Pokemon is a video game franchise that began in 1996 in Japan. It has had a hit TV show that is currently on its 19th season, has 20 main series games and even more side games. The main premise of each main series game is that a character is given the choice between 3 Pokemon (short for Pocket Monsters) to choose from by a professor who wants you to capture all of the Pokemon in the world to complete an electronic encyclopedia called a Pokedex, because every time a Pokemon is captured, information about it automatically shows up in the electronic encyclopedia. At the same time, the player goes through the region battling other trainers’ Pokemon and collecting gym badges which are required to enter the Pokemon League so that you can take on the champion and become champion yourself.
Some Christians unfortunately have thought Pokemon is just one of Satan’s many tricks to get into the minds of your children and lead them away from God. I was fortunate enough that my Christian parents didn’t think the same way, and I was able to enjoy this awesome series growing up. Why is it some people think this way though? What is it about this franchise that is so supposedly anti-Christian? Let’s take a look at some of the arguments that come out of these people as to why “Pokemon is da devil!” (Yes, read that in Kathy Bates’ voice, please).
*The Evolution Objection
Some well meaning Christians object to Pokemon because it uses the term “evolution” in both the games and the anime quite frequently. Most Pokemon “evolve” and when they do, they become stronger. This is, they argue, an attempt to indoctrinate children into accepting the atheistic theory of origins known as Darwinian evolution.
The problem with this objection is that it commits the fallacy of equivocation. The argument is equivocating on the meaning of the word “evolution”. Evolution when used in a Darwinian sense is VERY different than when used in reference to Pokemon. The person making this argument either doesn’t understand Darwin’s theory of macro evolution, or they don’t understand Pokemon evolution, or they lack an understanding of both. Darwinian Evolution is that animals can become more complex and advanced over time as a means of natural selection picking which traits are contributive to survival and which ones aren’t. The features that are good are passed on to progeny, and the bad ones disappear over time. This process supposedly started with a single cell that somehow formed in primordial oceans all by itself and the process just took over from there. I don’t believe this theory of origins is accurate, and I already list my reasoning for not being an evolutionist in the blog post “Why I’m Skeptical Of Darwinian Evolution”.
The short point is that Darwinian evolution, according to the theory, is a very slow and gradual process that takes a very, very, very, very long time. Given that this is the case, you can see how ridiculous it is to assert that Pokemon is one way to teach kids about the theory.
Pokemon Evolution is a very fast process that takes place instantaneously! Most Pokemon evolve by means of battle experience, but others evolve through other means such as being traded to another game, special stones, or other cool items. Take Pikachu for example. Pikachu evolves into Raichu. In order for Pikachu to become a Raichu, it must come into physical contact with a Thunder Stone. Once a Thunder Stone is placed on Pikachu’s head, it will become a Raichu in a matter of seconds! Not millions and millions of years, seconds! There’s also no passing on traits to progeny. Raichus don’t give birth to Raichus, they instead lay eggs that hatch into Pichus. Pichu evolves into Pikachu and Pikachu evolves into Raichu.
This is not like Darwinian theory at all. Evolutionary processes on Darwin’s theory do not take place in a matter of seconds because an animal had enough fights, or because it came into contact with a special rock.
The evolution that Pokemon undergo is more like the kind of transformation that caterpillars undergo when they become butterflies.
Therefore, the evolution objection has no weight. I’ve studied the claims of the Darwinists as well as grew up playing Pokemon, and I can tell you from first hand knowledge that the term is being used in different ways.
*The “Summoning” Objection
Some Christians think Pokemon teaches kids to summon demons! They say that in the Pokemon games and anime, you call out the name of the monster you want to appear while simultaneously throwing a poke ball. Doing this causes the monster to appear in a flash of light out of the ball, and it’s ready for action. In Satanism, calling demons by their names while having certain mystical items are supposed to make them appear. If you’re a witch or a warlock, you can get the demons to do your bidding. So it is in Pokemon (supposedly), you have a special item (Poke Ball) and you call on the name of the monster (“Bulbasaur, I choose you!”) and it appears, and it’s ready to obey your every command!
