Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:23-27).
We live an age of technology-driven fantasy, and a rapidly-growing number of people live in fantasy worlds.
The human imagination is a gift of God and can be used for good as well as evil, but man’s fallen condition and the existence of dark spiritual powers means there are great dangers in fantasizing.
The first appearance of “imagination” in the Bible is a warning about evil imaginings: “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).
The corruption of the imagination was one of the first steps in the downward slide to idolatry and moral perversion in man’s early history as described in Romans 1. “... when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but BECAME VAIN IN THEIR IMAGINATIONS, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21).
The same thing happens in the lives of individuals. If the imagination becomes perverted, the person’s life will reflect this.
The heart is the source of man’s actions. God’s Word says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life,” and, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 4:23; 23:7).
A fleeting thought is of little consequence, but what the individual allows his mind to dwell upon, what he harbors and nurses in his heart, will determine the course of his life.
This is a loud warning in an age when individuals can connect 24/7 in the most private manner with any and every aspect of the pop culture, and there are a great many dark and perverted things with which one can fill the imagination. In fact, dark and perverted is an apt description of much of today’s music, movies, television programs, video games, and novels.
Jesus warned about gaining the whole world while losing one’s soul. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
What would He say about those who sell their souls for nothing but a figment of the imagination!
Fantasy Science Fiction
Science fiction and the superhero genre of entertainment have grown ever darker, stranger, more sensual and godless, and many people are living a dark fantasy world portrayed in books, movies, video games, and online virtual worlds.
Science fiction has been a godless world since its inception. There might be “a god,” a “force,” but it is not the holy Creator God of the Bible. Many prominent names in science fiction are atheists and haters of Jehovah God.
Carl Sagan, whose best-selling sci-fi novel Contact was made into a movie, was one of the high priests of atheistic evolution. In this novel, he has the main character debating two preachers and saying, “There is no compelling evidence that God exists.” In 1997, Sagan said, “I share the view of a hero of mine, Albert Einstein: ‘I cannot conceive of a god who rewards and punishes his creatures or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves.’ Neither can I--nor would I want to--conceive of an individual that survives his physical death. Let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egotism, cherish such thoughts’” (Parade, March 10, 1997).
Isaac Asimov, in a 1982 interview, said, “Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time” (Paul Kurtz, “An Interview with Isaac Asimov on Science and the Bible,” Free Inquiry, Spring 1982, p. 9).
Only a spiritually-blind man can say there is no evidence for the existence of a Creator God. The evidence is EVERYWHERE!
Robert Heinlein, called “the dean of science fiction writers,” rejected the Bible and encouraged “free sex.” He promoted agnosticism through his sci-fi books.
Arthur Clarke, author of many sci-fi works, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, promoted evolutionary pantheism. He told a Sri Lankan newspaper, “I don’t believe in God or an afterlife” (“Life Beyond 2001: Exclusive Interview with Arthur C. Clarke,” The Island, Dec. 20, 2000).
Kurt Vonnegut was an atheist, and as an honorary president of the American Humanist Association he subscribed to its code which “does not accept supernatural views of reality.”
Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, was an agnostic and humanist who envisioned a world in which “everyone is an atheist and better for it” (Brannon Braga, “Every Religion Has a Mythology,” International Atheist Conference, June 24, 2006).
Ray Bradbury (d. 2012), author of Fahrenheit 451 and the Martian Chronicles, grew up in a Baptist home, but he described himself as “delicatessen religionist.” He was particularly enamored with Buddhism and Eastern religion, even calling himself a “Zen Buddhist.” He was a pantheist and an evolutionist. He considered Jesus a wise prophet, like Buddha and Confucius, a man who became christ through self effort (“Sci-fi Legend Ray Bradbury on God,” CNN, August 2, 2010). Bradbury claimed that when it comes to God, “none of us know anything.” He said, “We must become astronauts and go out into the universe and discover the God in ourselves.”
H.G. Wells, author of such science fiction classics as The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, and The First Man on the Moon, converted to atheistic Darwinism as a college student under the influence of Thomas Huxley (“Darwin’s Bulldog”) and spent the rest of his life preaching atheism and an extreme form of eugenics. He wanted to create a master race through Darwinian survival of the fittest and urged society to have “no pity and less benevolence” toward the inferior. Not surprisingly, he was an early advocate of “free love” and lived a debauched moral life. He was a serial adulterer, even committing adultery with the daughters of his friends. One of his partners in adultery was fellow atheist and eugenist Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. He died an “infinitely frustrated” and broken man, with no hope for the future, neither for himself nor for the human race. This is the result of an attempt to live in a fantasy world without God.
