This past week’s issue of the Economist had an . . . unusual article on hacking and religion. It seems like some Christians are promoting hacking as akin to godliness. (N.B. The term “hacking” here is used in its traditional, benign sense of “tinkering,” not “breaking into programs.”) These folks endorse the “open-source” movement where programmers put all their creations into the public domain. Some of them go further and hint more or less openly that proprietary software is sinful.
On the other hand, we have people saying that it’s ridiculous to try to make hacking and Christianity bedfellows. The argument here, made by Eric Raymond and others, is that the Roman Catholic Church, which teaches that it has a monopoly on the sacraments, is the poster child of the proprietary mindset.
I think Raymond is, shall we say, confused. I’m with the pro-hackers on this to the extent that they realize contributing one’s creative effort to the world without monetary compensation is an act of charity. If they want to argue that creating anything proprietary is a refusal to help their neighbors and un-Christian, let’s look to see whether they live at a bare subsistence level and give away the rest of their incomes. Anything less would be a refusal to help their neighbors, right?