The Satanic Panic


Having been there I need to address this. Yes the Satanic Panic was a real thing, it reached a lot further than role-playing games and it ruined the lives of innocent people. I was on both sides. I was a member of a fundamentalist church at the start. I held that infamous Chick tract in my hand. I was a churchless role-playing skeptic towards the end of the first wave. Yes, first wave. It has never really ended. Frankly the Satanic Panic was one of the factors in my total secularism today.

Entire books have been written on the matter. I do not feel I can better them. My focus is on the personal effect it had on role-playing games and gamers. In short mindless fear. The vast majority of people railing against RPGs had never cracked the cover of a book. (Sometimes I think any book, the Bible included.) The whole thing rode a wave of senseless emotion, and damaged or destroyed what ever it touched. The innocent were hurt, some even died, there were no guilty. Your classic witch hunt.

Anything that Mother’s Against Everything did not like or understand was attacked; rock music, fashion, and yes role playing games. It comes down to magical thinking. If you believe some of the necessary elements of most religions, the idea of evil magic is possible. You see demons around every corner. My Dad’s late second wife was one. The woman lived in constant fear. One of my players had to keep all his gaming materials in his car so his Grandmother didn’t destroy them. My Mother expressed dislike for the game, but I was no longer under her roof. She would blame a run of bad weather on D&D, or “that game”.

It was real, and I believe most gamers of an age were affected to some degree. People that didn’t or would not understand looking for a scapegoat for the world not being the shape they wanted it in. It could never be themselves that was the problem. If it was not you yourself, one of the people you played with. It was that prevalent. You kinda kept your head down outside Fannish circles.

So yes, TSR totally caved to the family frenzied crowd. Unlike the gamers, they could not duck. I was shocked when I saw D&D materials in Borders. Pleasantly shocked, it meant the family frenzied were losing the battle. (I bought my Oriental Adventures book at Borders.)

So yes, we have more or less won. Role-playing games are fairly mainstream. Being a gamer is not a black mark. However with the rise of the Christian Nationalists we cannot drop our guard. They want a theocracy that would make the Eighties look like a tupperware party (Ask your Mother).

RPGs are one of the goods included in the Price of Freedom, which is never free. Keep that in mind.

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I played with a guy for years that knew Dallas Egbert III in school. We’ll call him R. According to him the 16 year old had no business at a major university no matter how “smart” he was. R was a graduate student and instructor at UM at the time. Mr Egbert was not mentally stable. D&D had nothing to do with it. It was frankly his Mother seeking a scapegoat for the family’s failure to parent.

I started gaming about a month after Dallas Egbert III played his final act in life… and have been gaming ever since. I lived through the Panic, then I lived through the PANIC (all capitalized because of the fervor), and even today, I’m living through a panic. I’m living here in the depths of Alabama (blatant solicitation for sympathy!), and the panic (all lower case because, while present, it’s not a HUGE thing) is still here and alive. There are still book-burnings held at smaller churches that I always find out about AFTERWARDS… I am trying to get advance notice so I could attend one to see what’s going on. And D&D books are all at the top of the burnination lists.

Just two weeks ago, a friend had a D&D bumper sticker scraped off of his trunk lid by a fear-monger who used a screwdriver or knife to destroy the paint job… and gamers have to be VERY careful about game-related conversations in public, lest we bring the evangelists out of the woodwork. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been told that I “Need Jesus” in my life because I accidentally mentioned D&D in public. Honestly, it’s rough living here because of it (and because I’m a huge nerd).

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You have full sympathy. I have relatives across the boarder in Georgia. I’m familiar with the little clapboard church with the screaming preacher no one can understand that thinks they are the only ones doing Christian right. I don’t live there, but I have visited.

No the Satanic Panic has never died off. Its influence varies, but in Jesusland it is still strong. Two things. People fear what they do not understand. And if your paycheck depends on you not understanding something, you will never understand it. They do not understand, and will not understand because if they did they would have reassess their worldview, and their certainty would be rocked to the foundations. They live in constant fear of the “other”. Holed up in their tiny caves of certainty.

I know this because I use to be one.

Today’s wordsmith quote is apropos: “There is no absurdity so palpable but that it may be firmly planted in the human head if you only begin to inculcate it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity.” -Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher (22 Feb 1788-1860)

One day - Pre-Internet - My mom calls. “John, I sent you a book. It’s important you read it.” The book turned out to be the self-aggrandizing work of the private investigator who went searching for Eggbert. It was fairly balanced with respect to the D&D stuff, but the author loved to hear himself talk. I call my mom and ask her what the hell? “I’m just worried because you game so much.” “Mom, you played Cowboys and Indians as a little girl. You gonna kill yourself now?” (I was neither subtle nor nuanced in those days…)

But mostly… for me the Panic was a thing I read about, or saw on TV when televangelists got worried kids were taking the money their parents were supposed to send THEM. But aside from a summer in North Carolina where I spent every moment I could plotting my Gamma World “Dungeon” (I was thirteen, and yes, I made a Dungeon. A lost facility with monsters in every room :stuck_out_tongue: ), I’ve been in Seattle. My closest brush was a classmate on college who was some brand of Christian who had some pretty weird ideas of what role-playing meant (“So do you guys ever cast spells?” “Not very often. Do you know how expensive candles made from the fat of unbaptized children is?!”) (See above re: un-nuanced), I never encountered any real trouble.

