Jesus and Vampires and Werewolves and Time Travel

Jesus and Vampires and Werewolves and Time Travel January 30, 2017

Remember the movie Groundhog Day? Phil Connors (Bill Murray) must relive the same day, over and over. The cause of this time loop is never explored or even brought up—he simply endures the drudgery and pleasures of reliving the same day, hundreds of times, until he gets it right.

The many mechanisms of time travel

That’s time travel of a sort, but it’s a very different kind than we see in Back to the Future. Here, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is accidentally thrust back in time so that he becomes a classmate of his parents-to-be, but he must tread delicately to avoid damaging his own timeline.

The crew of Star Trek IV goes back in time in a captured Klingon warship to retrieve extinct (in their time) humpback whales by going really fast. Superman (in Superman: The Movie) goes back in time to undo the death of Lois Lane by spinning the earth backwards. And in About Time, a few people can time travel by going into a dark place, clenching their fists, and thinking about when they want to go to. The father, an experienced traveler, assures us that multiple futures and the Butterfly Effect aren’t problems.

It works like this in religion. Religion A says that one god is in charge. Next, religion B says instead that it’s a pantheon of independent gods. And religion C says that it’s a Trinity of gods who are actually one. As with time travel, different fictional domains have their own view of what the magic is and how it works.

Fictional creatures

Partisans of this or that interpretation of time travel might argue for the logic of one approach and laugh at the idiocy of another, but you’ll probably find more spirited debate among the fans of various fictional creatures—vampires, werewolves, and so on.

For example, are vampires simply nocturnal, with no particular vulnerability to sunlight? Do they die or explode when touched by a single ray of sunlight? The vampires in the television drama True Blood burn on exposure to sunlight but can quickly recover if the exposure isn’t long. The vampires in the novel Twilight avoid sunlight simply because their skin reflects it like diamonds, which would reveal their true identity (why artificial light doesn’t do the same isn’t discussed).

What about garlic and crosses? What about wooden stakes and silver bullets? Do the vampires cast shadows or make reflections in mirrors? Are they hideous or attractive? What are their vulnerabilities, if any? Different fictional worlds have different answers.

There’s no authority. It’s not like you make a claim about the mythological with the fear that real vampires will present themselves to prove you embarrassingly wrong.


The same is true for religion. It’s is a worldwide Comic-Con—some people take things very seriously and get dressed in character, while others take a more casual approach. Some people are fans of this TV show or that movie character or some other comic book hero.

Scientology can claim that the galactic tyrant Xenu attempted to solve his overpopulation problem by destroying hundreds of billions of frozen people in volcanoes on earth using hydrogen bombs. Or the Mormon church can claim that God the Father was once mortal but attained godhood, and believers can do the same.

There’s no authority to reject these stories. No authority, that is, except common sense and our well-established understanding of how things actually work. Christians can say to the Scientologists or Mormons, “Hold on—you’re breaking the rules,” but then they break the spell and acknowledge that they are doing the same. They can’t awaken someone from their dream without being awake themselves.

You can ignore reality,
but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.
— Ayn Rand

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 9/23/13.)

Image credit: Jason Cipriani, flickr, CC


"When Naomi and Ruth wanted to be redeemed, Naomi said to watch where Boaz settled ..."

What Is a “Real Man,” According ..."
"I read somewhere that "feet" meant Moses' dick and his wife wiped the blood on ..."

What Is a “Real Man,” According ..."
"You deserve a place to vent. I would be damn proud of my 17 year ..."

What Is a “Real Man,” According ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Sophia Sadek

    It is always a good idea to avoid people who take things way too seriously, whether they be pious or impious.

    • TheNuszAbides

      when i took my imaginary vampires and werewolves far more seriously, i was certainly not good company for Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans–because i believed they didn’t take theirs seriously enough.

      • Sophia Sadek

        Damned heretics!

  • Raging Bee

    The cause of this time loop is never explored or even brought up—he simply endures the drudgery and pleasures of reliving the same day, hundreds of times, until he gets it right.

    Sounds like “Edge of Tomorrow”/”All You Need is Kill”, where a US soldier has to relive the same day — and the same failed D-day remake — until he can figure out how to stop the alien invasion.

