Which fantasy is hurting America more?


Oh gosh. We know what to blame for our current situation now. Fantasy Role-Playing Is Hurting America! I heard this same claim back in the 1970s, although usually the argument was that it was the Satanic imagery that was going to invoke occult forces. This guy takes a different tack — he’s going to invoke Steve Bannon as an authority. I prefer the occult forces.

Senior points to a 2018 documentary in which Bannon explains to a filmmaker how, when working in the internet gaming industry, he was surprised to learn just how many people are devoted to playing multiplayer online games. Bannon interprets this intensity through the grid of a hypothetical man, Dave from accounts payable, in the days after his death.

“Some preacher from a church or some guy from a funeral home who’s never met him does a 10-minute eulogy, says a few prayers. And that’s Dave,” Bannon says. He contrasts this boring, real-life Dave from accounts payable with Dave’s online gaming persona: Ajax. Ajax is tough and warlike. When he dies in the fantasy, there’s a funeral pyre and thousands of people come to mourn Ajax the Warrior.

“‘Now, who’s more real?’ Bannon asks. Dave in Accounting? Or Ajax?” Senior writes. Bannon realizes that “some people—particularly disaffected men—actively prefer and better identify with the online versions of themselves.”

OK, this isn’t very interesting or surprising. Yes, people can be inspired by stories, can identify with a cause greater than themselves. This has always been true. It’s not unique to video games, but has been the foundation of religious and political movements for millennia. It’s just that occasionally someone decides that finding identity in a cause is bad when they dislike the cause (like videogames), while simultaneously saying that finding identity is a cause is good when it’s something they like (like Christianity). This article is the same old story — video games bad, Christianity good, therefore the only problem is which fantasy you choose to follow.

I can at least credit the author for realizing he could be walking into a trap. Why isn’t his Christian fantasy also dangerously seductive and misleading people’s lives? Easy. Because Christianity is different.

Yet the way of Jesus is quite different. A Christian vision of heaven is not Valhalla with wine (or grape juice) instead of mead. Valhalla—and almost every other pagan vision of an afterlife—looks backward. It’s the echo and celebration of the warrior’s success in the life that was.

The kingdom of God doesn’t find meaning there. It brings meaning by joining our stories with an altogether different narrative—the story of Jesus. His life is our life. His glory is our glory. And Jesus redefines what wisdom and power really are—by embracing an object found most baffling by the Romans and other pagans of his day: the cross.

When we start to really understand and embody that in our churches, maybe fewer Daves will find their identities in either accounts payable or Ajax online. Maybe more of them will see that there’s glory in the ordinary, in giving your life away for the people you love.

Except…he’s still saying that believing in religion is a way to find “glory”. It’s still a tool to trick people into thinking their mundane lives can be made “glorious” by layering on a belief in a fantasy. Maybe also he should take a look at some of the Christian iconography out there — these would fit perfectly into the imagery of a fantasy role playing game.

If World of Warcraft and Dungeons & Dragons are hurting America, I think a better case could be made that the biggest role playing game of them all, evangelical Christianity, is destroying the country.

Comments

  1. wzrd1 says

    I’ve spent the past week in a shelter. Notable was a reference book on the “life counselors” library shelf comparing the evangelical and fundamentalist communities. I’ll likely borrow it, assuming I can acquire a set of reading glasses.

  2. Artor says

    Most of the people I know who are into fantasy roleplaying are fully aware that it’s a fantasy. They can separate the land of make-believe from the real world. Far too many Christians are not able to tell the difference between their fantasies and reality. It’s a serious problem that all too often leads to misery and death.

  3. Akira MacKenzie says

    I heard this same claim back in the 1970s, although usually the argument was that it was the Satanic Satanic imagery that was going to invoke occult forces.

    At least they’re no longer blaming literal demons. Evidently shrieking about “spiritual warfare” and “devil, devils everywhere” just doesn’t have the weight it used to.

    Diabolic influences or no, this is just standard operating procedure for totalitarian creeps, especially the religious ones. Everything you say, do, and think MUST glorify the Cause, the Great Leader, or, in this case, the almighty, infallible, deity who will make sure you are tortured forever if you do otherwise. To these clods, fantasy or science fiction is competition and, as anyone who has cracked open a history book can tell you, Christianity doesn’t like competitors.

