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Pokémon Go and the demon-haunted world

Mike Elgan | July 25, 2016
The world of mixed reality will be populated by countless 'spirits, demons, angels, ghosts and gods'

pokemon go

Are Pokémon monsters really "digital demons"?

In his 1995 book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Amazon price), Carl Sagan makes the case that science makes it impossible to believe in a world of invisible beings.

Now we can understand volcanic eruptions, for example, as natural phenomena caused by plate tectonics rather than the wrath of an angry volcano god lusting for human sacrifice.

Thanks, science!

But what science has destroyed, technology is creating anew.

The case for Pokémon monsters as 'demons'

Some religious leaders and pundits say Pokémon is dangerous. Why? Because it engages young people with spirits and demons. Well, the wrong spirits and demons, anyway.

The top clerical body of Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa 15 years ago against the original Pokémon card game. With the sudden popularity of Pokémon Go, the council recently renewed its edict. The Saudi objection, according to Reuters, is partly based on their belief that the game promotes polytheism. The council views Pikachu, Jigglypuff and Psyduck as false gods.

William J. Schnoebelen, of the With One Accord Ministries in Dubuque, Iowa, wrote years ago that he believes Pokémon are "demon-like" and that the game teaches kids the dangerous idea that "demons can be mastered and controlled."

A podcast for "Trunews" recently addressed the Pokémon phenomenon after a Pokémon Go enthusiast was seen playing the game near the organization's offices. ("Trunews" describes itself as the "world’s leading news source that reports, analyzes, and comments on global events and trends with a conservative, orthodox Christian worldview.") The Trunews podcast hosts described Pokémon characters as "beasts and spirits," "virtual cyber demons" and "digital demons." Trunews staff even downloaded the app and discovered that "inside the Trunews building is a virtual cyber demon," and they're not happy about it (The Pokémon conversation starts at 52:04 in the show.)

To be clear, religious commentators don't believe Pokémon characters are actual spirits, demons or gods. They just don't want children and the faithful obsessing over what they consider to be false ones.

Theologically, Pokémon are not demons. But what about psychologically?

Rise of the Pokémon-haunted world

Make no mistake: Pokémon Go is merely the first mainstream example of a mobile location-based mixed-reality product -- the first of thousands. This virtual world will one day be all around us, all the time.

Let's ponder the effect of this future on human psychology.

Children once were taught to believe in a parallel universe of unseen ghosts, demons, gods and spirits. Today's children will grow up in a world where they won't have to be taught that. They'll see, hear and interact with other beings in a virtual parallel universe.


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