When I was a child I remember hearing that some Christians strongly opposed the use of playing cards. If I remember correctly, it wasn't just for gambling games such as Poker, but even for children's games such as Go Fish. I have always assumed that this prohibition was linked to a particular denomination(s), but I have not personally encountered anyone since then that has held this view.

Are there any Christian groups that prohibit the use of playing cards, and what is their basis for doing so?

  • Many (most?) Christian groups prohibit gambling. And I think many view any form of card-playing as either a form of gambling, or so closely related that it should be avoided... avoiding "appearances of evil" or "slippery slope", etc.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 6:55
  • @Flimzy Interesting...I wonder if those groups really see "Go Fish" as a potential slippery slope toward gambling? Hard for me to see, but I'd need to hear it from their perspective, I suppose, before really being able to make a fair assessment
    – RSW
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 7:14
  • The slippery slope is part of it. It has to do with kids getting used to playing cards and seeing the example of gambling with cards and falling into sin. The other part is that someone might see a Christian playing cards and assume that they're gambling and then go commit sin. @Flimzy It's neither many nor most. It's extremely conservative groups and most of those have gotten off of cards and onto games like D&D. Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 14:46
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    @Flimzy - I don't think most Christian groups prohibit gambling. We actually have a small $10 entry poker tournament during our annual Men's retreat of which the lead Pastor is frequently one of the top finishers as he loves poker. Bingo is also a fairly common church fundraiser for lots of churches. I think it is a minority of churches that view gambling as flat out wrong, but I'm not 100% sure on that. Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 19:06
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    @Flimzy I have one word that can disprove the hypothesis that most Christians prohibit gambling. Are you thinking it too? Bingo! Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 0:49

8 Answers 8

  • Wikipedia offers some reasons why cards, specifically of the "French Design" (that is, a "standard" 52-card deck) might be prohibited, especially by sects which take a fairly strict anti-pagan, or anti-astrological stands:

    Popular legend holds that the composition of a deck of cards has religious, mystical, or astrological significance.[citation needed]

    Thus each suit of 13 cards represents the 13 lunar months of the Earth year. Since the sidereal lunar month may be approximated to 28 days, each deck is equal to 364 days of the year.

    Similarly, the whole deck of 52 cards represents the 52 weeks of the year. Therefore, the whole deck is also equal to 364 days of the year (the positivist calendar) with the four suits corresponding to the four seasons.

    The ace is symbolically “alpha and omega” or “the beginning and end.”

  • Apparently official Mormon doctrine does (or did?) prohibit playing card games with a standard 52-card deck (Rook is permitted):

    Growing up, conventional playing cards were banned in my home. We only used Rook. One only had to open up “Mormon Doctrine” to see why my parents banned the cards. It reads, “Members of the Church should not belong to bridge or other type of card clubs, and they should neither play cards nor have them in their homes. By cards is meant, of course, the spotted face cards used by gamblers. To the extent that church members play cards they are out of harmony with their inspired leaders. Innocent non-gambling games played with other types of cards, except for the waste of time in many instances, are not objectionable.”

  • This history of playing cards makes references to several places where card games were prohibited in or near churches--I see no reference to church members being prohibited from playing in other locations.


It's a common rule among certain, generally more conservative Christian groups, that card games should not be played, and the rule varies a lot in how strictly it is interpreted. It is also a rule which, like many such rules, has almost certainly been observed more strictly in the past than in the present.

Some groups may go so far as to prohibit all playing cards.

More common is prohibiting the standard 52-card deck. Either because of its association with gambling, or the occult/astrology, apparently.

More common these days is a simple prohibition of gambling games--possibly even when money isn't used.


My parents both grew up in the Nazarene church, my dad the son of a Nazarene pastor. They were forbidden to drink, dance, and attend movie theaters. I'm pretty sure I remember my mother telling me she also wasn't allowed to play card games as a child. The reason, as I understood it, is that cards are used for gambling, so they carry the "appearance of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

I believe my mother played Dutch Blitz as a child, which uses a different deck design.

NOTE: I'm pretty sure the card prohibition is not a Nazarene doctrine; perhaps just her specific church. Google shows multiple references to Nazarene-church-sponsored events where participants are encouraged to bring card games!