    • Joe

      I really enjoyed that movie, surprisingly. Despite the ‘causality mcguffin’ that they had to place in there at the end.

      • Greg G.

        I enjoy watching Emily Blunt.

      • Pofarmer

        It’s actually one of my favorite Tom Cruise movies.

        • Joe

          He’s done quite a good job of keeping his personal beliefs from interfering his acting roles. Unlike others I could mention.

        • Pofarmer

          There are some that I simply won’t watch if I can help it. He’s not one of them. You gotta draw the line somewhere. LOL.

      • TheNuszAbides

        ‘causality mcguffin’

        i don’t know the reference [yet] but i just wanted to commend that phrase as well as the use of ‘macguffin’ in general.

      • Greg G.

        I, too, enjoyed Emily Blunt that movie.

      • Or Groundhog Day as an example where the fundamental weird issue is completely not explained … but the audience doesn’t really mind.

  • Raging Bee

    …oh my?

  • Castilliano

    Some people live in a different genre…
    …or think they do.

    When this thought first occurred to me, it helped me understand supernaturalists better. They perceive reality so differently that that no wonder my words seem unreal to them, no wonder they so easily see naturalism as some sort of science fiction mumbo-jumbo (i.e. evolution=crocoduck). They really have trouble connecting worldviews to the actual world.

    Them living as if in an unreal genre is also one of several reasons why we should engage on reality’s terms. Engaging on supernatural terms is like arguing with an obsessed fanboy over superhero battles. It may be casual fun for you, but they can be quite serious, making long, complex arguments involving lots of evidence and facts that have no actual grounding outside that genre bubble. No matter how many internal discrepancies (or atrocities) we point out, they can just retcon or reboot or whatever to keep the genre-worldview intact because it is the starting point rather than reality. That is, unless we demonstrate that matching a worldview to reality actually takes some rigor, not just mindscaping,

    Of course they could dismiss us out of hand for not even being fans. Meh.

    Reminds me of a Dawkins quote I may be butchering:
    Dawkins was interrupting a woman starting to share her woo beliefs.
    “I don’t care what you believe. I only care about what you can prove.”


    • eric

      Engaging on supernatural terms is like arguing with an obsessed fanboy over superhero battles.
      I liken secular government to the role of the teacher chaperone on the playground. When the kids start arguing over who-shot-who with their finger guns, the role of the adult to stop the kids from hurting each other. Its manifestly not to take Alice’s side and say she shot Bob, or take Bob’s side and say he shot Alice, because both kids are your responsibility equally.

      • Pofarmer

        I don’t think that’s where we are in the U.S. right now?

    • Kodie

      The religious, especially taking “meaning” in their life to mean they, personally, had to have been born, in order to accomplish some unique quest, always sounds to me like people think they are born into their own private epic, that without god, that part would be totally missing, and render them a simple generic vessel who could be anyone, do anything, and it would not amount to anything overall.

      In the atheist type of viewpoint (I don’t mean worldview, but in reality), we can have meaning in our lives, in our short times on earth, and with the few people we may touch. And I don’t know what’s wrong with that. If there were a god, and each person who was born was meant to be born for some excellent reason that god appreciated each and every single person on earth for whatever reason, we are all different, and all the same at the same time – theists are constantly recommending conformity to the point where any difference they might have is diminished or erased. A lot of people have the same kinds of lives whether they are religious or not, but the religious hyper-accentuate certain aspects like marriage and family as though they are sacred constructs. As animals, we’re probably supposed to procreate to continue the species, but is that meaning? The meaning is who you are to your family, and if you are expected to be the generic Christian mother or father or son or daughter, and fall in line, how special can this purpose be, even in your regular longevity, much less eternally? The less like yourself that you are, and the longer you exist, and the many who are just like you, the less meaning can that life have, if “meaning” means to distinguish your life from your neighbor’s life.

