[sword-devel] conversations with Stallman

Ian S. Nelson sword-devel@crosswire.org
Fri, 21 Dec 2001 14:54:22 -0700

"Timothy R. Butler" wrote:

> Hi,
> > I have often compared Stallman to socialism.  While I think there are
> > practical benefits to the O.S. movement, I believe their is an ideology or
> > better a philosophy that tends to undergird it which is unbiblical, that
> > is, to own something is wrong.  The socialist view is very analogous to an
>   I agree, but I might point out I think you are referring to the "free
> software movement." The open source movement smells a lot less socialist
> (yest there is a difference between the two). A friend of mine pointed out
> recently several reasons why he thought Christians should use open source
> software:

Interesting thread, I can't help but stop lurking...

I've added code to a number of opensource projects, including the linux kernel
and I make my living through it right now and have for over 2 years now and I'm
really starting to get a finger on the pulse of it all as a "movement" of
sorts.     The only thing I can really say as a truth that's fairly universal is
that it's way to unorganized to actually be a movement and close to nobody
involved in it actually sees it that way or feels that way about it.  There
might be a thesis in organized chaos or something but for the most part it's not
anarchism, it's not socialism, it's not really any -ism.  It's just a bunch of
people who want some things and are choosing to create them rather than go
without them or pay for them if they actually exist and creating happens to be
pretty fun stuff when you get down to it so lot's of people want to get

I think the tendency for humans is to make things simple.  We take complex
things and put them in to concise little boxes and maybe we put a label on
them.   In the few cases where things are simple, we make them very complex so
that we can make them simple and put them into little boxes.  It's very easy to
look at Free Software or OpenSource and say communism or socialism, the truth is
it's a very complex phenomena.  Linus Torvalds does Linux because it's fun, he
has an ego and wants it to do well but do you honestly think he's trying to
liberate the masses from the "Microsoft Tyranny" or make it possible for people
in 3rd world countries to afford software?   He's not even thinking about that,
it's a side effect, he's trying to make a great kernel and he's having fun doing
it.  Even Stallman isn't really trying to create a change in the social
structure so much as he wants to program and trade programs at will with people,
you can look at it from 50,000' and say that it's social movement or something
but that's a really simplistic way of looking at it.

I won't even touch on unbiblical nature of it,  that's comical, it's a very
interesting and selective way to see things.   From my personal study of the
scriptures, I don't recall a whole lot on the evils of socialism or capitalism
in specific.  I kind of suspect that God is going to judge us all individually
regardless of the social structure we operate in during this life.  If we happen
to do good and lot's of other people get involved and then someone calls it a
socialism, I don't care so long as it's good, I doubt God does either.

>   1.) Would you rather have your church spend $10,000 to move the new PC's to
> WinXP, OfficeXP, and networking them together with Windows.net, or spend $50
> bucks for a Linux distro, and spend $9,950 on missions or evangelism or Bible
> translation (I couldn't resist throwing that last one in)?

In some cases, the Christian nature of software piracy should be raised.  I know
of a few Christian organizations that do it quite a bit and it doesn't even
register with them that it is theft.  Running a microsoft only office is pretty
expensive, even for medium sized churches their IT budget could easily be the
cost of a youth minister or numerous other services or it could be the
difference between making their payroll or not.

>   2.) The ideology of open source, in some ways, seems very Christian. It
> encourages the community to help each other, and to work together. This is
> something that parallels the way Christians at least *should* work together.
>   3.) Back to money, would it be better to spend $1,500 on Office, Windows,
> Bible study software, and whatever else for your home PC, or to spend $50 and
> give $1,450 to a local Christian food bank or help your church meet it's
> budget?
>   Clearly socialism is (very) dangerous, but open source can be very
> capitalistic too, RedHat proves that.
>   -Tim

To be honest.  If there are evils in opensource and free software I think it has
little to do with socialism or greed and far more to do with ego and the feeling
that we don't need anyone's help.   When you're doing it for free society gives
you the license to have dominion over it and that can be very unhealthy in
certain people.