WTF??? Are we sure it wasn’t just a random Jackass?

Lucky you. No it was not some random jackass. Well it was, but in the Bible Belt they are a dime a dozen. You can throw a rock and hit three churches on almost any street. It’s not if you go to church, but where.

And you are on the money (pun intended) with televangelists. Shepherds indeed, shearing the flock every chance they get.

For the love of money is the root of all of evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. - Timothy 6:10

Seems they don’t read that part.

As said, I used to be a Fundamentalist Christian. D&D did not “lead me astray”, Truth did, and the direction the Church took. As the Church became more political, I became less religious.

No - definitely no random jackass… In the past 15 years of living down here, I’ve had many friends get D&D decorations defaced - sometimes just hit with a Sharpie, with no auto damage - but sometimes with spray paint (overspray!) or scraped off with various implements of destruction. I will admit that some occurred in the same apartment complexes, so SOME may be repeats from the same random jackass… but I’d say it’s been over 20 times with only three or four repeats (one guy has been hit three times).

Tesral, I used to be a Fundy as well - and even was an ordained minister with my own congregation. When I REALLY sat down and listened to the stuff coming out of my mouth, I had to step back and step down… some of the most racist, bigoted bullcrap EVER - to the point that I am ashamed of that time of my life. The breaking point for me (that led me to the introspection) was a woman offering me her 15-year-old daughter for me to marry so I could “straighten her out”… eek!

When God is on your side, you can never be wrong, and never change, because God will not. And because God, you can do the most destructive crap with perfect morals.

But preaching to the choir here.

Especially with my tendency to court trouble. I’d see door-to-door God Salesmen coming a draw inverted pentacles on my palm, then wave hi of offer to shake. I’d ask them if they ever cast real magic like me. One demanded to talk to my parents and I told them my parents were busy being worth something and slammed the door in their face.

One day on the bus an old man told my friend and I were going to hell (We were poring over some gaming thing) and I told him if heaven was where [redacted] like him go, I’d rather go to hell.

Basically I was unfiltered and uninterested in the idea. I was a jackass.

I’m a lot better now. [Edit, screw you, Forum Software! If I wanted a picture here I’d ask for one!] : ) ] Time and perspective.

From Pulp Fiction: “It would be worth him doing it to catch him doing it.”

As someone that is there. “It is interesting how the wisdom of age resembles just being too tired.” --R. Heinlein

The God salesmen don’t come around anymore. I don’t know if it is because there are muslims in the neighborhood or I would stare at them in my bathrobe and close the door, without a word. Mind you they typically came Sunday morning, after a long game session. I have a wife to cuddle. I’m cranky if interrupted.

I’m surprised @ TheGreayingGamer has not weighted in on the subject. He is also of an age.

Some of this, sure. But also… what am I even fighting against? Old ladies in floral print dresses? Who wins? A lot of things are just my own personal windmill, not hills to die on. These days… If the old lady dressed for church wants to give me her God… I can just say no thanks, we’ve already got one.

Sure, there’s some things that matter. I save myself for those.

More the preachers she is going to listen to that push their religious views as public policy. We need to fight the fight, but not by yelling at people in parking lots. I use the line in the meme above. Gee 48 years and I still don’t have spells! I find a touch of humor disarms them. Also “Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired”. — Jonathan Swift: A Letter to a Young Gentleman, Lately Enter’d Into Holy Orders by a Person of Quality. I usually modrenize the wording. (Swift died almost 300 years ago. gods they were a wordy bunch.)

The Street Epistemology method is a good one. Use the Socratic method. Ask questions that will start their gears turning and leave it. You will not win right then and there, but you have had them enter doubt into their own minds. If they do it, it is more likely to stick.

This whole thing made me feel sad. Sad that the game I loved was maligned. Sad to discover many around me were as ignorant as the people on TV. Sad people who loved using their imaginations were thought of as ‘victims of Satan’s influence.’ My high school had a D&D club, although growing, only lasted a couple years because of the Satanic Panic. However, I managed to shake it off, and I’m still enjoying the game to this day. Hey, I’ve recently passed the love of the game to my grandkids.

So there. Stick it, Satanic Panic. :fu:

The best revenge is living well.

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If one of them comes to my door, sure. Still not taking it out on old ladies…


Right. More roll my eyes and give them “I don’t have time to correct your lack of education.”