      Inside their heads, something I guess from all their emotional appeals, is the idea that fitting into an “ideal” serves god somehow, but meaningfulness is really important, so it must gnaw at them that they have to conform to meet god’s approval, that this shitty, boring existence must be leading somewhere most rewarding. This says to me that theists may, in fact, lead rich inner lives beyond the fantasy of eternal life – that they are getting a buzz on their monumental epic necessity that it must be them, if not, then who? Who will make the sandwiches again and again, who will fold the laundry and put it away, again and again, who will incubate another sacred life to be born, again and again? Certainly, if you had not been born, your Christian husband would have met someone else! Your children would not have been born, because they are also not necessary. Someone else would be vacuuming the carpet in your house, and it would be some other color, and may be in another country.

      Religion tries to make itself be above our animal “nature”, pretend we’re not evolved but created, pretend we’re not animals at all, who eat and shit and fuck and make homes for our children by holding to strict rules and adding “meaning” to those rules, and eternity as a reward. They pretend we atheists are the animals who would kill and rape and steal because we “reject” god, and spin out of control and kill ourselves over how meaningless we are. To me, the religious adhere to strict animality, conforming strictly to how animals all behave, the “natural law” being something they refer to. I mean, if you look at an entry for any animal behavior, you get a short list of things these animals can be counted on to do, and religious people spend a lot of effort trying to get our species to live up to a rigid standard: the males are somewhat aggressive and authoritarian, while the females submit to their father until they get a husband. Monogamous for life. Use utensils to eat, sometimes. Waste is fastidiously collected in one room of the home, although young eliminate wherever and whenever. The home and offspring are tended to by the mother, while the father is out collecting family resources. The female is expected to be sexually available to the male, lest he sin and fill his sexual needs outside the home….. (I guess not monogamous for life!) This species requires early and weekly training to remind them to conform to the specifics of this entry. Without early and weekly training, they may be gay or murderers or gay murderers, or dance or say “fuck you” when they’re supposed to say “bless your heart”. Outside influence is probably demons, so young are also educated in the home to reduce the access by demons to feed their heads with poisonous demon ideas that our animal species isn’t supposed to do, even if they want to and there’s nothing wrong with it. Species in a territory conflict are not murderers, they just fail to recognize members of their own species because of differing values as to how the conformity to the particular animal behavior should be met and enforced or the color of their skin or the retained suspicions of their forebears.

      All that panic must mean something, but life really doesn’t. We’re alive, conscious, literate and feeling beings. We’re a lint on a thread in a vast tapestry of humanity, and it means something and nothing at the same time. How could this tapestry be as good without me and my unique qualities? The inner “soul” that isn’t permitted to express itself during life, if I am to get a chance at eternal salvation, must be meaningful at some point! It has to be! Being modest and running my quiverfull like an assembly line has to mean something eventually, right?

      • jbhodges7

        I applaud that you have clearly done much reflection on this matter. My own reflections can be summed up as “Meaning is the story we choose to join.” Believers fear that loss of faith in the religion that they have been taught will lead to a loss of meaning, but atheists find that there are many stories available, and you can make up your own if you wish. Plain old human history may suffice, you choose to join by seeking to make this world a better place, however small or large your contribution may be.

        • The story we choose to join? I can’t imagine accepting any story but the one best supported by the evidence. It sounds like you’re saying that we pick and choose our reality.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          We all have our biases, which unfortunately make us describe facts differently- or in the minds of FUX News types, ignore the facts entirely.

        • Kodie

          Not at all, Bob. We’re talking about what makes meaning in life. Is it external approval of how good we conform to rules made up to describe the nature of our species (like religious people do) or what matters to us during our lives, which can be all the things you usually mention are meaningful to you. Nobody said anything about living a deluded life (although that’s possible).

        • Thanks for the clarification. There are lots of conversations, and I sometimes jump into one without understanding the context. This one, for example.

  • Pofarmer

    I can’t decide if this is good or bad.

    lington Rep. Who Wants To Criminalize Abortion Receiving Death Threats

    • MNb

      Death threats are never good.

  • Joe

    A good article on the epistemic problems of supernatural concepts.

    Another parallel is that Vampires and time travel especially (not sure about werewolves), are literary manifestations of our innate desires (i.e. fear of aging/death or a wish to amend for past mistakes respectively). You can say the same for religion.

  • Greg G.

    Do the vampires cast shadows or make reflections in mirrors?

    XKCD says that reflector telescopes cannot detect space vampires.

