Linux As a Religious Experience

Hey folks, gotta’ a bit of news for you. Linux is an operating system. Using Linux will not redeem your immortal soul. It won’t even grant you that out-of-body experience you’ve been wanting.

It’s a friggin’ piece of software. It’s a bunch of computer code (mostly C and assembly) written to interact with a bunch of components on a mother board in a box on your desk. Linus Torvalds is NOT a god. Richard Stallman is not the High Priest of FOSS. Wake up and smell the burning capacitors, folks. Ya’ gotta’ push yourself up out of that computer chair and plow through the pizza boxes, soda cans, and cig butts to get outside for some fresh air and a bit of sun. You’re looking mighty pasty.

I spend my days at Linux forums and websites all over the Net. I listen to the fan-boys rant on about FOSS this and Richard Stallman says that. They rant on about which Linux distribution (usually the one they have on their own systems) is the very best. They whine and complain about more popular Linux’s like Ubuntu and Redhat because non-Linux folks think that those distributions are THE Linux that everyone is talking about at tech weinee gatherings.


You know, folks… there are really important things going on outside your door. There’s a huge oil slick forming in the Gulf of Mexico and threatening to slime up a 1000 miles of coastline. There’s a flakin’ whack job, Mow Mow Im-a-dinner-jacket, the president of Iran, who likes to play with nuclear fissionable materials. There are real religious fan-boys placing fertilzer and gasoline bombs in stolen SUVs in Time Square. C’MON! Is it really a big deal that auntie Emma thought Ubuntu was the ONLY Linux operating system? Dude! She only checks her email and visits KNellie’s Knitting Korner website. Who gives a rat’s rear area if she doesn’t care whether her beer is free or not.

What’s the point of this semi-rant? I’m getting to it. Have some patience. I have some more white space to fill first.

Linus did a wonderful thing when he created Linux. Richard Stallman has noble intentions regarding free access to knowledge for everyone. You are not to blame because of your own beliefs, tenets, or even your “brand loyalty” to your favorite distribution or application or whatever. What we all have to be reminded of from time to time is that there are other ways to do things. It’s OK to make a buck off something you created. It’s called Capitalism. It makes the world go round. Capitalism isn’t a bad thing. It’s GREED that’s bad. We’ll talk about that another day, though.

Remember that no matter who uses what operating system, the people behind the keyboards are real people just like you and me. They wake up every day and do things a lot like how you and I do them. They run MS Windows on their computers. They run MacOS. They run many, many different distributions of Linux on their systems. All of us are just trying to do what we need to do. We use our computers to earn a living or for pleasure or both. When we turn them on, our biggest concern is that they work as they did yesterday and the day before. When we double click the desktop icon for an app that we need to perform something we want to do, we rarely think of that app’s creator, the license type, or whether it’s open or closed source. We just want it to work.

Be appreciative of FOSS, Linus, and Stallman; but also be sensitive and respectful to those who have other cares than you. Just because they don’t believe, as I do, that Patrick Volkerding IS a god and Slackware Linux IS the coolest Linux distribution in existence, doesn’t mean they’re bad folks. All this rant was just to say… be nice, be kind, be considerate when discussing your favorites and beliefs regarding operating systems and software. Shit draws as many flies as honey, but honey sure smells better in your computer room. Besides, that desk your sitting at is already pretty nasty.

Have fun!


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  • Mike Harmon  On May 5, 2010 at 05:10


    I like your site and wanted to know if you would be interested in exchanging blogroll links.

    Thanks in advance

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On May 5, 2010 at 15:00

      Hi Michael,

      I don’t keep a blogroll on my site at this time. If that changes in the future, I’ll let you know. Thanks.


  • chrisretusn  On May 5, 2010 at 06:20

    Good thing we worship the same God. LOL.

    I’ve been out of the house now two days in row. It’s ugly out there.

    Just kidding.

  • Erik Imes  On May 5, 2010 at 07:58

    Thank you for this. I have been thinking the same for the last 10 years. I love Linux, open source and FOSS but…sometimes I get turned off by all the craziness.

    The recent Ubuntu change to the left hand-side drove me nuts. I could not believe the outcry. It was insane. It was a business decision good bad or indifferent.

    The worse is if a distro decides to put closed source software in their distro. You would think the world was ending. News to the world…there are great closed source software out there and the software works well.

    Oh yeah all businesses are not bad…software patents sometimes suck…musicians, actors, producers, directors like to get paid for their hard work. Not everyone believes everything should be free…if you live the free software life…you live the free software life…

    Oh…I don’t want to get started about the internet and web…let’s just say…nobody owns it…again if you live the free software life you live the free software life. Flash sucks…don’t load it and don’t complain if you can’t see the content…

    Again thank you for the blog. We need more entries like this. Sorry I ranted…and at times don’t make sense.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On May 5, 2010 at 15:00

      Hey Erik,

      No need to apologize. You make cogent points.

      Thanks for reading and for your comments.


  • BambisMusings  On May 5, 2010 at 08:49

    Blasphemy! 😉

    Actually, very well stated.

    DIversity is the spice of life.

    vive la différence

  • leftystrat  On May 5, 2010 at 18:58

    But…. it is the One True OS – never mind which distro!

    If that isn’t your preferred explanation, try this:
    It ain’t Microsoft or Mac.

    Keep up the good work, Two-Wheeled Fella.

  • V. T. Eric Layton  On May 5, 2010 at 19:49

    Here ya’ go, Lefty…

    Three operating systems (BSD) for the Elven-kings under the sky,
    Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
    Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
    One for the Dark Lord (Bill Gates) on his dark throne
    In the Land of Windows where malware and viruses rule.
    One operating system to rule them all, One operating system to find them,
    One operating system to parse them all and in the light unbind them
    In the Land of GNU where LINUX Rules.

