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Do you agree with Umberto Eco, that Apple is Catholic and PC Protestant? It looks as though Pope Benedict might…

It all makes sense to me: but I’m a simple soul

By on Friday, 26 August 2011

Benedict XVI launches the Vatican news portal News.va on an iPad in June (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Benedict XVI launches the Vatican news portal News.va on an iPad in June (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Rocco Palmo, in his blog Whispers in the Loggia, poses an intriguing question: is there some natural affinity between Apple (as in endless models of computer, iPod, iPhone, iPad and so on) and the Catholic Church, even the Catholic religion itself? These ruminations were inspired by the (for any Mac devotee – this emphatically includes me, though I can’t afford the full battery of devices) sad news of the resignation through illness of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple. It’s rare, says Mr Palmo,

…to find a figure of modern global commerce who’s had an impact on the life of mankind’s most enduring corporate structure… with tonight’s news of Steve Jobs’ resignation as CEO of Apple, though, it’s worth re-running the pinnacle-proof of Cupertino’s mark on Catholic life: Pope Benedict XVI – long an owner of two early-model iPods (both white, of course) – launching the Vatican’s rebooted news-portal in late June with a tap on an iPad…

For an institution whose upper reaches were long uninterested in (or taken aback by) the leaps and bounds of the technological revolution of recent decades – a reality that, candidly, long stalled the recognition and growth of modern communications platforms into the ecclesial mainstream – the watershed ad intra shift of the last three or so years can be credited in large part to the “Cult of Mac”, thanks to the ease and captivation Apple devices have garnered.

He points out (surely the clincher) that the Holy See’s internet office is controlled from a Mac computer: well, of course.

Before I explore this apparent affinity further (for there is more to be said) a digression about that reference to Cupertino: this has nothing to do with St Joseph of Cupertino who was, apparently, not very bright, but did miraculously levitate and have intense ecstatic visions. He is the patron saint of air travellers, aviators, astronauts, people with a mental handicap, test-takers, and weak students.

But Apple has nothing to do with any of that, it seems – though my first instinct was to wonder what the connection was and I still think one might be found with a little ingenuity, to do with the ease of operation of the Mac computer, perhaps (for those weak students); also, I am tapping this out on a MacBook Air (get it?): but quite simply, Cupertino, California, is where the Apple company is based. Wikipedia has an entry on something called “the Cupertino effect”, which it defines as “the tendency of a spellchecker to suggest inappropriate words to replace misspelled words and words not in its dictionary” and then explains that “This term refers to the fact that the unhyphenated English word ‘cooperation’ was often changed to ‘Cupertino’ by older spellcheckers with dictionaries containing only the hyphenated variant, ‘co-operation’. Cupertino, California is the home of Apple Inc., and thus would be in most computer spelling dictionaries.”

This caused my mind to wander even further from my subject (it’s been a tiring week in the blogosphere). I have just put the first paragraph above through my (Word) spellchecker – the first time I have ever used it, and never again: these things are mindless. It suggests that “Steve” might be changed to “stove” or “stave”, that “Jobs” might be a misspelling for “Joss’s” and that “blog” should be changed to “bog”. Really, you are better off with the Oxford dictionary supplied with my Apple OSX system, whose icon sits reassuringly at the side of my screen in something called the “dock”, which also includes icons for other delights to click on to, including iTunes, iPhoto, stickies, iMovie and a rubbish bin.

However, as the French are supposed to say – though I’ve never heard a French person say it – when they mean “let us return to the subject” (Rabelais said it constantly, it seems), revenons à nos moutons. The affinity between Catholicism and the Apple computer was explicitly assserted by no less a literary luminary than Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose, etc) in an article written in 1994 entitled “The Holy War: Mac vs DOS” (Today, he would undoubtedly have amended this to Mac vs. PC) in which he argues that:

The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the ratio studiorum of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory; it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach – if not the kingdom of Heaven – the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: The essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.

DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can achieve salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: Far away from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.

You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist tolerance of the Macintosh. It’s true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism, big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions: When it comes down to it, you can decide to ordain women and gays if you want to.

It all makes sense to me. But what do I know? How many Catholics out there have gravitated naturally to Mac rather than some kind of PC? How many Catholic PC users are in favour of ordaining women? We need to know more: these are deep waters.

  • Gmcarne

    I am a Catholic, a Mac user and a strong proponent for women priests.