  • My suspicion is that your grandfather was influenced by Billy Sunday (see below). Am I correct in getting his time period to be the early 1900s? Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 19:52
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    For what it's worth, the book "Mormon Doctrine" isn't considered official LDS doctrine (which is somewhat ironic given the title :) ). Currently, a prohibition on playing cards, for Latter-day Saints, is a bit like the prohibition on drinking caffeine (which stems from a strict interpretation of the Word of Wisdom). There's been no official statement approved by the First Presidency, but you can find miscellaneous, non-authoritative statements by church leaders. So, some Latter-day Saints consider it as a commandment, and others don't. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormon_Doctrine_(book) Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 0:20
  • Yeah, I'm an active Mormon and I've never met a Mormon in my life who couldn't/wouldn't play cards (definitely no gambling, though). I would definitely consider that a fringe thing for a Mormon (but you can definitely find fringes).
    – Nate Glenn
    Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 8:26

As a general rule, if you look hard enough, it's usually possible to find a Christian group opposed to just about anything you can think of. That doesn't mean that mainstream Christianity is opposed. Sometimes it's a fringe group, sometimes it's a vast majority of Christians. Playing cards is no exception to that general rule.

This group believes that your standard deck of playing cards is "The Devil's Bible".

A small excerpt:

The king represents Satan, Prince of Darkness, usurper and foe of our Lord Jesus Christ. The ten card is for the Spirit of lawlessness, in opposition to the moral law in the Word of God. In 1300, clubs were the chief weapons used by murderers, therefore this suit represents the Spirit of Murder and death by violence. The jack represents the lustful libertine, from pimp to adulterer and whoremonger, a moral leper whose chief ambition is to gratify sensual fleshly lusts. The queen represents Mary, Mother of Jesus, but in the card language she is called Mother of Harlots. The joker represents Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Joker means fool and therefore Jesus is held up to ridicule. The joker is said to be the offspring of licentious jack and the queen, Mother of Harlots.

In this case, it's not a denomination per-se, it's one of the "fringe groups" I mentioned above. I'm not aware of any denomination that takes this stance as a whole. It usually seems to be individuals with personal convictions and beliefs within various denominations that adheres to such fringe beliefs.

As to why they believe this? They don't really say. They make some vague claims that this is a historical stance of the Church, but with no references to back it up. Other possible reasons: Personal interpretation, they heard it from someone and believed it and are now passing it along, they are just the type to see Satan in anything, they're right? Who knows? It could be any of those or something else entirely.

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    Indeed. Surely one could just as well say that the King is the Father, the Queen Mary, the Jack the Son, the 10 represents the Ten Commandments... hearts represent the love we are supposed to show one another; clubs the weapons in the spiritual fight against evil... (And that analysis doesn't really hold together either.) Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 6:18
  • @AndrewLeach: But that would only be relevant to a question about Christian groups who require playing card games :P
    – Flimzy
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 6:57
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    @Flimzy Yes. Any group can be arbitrary in the meanings they assign to things. Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 7:12
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    @AndrewLeach You aren't far off the mark. jacksjoint.com/deck_of_cards_bible.htm Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 15:00
  • @AndrewLeach When numbers are involved it could be anything. I made a similar connection for this question.
    – user3961
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 18:47

Here's an excerpt from an academic journal, concerning the morality of playing cards in Christianity. Note that it mentions Evangelicalism - the type of Christianity that was influential in the Victorian era according to the author.

When Great Expectations appears three years later, games, particularly card games, are associated with the physically and morally decayed gentility of Satis House and the corrupt legality of Mr. Jaggers. Even gentlemanliness comes to seem nothing but an empty game. We can only speculate at the reasons for this change in Dickens’s portrayal. For one thing, the rising middle class and the influence of evangelicalism, among other social developments, precipitated a Victorian earnestness in which game-playing – especially cards, which were associated with gambling – was not always seen as respectable.

It may be hinted that card-playing - even among innocent children who have no money - is not considered respectable, because it is associated with gambling. The children were playing Beggar-My-Neighbor.

Source: Parkinson, K. L. (2010). What do you play, boy?": Card Games in "Great Expectations. Dickens Quarterly, 27(2), 119-138.


While not exactly a denomination, the famous baseball-player-turned-pastor, Billy Sunday, is probably most associated with the evils of "theater, cards, and dance." His influence on Fundamentalists, Baptists, and Evangelicals of all stripes is legendary.

Sunday's popularity influenced thousands (if not millions) in the United States in the early 1900s. His brand of fundamentalism led directly to many of the beliefs you see. Early in the Century, this type of preaching was de riguer. Its influence, however shall we say, has since waned. (I for one, do not mourn its passing.) That said, for those who grew up in it, the tenants still hold.

