Such a thing may be redundant, what with “Scientific Linux” and all. But I ask the question seriously. There is a fair amount of religious gobbledygook mixed in with Linux and IT generally, and a Distro like Godlessbuntu might be just the trick.

Where is the religion in Linux now? Well, there’s Larry Wall, inventor of perl and fundamentalist Christian. It was rather funny to see Christian biblical references spewing out as error codes during the shakedown cruise of’s recent MovableType upgrade. Given that this is essentially an atheist shop (though we tolerate the occasional non-Atheist. As long as they are not TOO non-Atheist, if you know what I mean) that was pretty funny.

Also, look at the Linux Calendar output. To do so, get thee to thine Command Prompt, and type in “calendar” and see what you get. What you see are the next couple day’s entries in the calendar, and there is a pretty good chance you will see some religious, usually Jewish or Orthodox Christian references along side some Commie Pinko History (often written in Russian) and so on.

But what really brings this home, of course, is Ubuntu CE (CE = Christian Edition).

Ubuntu CE (or Christian Edition) offers the user many unique features, including (but not limited to) a Built-in Bible Memorizer (which will allow you to edit the Bible… like Wikipedia, except with the possibility of eternal damnation if you put something incorrect in there on purpose πŸ˜‰ and a Virtual Rosary, which (for some reason I have yet to understand) requires WINE. It would be too easy to go for the Holy Communion connection. Perhaps I’ll have an epiphany after I’m finished running this distro through it’s paces πŸ˜‰

That text and an overall review is from The Linux and Unix Menagerie which has us pretty well covered on a review of the distro, as well as a mention of Jewbuntu and Ubuntu Muslim Edition.

So, from the Jewbuntu support forum:

Question: I’m stymied. I can’t seem to install 3rd party packages on Jewbuntu.

Answer: What, you don’t like your mama’s browser anymore? Such a kvetcher.

Anyhow, I’d love to hear suggestions on what Unbelieverbuntu should include. Clearly, there are things it should exclude. The Linux Calendar part should be, shall we say, cleaned up and enhanced (bowdlerized? … πŸ™‚ for instance. In other ways, we are a good part of the way there. Installing modern Linux distros does not require the commitment to prayer that Windows requires, and installing and upgrading software apps no longer requires animal sacrifice.

But what else? Let’s get working on this worthy project!


  1. #1 Jason Thibeault
    January 25, 2009

    Terminal commands, especially relatively arcane though often-used ones such as “./configure; make; sudo make install” are often called “invocations” by old grey-beards. We’d need a new name for them, lest it sound too much like we’re invoking a computer god. Perhaps they could be hypotheses? Formulae?

  2. #2 Doug Alder
    January 25, 2009

    Re: Ubuntu CE:
    “Holy Communion connection”

    Does it produce a virtual cracker I wonder? PZ would love that πŸ˜‰

  3. #3 Jason Thibeault
    January 25, 2009

    Incidentally, I had no idea the calendar command existed. Shame on me, I know.

    I just sudo rm -rf’d all the foreign language and religious ones in /usr/share/calendar and the command still works, only with 100% less crazy or unreadable.

  4. #4 Pierce R. Butler
    January 25, 2009

    … suggestions on what Unbelieverbuntu should include.

    Error messages saying, “You’re on your own here!” and “In cyberspace, no one can hear you scream.”

  5. #5 Beowulff
    January 25, 2009

    Daemons. Lots of daemons.

    (In fact, I seem to recall a christian linux distribution some years back that had, among others, changed the term daemon, because it sounded too satanic. Can’t remember what they changed it into, though)

  6. #6 Lilian Nattel
    January 25, 2009

    Kvetching is hardly a religious reference. nope–if they are going to do Jewbuntu they might start by quoting Maimonedes who believed that math was the truest path to the divine. Of course in his own time he was considered a heretic, but in time he got to be a revered conservative in Judaism. That’s the way it goes. The Baal Shem Tov and his followers in the beginning were revolutionaries who valued personal experience of the holy in everything instead of dogma, but in a couple of hundred years the Hasidim became ultra-religious. There’s an old Hasidic story that during a drought, everyone in the town was praying day and night in the synagogue. No rain. They fasted. No rain. The town drunk was really upset. Because of the drought the town wasn’t getting any liquor. So he raised his hands to heaven and pleaded, “Gotteniu, let it rain already! I need a drink.” The heavens opened up because his prayer was the sincere one & it poured. So go ahead with atheist Ubuntu, in a couple of hundred years it’ll be ultra-religious Judaism.