Terry Pratchett was a science fiction/fantasy author who sold more than 85 million books worldwide in 37 languages. The top-selling UK author in 1996, he was best known for the Discword series. Though his influence was large, he was an atheist. He described himself as a humanist and was a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. In his youth he was addicted to reading science fiction and attending science fiction conventions. His favorite authors included H.G. Wells. Pratchett was a proponent of euthanasia, and in 2011 he presented a BBC television documentary Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die. Three years later, he died at age 66, possibly by assisted suicide. A couple of years earlier, he said that he had come to believe that “on the other side of physics, there just may be the ordered structure from which everything flows” (Rob Davies, “Terry Pratchett hints he may have found God,” Daily Telegraph, June 8, 2008). He was quick to say, “This is not about God, but somewhere around there is where gods come from” (Front Row, BBC Radio 4, September 1, 2008).
Science fiction has never been not a spiritually neutral genre, and there are great spiritual dangers in delving into this fantasy world.
The sci-fi superhero genre today is moving ever deeper into dark realms.
Consider James Holmes, who murdered a dozen people and wounded nearly 60 more in a movie theater where Batman: The Dark Knight Rises was premiering. Jesus taught us that murder is an acting out of the impulses of the fallen nature (Mark 7:21-23), and the sin nature can be inflamed. Holmes had dyed his hair red and said he was The Joker, the clownish, ultra-violent enemy of the superhero Batman (“NYC Police Commissioner Said Alleged Shooter Calls Himself The Joker,” Fox News, July 20, 2012).
Today’s Batman comics and movies are worlds apart from the original Batman stories. They are vile and ultra violent. In the 2008 movie Batman: The Dark Night, a man’s face is filleted by a knife, another’s is burned half off, a man’s eye is slammed into a pencil, a bomb is stitched inside of a man and exploded, a man is bound to a chair and set afire, a child is threatened by a man with a melted face, and clowns are shot point-blank in the head. In the comic book “Batman: The Dark Night” The Joker murders an entire television audience.
Thirteen years earlier, not far from where Holmes acted out his perverted fantasies, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 13 and wounded 21 in a public school. They, too, were acting out demonic fantasies that had been enflamed through violent music, video games, and dark movies.
Pop Idol Fantasy
The entire field of pop idols, from Elvis to Justin Bieber, is a fantasy. The pop stars are real people, but their pop idol personas are fantasies created by clever music industry people from Colonel Parker to Johnny Kitagawa.
The latter, head of Johnny & Associates, has been creating pop idol boy bands for 50 years in Japan, the world’s second largest music market. Young men called “Johnny juniors” are carefully chosen and then trained for five years before being placed with other juniors into a boy band. An additional two years is required to train them to perform together and to “act like certified idols” (“Unraveling a fantasy: A beginner’s guide to Japanese idol pop,” AVClub.com, Jul. 18, 2014).
Japanese producer Yasushi Sikmoto has done with girl bands what Kitagawa has done with boy bands.
The ultimate fantasy pop idol is Hatsune Miku. One of the most popular Japanese pop singers of all time, she performed sold-out concerts attended by tens of thousands of screaming fans and opened for Lady Gaga. But she doesn’t exist. One hundred percent fantasy, she is an avatar created by the Japanese company Crypton Future Media. She is projected onstage as a dancing hologram. She is the ultimate scantily-clothed pop singer of youthful fantasy with an unrealistically proportioned figure and a hyper-cute, Manga-influenced face. Girls fantasize that they are Hatsune, and boys fantasize that she is their girlfriend. One fan said, “She’s rather more like a goddess: She has human parts, but she transcends human limitations. She’s the great post-human pop star” (“Hatsune Miku: The world’s fakest pop star,” CBNNews, Nov. 9, 2012). Hatsune Miku is the avatar for Yamaha’s Vocaloid (“vocals plus android”) software which allows anyone to use her voice (actually that of Japanese voice actress Saki Fujita) on their own songs, so the songs performed at her “concerts” are all fan written. More than 100,000 songs have been created and many have gone viral on YouTube and the Japanese equivalent Nico Nico Douga and other forums. Vocaloid “has fostered the rise of a vibrant, nation-spanning community of do-it-yourself musicians, artists, filmmakers, and writers who create their own pop-culture products through the avatar of cartoon girl.” “For fans, creating and sharing content is as much a part of the experience as the singer herself.”
Indeed, Hatsune Miku is the ultimate “me generation” pop star. It is me singing for me and to me, with others participating in my me-fest! The reference by a Hatsune fan to “goddess” is enlightening, because goddess worship is pure fantasy and has always been about the worshiper. Idolatry is all about the pursuit of personal happiness apart from the Creator God.