In his estimation, the primary issue with cards is that they do lead to gambling. His takes inspriation from Galatians, in which it says "Do not be decieved, God is not mocked - for that which a man soweth, so shall he reap."

He preaches as follows: (The full text is here)

You sow bridge whist and auction pitch and five hundred in the home and you reap a crop of gamblers. You sow the dance and the ballroom and you reap a crop of brothels. You sow saloons and you reap a harvest of drunkards.

You must want a lot of prostitutes or you wouldn't sow dances; you must want a lot of vomiting, puking drunkards or you wouldn't sow saloons, and you must want a bunch of gamblers or you wouldn't play cards in your homes.

If you have any cards in your home, you had better throw them in the furnace when you get back there or else throw your Bibles in the furnace. The two won't mix. Oh, you need not gasp! I am handing it to you straight! There is no use having Bibles around your house if you are going to make a joke of His Word by playing bridge.

(As you can tell, he gets emotional about it.) Perhaps his most damning indictment is this:

Many a boy is inveigled into a gambling room and listens to the roulette wheel ¥ the faro bank and keno and listens to the ribaldry and the jest and the blasphemy, and he is reminded of home. What a wonderful heritage to bequeath to a boy! To have him go into a hellhole like that and have it remind him of home! Men who have been spending their funds and lives to ferret those things out tell us that nine-tenths of the gamblers are taught in their homes by their mothers, or eighty per cent of them first learned gambling in the homes of professing Christian people.

When I talk to you about card playing in your home, I am trying to pound through your head that every pack of cards is but another steppingstone to Hell. I think the old painted hag or the broken down roue, hanging around the tables at Monte Carlo, or a down-and-out card shark bucking a crooked game in a gambling joint at three o'clock in the morning a sight more respectable than the church people or the professed Christian who permits card playing in his home.

"You take that picture back and give it to my mother, and tell her 'Damn her!' I never want to see her. She taught me to play cards and I killed a man at a gambling table and am serving fifteen years to pay for it. Now she has the audacity to send me her picture after she pushed me behind the prison bars," so said a condemned boy.

I say it may not injure you, but it is damning others. Many a boy leaves home and goes to board in some miserable, no-account church-member family. The first night they draw out a card table and take out a deck of cards and say: "Won't you play a game with us?"


Yes, there are definitely churches that oppose playing cards. One that I know of opposes them because they believe there is blasphemous symbolism behind the symbols and numbers on the cards, such as the joker being a ridicule of Jesus, the King to be the devil, the Queen to be a slanderous version of the Virgin Mary, the Jack to represent a lustful libertine, and the ten to represent a mockery of the ten commandments. Also, they believe that the suit hearts is representative of the evil nature of man, diamonds to represent the lust of money, and clubs and spades to represent death and murder. I have been researching this for a while now and I have found not one historical source to support this claim. One of their 'evidences' is that King Charles VI of France, who was known to a madman and a murderer purchased three sets of cards. Well, I recently purchased a deck of cards, and I am no madman or murderer, so does that make it evil? Just because one man purchased them, and he happened to be mentally insane, there is no grounds to say that they are evil or blasphemous. In regards to the supposed symbolism, could we not also say that the King represents God, the Queen represents Mary for what she was, the Jack represents Jesus, and the ten represents the Ten Commandments? And hearts represent love, diamonds represent the riches we will receive in heaven, clubs represent the murdering of the old self, and spades represents the foundations of our beliefs? My point is that anyone can make up symbolism and hidden ideas, especially with something involving numbers and royalty. Given that there are no historical sources to support any of the claims made, I believe that this symbolism was created in the own minds of radical Christians, to give the impression that playing cards are blasphemous and evil, because of their true ties to gambling. But who are they to run around telling people this? If it is not true, which it is clearly not, then they should keep their personal convictions to themselves. Many people can play card games in complete innocence, and without gambling, and without knowing of the supposed symbolism behind them, which is completely fine! Romans 14 speaks of doing what is right before you and God, and of your own convictions. If you truly believe in your heart that playing cards is wrong and is a sin, even though their is no evidence to support it, then you shouldn't do it. But you should absolutely not push your own personal convictions on others, and teach it to them as fact.

  • Welcome to the site. We're glad you're here. If you could edit in some paragraph breaks this would be a lot easier to read. Also, it gets a bit preachy at the end, which the community generally frowns upon. If the church you know of that purports this blasphemous symbolism has website, then it would be great if you linked to it. I hope to see you post again soon.
    – user3961
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 22:30

I know that one explanation I had heard from a Christian that was opposed to gambling was that it was due to Jesus' possessions being divided by casting lots. It also may be kind of similar to prohibitions against alcohol where the fear is that it will lead to a problem, so why not avoid it entirely.

