What’s the Beef? On Faith and Food

Lavie Tidhar @ 06-09-2010

Just what is the relationship between faith and food? Nearly every major religion (and quite a few minor ones) have dietary restrictions of one sort or another – though they’re never the same!

Jews don’t eat pork or seafood. Muslims don’t eat pork either (and don’t drink alcohol), while Hindus don’t eat beef. Christians, it seems, will eat anything (including the body of the Christ) but otherwise frown on cannibalism, while traditional Melanesian practices don’t. And everyone knows Scientologists won’t eat thetans.

Here’s a handy list, courtesy of CNN.

Does the path to true enlightenment lie in the right meal? Could a new religion be founded on a secret teaching of sacred recipes? Is God living in my stomach?

I ask myself these sort of questions all the time. Why is bacon the Jewish Kryptonite? Why did David Blaine hang from a crane inside a glass box without food and water for forty days at London Bridge, and why did people have barbecues directly below?

Someone I know in Vanuatu once met a cannibal at a party.

“What does human flesh taste like?” she asked.

“Chicken,” he said. (I’m not, in fact, making this story up).

Why does everything taste like chicken?

It’s not like I have the answers. Are some foods holier than others? Are some foods evil? Is Nigella Lawson conclusive proof that there is a God?

And what do atheists eat? What do aliens taste like?

I suspect that, one day, we’ll go to the stars. We’ll find alien planets, and land on them and, most likely, we’ll eat what we find.

Remember when Arthur C. Clarke predicted the satellite? Well, pay attention now. I am going to make a science fictional prediction.

Lavie’s Law (formulated September 7th, in the very science fictional year 2010, at around 11am): Aliens taste like chicken.

Lavie Tidhar is the author of The Bookman (Angry Robot Books) and follow-ups Camera Obscura and Night Music, both forthcoming from the same publisher. His latest book, novella Cloud Permutations, is just out from PS Publishing in the UK. His story In Pacmandu is this month’s featured fiction on Futurismic.


The Troll Crusade: Anonymous, Scientology and all that

Paul Raven @ 06-10-2009

Anonymous - they are legion.To paraphrase the lovely Pat Cadigan, reality is always weirder than fiction… because fiction is constrained by the need to appear plausible. Which is why, had someone tried to write a novel about an ad-hoc tribe of sociopaths united by membership of an internet bulletin board attempting to take down a notoriously weird young religion created by a fast-talking science fiction writer that numbers some of the biggest names in Hollywood among its ranks, they’d have probably been laughed out of the slush pile with a form rejection slip. [image by Sklathill]

But Chanology, the Anonymous crusade against Scientology, is a very true story, and one that’s still being told. Julian Dibbell has a good long-form piece in Wired all about it, and it’s a fascinating read… not to mention ideal source-material for writers of near-future speculative fiction. Dibbell highlights the real driving motive behind the fluid alliance of Anonymous, which is much less the desire to right wrongs than it is the desire to wind up a legendarily uptight organisation – a desire that focusses inward as well as outward, like an irascible hydra whose heads turn on one another as often as they strike at their enemies.

Dibbell also points out that while Anonynous may represent the arrival of “the kind of ad hoc, loosely coupled social activism that many have hoped the ad hoc, loosely coupled architecture of the Internet would engender,” it may also represent its apogee. Anonymous and Scientology are almost made for one another, so perfectly diametrically opposed at an ideological level that they can’t help but feed the flames of the conflict; potential future opponents may well learn from Scientology’s mistake, and avoid feeding the trolls.

What interests me most about Anonymous as an amorphous (id)entity, though, is the potential it has for temporal continuity independent of its current membership. It’s a banner that any rebellious or angry group could raise at any point in the future, because although its methods and aims are fundamentally individualistic, its public face is exactly the opposite. Like the Luddites and the saboteurs before them, all that’s needed to join the cause is an awareness of its existence… and of its power to enrage the forces of order. Even if Chanology fizzles out against the superior legal firepower of Scientology, I suspect we’ll not have heard the last of Anonymous.


Anonymous continues to blur the boundaries between the internet and the real world

Tomas Martin @ 12-02-2008

Some of the Guy Fawkes masked protestors in London
After calling for mass protests against Scientology in its videos a few weeks ago, did online collective Anonymous have any effect on the world? Well, around 500 people showed up to protest in both London and Los Angeles, with hundreds more in other cities. The majority of protesters in London wore striking Guy Fawkes masks like in the film ‘V for Vendetta’. Protests appear to have been peaceful and in good spirits – eyewitnesses talk of lots of shouting of internet memes such asThe Cake Is A Lie’ from video game ‘Portal’, and little to no problems with police. Overall an estimated 7000 people in 100 cities across the world protested against alleged human rights abuses by the church.

It’s fascinating to see that many of the protesters were in their teens and twenties. This, together with evidence of large youth turnout in the Democratic Presidential Primaries suggest that the internet is gradually starting to increase the participation of some young people with real world politics and protest, rather than diminishing it. And with Anonymous’ activities moving away from the legally murky waters of hacking towards peaceful protest, are we seeing a return of the protest-happy youth of the sixties, with the help of some www’s?

[picture by xerode]


Battles in cyberspace: Anonymous vs Scientology

Tomas Martin @ 29-01-2008

William Gibson, considered by many to be the father of cyperpunk, has written recent novels in the present time as we’re almost in a cyberpunk world alreadyWhen the first cyberpunk writers picked up their pens in the eighties and wrote about conflict acted out over computer networks, it seemed like a lifetime away. In recent years we’ve seen internet attacks on Estonia and on power infrastructure. Countless griefers, hackers and virus-creators have found a way to virtually attack others.

Now it seems there’s something akin to a war on in one corner of the internet. A number of individuals calling themselves ‘Anonymous’ have posted a series of videos on Youtube decrying the Church/Cult of Scientology and what they call its manipulation of its followers. In related moves, a number of high profile Scientology websites were attacked by hackers and taken down. The Anonymous group seems to be using many of the techniques used by Alternate Reality Games like World Without Oil or Perplex City to create a campaign against elements of the real world.

It’s very reminiscent of the blending between virtuality and reality seen in Charles Stross’ Halting State. You can find Anonymous’s original message to Scientology video here and their reply to the media interest here on Warren Ellis’ blog. A new video was released yesterday explaining some more of the group’s message, in particular making it clear they are not just a group of hackers. It also warns of protests against Scientology on the 10th February. Whoever is doing it and for what reason, it’s a fascinating example of just how different our world(s) are now compared to even a few years ago.

[via Elizabeth Bear, image via Wikipedia’s page on William Gibson’s Spook Country]