The problem with this objection is that it’s reading too much into the similarities between demon summoning and calling out Pokemon, and I’m afraid to say that this is the same kind of faulty logic atheists appeal to when they try to argue that Christianity’s doctrines copied from earlier pagan myths. Both cases ignore the vast amounts of differences between the two.
Pokemon are not spiritual beings, they’re not demons. When I first starting watching the Pokemon anime as a child, my first thought was “Cool! These are like animals with super powers!”. That was my first impression, and it wasn’t off by much. The vast majority of Pokemon are based on real life animals, and they have a variety of different abilities that help them defeat their opponents. Some can shock their opponents by releasing electricity from their bodies, some can breathe fire, some can shoot water at a high enough velocity to do damage, some can fly, and some can shoot beams of energy which freezes their opponents in a block of ice upon contact. This is really what Pokemon are in a nutshell; animals with super powers.
As for the summoning them by name aspect, it isn’t even required to call out the name of the Pokemon in order to make them appear. Poke Balls are machines, not supernatural items. All that it required to release the Pokemon is to push the button on the front. The ball will open, and the Pokemon will appear. How the mechanics of this work out have been speculated by Pokemon fans, see MandJTV’s video on what it’s like inside of Poke Balls to find out what it’s all about. But nonetheless, they don’t appear out of the balls by magic, but rather, by science. They were either shrunken down by the ball in order to fit inside and then enlarged once the release button was pushed, or they go back and forth between being transformed into energy, to being transformed into matter, and vice versa.
So if you push the button (either with your finger, or by throwing the ball), the Pokemon will appear regardless of whether you say its name.
So then, why do trainers shout their Pokemon’s name when letting them out of their balls? This is very likely due to a common anime trope of a character calling out virtually every move he makes in a battle. In Bleach, Ichigo shouts “Getsuga Tenshou!” when using a sword technique that goes by that name, Goku on Dragon Ball-Z shouts “Kamehameha!” when using the Kamehameha Wave technique, and virtually every other anime character cries out the name of their attacks when they use those particular attacks. Ash (or other trainers) might say “X, I choose you!” for the same reason.
It could also be due to the fact that Pokemon are consciously aware of everything that takes place out of their poke balls (see the MandJTV video linked to above), and their trainers are simply letting them know that it’s time to battle (in case they’re asleep or something).
And also, unlike the previous objection, Pokemon doesn’t even use the term “summon”. They usually say things like “Call out” or “release” or “bring out” as in “Call out your Pokemon and let’s battle!” or “Release your Pokemon or else you forfeit by default” or something.
*The Psychic Type Objection
Some Pokemon are classified as “Psychic Types” and for good reason; they can use psychic abilities! They can read minds, communicate to others by telepathy, and use telekinesis (i.e moving things with their minds). Some Christians have objected to Pokemon because psychics and psychic related material are clearly occultist, right?
While I do find this to be one of the more powerful of the arguments against Christians playing Pokemon, I don’t think it succeeds. Real psychic abilities (assuming they are real) probably do stem from demonic powers at work which is why The Bible tells us to have nothing to do with "anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead" (Deuteronomy 18:10-13).
However, in most comic books, manga, anime, video games, etc. People with psychic abilities are almost never depicted at deriving their power from demons, but rather their abilities are an innate part of themselves. Being able to move things with your mind, read minds, communicate by telepathy, etc. are seen as just one of many super powers that a hero or villain might have. It’s just there to make the fights between the heroes and villains even more interesting. The more powers that characters can have, the more interesting the story and the battles will be. Charm Caster of Ben 10 is one character who comes to mind. Her magical powers seemed to be as much a part of her as Superman’s abilities are to him.
For this, I have no problem with there being psychic type Pokemon. It’s just a Pokemon with one out of the many potential powers they could have. Alakazam’s psychic powers are as intrinsic to him as Pikachu’s electrical powers are to him.
All of this aside, even if this were not the case, it still doesn’t show you diddly squat on how to do anything occultist. I’ve been playing Pokemon since it first came out, and I can’t even bend a spoon with my hands much less my mind! If this were intended to teach kids how to call upon demonic powers, it’s been doing a terrible job of it for the last 20 years!
