Playing-cards—the work of the Devil?

Last modified : 01 Nov 2006
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The following response was supplied by the Reverend Jeff Hopewell who is a minister in the Church of England, and a Council Member of the International Playing-Card Society.

The first thing to remember is that playing-cards have a long history and were around for many centuries before the type with which we are familiar in the west was evolved. They did not suddenly appear in the present format and their invention cannot be ascribed to any one person.

As to whether the devil was behind that evolution depends largely on your view of life and the problem of good and evil in the world. Like so many things in life playing-cards are capable of being put to good or damaging use. They can be used for a social pastime, sometimes requiring great concentration and intelligence, or as a children's game helping them with their numbers and co-ordination and encouraging them to understand the need for rules in life (without which no game or society can function properly), but they can also lead to excessive gambling or to violent disagreements and may be used as a means of divination. Similarly a kitchen knife is an essential tool for a cook but can be used to kill; fire is essential for heat and light but can wreak havoc in the hands of an arsonist or even of someone who is simply careless.

Perhaps a good way of looking at the question is from the perspective of Jesus' teaching that there is no such thing as 'unclean food', on the basis that nothing external to the heart and mind of a person has any bearing on their baser instincts (Mark 7.14-23). Talking of such things as theft, murder, deceit and folly, he says, 'All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.' In the same way we might say that playing-cards are not in themselves evil. That is determined by the intentions of the people who use them.