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Yes, Virginia, You Are an Open-Source Theologian, A Hacker of Your Soul

Here’s the manual. Then get thee online.



If you were born Jewish or Catholic or Episcopalian and a koan from a Buddhist monk suddenly changes your life, that doesn't make you a Buddhist. What it means is that you are willing to examine and rewrite your own source code in the hope of finding a closer connection to God.

This article appeared in the Winter 2002 issue of Spirituality & Health. Five hundred years ago, William Tyndale was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. His offense? Enabling, as he put it, “a boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than [a priest].” Nowadays the most sacred Scriptures, stories, and practices from all of the world’s religions are becoming open and available to all — mere clicks away on the Internet — and the impact is proving every bit as revolutionary as Tyndale hoped and as his persecutors feared. We are both tremendously empowered and frighteningly cast adrift. Fortunately, the technology that has so accelerated the growth and reach of armchair theologians also offers a nifty metaphor for reflecting on the new demands of our discipline: a movement called “open source.” Here’s how it works The heart of a computer is an operating system, a software bundle such as Windows that distinguishes a functioning computer from a doorstop. Windows has spread worldwide because the system has a set of powerful rituals that are easy to …

Nathan Brockman is this magazine’s former associate editor. He then became managing editor of He is a graduate of Fordham University and a writer of award-winning short stories.

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