jump to navigation

Magic the Gathering is the Devil! (Is it Evil or Immoral?) August 23, 2009

Posted by James in : all, random, theory, webcomic , trackback

demonic tutorIs Magic: the Gathering immoral, evil, satanic, or unholy? Is playing Magic a sin? The following is my take on the morality and ethics behind Magic: the Gathering.

Some people think Magic: the Gathering is evil. You might have heard about how Dungeons and Dragons is evil and some of those same people like to stamp just about everything as “evil.” I remember seeing some kind of a national enquirer show like Entertainment Tonight that had a little 2 minute blurb about how Magic is a devil’s game with demon artwork. I thought it was pretty ridiculous and I dismissed it. But then some guy on the internet was making an argument that something was evil “just like Magic the Gathering.” Amazing. Someone actually believed it was evil.

I decided to spend a few minutes reading what people had to say about Magic being evil using google and there were a few interesting webpages about the subject. One person suggested that Magic is evil because it’s like Dungeons and Dragons. Another person considered all the arguments presented to prove that Magic is evil, and he argued that Magic isn’t evil because the odds of getting a demon card were slim.

I am going to examine some of the arguments against Magic: the Gathering. I have a masters in Philosophy and I have taught two ethics classes but everyone is invited to find fault with my arguments. It should be noted that those who are trained in ethics tend not to talk about the evils of Magic the Gathering. I have good reason to believe that the arguments against Magic tend to be from people with relatively little training in argumentation, evidence, and ethics. As such I find many of them to give pretty poor arguments and they often strike me to be arrogant. Why are they so sure of themselves? The only reason I can think of is the fact that their preacher told them Magic is bad. If a “holy man” says something is true, some people are all too happy to believe every word of it. Unfortunately there are generally no critical thinking requirements for being a preacher.

One person suggests that Pokemon and Magic might teach children the wrong values. This might be true to some extent, but almost everything has this problem. If you want to fight the media and all possible corruption from the outside world, it’s a good idea talk to your children about it. Yes, teaching your children values is part of parenthood. Magic is not meant to be moral education for children. Unfortunately the parent in question turned a good argument into a bad one by implying that Magic is evil and should be “thrown away!”

The first four arguments I will consider against Magic the Gathering are from here. The last three arguments are from here. Why is it evil? One, it identifies with the occult. Two, it encourages violence. Three, it’s addictive. Four, players identify with being evil. Five, it teaches kids that magic can solve their problems. Six, it encourages a superficial materialism. Seven, Magic has pornographic images.

Magic identifies with the Occult

unholy strengthThe word “occult” can pretty much relate to anything esoteric. I’ve even seen a documentary that suggested that reading philosophy was a “scary occult” kind of thing that our founding fathers were interested in. Philosophy is pretty esoteric considering how few people know about it. What makes these people upset isn’t the fact that Magic deals with something “hidden.” They don’t like that it relates to something resembling a mythology, and they don’t like pictures of demons. (Why do people keep using the word “occult” rather than “mythology?” Probably because it sounds more scary and threatening!)

The argument looks something like the following:

  1. Magic has its own mythology and/or pictures of demons.
  2. Anything related to mythology and/or pictures of demons are evil.
  3. Therefore, Magic is evil.

The most interesting argument about why Magic is evil is because it “makes the occult look friendly.” It makes us more tolerant of the occult. Again, this isn’t really a reason to consider Magic to be wrong. Why is it wrong to be more tolerant of the occult? Should we be shocked and appalled at Greek mythology?

Perhaps some people who are insane will use Magic as an excuse to expand their interest in devil worship, but anyone who knows the difference between fantasy and reality will have no problem with Magic.

No reason is ever given why these things are evil. This argument is completely absurd. They have suggested learning about pegan religions, such as Greek mythology, is evil. I suspect that they fear all religions other than their own. That is simply cowardly. There is no reason to fear knowledge of other religions.

Of course, parents will fear that their child might doubt “their own” religion. We wouldn’t want children to think for themselves, would we? We have to hide them away from the world to protect them from all possible doubt, right?

In fact, in order to gain courage against other religions and other temptations, we must challenge ourselves. If Magic is a temptation involving superficial issues, such as showing kids that other religions exist, then Magic is just about the most harmless stepping stone to “challenge themselves” possible.

Perhaps a 5 year old doesn’t have to know about other religions yet, but children are not stupid, and most kids who want to play Magic are adolescents. Questioning our beliefs is not only normal and natural, but it is part of being a complete human being. The only way to fully understand a belief, especially if it is true, is to question it. Scientists question each others’ theories all the time and this is necessary for them to fully appreciate and understand theories that are true.

lord of the pitAnd pictures of demons? Sorry, not evil. It’s just a picture of something someone made up. We don’t even know what demons look like (if they are real.) If we did know what demons looked like that would have incredible scientific significance. It would be quite fascinating.

If Magic is evil because it involves mythology and demons, then the following is probably a good idea:

Magic Encourages Violence

The argument looks something like the following:

  1. Violence is evil.
  2. Magic will make our children violent.
  3. Therefore, Magic is evil.

The problem here is treating our children like total imbeciles. Why would our children become violent just from Magic? Magic has an abstract representation of violence, just like Chess is an abstract representation of a war. If Magic is evil for having abstract representations of violence, then the following is probably a good idea:

Magic is Addictive

This is probably the worst argument against Magic. It certainly doesn’t give children a “chemical dependency” like hard drugs or various medication. It is only addictive in the sense that it is fun and we like to do fun things. What’s the problem?