  • Chesterbelloc

    Ben Travato:

    I believe Circles should be square, if thy choose

  • sam

    Where did Mr. Palmo ever get the idea that the Catholic Church was against technology at any time. Mr. Palmo is wrong, wrong, wrong. Vatican Radio was utilized by PPXII during as WWII loomed, etc. The Vatican has always taken early steps w/new tech. Palmo doesn’t know his history. In fact he has always seemed a bit presumptuous on his blog claiming himself to be an expert on Vatican issues. I have been a Catholic for over 75 yrs and I can assure you that Mr. Palmo is in error especially on this point.

  • Anonymous

    ROTFLMAO.  Apple treats Jobs as the Second Coming while the PC is more of a corporate entity. I’m not sure I see it as Protestant although it has some Protestant aspects  to it (every PC owner thinks his ‘puter is better than the next guy’s). I’m a Dell fan.

  • Peter Stornebrink

    Bi-ritual, or ecumenical?

  • Hoka2_99

    I’ve always used a PC, I’m a woman and I’m emphatically NOT in favour of ordaining women!

  • JAMES LINK SHUMAKER

    I am a Mac user and I submit to the magisterium of the Church.  Why make your life complicated?

  • Mac user

    >…and *those* [applications] would cost twice as much as the PC equivalents…
    1. Most of the apps not available on Macs are useless, and many of these PC apps are not checked for viruses
    2. The cost of apps, for example from Adobe, are the same on both Mac and PC.

  • Mac user

    I understand the Tibetan Buddhist leadership uses Macs too…

  • Winstonsayre

    I love Holy Mother Church, but if my only choices were between a Mac or an Abacus, the abacus would win with a Fisher Price computer coming a close second.

  • Mac user

    I think Umberto’s comment relates to Apple being a single hierarchy, while PCs have all these different hardware sects: Dell, HP, IBM, Toshiba or whatever.

  • Kathysable

    Sso does this mean I have to trade in my pc for a mac to be a good Catholic?

  • Anonymous

    With a mac the cost differential is in the hardware – which carries a significant premium. There are also no lower spec models – which for a great deal of users would be more suitable. Quad core processor to check your email?! – I don’t think so!

    Virus protection is also starting to be needed for Mac. No system is watertight.

  • Anonymous

    bottom line – all os’s suck!

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    If there is any computer platform that is ‘Catholic’ then surely it is Linux: Free for all and welcoming of anyone who is willing to put in some effort.

  • MN

    I suppose as an analogy, it makes sense to me too and all I really needed was this level of depth to convince me: Macs = aesthetically lovely, accessible, a central chain of command and PCs= too formulaic and lots of “grey” area, and everyone can become their PC’s pope – also most viruses are constructed on them (which I analogously apply to unresolved dogmatic problems that arise in protestant circles).  Yeah.  I’m with you and Palmo.

  • Woe Jilcox

    Wow, Apple supports the Gay community more than any other computer/software/IT company in the world. 

    They donated 100K for Gay marrige.  http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2333288,00.asp

    They have a really long “It gets better” support vide, here is the short version http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWYqsaJk_U8

    Recently Tim Cook took over CEO of Apple and the gay community is on fire claiming he is the more powerful Gay man in the world since Apple’s market cap is # 1 or 2 on any given day.  Gay people use and love the phrase “Think Different” and hence have adopted Apple computers as their computing devices of choice.

    Apple makes some really nice hardware, or cases for that hardware.  The guts are the same as a PC these days.  Yet they charge way more.  The clearly do this to become the “BMW” of computers to create this material goods lust.  Their secrecy and marketing all play into this material lust so they sell more.

    Exactly how is Apple like the Catholic Church?  Maybe the writer of this blog post should worship Apple less and Christ more.
     

  • Woe Jilcox

    He wont allow apps like that to tarnish the app store and Apple image.  On a iPhone or iPad you can surf via Safari to any porn site you like.

    Dont be fooled its not about Anti-Porn it is about Anti-bad image for the App store.

  • Christian Aden

    That Apple/Mac doesn’t profess what Catholics believe is, I think, beside the point.  Direct comparisons between one and the other are impossible and I don’t think they’re intended.  But one way in which Apple/Mac is like the Catholic Church vs. Protestant faith communities is that Apple recognizes the needs of the whole human.  It isn’t just faster processors or rendering power, it isn’t just weight and portability, it isn’t just functional software that’s easy to use–it’s ALL OF THAT + a design that visually appealing and fun to touch and hold.  Jesus Christ in His Church intended to take care of the whole human being AS a human being, complete with art and music and incense and beauty.  BEAUTY!!!  That’s how I think Apple can be compared the the Church.  There doesn’t have to be a choice between form and function.  As humans, body and soul, we need both.