Certainly drinking and gambling could lead to sin in the extreme, but most churches don't have a problem with either in moderation, though many avoid them on the church grounds or at church functions. The reason for this is generally that while it may not be sinful to participate in moderation, it can be a stumbling point for those who are weak in those areas and the church doesn't want to cause problems for someone who has an actual problem. (Not causing your brother to stumble, as it were.)


Russian Orthodox Church strongly opposes playing cards, because in Russia (and x-USSR) there is a legend about card suits mystical sense which says four card suits disparage Christ's crusifixion in the following way:

  • Hearts mean, according to different versions:
    • either the sponge given to crusified Christ
    • or Christ's heart
  • Diamonds mean nails which were used to crusify Christ
  • Clubs mean the Cross
  • Spades mean the spear which was used to pierce Chirst's side

Another interesting thing is Russian card terms. We say neither "clubs" nor "clover" nor "trefoils" but either "crosses" or "trefas", and the legend claims "trefas" comes not from "trefoils" but from Yiddish "terefah" meaning "non-kosher", which sort of claims the Cross as being non-cosher (bad, dirty). Yet more about clubs — in Russia this suit is depicted slightly differently, so that the shape really looks more like the cross than the clover. Another thing — we say not "ace" but "tuz" which is beleived to come from German "daus" (devil). And third, we call trump card "kozyr" which, obviously, comes from "kosher", which, according to the legend, means something may be more "kosher" than the "non-kosher" cross. Nobody can tell if this is true, but at least all of this point to very strange Russian cards and terms design. I suppose there really might be a bad intention of those who imported cards to Russia.

I'm not sure there is any historic source of this legend. Probably it was popularized in 1997 in the book "History of the Cross shape development" by Kuznetsov V. It was published in some Russian Orthodox magazines, and now you can find it online. This is the chapter about cards, try Google translate: http://azbyka.ru/dictionary/10/istoriya_razvitiya_formy_kresta_38-all.shtml.

I don't know if other eastern Churches also acknowledge this version. Interesting is that it seems that Western (Catholic) Christians have never heard of it; and discussions in this question confirm this. Have you guys ever heard of this version? What do you think about it?


Cards may be used as a tool for divination. Basically, a person assigns any meanings to any cards, and then uses the cards to assign significance to people or events in a context of those meanings over time. This is especially true if the 'dealer' asserts that some spiritual entity or force determines the play by play or end results.

Magic is a very generic assertion for example. This practice, not specifically of magic, but rather the action of divination, speaks that God Most Holy is not the final deterministic power in the universe. That activity is defined as blasphemy in the Christian church vernacular - a sin.

Even without a divination practice assigned to cards, it is common to assert that luck or some other 'un-Godly' spiritual force may exist with the handling of cards. Therefore, cards have been taboo in Christian families, because they are at odds with basic Christian beliefs about the nature of God.

On the other hand, some religious practitioners use cards to represent the powers inherent in their religious beliefs, including Christian beliefs. So how cards are viewed religiously varies throughout the world and through time. It is wrong to assign a stereotype that would apply to a majority of circumstances.

Cards exist outside of the religious experience. You have Tarot cards, cards played in barber shops, and card playing in ancient literature. Generally most but not all (modern) religious doctrines frown on them, but do not literally define them as being sinful in themselves. Divination using any medium, whether it is tea leaves or Tarot cards, is generally defined as sinful, and in contradiction to the 'Commandments' and a profession of faith in one true god. So Astrology and Numerology also fall within that construct.

I think the Christian religions would consider playing cards (generally, and without a specific act of divination) a venial (small) sin, rather than a mortal (man against God - a big one) sin. Cards with divination (on purpose, and in defiance of God), would probably merit the designation of mortal sin, and be forbidden in Christian religions.

BTW I'm neither religious, nor an erudite professor, so take my words with a grain of salt. I haven't done any homework in awhile.

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    Welcome! Sadly, I don't see an actual answer to the question in this post, since you don't identify any Christian groups that prohibit playing cards, and therefore don't provide their basis for doing so. This is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum, so answers need to address the question asked, not merely related subjects. I hope you'll take the tour and check out some of the other questions and answers we have here! Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 21:43
  • This is a really good start on an answer, but as Nathaniel noted it's missing a piece that is significant for this question. Can you edit it to include some information about which branches of Christianity tend to hold which of the views explained here?
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 6:18

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