Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pat Robertson: Still Getting D&D Wrong After All These Years

One aspect of some people's Christian faith has always baffled me. It's what I term the "magical world view," where one believes that the world is filled with witchcraft and sorcery -- and Satan stands in every shadow trying to tempt the faithful away from the righteous path. My use of the term "magical world view" may lead many to think that I am an agnostic or an atheist.  While there are many gamers who are atheists -- possibly due to the negative association with religion that the "AntiD&D" wars of the 80s presented -- I am not. My wife and I attend mass at a local Roman Catholic church and take our duty to raise our children in our faith very seriously.  I consider myself a little more Positivist Materialist than most of those I attend mass with, but I have a pretty strong faith.

The purpose of this post isn't to discuss my faith, or lack thereof, rather it is to examine how living in fear the way that those with a "magical world view" often do can lead to some pretty ridiculous assumptions with regard to what can be highly beneficial past-times. The reading of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the playing of role-playing games, feeds young minds.  It helps the imagination to grow, fosters creativity, teaches critical thinking, and is a great educational tool. Needless fear that these things contain witchcraft, and should thus be avoided, undermines those very benefits.

Over the years, one of the chief opponents and demonizers (pun intended) of the role playing hobby has been the 700 Club's host Pat Robertson. He is probably second to only Jack Chick in his hatred and misunderstanding of roleplaying games.

Since I was a child, Robertson has been cursing D&D for its evil influence and for its anti-Christian worldview. With the 80s far behind us, one might think that Robertson might have reconsidered his earlier views given the numerous examples of well adjusted citizens who grew up playing role playing games.  Alas, this is not the case.  Recently, Robertson stated -- in a video much shared on Facebook -- that D&D has "literally destroyed lives."

For all that Robertson and his ilk claim that D&D is a sinister game leading children to the demonic darkness of Satanism...a game created by evil secular should be noted that one of the creators of the game -- Gary Gygax -- was a practicing Christian himself. Gary briefly discusses the controversy in this video from Icosahedraphilia: (check out 4:21 for a quote regarding why Gary hadn't discussed this more)

As early as 1969, Gygax was sharing with his friends why as good Christians his family didn't celebrate the Christmas holiday.

Image from Playing at the World
According to the Christian Gamers Guild, David Arneson was also a practicing Christian.

The particular argument about Christmas above is one often seen in practicing Jehovah's Witnesses, so it is possible that Gygax was one in 1969.  Given the fundamentalism of that faith, it is unlikely that Gygax would willfully attempt to bring young people to Satan through the creation of a game.  I think it would take someone with a paranoid magical world view would believe that the devil secretly whispered game design ideas into the ears of the faithful to create a game that propagates witchcraft.

From personal experience, I can tell you that reading about Paladins -- the looking up their mythical roots -- did more for my faith than the time when I was 10 years old and asked the 700 Club to pray for me when I was scared.  The research on Paladins led me to the discovery of the writings of St. Augustine and the reading of many Arthurian tales.  The call to the 700 Club led to me being asked how much I was willing to donate.  Let's just say that the bold faced money grubbing to a 10 year-old is far more damaging to faith than telling stories about noble warriors fighting against demons. much did you ask the questioner you told D&D was demonic to donate before taking the time to answer the question?

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