  4. says

    Except…he’s still saying that believing in religion is a way to find “glory”

    But…PZ!!! This is about finding glory for someone else instead of finding your own. Yeah, you get to celebrate in that other’s glory, but it’s still totally different and an obviously critical difference! Why don’t you understand?

    Seriously, now, it makes no sense to me, either. Especially when it was noted a lot of people play online. So they may be playing in teams and, thus, helping others to achieve glory and not just out for themselves. If they were out for themselves, they could just play single player games. (Though…I suppose some might be seeking praise from other human beings rather than a NPC.)

  5. says

    The thing about WoW is we always knew it was a game. Christians? Not so much. Imagine if I went around telling people I knew what the Lich King wanted… they’d pat me on the head. The big difference between D&D and religion is WE KNOW IT’S NOT REAL.

  6. heffe7 says

    Jezzuuzzz… Yeah, Bannon is who I’m gonna turn to when I want to seek guidance. This guy is like a zit that needs to be popped.
    Christianity (+ other abraham religions) was created and fabricated by bronze age men in order to control other people. And the christian right in American loves to control. F em. It’s time to ripe of the band aid.
    “This country ISN’T your church, your church is your church..” — Brian Tyler Cohen

  7. says

    If they were out for themselves, they could just play single player games.

    In The Fuel Rats we did hard missions specifically because they were more challenging, therefore stressed our skills to the limit. The fun was that it was hard, and we were helping others. But mostly that it was hard. It was a pretty existentialist bunch. Glory is service.

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    … he’s going to invoke Steve Bannon as an authority. I prefer the occult forces.

    Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe.

  9. raven says

    Oh gosh. We know what to blame for our current situation now. Fantasy Role-Playing Is Hurting America!

    I thought it was the gays, you know those Superhuman people who can destroy the USA just by existing. Or was it gay marriage. Abortion. Marijuana. Rock Music. TV. Atheists. Lack of prayer in schools. Integration. Trans. Scientists. Muslims. Liberals. Commies.

    Maybe it was none of the above.
    We have many current problems and they might have multiple real causes.
    The Covid-19 virus pandemic is due to a natural cause, a virus crossing species and evolving.
    The current inflation is due the pandemic, the Fed increasing the money supply a lot, and supply chain problems creating shortages.
    The war in Ukraine is due to Russia in general and Putin in particular being imperialistic, genocidal maniacs out of the Dark Ages of our recent past.
    The current attack on US democracy is due to oligarchies being oligarchies and driving for monopoly power to get and keep ever more money.
    Etc.

    Our real problems have real causes and real solutions.

  10. kingoftown says

    I like how they thought the crusader knight didn’t have enough cross imagery so they stuck a hood ornament on his head. I wonder if the artist realises that a number of crusades were against Christians and their beliefs are probably heretical in many ways to a 12th century Catholic, so they belong in the rabble below the knight with everyone else.

  11. birgerjohansson says

    Viktor Orban is role-playing Southern governor*.
    He does not want any ‘race-mixing’. .
    * or maybe a European bloke from Austria?
    .
    The real superpowers are in breasts. Remember “boobquake”.

  12. JM says

    @9 raven: The thing is in imaginary worlds the solutions are usually easily found and straightforward to do. You may not understand why the Sacred Wizard needs tails from 100 skeletal ratfolk but once you collect enough he casts a spell that destroys the undead hoard. Problem solved until the quest is reset for somebody else. Or if your Christian you don’t understand why you need to pray to increase God’s glory but once he has enough the gays go away or something, same idea.
    In the real world problems often have messy borders and occasionally arguments over which things are problems and which are not. The solutions tend to be even worse, with multiple potential solutions but no guarantee that any will actually fix the problem. Complicated further by political arguments and budgetary constraints.
    Real problems have real solutions but they are rarely neat. This is one of the appeals of RPGs and computer games.

  13. raven says

    Viktor Orban is role-playing Southern governor*.
    He does not want any ‘race-mixing’. .

    Which is absurd.

    The Hungarians are a classic example of race mixing.

    Who are Hungarian ancestors?
    Their original composition probably included Iranian and Turkish people, while other populations were already present in the territory (Avars, Slavs, Germans). Some of the Hungarian ethnic groups claim to be descendants of ancient Magyars settlers (such as the Orség), others of Huns, Turks or Iranians.

