'True Blood' and Religion: Christians vs. Vampires vs. Wiccans

What does the series believe about faith and damnation? This week's episode was infuriatingly vague.

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The good people of Bon Temps were overtaken with a wretched hangover of conscience this week. All their soul-searching was relatively superficial, sped through to make room for all the different sinners of the week—and there was much more talk of divine punishment and debate over good and evil than usual in True Blood. The talk of damnation, separated from religion, raises a lot of irritatingly unanswered questions.

Godric, who has been depicted as practically a vampire Jesus (son-of-God Jesus, not boyfriend-of-Lafayette Jesus) appears to Eric in a nightmare and urges him to give in to his evil vampire instincts, because he's damned anyway. Eric's feeble "but she has redeemed me!" is touching, but I fear Gran may be right that this state of affairs is temporary. The frustrating question is what makes Eric think he is damned—does he even believe in a deity? If there's no system of divinity, how does damnation work? And why exactly would Eric be damned? For being a vampire, or for the past acts he committed pre-memory-loss? If forgetfulness redeemed him, then he should thank the Wiccans rather than Sookie. If Sookie redeemed him, it was only by being pretty, and that doesn't make sense at all.

From damnation without anyone to do the damning and without any explanation of what damnation otherwise entails, we move on to my second pet peeve of the night: "religions" that actually get instant results. Do they still even count as religions? Marnie describes Wicca as a religion, but in practice it seems like mental karate rather than the standard be-good-or-be-punished-sometime behavior-regulating religions we're more accustomed to. As such, it is showing its adherents better results than the more standard religions in town. There seems to be little hope for Christianity; after all, if the Catholic Church was riddled with vampire priests, vampires can hardly be susceptible to anything coming from that direction. Based on the ineffectual exorcism performed at Arlene's house, it doesn't seem like Christianity has much effect against ghosts and demons, either.

In a vague attempt to figure out if True Blood had some sort of established hierarchy of spiritual belief, I tried to work out a sort of rock-paper-scissors version of the supernatural:

1.) Christians vs Vampires/Demons → Vampires/Demons win

2.) Wiccans vs Vampires → Wiccans win

3) Christians vs Wiccans—Fooled you! Those priests are vampires. Invalidated on a technicality, but it seems like the vampires and the Wiccans both lose pretty heavily on that fight. Unclear what the results are for any actual Christians involved in this particular scuffle.

So that wasn't very helpful.

As a next step in getting this religious-weaponry confusion sorted out, I decided to look at strategies—at how, precisely, people are weaponizing their religion. The thought of using necromancy to control the already-walking dead is very clever, though you might think pulling off mass-revenge on that scale once would get it out of your system, especially if you died doing it—for starters, there'd be no system left in which to even maintain the revenge-itch. But, apparently, you would be wrong. The trick with both religions mainly seems to be having someone at the other end of the line who feels like answering the call, and the Wiccans found one; unfortunately for them, she has her own motives for answering. It looks like Arlene was perfectly right to worry about attracting God's notice by praying for Mikey's exorcism—Marnie thought she was praying to a mother goddess, and she's unleashed something that seems quite a bit less nurturing than mother goddesses are typically represented to be.

My favorite damnation moment of the episode was a relief in that only one religion was involved, and that it was completely ineffective aside from creating a quick and easy framework to express guilt. Tommy kills his parents in a fight (one of his more likable moments—he's been such a useless twit the rest of the time) and then spends a few guilty minutes babbling about the commandments and going to hell. Sam talks him down by assuring him that all's fair in love and war, mainly war—and in any case, Sam has killed two people as well, and he's doing fine. This brother bonding moment, or possibly the trick of luring gators with marshmallows, seems to calm Tommy down for the time being. (Incidentally, I feared the gator-marshmallow connection was too good to be true, so I googled it—Stephen Colbert himself assures us that gators do, in fact, love marshmallows.) A nice little moment that redeems the episode from some of its more convoluted damnation debates.