Thursday, January 20, 2011

Criticizing what he doesn't understand

Most sensible people will at least do a little research into a topic before they offer their opinion on it in writing. Mormon blogger William Monahan however is not burdened by the need for pesky things like facts and accurate information and instead chooses to dive in head first, armed only with vague notions and shoddy straw-man images of what he's attacking. The result reads more like a parody of conservative Mormonism than anything else. Let's take a look at Mr. Monahan's mental meanderings for a good laugh.

Please note, the use of text from his writing constitutes fair use under US law.

A world crazy for magic and divination will ultimately reject the majesty of the divine.

Tell that to devotees of Catholic Mystics.
While loveable vampires, werewolves and the Harry Potter craze may be titillating broomstick fiction, their supernatural romps are anything but super.

There is a reason for the exploding popularity of 1-800-PSYCHICS and the invasion of ghouls, magic and wizards. Predictably, the natural man substitutes the mystical for his Maker, growing fat on his own self-pleasing conceit. Thus conceited, he is free to cannibalize fantasy for faith.

The main problem with this bold assertion is that is presumes that people who are turning to Twilight and Harry Potter for entertainment are necessarily turning away from God in the process. Unless Monahan offers some actual evidence that this is the case, he might as well be attacking NASCAR or random prime time television programs for luring people away from God. The mere fact that a particular form of entertainment does not explicitly glorify God does not mean it is drawing you away from God.

Dungeons and Dragons

Some years ago I set apart a young man for full-time missionary service. Within two days of his arrival at the Missionary Training Center, he had to be sent home. He was suffering withdrawal symptoms from an addiction to "Dungeons and Dragons," a popular video game. Because he was engrossed in levels of magic, he was unable to level his focus on the magic of his mission.

I call bullshit on this claim. For starters calling Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) a video game makes it clear Monahan doesn't even know what D&D is. I'll give Monahan the benefit of the doubt and assume he's talking about a computer game that's either based upon D&D or is at least somewhat wizard and orc related, as opposed to something sci-fi related. Second, what kind of "withdrawal" is he talking about?

The "levels of magic" line is an early clue to just how poorly Monahan understands what he's attacking. It's the first indication that he doesn't understand the difference between fantasy and reality. He does not appear to realize that people who play Dungeons and Dragons aren't actually learning magic spells. They aren't actually summoning demons and the books about the game do not give directions on how to do either. This fundamental misunderstanding will be reinforced in the rest of his essay.

Sadly, some fans of the dark arts get sucked into the occult. They confuse mysticism with miracle, and spiritualism with spirituality. Perhaps their days would be better spent searching the scriptures than groping cobwebbed halls and creaky staircases.

Ahh, here we see the problem. Monahan is one of this ignorant idiots who, knowing nothing about role playing games other than what his pastor told him, is convinced that playing D&D means you learn actual magic spells. He's equating computer games with trying to learn magic. This is a bit like claiming all churches crucify a parishioner at Good Friday services, or that the NBA beheads the coach of the losing team, just like the Aztec game that inspired Basketball.

The next section of his ramblings, "The evolution of horror and the occult" is nothing more than a list of a few horror movies. Aside from a few template claims like "Taro readings were common and Ouija boards dotted the teenage party scene" there isn't much of interest there.

When the seedy creeps from the shadows

What was once reserved for drunken sailors and seedy dives is now mainstream
Wait, is he about to diverge from attacking D&D to claim public intoxication and syphilis riddled whores are now mainstream?

Sadly, no, but such a claim would make more sense than the rest of his essay.
Like all things seedy, vampires and wizards operate best from the shadows. They are repelled by the sunlight. Perhaps that is why millions of fans line up at the box office at midnight. Enough of vampires.

Does this guy think vampires are real? He seems to think D&D players are learning real magic. Does he think vampires are real too?

Where are the dentists? It's common sense: no pointy eyeteeth, no blood sucking forays into innocent necks.

That was random. I'm sure it made sense in his wee little head. Seriously, what point is he trying to make with that line?

And wizards? I'd rather fight evil with the character of Christ than a novelist's flawed characters.

Of course a novelist's characters are flawed. Perfect characters who never make mistakes are BORING to read about. Monahan seems to have real trouble separating entertainment from reality. D&D players are not ACTUALLY trying to fight demons. "Lord of the Rings" fans are not ACTUALLY trying to smuggle gold rings into volcanoes with the aid of wizards who have a tendency to die and come back with cooler clothing.
Pop culture is on the move

Pop culture is always on the move, but the motion sickness can make even the elect of God queasy. Just because something gyrates for attention doesn't mean we should pay attention.