    Probable ancestors of Hungarian ethnic groups: an admixture analysis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

    The Hungarians are a mixture of various Asian groups with various middle eastern and European groups. The language itself is Finno-Ugric from Central Asia.

    Orban makes Hungary look bad.
    He is about the only EU head who supports the Russians. This is despite Hungary being a Russian captive state for decades and the Russians coming in with tanks in 1956 to keep them from breaking away.

  14. says

    The kingdom of God doesn’t find meaning there. It brings meaning by joining our stories with an altogether different narrative—the story of Jesus. His life is our life. His glory is our glory. And Jesus redefines what wisdom and power really are—by embracing an object found most baffling by the Romans and other pagans of his day: the cross.

    Absolute glurdge. At least fantasy-games have actual narratives grounded in the imagined world.

    And what’s all that rubbish about “the cross” being “baffling” to anyone? It was an instrument of painful execution, and everyone knew how it worked, because it was meant to show everyone how it worked. And why would ROMANS find it baffling? They’re the ones using it to deter uprisings against their rule! There’s nothing “baffling” about it, except in the fantasy-world of loony Christians who want to believe their every word and symbol is some sort of overpowering mystery/enigma that leaves all the unbelievers dumbstruck and totally in awe of this incredible new worldview thingie.

    “Some preacher from a church or some guy from a funeral home who’s never met him does a 10-minute eulogy, says a few prayers. And that’s Dave,” Bannon says. He contrasts this boring, real-life Dave from accounts payable with Dave’s online gaming persona: Ajax. Ajax is tough and warlike. When he dies in the fantasy, there’s a funeral pyre and thousands of people come to mourn Ajax the Warrior.

    The story doesn’t say that Dave quit his AP job to play Ajax all day, which pretty clearly undermines the whole point of Bannon’s story. Dave never forgot that his real-world needs were real, and never confused fantasy with reality. So where was the huge problem with fantasy-games again? Doctrinaire Christians make the worst storytellers, both because “The Greatest Story Ever Told” was a terrible example for them, and because they’re too far out of touch with reality to tell a story that’s relatable to people in the real world.

  15. says

    The Hungarians are a classic example of race mixing…

    True. But then again, there was also a lot of race-mixing in the most deeply racist states in the USA. So there maybe a connection here.

  16. Susan Montgomery says

    I thought the God Squad’s annual “GEAMZ R BAD!!1!” moral panic didn’t hit until the Christmas shopping season. Are they getting it out of the way early to focus on the 1/6 hearings in October?

  17. PaulBC says

    Would you like to know what kinda conversation goes on [in Discord when they’re playing those games.] They be tryin’ out Bevo, tryin’ out cubebs Tryin’ out Tailor Mades like cigarette fiends And braggin’ all about how they’re gonna cover up A tell-tale breath with Sen-Sen

    And the next thing you know Your son is playing for money in a pinch-back suit And listenin’ to some big outta town jasper Hearin’ him tell about horse race gamblin’

    I don’t worry about fantasy. I do worry about the military using games as a recruiting tool as they’ve been doing for decades. Bannon may not be a genius, but I’m sure he’s aware of this. Hypocritical asshole.

    Anyway we all know Wordle is the real threat, luring innocent kids away from virtuously learning to spin cubes in their heads towards a life of decadent word-mongering. Weren’t we just discussing this?

  18. PaulBC says

    Akira MacKenzie@3

    At least they’re no longer blaming literal demons.

    Or are they just embarrassed to say it out loud?

  19. StevoR says

    @3. Akira MacKenzie : “At least they’re no longer blaming literal demons.”

    Actually, I’m pretty sure plenty of the Christianists still do that too.

  20. Morgan says

    I think a better case could be made that the biggest role playing game of them all, evangelical Christianity, is destroying the country.

    This is an idea Slacktivist has explored at length – that a tremendous amount of culture war, moral panic stuff boils down to people who want to see themselves as heroes fighting against a terrible evil making up demons and casting the people around them in those roles, instead of identifying real problems and doing the hard work to actually tackle them. The Satanic Panic, anti-D&D hysteria that imagine players are being seduced into “real magic”, the demonization of abortion as bloodthirsty baby-murder, the conspiratorial thinking that frames all your political enemies as manifestations of the same all-powerful shadowy evil, and now Q-Anon, Pizzagate, etc. – it’s all in part based on wanting to just make up the worst people possible so that you can feel good opposing them, without having to do any real work.