*The Ghost Type Objection
I’ve saved the strongest argument for last. Out of all the objections to Pokemon from Christians, this is the one that actually causes me to pause. The rest are just nonsense stemming from a lack of understanding. While most Pokemon are based on animals, not all of them are. There are some Pokemon classified as “Ghost types”. These have always fascinated me, as the question arsies “If a Pokemon dies, does it become a ghost type?” and “Are Ghost Pokemon dead, or just have ghostly abilities but are technically living creatures?" and "Can Ghost Pokemon be killed?”
One objection may be that you actually do call upon “ghosts” to do your bidding. I can see how this could make the conscience of a Christian uncomfortable. However, for one thing, ghosts are not synonymous to demons in the understanding of most people. While Christians often use the terms synonymously, most people think of ghosts as simply dead humans or animals who exists as a disembodied consciousness. If this is the case, there may not be anything necessarily evil about them. Take Bleach for example, all of the characters are ghosts in the layman meaning of the term.
Secondly, as I alluded to above, it may not be the case that these actual ghosts we’re dealing with, but just creatures with such creepy appearances and powers that scientists within the Pokemon World (e.g Professor Oak) have labeled them as “ghosts”. The places they like to hang out could also contribute to this classification (e.g grave sites). Although this is more of a semi-fan theory than a fact, and some Pokedex entries (like Phanthump’s) appear to contradict this.
Furthermore, even if they were actual ghosts, one need not battle with them. You can simply avoid using ghost type Pokemon if your conscience bothers you rather than avoid Pokemon altogether. In the Pokemon anime, Misty has an aversion to bug type Pokemon because she’s thinks bugs are gross. She’ll have nothing to do with them. Couldn’t a Christian avoid ghost type Pokemon on the grounds that “They’re of the devil” or “They bother my conscience” or something? You’re required to catch all of the Pokemon to complete the Pokedex, but as far as battling goes, you can use any Pokemon you want. You can catch the ghost types for the sole purpose of completing the dex, and release them immediately.
Of all of the objections, this one is the only one that actually has at least a tiny bit of substance to it. But I say this in the same manner that I say that “The problem of suffering is the strongest argument against God’s existence” or “Romans 9 is the most persuasive text for Calvinism”. In saying that this objection has some substance to it, I’m not at all conceding that it’s a successful one. I’m only saying that I can understand why some people might raise it.
I don’t there’s anything wrong with playing these games. Like rock music and Monster Energy drinks, this is just another case of Christians seeing Satan in places he isn’t. As I said, if this game were intended to teach you how to summon demons or obtain psychic powers, or communicate with the dead, it did not achieve that goal with most of us. I’ve played the Pokemon games for a long time, and I still don’t know how to do any of these things, nor do I want to. I just want to catch Pokemon and have them battle my friends. I think most fans of Pokemon have that same mindset.
My advice is, if you’re a Christian parent, actually investigate what Pokemon is, and investigate any other game or franchise your child is into. Ask them about it, or better yet, watch the TV show with them. Perhaps buy a game for yourself and play through it. Who knows? You might just become a fan yourself, and you’ll have a common interest with your child and something to do with them on weekends!
As I’ve said in other blog posts, every Christian must follow his conscience on every matter. The Apostle Paul wrote “everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23). In other words, if you’re not confident that you’re doing the right thing, don’t do it! You’re sinning if for no other reason than the fact that you ignored your conscience. That was Paul’s message to the Romans regarding whether they should eat a certain food. In fact, the entire chapter is relevant to this and other controversial matters in the church (Halloween, Christmas Trees, certain genres of music, etc). You can just substitute terms like “food” and “eating and drinking” with the disputable topic at hand. Just click on this URL to read the passage for yourself. ---> https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+14
My conclusion is that these games are innocent fun, and it saddens me that many people have been deprived of enjoying these games growing up because of their parents’ lack of critical thinking skills. It also angers me that the outcry has only perpetuated the myth the Christians are stupid, unthinking people who see a demon around every corner, when this only represents a minority of us. I often find myself apologizing to non-Christians and assuring them "We're not all like that." *sigh*. I think the art of critical thinking should be a mandatory teaching in every church.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this article. I'm off to level grind a Slowpoke on Yellow version. If you liked this article, follow Cerebral Faith on Facebook and/or Twitter to keep up with latest entries of this site.