Monday, January 30, 2006

The Zombie and his Soul

Since I am (I assume) the only religion scholar currently contributing to this blog, I feel that it is time for me to speak on the religious aspects of the undead. (I know you are all expecting an edged weapons post from me, but in keeping with this month's theme, I have opted for something more philosophical - deal with it.)

This is a very muddy topic from a theological perspective. For the sake of simplicity we will be talking about the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and we will be handling doctrine in only the broadest sense - so don't post a bunch of comments that point out the dozens of exceptions to the sweeping generalizations I'll be making. We all know there are about a million different sects with about a billion different viewpoints; I am just trying to hit the high spots.

There are several questions that spring to mind immediately:
1) Do zombies have souls?
2) Is it ok to kill them?
3) Where do their souls go?

On first blush, it is tempting to answer these questions with, "No, yes, and who cares?" but I realize that many of our readers will find that unsatisfactory, so here are my considered answers.

1) I am tempted to say no, because transition to the zombie state is generally preceded by death. At the time of death, the soul is believed to leave the body, and so any subsequent action of the body would be in a soul-less state. This, however, overlooks the recovered zombie - the zombie who is freed from his curse and returns to normal upon some external event. An excellent example would be the South Park zombies - upon the death of the main zombie, the other zombies (those not cut into chunks earlier in the episode) were returned to normal. To propose that their souls were temporarily absent and then returned to them seems to fly in the face of what is accepted about the soul, as well as posing difficult questions about where the soul was during this time; concepts like limbo or purgatory are just too crazy to speculate about.

These zombie-like species which aren't actually dead really do pose a problem. The zombies Clay mentions here are a good example; another would be the Reavers in the Serenity 'verse. None of these creatures is actually dead per se, so presumably they still have souls. It's easiest to view this sort of zombie-ism as being similar to a form of insanity. The soul is still there, but the person is not fully in control of their actions, and thus not fully responsible for any "sins" they might commit while in the zombie state.

So the short answer to this question is "it depends." Knowing the genesis of a zombie is necessary in order to decide if it has a soul.

2) If the zombie is, in fact, a mindless, soulless, brain muncher, then I don't think there is any theological problem in destroying them. Their souls have already departed and met their fate, while the killers are not guilty of killing a human being per se, and thus, not sinning in the traditional sense.

If, however, the zombie in question is one of the ones mentioned above who may still have a soul, the waters get significantly murkier. The killer of this type of zombie would be facing a different theological situation. Since the zombie has a soul, this would technically violate the "no killing" rule found in most versions of the "Faiths of the Book". The exception would be in cases of self-defense or defense of the helpless, and of course, most zombie slayings are exactly that, so it's not likely to pose a problem for the faithful unless they begin to really enjoy the killing. Those who seek out opportunities to kill zombies would, I believe, be sinning in some way - if the killing is sought out for the sake of excitement or pleasure, you can hardly say that it is self-defense. I can envision a scenario where one might decide that the only sensible defense is to mount an offensive against a horde of zombies in order to "get them before they get us", but as we have seen on the international stage in recent days, this can be very sketchy, ethically speaking. Zombies generally have no weapons of mass destruction or major oil reserves...

The short answer here is "yes, as long as it's truly in self defense."

3) For the most part, the Abrahamic faiths hold that a person is judged for the sins they commit willfully - the insane, small children, and those who are forced to commit sins by way of torture or some other method of coercion are not held responsible for their actions. Without getting into Christian debates regarding the "once saved, always saved" doctrine, I think this means that if a zombie with a soul is killed, then he would have to be judged according to the state of his soul prior to zombification. If instead he is subsequently cured of the zombie curse he would, in effect, have a blank spot in his soul's history - the time during which he was a zombie would not be taken into account in his final reckoning.

The short answer for this question is "their souls go where they would have gone anyway." One is held responsible for all sins committed unless those sins are committed when one is not in control of one's actions.

I hope this sets your mind at ease when the killing commences. Your neighbors or loved ones who become zombies are not doomed to hell just because they ate some brains, and you are not doomed to hell for blowing them away in self-defense.

I welcome continued discussion on this topic - comment away.

Think about it!

Grooooup huuuug...Maybe we should just give the undead buggers a break.
After all, they might make good friends. This article discusses zombie's positive role in this world, including utilizing the never-ending energy that Kit mentioned before (which fits into this month's shambling theme nicely).

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Freaky Photo Friday

I can't believe I ate the whole baby.

"I would expect you to kill me, mom. You don't take chances with the undead. Duh."

How does one approach the diffucult subject of zombie bites? Imagine, if you will: It's day 13 of the zombie pandemic. In a desperate bid to get sustenance, your group made a trip to the grocery store for supplies. You all probably made it back, except for the jerk if you had one (the jerk always dies). But, inevitably, someone got bit. You immediately took revenge on their behalf and seperated the zombie's brainpan from it's skull, but still, your friend was bitten. You know it's only a matter of time before they turn. What do you do? Do you say, sorry and shoot them right there? Do you take them back to the hideout and wait till they turn to kill them? Or do you do something else?