  21. cartomancer says

    Why would someone called Ajax get a Viking funeral? Ajax is a Greek name, so it would be a Homeric Greek funeral for such a character. No burning longships, just funeral games and animal sacrifices. And he would not be expecting Valhalla, he would be expecting Hades – which, as we all know from the time Odysseus visited in the Odyssey, is a rather grey, boring affair and not at all a good bargain after a life of heroic action. Achilles was very disappointed with the place.

    Incidentally, both Aiantes in the Iliad ended up dying horrible deaths for their impiety. Ajax son of Telamon killed himself with Hector’s sword after losing to Odysseus in the competiion for Achilles’ armour, such was his rage, and Telamon son of Oileus was struck down by Athena and Poseidon for desecrating the temple of the former and refusing to acknowledge the power of the latter. You don’t want to go using people called Ajax as examples of fantastical death customs.

    But it is rather telling that someone like Bannon would confuse two real cultures’ mythic traditions in a piece about fantasy.

    Mind you, Wight Supremacists are generally treated as the bad guys in traditional fantasy stories, so I can see why he is a little upset with the genre. As Trump’s very own Grima Wormtongue he is rather asking for it.

  22. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 20 & 21

    Oh, I’m absolutely certain that the rank-and-file believers still do, I just found it odd that Christianity Today would attribute a social trend they disliked to earthly reason rather than a supernatural one.

  23. says

    I know of a church family who has a lot of fantasy and role playing games and books on their shelves at their house along with the notorious young earth creation books directly responsible for forcing me into this horrible, false young earth ideology through my younger brother who brought them to my old house for me to borrow for awhile. (To be honest, I didn’t personally asked the family to borrow them. It was my brother who went and borrowed them for me to look at when he told them how much I love dinosaurs and they offered to let me to borrow those books for awhile if I’m interested in looking at them for awhile. My brother told me about them and asked if I be interested in borrowing them and I said ‘yes’ to borrowing them, unaware of what dinosaur books they really were. I assumed they’re no different than any dinosaur book I often checked out from the school and public library for me to enjoy looking at. Big mistake. I was wrong. They weren’t.) and my mom who tried to forcefully “indoctrinate” me into embracing it in spite of them being full of cherry-picked, out of context Bible verses, lies, fabrications, projections of the authors behind the books themselves, and falsehoods.

    I had to struggle with it for 30 years until recently, when I started making comparisons between YEC and the infamous TFG’s horrible lifestyle and “Presidency” and most recently read a ton of articles from the Righting America website that really helped me to make sense of it all and acknowledge creationism to be exactly what I have known be all along – an absolute pure Christian fantasy no different than any other sci-fi, religious fantasy out there, and what you see in many science fiction books, movies, TV, video and role playing games.

    It’s a lot like what you see at Dumb Idiot Ham’s putrid attractions in Kentucky full of elements heavily borrowed from every form of sci-fi fantasy, history, mythology, and archaeology genres to create a make believe, non-existing pseudo-history right up there with The Lost Cause, American Tall Tale stores (i.e. Paul Bunyan and George Washington chopping down his father’s favorite cherry tree), Atlantis, Aryan Nation, and other ancient and modern myths.

  24. Akira MacKenzie says

    “‘Now, who’s more real?’ Bannon asks. Dave in Accounting? Or Ajax?” Senior writes. Bannon realizes that “some people—particularly disaffected men—actively prefer and better identify with the online versions of themselves.”

    Hey! We can’t help it if mere mortal imaginations can come up with a cooler, more appealing and wonderous worlds than your supposedly “perfect” and all-powerful space tyrant ever seemed to be able to.

  25. PaulBC says

    David MacMillan, former young earth creationist, used to post quite a bit to Panda’s Thumb, and he made a point about how the YEC view of the antediluvian world had many elements of a fantasy universe (aside from the obvious one of being a complete fantasy) complete with fanboys, among which he once counted himself. Some of this is conveyed in Ken Ham’s ridiculous dioramas, but as I recall, MacMillan described it colorfully as “steampunk Babylon” with technologies such as airships that did not survive the Great Flood. I am now at a loss to explain why this is important to the mythos, but it made sense at the time.