  7. #7 aporeticus
    January 25, 2009

    Does that mean no TeX?

  8. #8 Russell
    January 25, 2009

    There’s no reason for an atheist to want a Linux distribution generally or calendar command specifically that omits religious references or information. Intellectual rejection of religion does not lead to some desire to remove it from sight. Indeed, atheists often are made from the fact that they know quite a bit about religion. Arguably, an atheist Linux distribution wouldn’t be characterized by what it removes, but by what it adds: links and references to a variety of skeptical sites and information.

    I’m a long time atheist. And I have a Bible on the bookshelf next to me. That doesn’t make it any less an atheist bookshelf. To the extent that it makes sense to so label a bookshelf.

  9. #9 D. C. Sessions
    January 25, 2009

    I’m not sure it’s architecturally possible. It’d have to be based on SEL, for one, but I don’t really see how you’d get away from /sbin/init

  10. #10 Erp
    January 25, 2009

    Well TeX was written by a devout Lutheran.

    Daemons could be replaced by Technicians

    We could add a calendar.reason to /usr/share/calendar (Darwin’s birthday is already in calendar.birthday)

  11. #11 nn
    January 25, 2009

    The whole concept doesn’t make sense. It is as silly as a let’s say a vegan linux distribution or a feminist one. One just doesn’t have anything to do with the other.

    Also I fail to see the point of trying to eliminate all religious references everywhere, you would need to get rid of the year numbering then for example. Or rename all the planets. In general it seems more like something religious fanatics would attempt rather than rational thinkers.

    And my Linux doesn’t have a calendar command, just the classical “cal”. Of course it still has A.D. dates.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    January 25, 2009

    nn: Your linux has a calendar command. You’re just doing it wrong. “cal” is not the same thing.

    (Or, just apt-get install calendar, firchrissakes)

    The elimination of the religious calendars in Linux Calendar is necessary for an atheist version. This is not the same thing as eliminating all religious references or ignoring religion, etc. It is just simply the case that an orthodox christian bothered to put the orthodox holidays in there, and at another time, someone put in the Jewish holidays, and so on and so forth, and now an atheist is going to pull them out because why would an atheist version of Linux want them there? It is not eliminating them as much as un-putting them.

    The daemons do certainly present an interesting issue. I like “Technicians” … or perhaps, as a kind of joke, they could be “Pink Unicorns”

  13. #13 Barry
    January 25, 2009

    1. Get rid of the Godlike “super user”. Fakeroot can be tolerated for short periods of time

    2. References to anything beloved by the church (WINE, latin character sets, Forth, daemons etc) to be renamed

    3. Replace all adages in the “fortune” program with quotes from Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, Asimov, Sagan…

    4. “Ghostscript” to be replaced by “hallucinationscript”. And don’t get me started on gnomes

    5. The “yes” command to be replaced by “maybe”

    6. Get rid of the creat() function call, replace with evolv()

    7. Default e-mail client to be… you can probably see where I’m going with this one.

  14. #14 Greg Laden
    January 25, 2009

    Barry: You are now in charge of the new distro. Good luck to you.

  15. #15 Monado in Toronto
    January 25, 2009

    Before Unix, daemons were called TSRs, for Terminate and Stay Resident programs. Some people might think that has a nice gaming ring to it.

  16. #16 nn
    January 25, 2009

    Greg, no it doesn’t. You seem to be part of the Mark Shuttleworth
    reality distortion field and believe everyone uses Ubuntu. I wonder if that counts as a religion too?

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    January 25, 2009

    nn: Wrong again. What distribution are you using anyway?

    calendar has been part of *nix since 1979.

  18. #18 eddie
    January 25, 2009

    Frethinkerbuntu could use the Reiser file system because not even a prayer would save him.

