December 2, 2008

Religion is not Python

About six months ago I made a post called Python is not a Religion, discussing some aspects Python advocacy in response to some comments by Doug Napoleone. About two weeks ago I see a new comment (by Jonathan) appear against that piece:
I noticed that your Blogger profile says "Catholic tastes" for your favorite music. Are you a Catholic, and would you be interested in joining the recently formed Association of Catholic Computer Programmers?
Firstly, I should like to point out that I am not a member of any church. I have no interest at all in worshipping anybody else's imaginary friend, though I try (with varying degrees of success) not to make too much fun of other people's delusional belief systems. I have my own to maintain. In this case I am going to make an exception. Without my really knowing why, this particular comment got right up my nose. I suppose, now I think about it, it's the shallowness of understanding that led the person to post the comment. Google has a lot to answer for.

Secondly, the word "catholic" in my profile is specifically used in the sense of "free from provincial prejudices or attachments", but apparently some Catholics don't appreciate that the name of their church has a broader (and far less exclusionary) meaning, dating back to the days when you were Catholic or you were on the rack, buddy. The Catholic church is so named because it was originally the "general or universal" Christian sect. Of course Henry the Eighth laid waste to that when he started the Church of England, and as far as I can see the Christian faith has more branches than the average oak tree. Whatever.

The Association of Catholic Computer Programmers (Catholics interested in software engineering best practices) appears to be a little schizoid. Are they a social network, a religious institution, or a movement? Some of the discussions are interesting, with comments like "I think we should start a project to benefit a charity of our choosing and put our collective talents as Catholic SEs to good use", which makes me wonder what skills Catholic software engineers have that I don't.

The same guy who started ACCP has started "a pro-life network", though apparently it have only four nodes so far. There's a pretty badge people can use "to identify themselves as being pro-life". Well, of course I am pro-life. Without life I'd be nowhere, and you wouldn't be reading this drivel now. In fact I find it difficult to understand how any living being can be anti-life, with the exception of the dysfunctional. But of course there's a hidden semantic trap there: the opposite of pro-life isn't really anti-life at all, it's "murderer".

The most revelaing thing of all to me is that neither the ACCP nor the above-mentioned network are prepared to do what enabled the commenter to make his or her comment in the first place. They require sign-up to make any sort of input to their site, while my blog allows anonymous comments from anyone (though as a spam reduction measure they aren't immediately posted). So the Catholic Programmers aren't at all catholic in their approach to discussion.

I know a lot of good Christians, but I don't want to join that club. Sorry. I suppose Jonathan can only hope there's no such thing as bad publicity.

17 comments:

Catherine said...

My church's secretary is limping along with lousy IT practices, because we can't afford proprietary church management software and I haven't yet come through on my promise to her to evaluate, select, install. and train her in an open-source church management software package. If I knew of a good organization for Christian programmers, I'd join to get advice on that. Presumably they wouldn't mind if I popped over to ask.

The discussion threads do seem pretty this 'n that, but without somebody volunteering to crack the whip and shout "stay on topic!" (what a pain), that's what you get.

Pythonista conversations span the gamut from on-topic to huh?, too...

Paddy3118 said...

;-)

+1

Anonymous said...

I have no interest at all in worshipping anybody else's imaginary friend, though I try (with varying degrees of success) not to make too much fun of other people's delusional belief systems.

Wow. You make a condescending, demeaning statement, and then say you're not attempting to ridicule someone's delusional belief system.

I salute both sides of your mouth sir. Well played.

BTW - I'm not particularly religious, but even I understand the equivocation between a child's imaginary friend and a religious person...

Politics and religion - two things I don't care to discuss but somehow they always crop up on "techincal" blogs. But yeah, it's your blog so if you wanna talk about Bigfoot, it's your business - I should just not read it :)

infixum said...

Steve,
You'll probably be furious with me or just shake your head. After reading your post, my only thought was, "Oh, cool, there's a computer programming group for fellow Catholics . . ." Once an Irish Catholic boy, always an Irish Catholic boy . . .

JMC said...

I have no meaningful contribution. I only wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this post!

Brandon Craig Rhodes said...

Might it not be a tad bit harsh to actually link to someone's blogger profile when calling them delusional and shallow, and their organization schizoid? :-) I would have made readers go hunt down the comment, and its author, for themselves.

But, I suppose I have some sympathy for the fellow, since the word "Catholic" is clearly capitalized in your music preferences, and it goes against all standards of usage for you to have capitalized the word when not referring to the Church of Rome. Lower case is traditionally used when "catholic" is an adjective and not a proper noun.