    How did Dracula keep his hair so neat?

    • MikeyM

      The movie, “What we Do in the Shadows” offers an explanation for why vampires dress weirdly. Since they can’t see their reflections, they depend on other vampires to sketch them. And they’re not very good artists.

      • Greg G.

        Dracula must have found an artistic vampire.

        • TheNuszAbides

          “[words to the effect of “no one is more easily corrupted than the artist”].” –Nietzsche

    • jbhodges7

      I speculate that it has something to do with the silver backing of most glass mirrors, especially of the “classic” vampire time period, Bram Stoker’s time. Perhaps mirrors based on brass or aluminum might work.

      • Greg G.

        Thank you for explaining that to me. That makes perfect sense. : )

    • busterggi

      That’s what Renfields are for.

    • Otto

      Dracula was a Dapper Dan Man

      • Greg G.

        He ain’t bona fide.

        • Kodie

          Nothing happens to vampires in the daylight. I think that was a rumor spread by humans based on the evidence that you don’t see vampires during the day, or they don’t attack during the day.

        • Michael Neville

          Also Jewish, Muslim and atheist vampires are not discommoded in the least by having crucifixes shoved in their faces.

        • adam


        • Michael Neville

          If you want to shove crucifixes in other parts of vampires go right ahead. Just don’t do it to Jewish, Muslim or atheist vampires unless you really want to piss them off.

        • Raging Bee

          What do Muslim vampires do, anyway? Stay on Earth to look for the 72 virgins they know they won’t get in the actual afterlife?

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          I read it that way at first, too!

          Christian vampires, however, do seem to be adversely affected by crucifixes shoved in their urine!

        • Kodie

          Probably drive a stake through their hearts, that’ll do it for sure.

        • busterggi

          Stakes don’t kill vampires, slayers do.

          No really, stakes are used to pin vampires in their graves in actual lore but they only pin them down.

        • Kodie

          Has anyone tried pulling their fangs out? Would they just get dentures?

  • Pofarmer

    You can ignore reality a long-long time.

  • guerillasurgeon

    You can ignore reality,
    but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.
    — Ayn Rand

    And yet her followers seem to be able to ignore reality without too many consequences at all. Supported by the rest of us poor sods no doubt. Although Rand herself recognised reality when she sponged off the stage in the last years of her life.

    • Michael Neville

      I think that instead of the Rand quote Bob should have gone with Philip K. Dick: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

      • eric

        “…reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” Richard Feynman.
        He was specifically talking about building things like space shuttles (the quote starts “for a successful technology…”). But really, the quote applies much wider than originally intended.

    • Kuno

      It’s not like Rand followed her own “philosophy” herself.

  • Michael Neville

    The DeLorean DMC12 was a very good looking car. Unfortunately that was the only good thing about it. It was underpowered with a 130 hp engine. The factory workforce was woefully inexperienced and there hadn’t been time to get them adequately trained. So there were many quality problems with assembly. It came with a three-speed automatic or a four-speed manual transmission when other sports cars had five or six speed automatic and manual transmissions. Combined with the low hp, acceleration was pathetic. The 0-60 mph time was a leisurely 9.5 seconds, compared with 7.2 for a Corvette and 6.3 for a Porsche 911 or Jaguar XKE. Plus it was overpriced. When it first came out in 1981, the unproven DMC12 cost a stiff $25,000 but an established Chevy Corvette went for about $16,000.

    • Pofarmer

      It was also aluminum, which meant there wasn’t a workforce readily available to build it, other than maybe aircraft workers. It’s kind of a fascinating story why the company went under. I think that TopGear did a special on it.

      • Dangitbobby

        Wait…I thought it was a “stainless steel construction made the flux dispersal…” work?

        Or was only parts of it stainless steel?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Fibre glass body covered with stainless steel panels…except for three that were 24 ct gold plated.

        • Raging Bee

          It was ahead of its time. Yeah that’s it…

    • My 2003 Mini Cooper has 163 hp.

      It was indeed quite expensive, though I imagine that they’ve retained their value pretty well.

      • Michael Neville

        Your Mini Cooper is about 500 pounds lighter than the DeLorean.

