Is fantasy intrinsically immoral? If sometimes acceptable, when is it wrong?


The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

It speaks as if the immersion in the illusion of a fantasy world is itself a bad thing. Is it? Didn’t people centuries ago likewise disapprove of fantasy? (Please distinguish between stories that could happen in this universe but haven’t, and stories that would require God to change our universe for them to actually occur. Isn’t this distinction important in distinguishing fantasy from fiction?)

If fantasy is intrinsically immoral, is it because it distracts us from reality, i.e. the gifts God has given us and the problems we must work to solve? If illusions and fantasies are not intrinsically immoral, then what does the Catechism mean here? Under what conditions does a fantasy become immoral? Do you think our fantasy could be brainstorming ideas for or games to play in heaven?


Fantasy is inescapable. Just to imagine what I am going to write/draw/ say is a form of fantasy.

I believe that fantasy becomes a problem when we know that our fantasy is a deception of the truth. That is, we know it is not true but wish it to be so, and think and act as it it were true. We at that moment are living (not pretending) a lie.

It is difficult to draw the line here, but I would say that our conscience, heart, and Spirit of Truth can guide us to what is a transgression from the truth.


If that’s the case how come the most ardent and loyal of Catholics praise the work of fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien and get away with it? :shrug:


There would be very little fiction, music, or art without our ability to fantasize or dream. The gift to do so is a gift from God.

Can it be misused? Of course. The litmus test is “Does this being me closer to God or separate me from his love?” We have the tools to help us make this distinction – the Holy Spirit, Ten Commandments, Beatitudes, catechism, etc.

One can also sit down with a priest or spiritual director.


Most of the responses so far have not been clear with their definition of ‘fantasy’. I do not mean imagination, abstract thought, creativity, or even mere fiction. I mean fiction that specifically supposes a different reality from the one we have, e.g. with superpowers or fantastical creatures, suppositions that would require God to change His creation in order to come about.

The same way any group of people ‘get away with’ any other sin – God allows it and the Church is complacent. An example would be American gluttony – and, there too, you’ll find that many, even here at this forum, will not agree on what ‘gluttony’ is. The Catholic Encyclopedia argues it is merely eating for pleasure rather than for nutrition, but many here exaggerate it to mean ridiculously excessive eating, presumably so they can exclude their behavior …

(bolding the phrase in that quotation to emphasize to people here that we’re speaking hypothetically, if it is indeed wrong)


It is because sexual fantasy is unchaste, not imagination in general. Thought leads to action and that action is preceded by planning or anticipating that action. When the action is sinful, planning it is also sinful, and not avoiding the near occasions of sin are also sinful. The fantasy itself, when pleasurable in the mind, leads to attachment to the idea. The idea may be any form of lust. Also remember that coveting and jealousy are sins, and these lead to lying, theft, and adultery, etc…


Are you sure you’re not being… scrupulous?

Because what you’re saying in bold letters are just the same thing…

Sometimes writers such as Tolkein and C.S. Lewis use fantasy worlds from their imaginations to describe truths about the Christian faith. So does that mean The Chronicles of Narnia - which almost everyone agrees is blatantly a Christian allegory about salvation - is sinful to read, just because it shows an alternative universe?

God has created us in His own image so He can allow us to use creativity to create worlds in our minds and write them in paper as literature or fiction so we can show other people truths about Him. I think it is only sinful if someone writes a fantasy world where the mechanics deliberately leave God out of the picture (like the His Dark Materials series).


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