Now consider the situation from the perspective of the bitten person. One of the few parts of Land of the Dead that I liked was when one of the characters was bitten and decided to "see how the other side lives." My personal choice as a biten person would be to take out a bunch of zombies with me in a terrific explosion and afford my companions an otherwise impossible escape.

As usual I have a link: I found this heart-warming story about an obsesive two year old that posed the question to his mom. She said she'd wait until he was an undead monster to dispatch him. His response: "I would expect you to kill me, mom. You don't take chances with the undead. Duh."

What would you do?
Next time: Freak Photo Friday!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

powder, parasites, and prions

Turns out there's lots of different potential causes of zombies in the real world. One of the causes that intrigues me the most is prions. For those of you not in the know, prions are protiens that convince other protiens to fold like themselves, in a rather viral form of replication. Get enough of these built up in your brain and you'll have mad cow disease. Cooking the meat doesn't get rid of the protiens.
Anways, the rather tounge-in-cheek article "The Etiologi of Romero-Fuluci disease: The Case for Prions" goes into great depths on the subject, and also explores Solonium, which you may recall was created by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks) in The Zombie Survival Guide.
Now, a question to my non-existent audience: Does anybody know the name of the fictional science journal (fictional in that all of it's articles are jokes)? And is it online?

Friday, January 20, 2006

I, for one, welcome our new Nazi zombie overlords

Twitch films finds all the good stuff. Read about a new sci-fi, Nazi zombie film in the works here. Watch the previews, they're so... hellboyish in that pulp-fictiony sort of way.
Plus this movie's production team has a very special offer, join the cast, be a zombie! Read about how to at their site.
Update: Oh yes.
Silent Hill the Movie now has a decent trailer. And there is even some original music from the first game playing at the end. Looks good. Real good.

Check out Frostbitten, a vampire movie coming to a lower-German speaking theater near you soon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Brain slugs

This article at the New Scientist website introduces an interesting concept: worms and other parasites that can get into one's brain and make them do crazy things. This essentially means that zombies do exist in nature, albeit not necessarily undead ones. In the article, it is explained that a certain worm takes control of grasshopper's brains, forcing them to jump into water where they most likely will drown. Then the worm grows and bursts out.
The ramifications are spooky. Check out the links within the article too for some other nasty parasites that control their host.

This served to remind me of Night of the Creeps, an 80s zombie flick with a twist: brain slugs. They get in your mouth, and you're a goner. They even resurrect you if you are dead. If you can, try to get the version of the film with the alternate director's ending. Golden stuff.
Now word is out on the net about the fresh gorefest Slither , which is a new entry into the brainslug/zombie genre. Let this serve as a cautionary note: DO NOT SEE SLITHER. Let me back up my credentials as a person in a position to tell you that. Rewind back a few years to a scene in a movie theater lobby. The movie poster for Van Helsing was up, and in many ways it looked cool. But I knew better. Kit (Cantwell of this blog) came up and said, "Looks sweet huh!"
I replied, in a moment of bad-movie clairvoyance, "I could [expletive deleted] a better movie."
Kit: "Really?"
Later Kit confirmed my suspicions. I myself unfortunately did end up seeing a large portion of Van Helsing as well, when my drunken room mates rented it. And I was right. I'm telling you now, it doesn't matter that one of the big guys from the Dawn of the Dead remake was involved; it doesn't even matter that it looks like a zombie movie (in the sense that people become flesh-eating, brainless monsters). It's going to be bad. Believe me when I say that. And not bad in a good, Night of the Creeps way. No, bad in Van Helsing way. You've been warned.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Zombies as social commentary

Okay, so remember last post where I said I'd look into the alternative possibility for zombie movie themes? Well, I found what I was looking for, as well as another great tie into the this month's theme.

The Silenced Majority: Colonization of the Mind and the Flesh Eating Zombie is a well thought out essay that explores zombie films as a reflection of society. He starts with the zombie films of yesteryear, which often focused on the voodoo zombies I mentioned last post, then he goes into what the Night of the Living Dead trilogy means, and it's place in social reform.

Do you think books or movies ever cause social upheaval? Do you think the trilogy (now a quadrilogy) inspires the masses, or is it just another Hollywood vehicle to keep the crowds in a somnolent trance? Read the article and tell us what you think.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Great Moments in Science

So, if you're any sort of zombie buff, you probably know that zombies originated in the Caribbean region, where a special type of voodoo (or is it Houdin these days? I forget), was used to create them. But these zombies are not created by spiritual means at all (unless we're talking a Fulci movie). No, there is a little known formula that witch doctors use to enslave the living in a death-like thrall.

Karl at Great Moments in Science has tracked down the formula for one and all to see, and he describes it's chemical properties.