If Blogger capitalizes all Favorite Music entries without allowing exceptions, then perhaps you could reword that entry to "Fairly catholic tastes" (or "Completely catholic tastes" if you really mean it), so that Catholics do not misunderstand that you are merely asserting catholicity without actually asserting Catholicity? :-)

Anonymous said...

Well... in point of fact, you capitalized "Catholic" in your profile while it was not a part of a complete sentence and therefore not clearly subject to the requirement that it be capitalized as the first word of a sentence, thereby introducing some possible measure of confusion about whether you meant "catholic" the wide-ranging or inclusive attitude vs. "Catholic" the proper noun name of the church.

So, perhaps the commenter out thought himself and you as well?

Maybe not -- but it was worth a shot.

Steve said...

@catherine: You're right about the topic variability on c.l.py, but that's pretty much coincidental: nobody calls c.l.py "the place where Python programmers can discuss English grammar" (to mention one frequent OT subject). Catholicism and software engineering just seem so disconnected somehow (to me, at least).

@anonymous: "I salute both sides of your mouth sir. Well played." Thank you from both sides of my mouth. I am sorry you were forced to read my blog at gunpoint. And congratulations on summoning the courage to identify yourself; oh sorry, you didn't.

@infixum: Not at all furious: it's a free country. Happy you found out about it from my blog when you might not otherwise have discovered something of value. Enjoy.

@Brandon Craig Rhodes, @Anonymous: "Catholic" is capitalized in my profile for the same reason that "Consulting" is under "Interests": it's the first word of an entry. I was amused at Jon's presumption this referred to the religion, that's all. I doubted that the phrase "Catholic tastes", with or without an initial capital, was ever used to refer to anything expept the "general" meaning. Then Google led me to this. Now there's a guy who's risking hell fire and damnation ...

@Everyone: it's obvious from the post that I am not explicitly religious, and I do like to poke fun at people from time to time. I'm not going to discriminate against Christians by not poking fun at them too ...

Who should be next?

Anonymous said...

I'm an atheist but I'm considering converting to Catholicism in order to improve my coding. I've taken courses in C#, Python, Java, even Rails but I feel like something is missing from my code. Can Jesus help me? Do you have any advice?

Steve said...

@anonymous: this is way too important for a flip reply from a geek; I have passed your inquiry to my spiritual consultants, and will respond further if they have anything helpful to say. Otherwise, may the source be with you.

Alex said...

Christians didn't wait for Henry VIII to start splitting pretty permanently -- the division between "Catholic" (Roman) and "Orthodox" (Greek) churches far predates that (and the funny thing is that both would claim to be "universal" AND "the right doctrine", which is what the two words _mean_;-).

Even within "protestantism", Luther's 95 Theses date from 1517, his excommunication from 1521; Henry's key Acts were in 1532 (I'd consider the "Submission of the Clergy" Act as the turning point) and his excommunication was in 1533 -- so Luther has temporal precedence (not to mention SOME strong theology, but I guess you wouldn't want to discuss that;-).

Steve said...

@Alex: I should have known I could trust you to be erudite on these matters. Or any others, come to that.

I was aware of Lutheran theology's difference with the Catholic church, but had forgotten (my history was learned long ago) that it predated Henry's excommunication. As for the Greeks, they weren't even included in the somewhat limited European history I got from an English grammar school. The Eastern and Western schisms were briefly mentioned, but not discussed in detail.

My excuse is that our history teacher found it a better use of his time to leave us reading in class and visit the pub. If he couldn't be persuaded to take his subject seriously I had trouble discerning why it was important to me.

In this passage I now learn that "Occasions of friction, hostility, and open division on doctrinal questions as well as matters of discipline and daily practice had occurred long before 1054 - for example, the Photian schism of the 9th century." What better reason to start torturing and persecuting each other?

Steve said...

@Alex [again]: I wouldn't mind discussing Lutheran theology, but could only do so from a position of profound ignorance. I don't even know how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

Anonymous said...

I think the previous Anonymous might be being a little sarcastic with the Jesus comment... :)

However, the question 'can Jesus help me?' is an important one.

After many years as an Evangelical Christian, and now no longer being one, my considered opinion is, 'He can if you think he can'.

Anonymous said...

that was fun to read!

I guess you already know than when one debates with official religion, the person always loses (if the debate is take out of the humorous context). It was a nice read anyway!

Paddy3118 said...

"I don't even know how many angels could dance on the head of a pin."

42!

(Or am I mixing religions)

nes said...

The interesting thing is that almost any open door, international christian organization could call themselves catholic apostolic, since that means universal (or worldwide) and teaching derived from the apostles. Now roman, (i.e. with its headquarters in the city of Rome) is only one church AFAIK. So maybe it should be just called the Roman Church. But then people with links to "Roman Music" would probably get wrong invitations ...