    Heh! 🙂


  • Dagoth Pie  On May 6, 2010 at 02:22

    Better a religion than a cult right?

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On May 6, 2010 at 13:44

      @ Dagoth Pie…

      Well, most religions started out as cults, so it’s nice to be past the cult stage, huh? Heh!

      Thanks for reading and for commenting.


  • David Gerard  On May 6, 2010 at 02:47


    I’m a Unix sysadmin for a living. Mostly Solaris, some Linux (Red Hat/CentOS on the server). I use Ubuntu on my laptops (including being the only sanctioned Ubuntu user in my office!) because it runs on my hardware and doesn’t annoy the heck out of me.

    I like free software because the freedom is the freedom from vendor control. Ask any Unix sysadmin who’s had to deal with managing awful proprietary software. Open source or in-house development (or both) is the only sane way to go, if at all possible.

    I don’t love Linux. I’d much rather be running FreeBSD – it’s a heck of a lot nicer to administer. But hardware support (Linux is KING of hardware support) and software support (too many weenie programmers whose idea of cross-platform is “Fedora AND Ubuntu”) is too much like work. I’d rather just get my stuff done.

    This laptop (Toshiba Portege R600-12Z) has XP on it as well. The need for an antivirus hooking every open() on Windows cripples the system – it feels slower, it runs hotter (and frequently shuts down from overheating), the battery lasts an hour less. I know AV-less Windows boxes run a lot faster, but running without an AV on Windows is like random unsafe sex with strangers.

    One of the senior developers in my office was previously a huge Microsoft fan (though we develop in Java here). He just got an Ubuntu netbook. He’s discovered that the fact that Unix was written by developers for developers – it was the first IDE, really – and Linux was *very much* written by developers for developers … means it’s a really nice environment for developing on. And Windows’ little annoyances are really getting up his nose. He couldn’t give a hoot about software freedom, but he’s certainly appreciating the benefits it brings!

    “Ubuntu: it gets the heck out of your way.”

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On May 6, 2010 at 13:48

      @ David Gerard…

      Super comment, David… and good points you make too. I love free software (beer and speech). I’m not bashing it at all. I was just a bit peeved at the moment I wrote this article because of a posting that I had read at one of my regular Linux forums where someone was touting this, that, and the other as if he were an evangelical tent preacher.

      Thanks for reading and for your excellent comments.



  • David Gerard  On May 6, 2010 at 02:48

    And by the way, I know I’d be just as happy running Fedora or Debian. (If Ubuntu ever really jumps the shark, Debian will still be there.) All the Linux distros are really pretty good these days.

    The right answer to the question “what OS should I use?” is always “What’s it for?” The right answer to the question “What distro should I use?” is basically personal preference. For a complete n00b I’d put ’em on Ubuntu first, but that’s because I know it well – the others are generally just fine. Really.

    “This is Unix! I know this!”

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On May 6, 2010 at 13:50

      @ David Gerard again…

      I’ve been saying just this for years. The best Linux distro (or any OS), is the one that works best for YOU! 🙂


  • MALsPa  On May 6, 2010 at 08:19

    Nice, Eric! But, which ones are the Seven and the Nine?

    I love Tolkien, by the way! It’s been a while since I’ve let myself get caught up in that world, but I still have the books — The Hobbit, the trilogy, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales. Ah, Númenor!

  • Justen  On May 6, 2010 at 09:55

    Whew, take a deep breath and calm down. Fanbois are not representative of the larger population, they’re just poor souls suffering from aspergers and self-esteem issues. Take pity on them for being unable to communicate with other human beings, and joy in their unrivaled enthusiasm. They exist at the least for our amusement. ; )

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On May 6, 2010 at 13:57

      @ Justen…

      You said, “…they’re just poor souls suffering from aspergers and self-esteem issues.”


      Thanks for the comments, Justen. 🙂


  • Bill Davis  On May 6, 2010 at 18:59

    That was a great rant if you want to call it that. I thought it was more a sensible statement of saying There is far more important things to be concerned with, one of them being, consideration of your fellow humans point of view

  • Bill Davis  On May 6, 2010 at 19:37

    Whoops, I meant there are far more important things to be concerned with, one of them being, consideration of your fellow humans point of view

  • RISCi_ATOM  On May 7, 2010 at 20:25

    It is not about which GNU/linux distro is better. It is about the one that does not have software blobs in it. Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, etc contain or advertise non-free software that you, the user, does not have access to ALL of the source code. These are the ideas behind the GNU/Linux operating system and FOSS. All software should give the user the right to Modify, Copy and Redistribute software.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On May 7, 2010 at 21:09

      I can’t agree with you here because I do NOT believe that ALL software should be GPL’d. There is a place for commercial software. There needs to be choice. Choice is the important part.

      I compare software creation to writing. As a writer, I want to protect my output. I don’t want anyone taking my stories or books and rewriting them how they want them. That’s copyright infringement. I may publish the story and not charge anyone to read it, but I don’t want anyone pirating my creative output.

      A software creator has the ability to give his creations away for free. He has the ability to allow modification of his software. He also has the ability to charge for it and protect it from modification. He twists no one’s arms to force them to use his creation, regardless of whether he’s open/free or close/commercial. Again… it’s all about choice.

      Anyway, thanks for reading and for the comments.



  • Jack B  On May 12, 2010 at 21:49

    this is great!


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