Now this is a different kind of zombie movie waiting to happen: a person is in danger, not from zombies themselves, but rather from being turned into one! Actually, that concept may have been done waaaay back when; I'll have to do some more research.

Btw, party people, google lists this site as the number one site for the search term "zombie blog." Now if only people actually used that search term, we'd be a hit.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Herbert West -- Reanimator

Where would you go, if you wanted to study how to raise the recently deceased? Personally, I would choose Miskatonic University Medical School in Arkham, Mass. ... DUH!!! But don't trust anything that that old Dr. Halsey has you doing up there in the laboratories and classrooms. To get real results you will have to take your research out into the field. Make sure to steal plenty of necessary chemicals and supplies and don't tell anyone about what you are doing, except for, of course, your trusted friend who will tell the world of your adventures via a fictional letter/story (actually written by H.P. Lovecraft).

"Herbert West -- Reanimator" is a short story by the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, a weird fiction writer of the early 1900's. He lived in Providence, RI and died at the ripe old age of 45 in 1937. Herbert West is a story about a medical student obsessed with being cheating death, by reviving the recently deceased via chemicals and tinctures that he himself derived from his studies and injecting them directing into the corpse to provide the proper results. And like most Lovecraftian works, the subject of the story becomes more than just obsessed about his craft, his life's work, he is drven by his discoveries and one "success" turns into more and more invasive procedures. (no need to spoil too much of the story)

Of Lovecraft's works, Herbert West -- Reanimator is the most "zombie-esque". In other works the dead certainly do walk the earth in one way or another, but with Herbert West the living-dead come together into a vengeful legion to destroy their creator, and who knows what else. There was also a movies made in the mid-eighties called "Reanimator". I've never scene it, but His Sinfulness I'm sure has some comments to post about it.

If you have never read this short story or any Lovecraft, I highly recommend it. It involves much of the macabre and the typical youth to madness bent that Lovecraft is famous for, and... I like it... if that matters to any of you.

Well, that's it for my first post. See ya on the flip side.

Friday, January 06, 2006

video games/movies crossovers

Click to zoom. Ripped from somethingawful (all silent hill parodies)

Thursday, January 05, 2006


The following is just frickin cool. I heard that they stabilized the Kenedy Assasination tape too. So, what do you think? Is this a guy in a suit?
Now, if you don't know the importance of cryptoozoology (wiki) to zombie hunting, then you've obviously never been bitten by a summatran rat monkey (wiki). Besides, cryptozoology is a psuedoscience, and it is science and philosophy month on zombie blog.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A letter from the editor: the zombie year in review

Hello, fellow survivors! I hope this Christmas finds you in a tank or other zombie-proof vehicle, with plenty of rations. Zombie survival month ends now (though there is no iron-clad rule stating we won't bring you more news on that subject--in fact His Sinfulness promised us more weapons coverage) we may return to that subject in coming months, and the new shambling theme for a new month is... drumroll please... Science and philosophy. Now, I could give my fellow contributors some kind of method to systematically test ideas and decide which subjects to write about, and even a way to determine if their hypotheses, if you will, are applicable to this month's subject, but... what's the point of it all?
Hoping that joke wasn't too abstract. Any ideas for future themes from the moaning masses?

2005 brought us lots of great zombie action. To recap the highlights, I've compiled the following list. The year started off kind of slow, but there were good feelings being generated by 2004's Shawn of the Dead. Overall, I think we are entering a true zombie renaissance.

March: The bill of rights took a blow, and so did zombie fans in general, when a high school student was arrested for writing a zombie story. There are conflicting reports about whether or not the boy stuck to his "it's just a story" defense. One things for sure, America be screwed up.

March 19th: George A. Romero returns to zombie films with Land of the Dead, continuing his highly influential series.

April: Shooting for the Silent Hill movie begins. It finishes in July. Kit and Clay rejoice.

April 1: A BBC story about a zombie-like plague is realeased (note the date).

June: Scientists break the laws of nature and make re-animated zombie dogs. Luckily, as they are dogs, they keep the terrible secrets of the afterlife to themselves.

July: The MMORPG Urban Dead goes online. Hey, anyone up for making a group? I have yet to play this one.

October 19th: Pittsburgh is declared unsafe in the event of a zombie infestation. Unfortunately, they have to wait for November for us to cover zombie survival.

October 23rd: Toronto Zombie Walk happens. I'll blog more about zombie walks later.

November 3rd: The zombie blog is started. The population rejoices. Several miracles happen, including a mother giving birth to a litter of really cute puppies, and L. Ron Hubbard rising from the grave to have a frank discussion with Tom Cruise.

December 16th: The Zombie-Santa walk happens. You better watch out...

My predictions for 2006: First, the 2nd ammendment will be in serious danger, and spears will become the home security device of choice.
And second, people will have a lot of cleaning up to do after their newyears parties, especially if they sport lawnmower vests (funny, yet gory, consider yourself warned).