  19. #19 Dan J
    January 25, 2009

    You know, this really isn’t a bad idea. I remember seeing the references to the Christian Ubuntu distro quite a while back, as well as β€œUbuntu Satanic Edition”.

    The responses from the calendar command are easily tailored to be less religious. (Yes, the calendar command has been around since AT&T’s Version 7 Unix in 1979.)

    The ddate command is part of the util-linux-ng package. It converts Gregorian dates to Discordian dates. (Today is Setting Orange, the 25th day of Chaos in the YOLD 3175) Although I find it humorous, it really has no place in the Linux of Reason.

    I think perhaps Gnome may not be the best choice of desktop environments, unless you can leave out the default Gnome web browser, Epiphany.

    This could be fun!

  20. #20 Jack Kolinski
    January 25, 2009

    A SERIOUS question although “slightly” off-point. “Most” of you are “atheists.” According to many articles surveys of scientists indicate that roughly 93% are atheists. I understand and accept those 93%. Do any of you, as scientists, have an explanation for the other 7%? Are they lying to themselves in hopes of winning the Templeton Prize? Are they embarrassed about their non-belief? Have they been brainwashed or compartmentalized their brain function to believe two contradictory things? OR is their a valid place in the twenty first century for a bona fide scientist who accepts evolution and everything else science has been teaching us to believe in the Judeo-Christian/Muslim God? I would genuinely appreciate as serious a response as you would be kind enough to give me. Thanks.

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    January 25, 2009

    Jack: Good question, and no easy answer. Start with the assumption that people are complicated beings, and then seek cultural explanations for this sort of thing. That may get you down to about half of the remainder. The final two or three percent are probably aliens posing as scientists who didn’t get the memo.

  22. #22 Andrew
    January 26, 2009

    BASH would have to be renamed SUSH

  23. #23 HP
    January 26, 2009

    bash = born again sh, so sush = something’s up sh?

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    January 26, 2009

    Secular U-manist

  25. #25 Andrew
    January 26, 2009

    Spiritually Uncommitted

  26. #26 justawriter
    January 26, 2009

    There is no SuperUser. The SuperUser is just a holdover from the times when users made blood sacrifices to the Great God Gates in the vain hope that the demon WINDOWS would allow the supplicant’s project to be downloaded to the holy printer.

    Praise be to Jobs.

    BTW, did anyone else take computer classes back in the day because roff was the only word processor on campus?

  27. #27 prn
    January 26, 2009


    Before Unix, daemons were called TSRs, for Terminate and Stay Resident programs.

    Actually Unix (and daemons) preceded MS-DOS by a number of years.


  28. #28 Jack Kolinski
    January 26, 2009

    Thx. Greg! I appreciate your prompt response. I probably won’t be spending much time on your blog. If my emails go through when I hit the “send” button, I am very grateful to the computer “gods.” My interest in Religion’s hold over so much of humanity has prompted me to re-write the Bible. I would love to send you a FREE copy for your kindness in responding to my query. If interested just send me a mailing address via email and I’ll get a copy in the mail to you. You can sample it at my website, Thx. again.

  29. #29 Jack Kolinski
    January 26, 2009

    I WILL be spending time on your blog! I had a “senior moment” (I’m 58. It is now happening with some frequency) and thought your blog was devoted to linux/computer stuff, all of which is WAY over my head. My bad. PLEASE keep fighting the good fight in the evolution/creationism-ID wars. Allowing creationism to be taught in our schools will make eight years of Dubya’s insanity look like a practical joke by comparison to the damage it will cause. I hope we’re improving our chances with Obama but the religious right are nothing if not determined. Just finished reading “Your Inner Fish” (“Our Inner Fish”?–that memory thing again). Evolution is SO much more fascinating, wondrous and even “mysterious” than any of the god-myths. YOU have just the right dose of humor and ability to bring these ideas down to the non-scientist everyday reader level. I nominate YOU to write a book telling the world that Evolution is much better and more wondrous than god, not the least of which reasons being that it is real and not imaginary. Why should Richard Dawkins get all the ink? If you’ve already written this book and I am simply unaware of it, forgive me and remember I’m getting old. I promise not to take up any more of your blog space. And don’t worry about me being a stalker. I live in central Florida and NOTHING would get me up to the Twin Cities in winter.