        • And the current list price isn’t much more than the $25K you cited for the DeLorean.

          It did look cool. But that’s about it.

    • Ignorant Amos

      I laid underground electric cable on the construction of the brand new DMC factory at Dunmurray on the outskirts of Belfast back in 1979…I was just 17 at the time.

      There was a recent convention of owners and factory workers here in 2015. I was fortunate to witness a cavalcade of the cars drive by.

      Rumour has it that a limited production is to be made in the U.S.

      A second hand model can range from $12,000 to $90,000 depending on spec and condition.

    • Khanada

      Well, a DeLorean DMC12 really only has to hit 88mph anyway… Faster than that isn’t necessary, right?

      • Raging Bee

        Is is if you’re trying to smuggle and sell cocaine to pay for the car.

    • Raging Bee

      I guess if I have to ask about the gas mileage, it was never the car for me…

  • Kodie

    So, I think instead of calling it theology, it should be called science fiction.

    • Pofarmer

      Alternative reality

    • Susan

      I think instead of calling it theology, it should be called science fiction.

      This is how I’ve survived Luke Breuer et al.

      They will type all day if they can put you on the if… then… carousel.

      But ask them to provide evidence and they have a litany of excuses for why we are not worthy of examining that evidence.

      None of them can answer a simple question about their claims in an honest way.

      • al kimeea

        For me, it is bad historical fantasy at least in the Abrahamic context.

  • Susan

    It can all be boiled down to:

    1) Exactly what are you claiming?
    2) How can you support it?

    (Mention vampires and leprechauns and the religious get their panties into a knot but they have the same burden anyone has. They just don’t like it and aren’t used to it.)

  • Michael Murray

    Science fiction and religion are related

    Lots of ironic twists on the time travel and Jesus theme such as

    In Garry Kilworth’s story Let’s Go to Golgotha!, tourists from the future can book a time-traveling “Crucifixion Tour”, but before setting out, they are strictly told that, when the crowd is asked whether Jesus or Barabbas should be spared, they must all join the call: “Give us Barabbas!”—however, when the moment comes, the protagonist suddenly realizes that the crowd condemning Jesus to the cross is composed entirely of tourists from the future, and that no actual Jewish Israelites of 33 A.D. are present at all

    • eric

      Poul Anderson also wrote a time travel novel where the time travel organization recruits wayward time travelers from the cruxifiction crowd, because so many of them visit there.

  • That’s the beauty of fiction, it’s so versatile. I mean that sincerely, I’m a voracious reader of fiction. The problem however is when it’s so removed from reality that you can’t suspend your disbelief. Or worse, when it’s claimed to be reality, or say something about reality when that’s unwarranted. As a boy, I can recall hearing about Christianity and thinking about it just another fictional story. The worry set in only after I realized they thought it was real. Before that it didn’t bother me.

    • TheNuszAbides

      i was a rather cozy christian child as long as the only resource i paid even half-serious attention to was Iva Hoth’s graphic novel edition of the bible:

      i was mostly into Vol.2, The Chosen People, because of all the superheroic Jews.

      then we got a 1611 replica KJV and i enjoyed something in Tobit about slaying a sea monster.

      then i got born-again’ed due to an opportune sum-bible-mer camp.

      by the time i had a third shot at baptism (another faithtacular summer camp, go figure) i’d been listening to a much wider variety of music, so the hypnosis wore off too soon.

  • Kevin K

    Back when every book published seemed to be a vampire book, I dabbled with writing a book about a guy writing a book about vampires — but he couldn’t decide which type of vampire the vampires should be. So he went back and forth between the snarling beast who only saw humans as a food source, the sophisticated world-weary roue who saw humans as pets of a sort, and a couple of other iterations.

    No sparkling though. Ever. Never. Not. Vampires don’t sparkle. Period.

    • You’re clearly not up on the latest vampire research. I know cuz I’ve seen the movie.

      • Kevin K

        You have my deepest sympathies.

    • Kuno

      Jim Butcher took a different route for his Dresden Files books. In them there are three different kinds of vampire, all with very different traits which follow different traditions.

      None of them sparkle, though.

      • Kevin K

        Agreed. Vampires. Do. Not. Sparkle.