    Anyway [pauses to adjust the onion hanging stylishly from his belt] wouldn’t the obvious response in keeping with the other rightwing religion (worship of the free market) be to compete with your own set of fantasy role playing games set in the evil but ingenious antediluvian work shortly before God wiped it all out? It would be an opportunity to make an insane worldview engaging to kids, instead of boring them with Bible study, and you’d turn a nice profit too. I mean, there’s absolutely no reason “Heroes of Genesis” couldn’t be done up Percy Jackson style with a franchise of books, movies, and games. Do these people have no imagination at all?

  26. PaulBC says

    My son is home for the summer after his first year at college. He wears many hats… or at least three. One, he’s taking a summer transfer course to get ahead on a prerequisite for next year. Two, he has a food service job to earn some spending money. Three, he does some online gaming in the time he isn’t working or studying. I don’t know much about it, but it’s nothing I wouldn’t have done at his age.

    Remarkably, he keeps all these things straight. He doesn’t challenge the burritos to fights. He doesn’t cast spells to complete his homework assignments. He doesn’t ask his gaming buddies when his shift ends and how many hours he has next week.

    Pretty incredible, ya know, and I am so proud of him. Somehow his brain is entirely capable of switching context. That must be an exceptionally rare skill or so I am led to believe.

  27. says

    PaulBC: Maybe such a game would have a flavor like that of that Gotham City prequel series — the one that supposedly covers the time between Bruce Wayne’s parents getting killed and the emergence of Batman.

    The problem, of course, is that: a) everyone playing the game would know how it ends no matter what anyone does; and b) the good Christian game designers would be torn between trying to make it interesting to players and showering disdain on all the sinful human materialistic achievements that God would soon wipe out in his all-encompassing wrath. Like I said before, Christians are horrible storytellers.

  28. drew says

    Too many orcs! I’ll cast a “Summon Bannon!”

    They way many people play RPGs is disturbing, actually. Given the freedom to behave any way they like, they play to inflict harm on people they deem lesser and to try to collect the most/best loot. Honestly, I’d be less bothered by a session of pedophiles working through their fantasies in game form – at least that would be some kind of harm reduction.

  29. whheydt says

    Re: Leo Buzalsky @ #4…
    Game companies get a lot of push-back from gamers in MMORPGs when they make critical path quests require grouping. You’d be surprised at how many people prefer to solo–or duo with a specific other player (e.g. couples)–through the games.

    Re: submoron @ #9…

    Christian mythology MMORPGs have been tried. They tend to fall flat on their faces. Probably because the can’t refrain from proselytizing heavily.

    So, okay… This again. Since I’m involved in running a table-top gaming convention (I run ConReg for DunDraCon), it’ll be interesting if we have to deal with any of this next February. Assuming these clowns have that long an attention span.

    I’d guess the real reason this has cropped up again is that all of the other possible “Others” they’ve been going after have pushed back strongly enough that they aren’t safe targets any more.

  30. PaulBC says

    Raging Bee@31

    The problem, of course, is that: a) everyone playing the game would know how it ends no matter what anyone does;

    My first thought is “rescue by extraterrestrials” but I guess that would kind of undermine the premise.

    The ancient astronauts must’ve really been pissed to see all their work wrecked in a flood like that. Except the pyramids of course.

    What I find interesting about the evangelical Great Flood mythology is that it’s basically the Atlantis myth except that it’s “Good riddance to those evil, decadent Atlantians.” instead of seeing it as a loss of an ancient and wise civilization.

    Anyway, this is off topic, but I think it’s an indictment of evangelicals’ lack of imagination that they can’t maintain youth engagement and have to resort to complaining about game playing. I mean, I would love to see more kids doing combinatorial puzzles than fantasy games, and I do find the former engaging (and so do some kids I imagine). But you don’t see me whining about it. The appeal of role playing is very clear. It’s fun and harmless if you distinguish it from your real life (which granted is not a universal skill but everything has its hazards).

  31. billmcd says

    Yeah, I have to admit, I think he’s onto something here. Fantasy role-playing is endangering America and undermining its institutions. But it’s not the fantasy role-playing of RPGs. RPGs, especially MMOs, have rules.

    The fantasies being role-played out to the endangerment of us all are the ones of the 101st Keyboard Commandos, desperate for a Red Dawn scenario that will let them ‘Save Mur’ca from Teh Leftists!’ Because there are no rules. There’s no acknowledge arbiter of what’s true and what’s not who isn’t just another player in the game.