The heart and soul of pop idol fantasy is sex, as with pop music as a whole. The boys and girls of the idol bands are carefully selected to fit within the current definition of cute and sexy, and the unisex aspect appeals both to “straights” and homosexuals.
“Kawaii [the Japanese idea of cuteness] is deployed to elicit glee from tweens and salaciousness from adult, manga-loving men” (“Unraveling a fantasy: A beginner’s guide to Japanese idol pop,” AVClub.com, Jul. 18, 2014).
Fantasy Digital Worlds
Virtual worlds are hugely popular. More than 15 million people have participated in Second Life alone, the most popular of the many virtual worlds, creating fantasy depictions of themselves, fantasy identities, hanging out at fantasy places, having online fantasy sexual relations, even buying and selling fantasy property.
Players reinvent themselves and “embark on the kind of adventures he or she has always dreamed of.”
The player creates an avatar to represent himself. This began in 2006 with Nintendo’s avatar-building tool in the Wii gaming console. The avatar was called a Mii.
The whole concept of having an avatar “means that you can change everything about yourself; your appearance, your personality, your ethnicity, even your gender.”
You can be a pirate, a knight, a witch, an animal, a combination human-animal, a sex goddess, a superhero, or whatever you can imagine, in a world that doesn’t exist. You can be as strange or as beautiful, as good or wicked, as you please. One gamer said, “It’s like playing god … with yourself.”
The avatar has been called a “mini-me.” Winda Benedetti, a gaming reporter, describes her avatar as physically perfect, with its “flawless hair and skin” and “attractively proportioned” figure on which clothes hang “with a stylish perfection,” remarking, “She’s little more than a cartoon, but still, my mini me--my avatar--I can’t help it, I wish I was her” (“I can’t help it--I wish I were my avatar,” NBC News, Nov. 25, 2008).
In Second Life, there are many different worlds, such as Dynasty of Dragons, Isle of Faerun (“a land of magic”), Midnight Dreams (“a dark role play and combat environment focused on Vampires”), Museum of Magical Arts, Morgan Straits (“a role play community set in the Golden Age of Piracy”), and Remnants of Earth (“a cyberpunk fantasy role playing game”).
Users are drawn into virtual worlds by the offer of free entry levels, but they usually end up spending money, sometimes a lot of money, to purchase entrance into deeper levels and to buy virtual goods. During the first ten years of its existence (2003-2013) Second Life users spent $3.2 billion!
Users become emotionally attached to the virtual worlds. I heard a woman on the Kim Komando computer radio show describe the deep distress she experienced when her virtual world was unplugged by the bankrupt parent company. She had spent a lot of time and money building her virtual paradise, and the highlight of her day was to enjoy it, but it had disappeared overnight.
Avatars can communicate with and interact with other avatars, which often leads to problems in real life. Many marriages have been destroyed when one partner formed a fantasy attachment to an avatar. People have ran away from their families to live with people they met online.
One report on this was “Avatars and Second Life Adultery: A tale of online cheating and real-world heartbreak,” The Telegraph, Nov. 14, 2008.
Multi-player online video games
“Some studies suggest that gaming is absolutely taking over the minds of children all together.”
“Virtual life becomes more appealing than real life.”
Nothing takes over young people’s hearts and minds more than MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing games).
The most addictive games in 2015 are the following: Madden, Dota 2, Grand Theft Auto, Tetris, Candy Crush Saga (the company is valued at $7.5 billion), Minecraft, EverQuest (called “never rest” and “ever crack”), The Sims (player has omnipotent control over people), World of Warcraft (called World of War Crack), Call of Duty (the last two are played by more than 100 million players), Halo 3 (called Halodiction),Total War, Pong, Civilization, Diablo 3, Super Meat Boy, Team Fortress 2, Dark Souls 2, Counter Strike, Starcraft 2, Persona 4 Golden, Monster Hunter 3, Elder Scrolls, Angry Birds, Faster Than Light, Peggle, League of Legends, Civilization V, Pokemon.
Even in remote places like Nepal, gaming is becoming popular. A report on Nepali gamers in the Kathmandu Post (Aug. 29, 2015) was entitled “By Their Bootstraps.” Gaming started in Nepal in internet cafes in 2010. The 2015 Colors E-sports Carnival at the Civil Mall had 500 participants competing at Defense of the Ancients (DOTA), a multi-online battle game.
Fantasy Sports is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry that attracts more than 51 million American participants. Fantasy players spend an average of $465 a year on their fantasies. Two leading fantasy companies, DraftKings and FanDuel, are worth an estimated $1 billion each.
