil over good."

And unfortunately, this is where we get into rocky territory. The vast majority of Christians don't have a problem with Pokémon because they don't interpret the Bible to mean it's inherently evil to engage in fantasy role-playing or enjoy fiction about magic or creatures that resemble dragons or demons. The ones that do, though, are probably sincere in that belief, and religious beliefs are some of the beliefs that people hold most sacred, for obvious reasons. I'm sure there are Christians out there who might be willing to argue with them on theological grounds, but will that actually convince them, or will it simply cause them to think that person isn't a true Christian?

Either way, as an atheist I'm not qualified to make such a theological argument, and I'm afraid there's not much I think I can say that'd be likely to move them. It saddens me greatly to see these sorts of people force their beliefs upon their children or other relatives, but that will always happen for as long as society accepts and condones it. Some of them may have general misconceptions about Pokémon which can be corrected, but they are rarely the root of the problem.

If your parents or relatives disapprove of Pokémon because of their religion, you have my deepest sympathies. I doubt there's anything I could write that could convince them otherwise, but remember that there are many, many just as devout, sincere believers in your religion who enjoy Pokémon and the franchise's running themes about friendship and trust - their interpretation is not the only one, and even if they don't approve, that doesn't mean it really is evil or that you're evil for enjoying it. Endure, think critically and form your own beliefs, and don't let them ruin something that genuinely makes you happy.

Page last modified May 21 2017 at 22:24 GMT