posted on Thu, Apr 08 '21 under tag: freedom

Is free software a movement or a religion?

What is the difference between a movement and a religion?

A religion begins with a few fundamental tenets. These are set in stone. Or more practically, these are set in holy books. As time goes on and the world advances, these tenets do not change. But to compensate for that there are institutions which reinterpret the tenets to accommodate the new world. Questioning the tenets are considered blasphemy. But the institutions are free to reinterpret the tenets in light of new events to make the religion appear relevant. But nobody rewrites the holy books. Nobody questions the tenets. Nobody asks where they came from and why. Everyone just assumes that it is self-evident and self-complete.

Movements also begin with a few fundamental tenets. But as time goes on and there are new realizations, movements morph into new movements, sometimes called waves. The newer realizations become part of the movement itself. There is no single authority who defines a movement, rather everyone involved interprets the movement on their own. People question each other and help each other grow. Anyone can write books about the movement. There is constant aspiration to relearn, redefine, and grow better.

Now, consider free software.

Free software has a few core tenets. These are covered in a few essays on one website and probably decided on by one person.

As time went on and people started asking questions about sustainability, the interpreters of free software said that sustainability should come by building business models around free software.

When people started asking questions about cloud software, the interpreters of free software called them “Service as a Software Substitute” and asked the followers to avoid them.

When people started asking questions about inclusion and diversity, the interpreters of free software told that free software isn’t concerned about these per se and that people are free to start new efforts to worry about these.

Nobody can question why the fundamental tenets of free software are the ones that are. Nobody can criticize the utility of those tenets and whom they serve. If one asks such questions, they are given the kind option of leaving and starting their own because for free software folks free software is complete and irrefutable as it is defined.

Free software is a religion.

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