“In fantasy sports a participant creates his own team, selecting players from a real-world sports league like the NBA, National Football League, or England’s Premier League football. As real games are played, a fantasy team competes and is ranked against others based on the actual-game performance of its players” (“Like the real game, fantasy sports now worth billions,” AFP, Jun. 28, 2015).
In Asia, the Manga culture has captured the imaginations of multitudes of young people. (Manga is Japanese; in Korea it is manhwa, and in China it is manhua.) Anime refers to the animation of Manga as television programs and movies.
Manga has had a large influence on Japanese pop culture. It has been said that one cannot understand modern Japan “without understanding the role that manga play in the society.”
Manga is a multi-billion a year industry that has has spread to Europe and America.
Manga refers to comics that come in a wide variety of genre: romance, superhero, superheroine, science fiction, etc.
Manga is popular within a wide variety of society, including children, students, businessmen, and housewives.
Manga stories often mix real world scenes with alien worlds. The characters are normal people with shadow lives via superpowers or robot or alien friends. There is a lot of witchcraft (such as soul migration). There is also a lot of sexual content and homosexuality.
It is fantasy escapism, and it has been described as a “pop cultural obsession.” Manga fans often dress and act like their Manga heroes. They attend Manga conventions. They become fixated on Manga.
One 13-year-old wrote, “I have a problem, I’m addicted to the computer and on the computer all I do is watch anime and read manga and that is what I’m addicted to the most and I stay up all night because of it” (“Anime and Manga Causing Sleep Deprivation”).
Fantasy Romance Novels
Romance novels are the most popular literary genre in America, capturing 55% of book sales, and they appear in 90 languages other than English.
The romance novel exploded in popularity in the 1970s. In 1976, sales reached 40 million copies. By 2008, sales were 74 million.
Many romance novels have a strong sexual content. A recent example is Fifty Shades of Grey, which even delves into sadomasochism. This type of thing has no place in a Christian’s life.
“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints” (Ephesians 5:3).
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).
“These novels were written to be titillating, and I really don’t think there’s a huge difference between this and porn. It’s ‘soft porn,’ and indeed many women find themselves far more aroused by reading something like this than they would be watching porn on a computer. So women who devour novel after novel like that aren’t that much different from men who watch porn all night” (“Romance Novels: Dangerous, Harmless, or Just Fun?” Jan. 16, 2012, tolovehonorandvacuum.com).
Dr. Julia Slattery warns that there are similarities between what happens to a man when he views pornography and what happens to a woman when she reads a romance novel. “There is a neurochemical element with men and visual porn, but an emotional element with women and these novels” (“Romance novels can become addictive,” May 30, 2011, KSL.com).
She is seeing more and more women “who are clinically addicted to romantic books.”
Even G-rated romance novels take the reader into an unrealistic world typically populated by strong, beautiful heroines and handsome, caring men who “fall in love.” They can produce addiction to a fantasy world and dissatisfaction with real life.
In 2011, the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health in Britain reported that romance novels “are a cause of marital breakdown, adulterous affairs and unwanted pregnancies.”
Best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn notes, “[S]ome marriage therapists caution that women can become as dangerously unbalanced by these books’ entrancing but distorted messages as men can be by the distorted messages of pornography.”
As with anything, there is the danger of progression, by starting out with harmless novels and clean Christian romance novels and then branching out.
“I’ve known so many Christian teens who just devoured all the romances in the church library, and then headed to the public library for more, and ended up almost addicted to really steamy stuff” (“Romance Novels: Dangerous, Harmless, or Just Fun?” Jan. 16, 2012, tolovehonorandvacuum.com).
Why Living in a Fantasy World Is Wrong
We are not saying that fiction and fantasy are totally wrong.
I am not saying it is wrong ever to read a novel or watch a harmless movie or play a harmless video game or some such thing.
I am saying that there are great dangers lurking in the realm of fantasy today, as we have documented.
And I am saying it is wrong to live in a fantasy world instead of living in the real world.
This is wrong for the following reasons:
- Reality cannot be escaped; it can only be ignored for a short while. Each individual is a soul made in God’s image and each individual will face God in judgment. “Amusement” refers to non-thinking (a=none, muse=thinking), but all of the amusement and escapism and fantasy and alcohol and drugs in the world will not change the soul’s appointment with God.
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
- Living in a fantasy world can hide the soul from salvation. God loves each sinner and wants to save him before it is too late, but the opportunity for salvation is finite. If an individual choses to live in a fantasy world in this life, he can wile away his opportunity. You won’t find the gospel of Jesus Christ in popular video games, sci fi, manga, pop music, etc.
- Man-made fantasy is an empty, foolish thing compared to the real God and real salvation and real life as God intended it to be lived.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:23-27).
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