I was wondering: have any authors set up a scenario where an avowed atheist runs afoul of of a vampire through a lack of a holy symbol? Just wondering.
I don’t think so, but it would be an interesting twist.
In the fantastic I am Legend* by (I cant’ think of his name right now but) there are some interesting things about the religious symbols and what happens when a Jew becomes a vampire.
Not exactly the scenario requested, but…
In Gordon Dickson’s The Dragon and the George (IIRC, there have been so many of these type stories over the past few decades that I often associate a scene from one with the title of another) Our Hero and his Faithful Sidekick are assaulted by sandmirks. Now, sandmirks use a psychic attack before their physical attack, and if your mind is open to them they will make you hallucinate until you are unable to withstand them, or you kill yourself, or something like that.
Faithful Sidekick is a native of the medieval setting, so his defence is to occupy his mind with the prayers he knows and believes. Our Hero is from mid-Twentieth Century America, and therefore cannot recall any prayers in which he believes.
To save his mind, he recites his doctoral thesis, which he has gone over so many times he has it memorized and in which he believes.
Is it the faith of the vampire or the faith of the vampire hunter which determines the power of a given symbol?
I totally forgot about that book! Isn’t the main character an atheist?
I am Legend was by Richard Matheson. I believe the protagonist was an atheist, but since his house was besieged every night by “vampires” (victims of a bizarre plague) he tried everything – crosses, other religious symbols, running water – to see if it affected them.
In the 4th Doctor Dr Who episode with the vampires, It was belief (or was it concentrated thought) itself that repeled vampires, not the symbol. IIRC The Doctor recited math tables or something.
And in the distant past the Time Lords built “bow ships” (giant flying crossbow/space ships) to combat them.
In I Am Legend the protagonist holds off a Jewish vampire with a Torah. In the Marvel comic Tomb of Dracula someone holds Drac at bay with a Star of David. In the movie The Fearless Vampire Killers a woman holds up as crucific to ward off a vampire, to be greeted with “Oy, have you got the wrong vampire!”
I think most of the variations have been tried (“Could you kill a vampire with a stake made of plastic wood?” asks someone in the Larry Niven short “What can you say anbout Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?”) with varying degrees of conviction (“It was a vampire-- in an all-metal spaceship!”, in an old comic I have), but, to tell the truth, I never heard of The Atheist meets the Vampire before. Maybe he could defeat him with a syllogism. Or convincing him that he doesn’t exist.
In another comic reference, the X-Men once battled Dracula, who was trying to turn Storm into his bride. Wolverine tried holding him at bay by putting his claws into a cross shape. Dracula pounded the **** out of him, commenting that the holy symbol only worked for believers.
Batman also battled Dracula in an “Elseworlds” (out-of-continuity) story, teasing him by painting a cross with his own blood on the wall. I’ve never known Batman to be a religious man, so I’d wager it worked for him.
Baldwin thanks! I just blanked on his name.
In that story the persons faith before they became a vampire affected what worked on them. The human holding the religious symbol didn’t have to have any faith.
Depends on the mythos.
In Stoker’s Dracula, Harker is presented with a “crucifix” which repels the Count even though as a member of C of E in good standing Harker didn’t accept the tenets behind the “Catholic” symbol. Others have referenced various comics including Wolverine’s inability to repel Dracula with a cross (although Nightcrawler was able to, with a pair of crossed sticks and the Jewish Kitty Pride failed to repel him with a cross but burned him with a Star of David). Buffy’s Willow Rosenberg, a Jew/Wiccan, can repel/burn vampires with a cross as can former (and now again) demon Anyanka. Jerry Dandridge (Fright Night) can crush a cross wielded by faithless Peter Vincent but is later repelled when Peter finds his faith. In the “Anno Dracula” books crosses work to an extent based on the “superstitious beliefs” of the vampires themselves, with a certain set of vampires wearing crosses as fashion statements. Then there’s a whole genre of “vampirism as disease” stories (Near Dark, The Hunger, etc.) where crosses either don’t work or it doesn’t really come up.