    These assholes are LARPing without ever obeying one of the basic rules of LARPing: Respect the folks who aren’t playing.

  32. PaulBC says

    The idea of QAnon as LARP has been explored already. That was a link I just found now, but I remember reading other articles about it. I remember before Pokemon Go was a brief craze, Niantic came out with Ingress, intended to mix reality with a conspiracy-theory game (as I understand it). I guess we don’t need a gaming company to do it any more. It’s all around us.

  33. Louis says

    My bump of trouble/bullshit gland is being stimulated by this.

    Bannon’s community, his army, the people he has deliberately courted are disaffected men. The gaming community is the early source of recruits for the radicalisation pipeline from which Bannon’s racist (etc) foot soldiers emerge. Via misogyny/gamer bros, fandom “complaints” (ZOMG A BLACK CHARACTER!) etc.

    This is some spurious strategy.

    Louis

  34. PaulBC says

    Maybe the goal of the antediluvian gaming universe would be to smuggle notes aboard Noah’s Ark, or a map to some durable treasure that would not have been destroyed by the Great Flood. I mean, there’s nothing in Genesis says they didn’t, right?

    I’m not sure how well-established it is that religious kids have more difficulty establishing fact from fiction but one element of appreciating fantasy is the ability to stretch your mind and imagine all kinds of interesting things whether they exist or not. This may explain the difficulty of evangelicals have matching the engagement of fantasy worlds, whether it’s books, movies, or gaming.

    Finally, I didn’t read carefully the first time. Is that Steve Bannon lecturing us on the “the way of Jesus”? Now I’ve seen everything.

  35. birgerjohansson says

    You reminded me of the GAM episode “The Unexpected Bar Mitzva” about a Christian film where Harry Potter books are seen as ‘demonic’.
    Also, as the Jewish kid converts to Christianity he is granted healing powers, and his entire family cheerfully converts (vomiting noise).

  36. PaulBC says

    Could evangelicals even manage a decent escape room? Most likely, you’d solve some boring puzzles (maybe matching things to Bible verses) and then the final twist would be: there is no escape except through Jesus. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6) and you’d get out if prayed really hard no matter how you did in the actual game.

  37. birgerjohansson says

    Flood myths:
    I recommend the book “The Flood Before Noah”
    .
    I do NOT recommend the Christian film “Noah’s Shark”.

  38. PaulBC says

    birgerjohansson@39 That does sound awful. I am having trouble connecting the dots between Harry Potter and Judaism (though I can readily see how the goblin bankers have been interpreted as an anti-semitic stereotype, particularly in the movies).

    They could have gone for a catchier title, like “A Bar Mitzvah Bar None”.

  39. Susan Montgomery says

    @37 It’s possible that gaming – online or off – scratches the itches for danger, adventure and purpose a little too well. Those are things that cultists like Bannon offer disaffected people after all. Call it a Violent Passion Surrogate, if you will. The person who’s found belonging in a guild, who’s found purpose and excitement in an elaborate fantasy isn’t going to be leaving the house and marching all over the place.

    And, people do find the direct and tangible relationship between effort and reward that so often eludes us hard to give up for an unlikely heaven.

  40. raven says

    Flood myths:
    I recommend the book “The Flood Before Noah”

    Our library doesn’t have that one. It does have:

    The ark before Noah : decoding the story of the flood
    by Finkel, Irving L.

    Which looks like a good book to read.

  41. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 42

    Oh, the movie doesn’t claiming that the Jews think Harry Potter is diabolical, the Christian child=hero and his conservative Jew neighbor that the former is trying to convert come to that conclusion after they receive prophecies from Gawd himself. The movie’s plot essentially boils down to “friends don’t let friends be Jewish.”

  42. PaulBC says

    Akira MacKenzie@45 I guessed that, but Harry Potter still seems like strange fit for the plot. Anyway, I will not be watching it to find out.

  43. blf says

    @18, “I thought the God Squad’s annual “GEAMZ R BAD!!1!” moral panic…”

    I originally read that as The Mod Squad, which was the name of an early-1970s detective series about a group of hippies recruited as unarmed(!) police. My memories of the show are dim, but don’t (now) recall it as being too cringe-inducing. My (very) dim memory is assorted self-important people got their panties into a twist about the series — hippies! in the police!! one’s even Black!!! with an Afro!!!! … — a “moral panic”, etc., etc.