Clearly, Monahan is not a Lady GaGa fan.

All kidding aside, this is more an issue of a youth oriented culture than anything demonic or occult. The youth oriented culture tends to annoy most people over the age of 35, but trying to cast that cultural flaw as an epic battle between good and evil is misleading. It's also idiotic and will do nothing to resolve the problem.

The net result of a world thirsting to mainstream the seedy is an unquenchable thirst for more, thus parching the seeds of faith.

Here we see that Monahan is apparently ignorant of Biblical text. After Jonah was vomited up by the sea creature that swallowed him, he went on to, against his will, minster to what was allegedly one of the most evil cities around. You know what they did? They repented. If Monahan was any kind of an evangelist he'd see a culture awash in pleasures of the flesh as a fertile ground. If worldly pleasures really are as spiritually empty as Monahan is likely to have been taught, then the current culture is one ripe for God's word. In a world of drowning people, Monahan is complaining that people need life preservers while sitting on a stack of them.

This guy appears to be more interested in complaining about there being un-Mormon entertainment in the world than doing anything to try and save souls. I have a quick tip for Monahan, spewing a bunch of nonsense that misrepresents the people you're trying to save is NOT going to win anyone over, it just makes you look like an ignorant, hypocritical ass.

The prophets warn

For centuries the prophets have warned us against magic, divination and the occult. "There shall not be found among you any that ... useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch ... or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord. ..." (Duet.18:10-12)

If Dungeons and Dragons players or horror movie fans were actually trying to cast spells or summon demons that verse might have been relevant. All Monahan has managed to do here is alienate anyone who actually HAS played Dungeons and Dragons. They know from personal experience that Monahan's essay is nonsense.

The sad byproduct of a world entranced by magic, vampires and ghosts is the more we assault the senses, the less sensitive we become to holy sensations.

Fans of the genre cannot escape God's warnings by claiming vicarious thrills in fiction.

They can however dismiss Monahan, as he does not appear to understand the difference between reading a fiction book about witches and deciding to gut a cat and try to read it's entrails to see who will win the next Superbowl. Watching "The Witches of Eastwick" is not the start of a slippery slope that will lead to you getting knocked up by a demon. Most people can tell the difference between entertainment and reality. Those who cannot have mental disorders that need to be treated.

Warning to parents

Parents who wink at mystical fantasy as "innocent fun" may be closing a blind eye to the not so innocent. There is something irresistible to our youth about escaping reality, and when they do, fantasy can become their unintended jailer.

Citation needed. I want to see the psychology research that shows playing Dungeons and Dragons leads to people rejecting the religion with which they were raised. I want some actual data and not the ramblings of a man who can't be bothered to differentiate between watching a horror movie and summoning a demon.

By guiding our children’s interests to an abiding interest in the divine, they avoid the shadows where bad things happen.

Ahh, the "Bury their head in the sand" guide to parenting. Instead of raising kids who can deal with the real world, they raise kids who are often shattered when they venture beyond the safe borders of the social playpen their parents construct.

I'm sorry, but I want my son to be able to deal with the real world, not hide from it.

Mysticism is not miracle, and howling for the undead is not a prayer for life eternal.
Again, we see that Monahan can't tell the difference between entertainment and active participation in the occult. His inability to differentiate between fantasy and reality is troubling.

While we can't protect our youth from every devious thing the world offers, we can offer the armor of God in the safety of a gospel-centered home.

Here we are near the end of Monahan's drivel an he has yet to actually give people a reason to see D&D as a threat, other than his inability to separate fantasy from reality.

The power of prayer, the sacrifice of service, the iron will of the iron rod: These are things that produce faith leading to Jesus.

These things are not magic, but their transforming effect is truly magical

I know plenty of Christian and Jewish people who play Dungeons and Dragons. It has not hurt their faith that I can see. Of course, unlike Monahan, they're capable of separating reality from fantasy.
William Monahan is a 1980 graduate of BYU Law School. He practices law in Gilbert, Ariz. A former Phoenix stake president, he serves on the high council for the Queen Creek Chandler Heights Stake.

That's right, this drivel was brought to us by a graduate of the The Brigham Young University Law School. It looks like Monahan has lived in a Mormon cocoon for his entire life. You'd think a lawyer would want to actually learn something about what he's attacking before he attacks it. I hope whatever Monahan does with his law degree involves more competent research than his babbling about religion.

1 comment:

Matthew Miller said...

Ahh, another comment from the mentally unsound Dennis Markuze. Here Dennis Markuze appears to have forgotten that I am NOT Michael Shermer. For those unfamiliar, Dennis Markuze has been making death threats against atheists including Michael Shermer.