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 firmly asserts that Pokémon is evil. Given the general diversity of religious beliefs and interpretations, it is no surprise that most if not all popular media franchises have sprouted objections from some religious groups, and Pokémon is far from being an exception.

The subject of religious Pokémon-hate, mostly Christian, is unfortunately a rather difficult one as far as Anti-Anti-Pokémon goes, for the simple reason that they are not necessarily wrong about Pokémon in the first place. While I have never personally read a piece of religious anti-Pokémon propaganda that did not contain numerous factual errors about the franchise stemming from lack of research, this is quite incidental and never truly the root of the problem they have with Pokémon. The actual claims about Pokémon that the religious objectors 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."

There are those who want to argue with this: 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 animé so it's not evil, and it's a cerberus, which has nothing to do with the devil or Christianity.

But this is ultimately missing the point; the person who condemns Pokémon for containing magic does not care whether it is called "magic" or "psychic powers", and the actions of individual Houndoom characters in the anime are not the reason some Christians flinch at Houndoom's design, which is so blatantly based on the idea of hellhounds that to deny this borders on delusional. The actual reason why most people would agree these religious Pokémon haters are wrong is not that the above statements are wrong, which they really aren't. It's that to all of them I can say, "Well, yeah, but so what?" The problem lies in the second half of the argument, namely where they connect it to 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 having the player ally themselves with them is 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 this is where things have wandered into a dangerous territory. Religious beliefs are the beliefs that people are most stubborn about and least likely to be willing to compromise once they've made up their minds, which the religious Pokémon-critics obviously have. If somebody believes that dragons symbolizing evil in the Bible makes anything with protagonistic dragons dangerous, it is simply futile to try to tell them that the Pokémon dragons just aren't representations of evil, or that even if one enjoys fiction featuring magic and demons it does not mean one would associate oneself with any of it if it existed. Much less can one tell them, as I would most like to, that they're taking the Bible far too seriously. The fact is that there are as many opinions on what pleases and displeases God as there are people who believe in him, and everyone thinks their own interpretation is the correct one; ultimately, if people earnestly believe God hates Pokémon, that's their business and nobody can actually prove them wrong.

I'm sure an intelligent Christian could try to argue about Pokémon on theological grounds, but being an atheist I don't consider myself qualified for this, and in any case, again, that argument could only be made based on the other person's interpretation of the Bible, which the Pokémon critic will inevitably insist is simply wrong. It saddens me greatly to see such people push their beliefs upon their children or relatives instead of letting them choose for themselves, but there is just little that can be done about it. There will always be parents who think they have the right to dictate their children's lives according to their own beliefs, at least for as long as society accepts and condones it (though I must admit I hope it will stop accepting and condoning it in the near future). Some of them may have general misconceptions about Pokémon which can be corrected, but they are rarely the root of the problem.

In conclusion, if your parents won't allow you to play Pokémon because they have found evidence of its evilness in their interpretation of their religion, you have my deepest sympathies, but I truly don't believe I could ever write an article likely to move them by an inch in their convictions.

Page last modified August 12 2016 at 22:34 GMT