Players Identify with Being Evil

This might be true for some children. The color black in Magic looks pretty evil. While playing the game, I’ve never thought, “I’m the evil one!” I just think about the abstract logical rules and probabilities to win the game. It’s like telling someone who is playing chess that they are the evil one. (Whoever plays black is the evil one!)

Again, pretending to be a bad guy is not necessarily a bad thing. Children do this all the time as part of “pretend play.” They are not permanently labeled as “evil.” It’s just a game and they should be able to distinguish between fantasy/pretend and reality.

One last note: I suspect that Wizards of the Coast had complaints about this, so they presented an article that said that black cards aren’t related to “evil.” Good, now we know it’s not evil to summon demons. I’m sure that parents will feel much better about Magic after hearing about that!

Magic Solves Your Problems

Casting spells and relying on supernatural forces doesn’t solve your problems, but they sure do help when you live in imaginary land. So, what’s the problem again? Children need to know the difference between fantasy and reality. If this is a big problem for your child, then the following is probably a good idea:

  1. Don’t let your child play with other children.
  2. Don’t let your child have an imagination.
  3. Don’t let your child have pretend play.

Magic Encourages Superficial Materialism

This is a much bigger problem with Pokemon than Magic. The whole merchandising stuff saying, “Gotta catch em all!” Yes, merchandising is ethically questionable when targeting young children. However, this is a huge problem that is not a problem of Magic or Pokemon in particular. It’s your job to teach your children morality, not Magic.

Magic has Pornographic Images

One, there is no nudity on Magic cards. Two, nudity itself is not evil. Three, some cards might be slightly sexually suggestive, but that is mainly due to our dirty minds. How much of a woman’s body has to be covered up to lack sexuality? A long time ago seeing a woman’s foot was considered sexual. No matter how much you try to cover a woman up, we will just get more excited to see what little we can. In many countries naked breasts aren’t very sexual because everyone sees them all the time.

What’s so wrong with a little sexuality anyway? And even if sexuality is completely evil, how are you going to completely shield your child from it? That’s not going to happen.

Magic doesn’t say anything about sex. It doesn’t say it’s good or bad. It doesn’t in any way encourage children to have unprotected sex. There is no problem.

Conclusion

We have no good reason to believe Magic is evil. The only slightly legitimate reason anyone can have to think Magic is evil is if they take it to be a form of parenting and moral education. Not everything in life is meant to parent your children or give them moral education. However, we do need to challenge ourselves in life, so it can be a good idea to face potential corruption. But Magic offers us almost no potential corruption, so it would not amount to much of a challenge.

There might be many reasons Magic is not right for you. If you are insane and can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality, for example. It would be a mistake to say, “If it’s not right for me, then it’s not right for anyone!” This kind of thinking simply makes no sense.

Update (8/12/10): I have written more about the morality of Magic the Gathering and other forms of fantasy (Harry Potter/Dungeons and Dragons) on my philosophy site in a post entitled, Is Fantasy, Such as Dungeons and Dragons or Harry Potter, Immoral?
magic  the gathering comic

Comments»

1. ateo - August 27, 2009

Seems like a waste of a philosophy education to spend time debunking the arguments of imbeciles.

2. James - August 27, 2009

ateo,

It might be, but I hope it will make a difference. If not, hopefully it will be entertaining.

There is a lot of waste going on of educated people. Right now society at large doesn’t know what to do with philosophers, but it will hire a hand full of them to be teachers. Even that is diminishing due to economic difficulties.

3. Heith - October 14, 2009

James, I agree with you. I have been playing magic the gathering since 1995 shortly after it came out. One of my teachers in high school confiscated a deck of mine, cause it was in his eyes devil warshipping. I never did get it back. I wasnt even using a Black deck. I was using a green and red. but throw into the argument the way they have the 5 dots on the backside of the card could also portray a pentacle. throws another chapter into your theology of this topic for you.

4. James - October 14, 2009

Heith,

Confiscating an item just because he thinks it is against his beliefs is an outrage. Sounds like stealing. Did your parents agree with him?

5. STsung - November 25, 2009

hello,
I’m writing a paper on magic: the gathering and dungeons and dragons also taking in account the accusations these games went through. (the main topic is actually - the positive sides of TCGs and RPGs).
Well, that is how I ended up on this page. You are the first person to note that the people saying the games are evil don’t really have any sound arguments.
There were actually studies on ‘playing’ these games and they actually ended up positively in most cases (meaning not doing any harm but developing certain kind of skill or reflective thoughts).
—–
on a side note I also got my deck confiscated by my teacher claiming that this game is violent and should never be played in school (I always played black though^^)

6. James - November 25, 2009

STsung,

Thank you for your comments. I found out that video games, like Dragon Warrior, were also considered satanic. Pokemon, Harry Potter, and just about everything else “fantasy” or mythological is considered to be “evil” by some people.

7. Recoculous.com: Magic the Gathering Articles » My Top 10 Articles of 2009 - December 30, 2009

[…] 8. Magic the Gathering is the Devil! […]

8. Lenal - March 29, 2011

I also wrote about this topic is a blog post here http://lenaloo.weebly.com/7/post/2011/03/magic-the-gathering-is-just-fictional-entertainment-not-inherantly-evil.html
I love the irony in your comic! I am printing it and giving it to my mother-in-law!