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Though Pokemon Go has taken much of the world by storm (despite mixed reviews and attempts at making it illegal in many places), religious debates over whether it is evil and dangerous seems to be brewing in many parts of to the world.
After being launched in Hong Kong on July 25, for example, evangelical groups have warned that the game is addictive and potentially Satanic. An anonymous message being circulated online asks Protestants to pray for Pokemon Go players since the characters were inspired by figurines from Japanese shrines. Thus, playing the game might lead addicts to "play with evil spirits." Even the very name, "Pokemon", has raised concerns given that it is an abbreviation of "Pocket Monster" and some of the characters include "flaming demons" that can be collected and trained to attack other characters.
Along with warning that playing Pokemon could lead to gambling, some religious leaders are also protesting the apparent evolutionary message being pushed by the game's developers as well as the use of symbols deemed offensive to religious such as Islam. For these reasons, an Islamic fatwa has long been in place for the old Pokemon card game whicihhas now been extended to Pokemon Go as well. In handing down the fatwa, Islamic leaders denounced the Pokemon Go as a "dangerous mania."
A recent article published on religious site, Charisma News, supports the idea that Pokemon Go is satanic and draws a comparison between the current craze and the Harry Potter craze years ago. In much the same way that Harry Potter introduced children to the occult, Pokemon Go is seen as another powerful lure for the occult. The article goes on the say that "[Pokemon Go] conditions the child who plays the game into accepting occult and evolutionary principles. Haunter can hypnotize, eat a person's dreams and drain their energy. Abra reads minds. Kadabra emits negative energy that harms others. Gastly induces sleep. Gengar laughs at peoples' fright. Nidoran uses poison. The psychic type of Pokemon are among the strongest in the game. Charmander, Haunter, Ivysaur, Kadabra and many more evolve. The children are taught to use these creatures to do their will by invoking colored energy cards, fights and commands. Much of it is reminiscent of occult and eastern mysticism."
But the game may have its positive side as well according to some religious commentators. In an interview with South China Morning Post, Reverend Sam Chung Shu-sum, senior pastor at Assemblies of God West Post Church reported receiving warning messages about the game but still suggests that Pokemon Go can used to gain more converts for Hong Kong's churches. “There are Christians talking about not playing the game ... and I agree that you can choose not to play it to avoid getting addicted,” Chung said. “But while new [trends] are always attractive or even potentially addictive, Christians could also make good use of them.” This can include using "lures" to attract rare Pokemon which, in turn, can lead to more people coming to church services and possibly including religious messages into the game itself as a form of advertisement.
With an estimated 100 million downloads worldwide and the ongoing social media frenzy surrounding Pokemon Go, the religious debate over the pros and cons of playing the game will likely drag on for quite a while. In the meantime, players show little interest in the religious furor their gaming inspires. If Pokemon Go really does condition their minds to accept occultism and evolution, then at least they'll have some fun along the way.
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