  44. unclefrogy says

    the contrast of those types of images and the judgemental punishing attitudes that go along with them and the turn the other cheek, Judge not, that ye be not judged. message of the christ is one of the main reasons I had such a hard time believing in the church.
    it just turns it all into hypocritical BS and i am sure that my reaction is not in any way unusual yes it is a problem and an important one .

  45. GMBigKev says

    @13 Aachen on the Plains:

    That’s because it is – that’s Greg Staples’ version of Serra Angel, first printed in 9th Edition 17 years ago.

  46. Susan Montgomery says

    @49 lol! They were more Late-Beatnik than hippies. Life moves quickly and Show Biz really doesn’t, so they really didn’t catch the feel of actual hippies. 1967 was when “The Sixties” began, after all.

    Still, infinitely preferable to the God Squad.

  47. says

    I’m glad it’s been mentioned that the last image is Serra Angel from Magic The Gathering. A lot of the angels in the game are very warlike and it’s a popular creature type. My very first EDH commander was a red/white angel. I’d like to say they’d kick a biblical angel’s ass any day, but have you seen images of biblically accurate angels?

  48. PaulBC says

    Raging Bee@54 Isaiah 6:2 is the most descriptive I know of

    Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

    Not the usual depiction, but there it is.

    Peeve: I hate it when I just want Google to calculate something (decimal value of 3/16) and it shows me a bunch of Bible verses.

  49. says

    They covered their faces and feet while flying? I guess that’s no more ridiculous than most of the other things the Bible describes…

  50. silvrhalide says

    I’m still crying laughing at Barry Gibbs White Jesus TM head Photoshopped onto Rambo’s decidedly tanner body. With machine gun, natch.

    Also, that is some seriously anachronistic armor in the lower left corner… looks like a Greek helmet with badly-done medieval armor…and what’s with those boots and the airbrushed pants? leggings?

  51. PaulBC says

    Raging Bee@56 Ain’t got no distractions … They fly by sense of smell.

    I mean they’re angels, so why not?

  52. consciousness razor says

    Peeve: I hate it when I just want Google to calculate something (decimal value of 3/16) and it shows me a bunch of Bible verses.

    This is why they made you spend all that time learning arithmetic. For math teachers so loved the world that they gave their only lessons, that whosoever believeth in them shall not suffer the google and have calculations for life.

    (In my head, that one is just an eighth plus another half of that … preferable to long division.)

  53. John Morales says

    Google uses the equal sign to indicate arithmetic; the string “=3/16” will work.

  54. says

    @PaulBC, #55: 3/16 is just a little bit less than 3/15, which is 0.2, and that’s probably close enough for all practical purposes anyway. (It’s actually 0.1875, but who really needs that many places of precision?)

  55. PaulBC says

    @59, @60, @61 I’m pretty good at estimating values in my head, especially when powers of 2 are involved. I would still like to disengage my brain and have Google tell me exactly what I want to know. In fact, putting an = in front does not suppress the verse from John. At one point, I remember not even getting a calculator to pop up, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue now.

    When Google’s calculator first appeared, these kinds of queries always worked the way I expected. The Bible verses are relatively new. (Unless I’m getting more religious and Google’s algorithm is glomming onto it.)

  56. consciousness razor says

    I’m pretty good at estimating values in my head, especially when powers of 2 are involved.

    But reciprocals of powers of two are kind of a different story, I guess.

    Also, I’m talking about the exact value, not an estimate. If you didn’t already have it memorized that 1/16 = 0.0625, you can get there very quickly from 1/8 = 0.125. (And if that one’s a problem too, it’s half of a quarter, which presumably everyone already knows….) I don’t know if that was clear before.

    Some other nice ones are multiples of 1/12, which can come in handy. I don’t think it’s hard to remember that it’s 0.08333…. Obviously, that’s a quarter of a third (or half of a sixth, e.g.). Those are about as easy it gets with unit fractions, since the denominators can’t be much smaller, but I don’t think many people ever commit that sort of thing to memory.

    I would still like to disengage my brain and have Google tell me exactly what I want to know.

    Yeah, not feeling it. Something about it just seems wrong if you use it like a calculator. Besides, your computer has one. Your smartphone has one. If you’re like me, you might have a few old calculators lying around at your desk or somewhere like that. Why not put them to use? I like that a lot better than “searching” for it and contacting a server somewhere.