        • RichardSRussell

          This is how religious schisms got started, too, you know.

    • eric

      Sounds a bit like the plot of Umberto Eco’s “Focault’s Pendulum.” Two publishing managers get tired of seeing terribly written, insane, paranoid conspiracy crap come across their desk…and then make money on the shelves. So they decide they’re going to invent their own paranoid conspiracy theory and make some money off of the trend. They weave together bits of themes from a lot of the terrible and crazy submissions they’ve had to read over the years and publish a book. Then people start coming after them… 🙂

      • Raging Bee

        I thought they’d just made up a conspiracy based on some list they’d found from the Renaissance…only to have one woman offer a much more mundane explanation (it was a shopping list), late in the book after it was too late to stop the demented fanboys from creating a real conspiracy in response to the speculation. Or are we talking about the same novel?

        • MR

          Yeah, they didn’t write a book, but he gets an up vote for simply mentioning Foucault’s Pendulum. I’ve long seen the parallels with religion.

    • Raging Bee

      Sparkly vampires. Silly even by supernatural-folktale-remake standards. Thank the Gods for “True Blood” to wash away all that sparkly Mormon-whitewashed crap.

      • Kevin K

        Oh yes. Definitely yes. Yes. YES!

  • Otto

    Wow, maybe Trump will help the atheist/skeptical position in a backhanded way.

  • Ignorant Amos

    Can we refer to “Comic-Con” as an accurate pun then?

  • Giauz Ragnarock

    “There’s no authority. It’s not like you make a claim about the mythological with the fear that real vampires will present themselves to prove you embarrassingly wrong.”

    “There’s no authority to reject these stories. No authority, that is, except common sense and our well-established understanding of how things actually work. Christians can say to the Scientologists or Mormons, “Hold on—you’re breaking the rules,” but then they break the spell and acknowledge that they are doing the same. They can’t awaken someone from their dream without being awake themselves.”

    Great quotes I will echo with my own recent quote to a person who thinks we just have to believe:

    “The “thing” people ask other people to believe is claimed to generally have people-like abilities: intelligible speech for one. Now on the outside of belief, it’s no wonder why there are religious texts, orders, proselytizing, faith healers, psychics, prosperity gospel, etc… the “supernatural” whatsits they claim will never speak a word against ANY of it (or otherwise has one hell of a fortuitous delayed response disorder), and they certainly don’t require a word for any of it- Jesus sent me, and read this book! The spirits talk, so listen to me! Give to me so that Jesus may profit off of you!”

  • Dys

    Completely Off-Topic Question

    Bob, I came across this repost from the Pagan branch of Patheos about Patheos cracking down on what’s allowed to be posted and criticized. I was wondering if you had any insight as to if or how true this is?

    • That’s a pessimistic take, but the facts are all accurate. We did get a new contract imposed on us. The income has been changed as noted–it is fairer to the less-popular blogs, so that’s good. I’m not sure how it’ll affect me, but my pay has always been IMO a tip (which I appreciate) rather than income.

      Our atheist channel editor, Dale McGowan, is great and very much on our side. Our channel produces a disproportionate number of page hits, so that gives Dale a bit of clout.

      There was some surprising lawyer boilerplate about minimal naughty words in the posts and their reserving the right to blah blah blah. Inevitable growing pains, I guess.

      I haven’t looked at this with Trump-colored glasses, so I haven’t thought much about it. The mothership being evangelical might bode ill for the future, but there’s no clear sign for that. Admittedly, my take is an optimistic one, and I’ve seen these changes as corporate-ese and the struggles to make money in a difficult environment.

    • I understand that the fears about a set of conservative sacred cow orgs that we wouldn’t be allowed to attack is unfounded.

  • TheNuszAbides

    The vampires in the novel Twilight avoid sunlight simply
    because their skin reflects it

    omg worst. lore. ever. she did not even try. and now she’s rich.

    which would reveal their
    true identity (why artificial light doesn’t do the same isn’t

    usually in up-to-date-with-tech vampire tales, UV light stands in for direct sun, duplicating whatever effect. entirely unsurprising it’s not addressed in Meyer’s magnum opus, since she nerfs the sun anyway.