In the move Fright Night (1985), Dandridge the vampire is menacing Charlie Brewster and Peter Vincent (The Great Vampire Killer!). Peter Vincent holds up a cross, which Dandridge contemptuously crushes, saying “You have to believe.”
Charlie then step from behind Peter and holds up a cross- and his belief forces Dandridge to retreat.
That’s the only incident I can recall, though.
In The Sleeping Dragon, by Joel Rosenberg, a bunch of gamers got transported to their campaign world as their characters, i.e., the the Ag major ended up as a big warrior, the kid in the wheelchair ended up as the dwarf, and the nice Jewish girl ended up as a Cleric. After healing somebody, she tried to pray to get her spells back and failed because she couldn’t accept the idea of a god which would grant that level of power to her.
Curse you, Otto, CURSE YOU!
[SUB]I was this close.[/SUB]
In Ann Rice’s vampire novels, scores of people that don’t believe are killed by the anti-hero Lestat. SPOILERS BELOW!!
Ann puts an interesting twist on the “faith” concept in The Vampire Lestat by saying it was the vampires’ faith that made them fear crucifixes, churches and the like. Lestat has no such faith and sets up residence in the basement of a French church, much to the dismay of Armand, who has kept his vampire colony under control by using their fear of God ingrained by their Christian upbringing during their mortal years. Yet Ann makes it quite clear that supernatural beings (a demon) are responsible for the birth of vampirism. This seems to have little effect on the belief system of David Talbot, Lestat’s mortal counterpart in the Talamasca.
In Dracula 2000 (hardly an authoritative source), one of the characters holds a cross up to a vampire, who brushes it away, remarking “I’m an atheist.” So it seems to depend only on the mythos.
I read “I Am Legedn” about 6 months ago, and while I don’t recall the protagonist ever stating categorically that he was an atheist, but he never indicates that he belongs to any particular faith, either.
He uses Christian totems and icons as a weapon against vampires, because they seem to work against many vampires. But over time, he tries various experiments on different vampires, and finds that Christian symbols only seem to work on vampires who had been Christians in their previous lives. Jews or agnostics who became vampires had no fear of crosses.
Matheson’s hero concludes that the effect of crosses on vampires is purely psychological, that formerly Christian vampires have so thoroughly absorbed Christian mythology that they themselves feel “unclean,” or marked by Satan, and react with fear to reminders of their old beliefs.
Of course, by now, there have been so many vampire stories and so many variations on the legend, it’s silly to look to any one source as authoritative.
Feh. Ya have to have faith for that to work on me.
As stated by others, it depends on what reality your atheist and vampire are occupying. The power of the cross could be dependent on any of the following:
- the symbol itself, regardless of wielder or vamp
- the faith of the vamp
- the faith of the wielder
So your atheist better hope he’s in category 1 or 2, or that he had the garlic pasta for dinner. I’m kind of partial to #3 myself. Considering how many cross-shaped objects there are around, I’d think vamps would have a tough time of it if some faith wasn’t involved, and I don’t like #2 much 'cause it implies that the forces of good won’t protect you if you happen to be unlucky enough to be attacked by a heathen vamp.
Here’s a related question: Would a cross provide any protection to a time-traveller on a trip to the years B.C. ?
Try Dan Simmons’ novel Children of the Night, a fascinating take on the vampire story which looks at it more from a scientific and biological standpoint than a religious one. Like in Matheson’s I Am Legend, I don’t think the characters ever say they are atheists, but many of them never profess a faith of any kind either. That qualifies, I think, since the religious aspect is sort of disregarded as embellishment of the legend in the book.
I had actually had a similar idea to what Simmons wound up doing, one which I never developed beyond an idea. He did it much better than I ever would have anyway. His thoughts on the mechanism by which blood becomes nourishment and keeps the vampire alive is genius, and I think he may have been the first author the explore the effects of AIDS on vampirism… which is now a sort of tired trend, but was fresh when I first read Children of the Night.
One of my favorite vampire novels ever, and certainly one of the most original.