  57. whheydt says

    Re: consciousness razor @ #63…
    What I have lying about my desk are a few old slide rules.

  58. says

    I inherited my mom’s old slide-rule. One of these days I’ll have to learn the mysteries of that ancient magical tool, so I can carry on her ancient tradition…

  59. Rob Grigjanis says

    Raging Bee @65: As someone who used a slide rule for years, I’d say it’s not worth the effort. Far more fun to come up with mental shortcuts. And probably often more accurate.

  60. PaulBC says

    cr@63

    Yeah, not feeling it. Something about it just seems wrong if you use it like a calculator. Besides, your computer has one.

    Really, it’s not that complicated. Most of the time I am online, I’m on a laptop in a browser. Opening up a search tab is a pretty automatic operation. I do have calculators lying around somewhere (including an old HP-11C but it needs batteries). I know my phone has one. If I’m in a Unix shell, I am more likely to type “dc” out of old habit and use the RPN calculator there. But I have to go to some effort to get fractions. Like this:

    % dc
    10 k
    3 16 /
    p
    .1875000000

    I would do that if I happened to be in a console instead of my browser and have done similar things repeatedly over the last few days. I am not sure what I’d do if I were in an IDE, probably just go out to a browser or shell.

    Nobody is asking you to “feel” this. It’d be nice if you would occasionally do me the courtesy of taking my word for it if I say “I do this this way.” It may seem “wrong” to you, but it strikes me as neutral in every ethical and practical sense, seriously just a matter of individual choice.

    But reciprocals of powers of two are kind of a different story, I guess.

    Nah. Those are also powers of two, and I can calculate 1/8 + 1/16 in my head in a bunch of different ways. 0.5, 0.25, 0.125 are second nature to me. I have to think just a little to remember 0.0625. Not sure why I should have to, though.

  61. PaulBC says

    me@67 To be clear, positive powers of 5 are a lot more useful in this case: 1, 5, 25, 625, 3125, etc. just as long as you remember to shift the decimal. This is a great way to do it if I am driving, lying in bed, or when I used to be stuck on a bus ride in the dark, which has not been the case in a very long time. If my fingers are already in some other thing, I use that.

    I forgot another way. If I just happen to be in a Python interpreter loop, I’ll use that, and it happens more often than you might think. But I’m not going to open one up only for this purpose.

  62. whheydt says

    On calculators generally (as compared to slide rules)… Calculators are a trap until the user understands the difference between precision and accuracy. A calculator will give you a very precise answer. Unfortunately, it is up to the user to understand that how many of those digits have meaning depends on how precisely the inputs are known.

    It will also give you a precise answer that may be way off in left field if you didn’t set it up correctly. (That is, you know know what sort of answer to expect before doing detailed calculations.)

    With a slide rule, you have to know the order of magnitude you’re looking for in order to correctly interpret the numerical answer and you will only get 3–or 4, at the most–significant digits. And even that may be more precise than your input warrants.

    My personal preference would be for no mechanical aids through middle school, slide rules permitted in high school, and then take your chances in college with an actual calculator.

  63. PaulBC says

    whheydt@69 For fractions, it may help more than decimals to visualize it, which is pretty easy to do with 3/16. Though I swear I actually was looking that up on Google at some point and it wasn’t for a gospel quote. It has happened for other ratios anyway.

    I used to be a big advocate for analog clocks over digital because you could just look and see “I have about that much time left.” Today… I suppose it doesn’t matter too much. Digital clocks are easier for reading off the time if someone asks.

  64. John Morales says

    PaulBC,

    In fact, putting an = in front does not suppress the verse from John.

    Indeed, Google is not what it was. It tries to be very general, and is tailored to both demographics and users. The old operators are vague guidelines these days. And, of course, “sponsored” results.
    An amazingly fast distributed database, indexed almost in real-time as we humans reckon it, but optimised for money-making rather than for true utility for the mere users.

    Anyway, it was the first result I got, calculator and all.
    No biggie, but point is that not excluding extraneous stuff is bad, but still not as bad as not getting the result you seek as the first result.

    For fractions, it may help more than decimals to visualize it, which is pretty easy to do with 3/16

    I can certainly nut the decimal out, but in general terms, why bother?
    It’s close to but a bit smaller than one quarter, that much I can tell instantly.

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