Religion and open source

How religion and open source communities can relate to each other

Four years ago, I received concerns via private e-mail about religious views in free software projects and posted a statement about it on social media. Given it’s more relevant than ever, I’d like to share it again.

Everyone is free to live his life with his own beliefs, religious views, politicical positions, his own confession — all as long as no one else is hurt by that.

Open source communities as I know and love them are an open, inclusive, friendly environment, with a worldwide community. We not only break the limits of time zones or languages, but also the differences between several cultures — which is not easy, but very well worth the effort, as it yields to a friendly and exciting new working environment all over the world.

When working in such a project, one of the most important values is being tolerant and interested towards others. Even if you don’t share their beliefs, respecting them and trying to understand them is a sign of strength and maturity — and by being open and interested, you can learn a lot, widen your own view and enrich your own life to a point you maybe never would have expected.

I remember that some years ago, a religious group asked me whether I could “dedicate” my open source work to them. By dedicating, they didn’t mean any public statement, nor any legal act whatsoever, but only the mental expression of “giving”. They, so I was told, are not allowed to use certain things without an explicit dedication. As strange as that sounded to my ears, it was something that didn’t hurt me, but rather the contrary. Of course, I gave that dedication and seeing them happy with this made me happy — independent from my own views and beliefs. I probably only understand half of what was going on and what it meant for them, but it felt good. Really good. And it felt right.

If we look at the intention of people active in religious communities, they are to me not that much different to those of many active in open source communities — even if the spiritual background might be completely different or absent. Working together, giving, sharing, learning, being inclusive — all these terms I would attribute to religion are also core values of many open source projects. With that aligned, it should not matter what or if someone beliefes in as a religion, as at the end of the day, those working in free software communities all have the same goal, so there’s nothing to be scared about.

People are different, especially when they come from different cultures — but that makes them neither good or bad, but just that: different from what you know. Something that should not make you scared, but interested, open, welcoming.

For many religions, if you look at the present or the past, horrible things happened in their name and sometimes, sadly still happen. To me, that’s not what religion is about and in my opinion all that has nothing to do with the core intention of religion. Rather the contrary, it is abusing religion for purposes it was never meant to be, and we should not identify any religion with this per se.

True open source communities respect every member, independent of culture, religion, politics, language or country — and by being that open, there you do not only find colleagues, but true friends around the world.

I wish for you that you can see things the same way. I can for sure tell you it will enrich your life.

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