  30. #30 Notagod
    January 26, 2009

    Oh! I’m the new God, I rewrote the bibel!

    Jack Kolinski that is just too damn funny, you rewrote the book that states you aren’t allowed to rewrite it but, you probably believe in the xian god-idea. That is rich! And you’re serious no doubt. So you think your pile of crap beats your god-idea’s pile of crap. Christians certainly are lost. You’ve come to the conclusion that your god-idea couldn’t have been serious, cause well, obviously. But, you can’t shed your xianity so your only way out is to proclaim your god-idea was just joking. Now it is true that your god-idea, in the hands of some, has murdered many people and played havoc with much of the flora and fauna on our little planet. So your answer is, oh wow, I’ve got it, its all been a super funny joke.

    Jack you are the king, you are the god-idea.

  31. #31 Notagod
    January 26, 2009

    It would be difficult to remove all of the god gunk from any gnu-linux. The origins of UNIX are from a time prior to the christian war against science and reason, when we could laugh at the christians and not be much concerned with the damage that the christians do. I think the original intent was not to promote religion. The christians have become more destructive and harmful in recent years and the syntax of the OSes aren’t as amusing as in the past and I agree that a distribution purged of god gunk would be wonderful.

    If the goal was to purge all the gunk, it might be easier to start over than it would be to try to de-gunk it. As is, there would be a continual problem as the christians would try to find ways to make the purge time consuming and difficult, just as they are trying to make their god-idea mandatory in our lives in the United States.

    Maybe though, we could make the desktop of the new distribution friendly to people that value reason. With a science and biology theme and presented in a way that would be fun and useful to thinking people. The default browser could include links to quality information. We could give recognition to applications that carried no offensive god-idea baggage and maybe also black mark applications that were god-idea soaked. Perhaps we could have a way to serve up a virtual blood and flesh soaked cracker to any objections from christians, that should calm their lust for human flesh at least a little. Safeguards against christians mucking things up would probably be necessary.

  32. #32 Greg Laden
    January 26, 2009

    Or we could go the other way and engineer the most absurd system ever. For instance:

    A voice activated CD/DVD reader. You say “This is the body of christ” and it opens up. You put the CD in there, it closes. Then you move on.

  33. #33 Dan J
    January 26, 2009

    Hmmm… That makes me wonder if the Ubuntu Christian distro works on Sundays, or if Jewbuntu works from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

  34. #34 Jack Kolinski
    January 27, 2009

    To Notagod:
    Calm down, buddy! Wasn’t trying to tick you off, honest. My Bible is a satire on the Bible. You’ve heard of satire, right? Your comment is full of it (pun also intended) although it does appear you are a little angry for some reason. And yes I am serious about writing a mild and, hopefully, funny satire of the Bible to persuade people that it cannot be taken literally EVEN IF you believe in God. Some people MIGHT respond to humor better than ridicule although I am genuinely HAPPY to have allowed you to get your “demons” (I’m killing myself here!)off your chest. You must be about ten pounds lighter now. Be happy! We both know “God” doesn’t love you but I’m sure somebody must.

  35. #35 Webs
    January 29, 2009

    Has anyone started a webpage for this project? If not let me know and I can start one and host it for free on a box I have…

  36. #36 Noble
    February 1, 2009

    I like the idea but:

    1. what would go into the distro? aren’t secular distros non-religious enough?

    2. most atheist still celebrate christmas and other stuff life that, the difference between us and them is that we just know it’s all a big myth based on gossip and exaggerations accumulated over a few hundred years.

    What I do think would be interesting for an “atheist” distro would be something like the a distro made in tribute to the Flying Spaghetti Monster or some other form of satire.

  37. #37 Craig Peacock
    July 22, 2010

    How about replacing the calendar formating from the current gregorian scale to something more like the Holocene calendar, and what about replacing the time with something like Internet Time. I do not want to argue the advantages behind Internet Time but I would like to see something more universal being the default time unit through out the OS.