Is your Religion Open Sourced?

If you have been involved in either developing and/or using software, you would have come across the term Open Source Software. Open Source methodology at a high level is an approach to developing software that is collaborative, worked on via diverse geographical regions by several individuals. In short the methodology is more interactive, community driven, etc.

I am an atheist but do know a little something about several religions. I have no problem whatsoever with people following a religion/faith of their choice.  But that is not the topic of this discussion. The topic I wish to explore in this blog post is “Do several mainstream religions follow the Open Source principles?”. I present my analysis (I could be off target) but if  you know your religion well, you could stack it up to see how it does on each of the parameters to be truly called Open Source. It is a fun exercise and I urge everyone of you to try it out in the right spirit.

I tweak the definition of the Open Source license from the Open Software Initiative to suit my purpose here. For a religion to be considered Open Sourced it must meet the following criteria:

1. Free Redistribution

I think most religions pass this test. They do not restrict any party from using its principles along with other ideas/principles to create new religions. Also I cannot think of any religion asking for a fee in case its teachings are to be used to create a completely new religion.

2. Source Code (Religious Teachings , Holy Texts, etc)

This term can be replaced by religious text, scriptures, etc. What it means is that one should have access to them. Anyone should be able to get this material and read it. It might not be easy to read the scriptures and understand everything about them. Sometimes expert help is needed to understand the context of certain chapters and situations in the holy texts. I think most religions would pass this test. They do have their source code out in the open. Some religions are probably closed source if they are a small knit group with entry on certain criteria.

3. Derived Works

All religions pass this one with flying colors. New religions are being invented / derived from the original ones.

4. Integrity of The Author’s Source Code (i.e. Original Text/Meaning of the Religion)

I think a lot of religions have the fundamentals in the right place but the certain sets of followers or users of the religion do not respect the integrity/meaning of the original text. They modify it and then preach it to suit their agenda. Is the religion to blame or certain promoters of the religion. Several derived products of a religion do tend to misinterpret the original meaning. I think most newer religions might not be open sourced especially if they are based on an older one. Sometimes they may not even acknowledge the original one.

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

I think you are the best judge of where your religion stands on this one. Several religions clearly do not admit people of other castes/race, etc  and at the same time there are several that welcome anyone.

6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

I think most religions pass this test. Because there are only followers of a religion. And what sort of business those followers undertake is not within the purview of the religion. A religion may not approve of a certain kind of business that its followers might do and might consider them non-believers or followers, but still it does not discriminate.

7. License Must Not Restrict Other Software(i.e. Religion)

All religions preach that they peacefully co-exist with other religions. At least I tend to think so. However the followers of the religion may not always think so. But for that I do not want to blame the religion. So I guess a majority of the religions should be able to pass this test.

8. License Must Be Technology-Neutral

I think all religions pass this quite well. They use media of all kinds today (Radio/TV/Print/Social/Web) to promote themselves. They really do not care if they are running Linux/Windows as long as the line of followers is increasing. No religious wars are fought on the choice of an Operating System.

I have removed two points from the original license terms since they governed Distribution of License,etc. And within the context of my analysis, it does not particularly apply or atleast to me it seems like it can be included within the realm of the above 8 points.

So, how did your religion stack up against the above 10 criteria? Is is truly Open Sourced ?

A general saying is that if you can think of it, a 100 others must have already implemented it. And it was no different when I did a search on the Internet and found that Open Source methodologies had crept their way into creating new religions long before the idea germinated in my mind. If you do not believe me, here is the Wikipedia page for Open Source Religion. There is a religion named Yoism, founded in 1994 that has based itself on Open Source principles. It look like Religion too has gone the way of the Web. It is Religion 2.0 now!


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