Religion as Software

There’s been a thought bouncing around in my head for the last few days, patiently waiting for me to get around to properly formulating it into some idea that other people might understand. Since I don’t anticipate that I’ll ever actually write something coherent I’m just going to throw it onto the page in whatever form it takes and hope that it’s understandable. Like vomitting alphabet soup, only without the rank odour.

Essentially the thought is this: I’ve been comparing software to religion and, in particular, open-source to atheism. Most importantly at this point I should point out that the only reason in this analogy that open-source is atheism is that those happen to be the aspects of these two fields that I support. It’s nothing, so far as I can see, to do with Godless communism.

Here’s my take on open-source: I support it, I want it to succeed, and I think that the world wouldn’t be a bad place if all software was open-source. I aknowledge the improbability of this, so I take heart in the fact that real competition in software tends to create an environment where open-source can thrive. When Microsoft controls most of the office productivity software, with Word as the de facto standard, it creates difficulties for Open Office and other packages. They have to work harder just to work at all. When most people use Internet Explorer to browse the Web, and consequently many websites only work with that browser, it makes it harder for other browsers to compete. When there’s competition, from Firefox, from Opera, from Safari, developers are forced (eventually) to code to standards. Imagine the number-two browser right now was Opera instead of Firefox, so the market was still controlled by closed-source prorietary software vendors. Wouldn’t it still be creating a better environment for the open-source browsers?

So that’s where religion comes in. I’m finally coming around to the idea that it’s not the religion that’s bad, it’s the monopoly. Fundamentalist Christianity holds a monopoly on American religion; Catholicism has the same thing here. If that monopoly was to be diminished somehow, by atheism or otherwise, it would be good for atheists. When people have to live and work with people of different or opposing faiths, it’s not a huge leap—or indeed any leap at all—to start behaving themselves in the presence of people without faith too.