  • W Oddie

    I don’t WORSHIP Apple at all, you impertinent, humourless and santimonious twit.

  • Anonymous

    We know enough about Apple to know that they are supporters of the so-called “gay rights” movement and big bankrollers of the “gay marriage” agenda in California.
    They also screw their customers for big bucks in the purchase of their products.
    I would never dream of buying a Mac computer if I had a choice of a PC, or an iPod or iPad2.  No Catholic worthy of the name should give this company his custom.

  • Ratbag

    Random, random, random…

  • Larry

    Brilliant (angry) reply from a Catholic web site:(  I can feel the love dripping off your words.  What is the definition of twit…its not in my Bible.  

    Why is it you overlook all of Apple stances on important social matters?  Many of them directly clash with the Catholic Churches views. Especially considering that our Pope was the Perfect of Catholic Church Doctrine.

    Given Apple’s finical might, marketing ability and popularity it is even more concerning.  They practically own Hollywood.  How many movies with computers have Apple computers today?  Not matter what the movie is about, Apple will back it…just to get their logo on the screen.

    If anything it would make Apple more like a Protestant domination that is on the fence with many of these social issues these days.  

    God Bless Mr. Oddie.

  • Honeybadger

    Two out of three ain’t bad…

  • Honeybadger

    So, does that mean anyone who owns and drives a VW is a Nazi supporter????

    This is getting silly…

  • Honeybadger

    AMEN!

  • Anonymous

    Have
    written about on Do you agree with Umberto Eco, that Apple is Catholic and PC Protestant? It looks as though Pope Benedict might…it before, but it bears repeating: A blog is not a real blog if
    it doesn’t let other people

    These
    are the fitting to have in your home. Ideal for the kitchen, bedroom and
    bathroom whether you choose fixed or adjustable to highlight a favourite
    piece of recessed
    ceiling lights
    , Bedside
    Lights
    , Bedside
    Reading Lights
    and Bedside
    Wall Lights

  • Anonymous

    Have
    written about on Do you agree with Umberto Eco, that Apple is Catholic and PC Protestant? It looks as though Pope Benedict might…it before, but it bears repeating: A blog is not a real blog if
    it doesn’t let other people

    These
    are the fitting to have in your home. Ideal for the kitchen, bedroom and
    bathroom whether you choose fixed or adjustable to highlight a favourite
    piece of recessed
    ceiling lights
    , Bedside
    Lights
    , Bedside
    Reading Lights
    and Bedside
    Wall Lights

  • Anonymous

    duh

  • Kathleen

    Electronic devices are neither Catholic or Protestant.  This whole argument is stupid.

  • JonnyB

    Spoken like a true fanboi:
    1 What utter rubbish. Firstly, these days, most malware (which is normally interchangeable for the word ‘virus’ in common parlance – the true ‘virus’ is rarely a problem these days) is installed via social engineering methods. The misconception that “I use a Mac, so I can click on anything,so I am safe” is fodder to those who seek to gain from malware. Secondly, how is Flash (for example) useless, when it is so widely utilised on websites?
    2  Is true, to an extent, but only as long as Uncle Steve (& co) determines you are allowed/trusted to use said applications (see Flash, from Adobe, above – even though it is free).

    Macs have strengths & weaknesses when compared to the alternatives (both Windows & open source), so use the right tool for the right job.

    As for the subject of the article, itself, I agree with the likes of Lisa – Macs are over-priced fashion statements for the majority of its users and, with their recent actions (resorting to lame litigation in a pathetic attempt to remove competition in the courtroom, instead of the marketplace), Apple are acting more akin to a desperate megalomaniac & with very questionable ethics/morals – not something I would expect a ‘good’ organisation would want to associate itself with.. The irony of their “1984″ add & the role reversals of today is bordering on funny.

    Finally, not that I am surprised by the sloppy writings of W Oddie, a Mac _is_ a PC. PC = Personal Computer – something which Apple were, once, very keen to reinforce.

  • JonnyB

    To quote Fr Lucie-Smith, from this same publication:
    “The Christian proclamation is not that God is great (though He is), but
    rather that God is good and that His Law is love. This sense of goodness
    is the foundation of all we hold dear; even atheists can assent to it.”
    Maybe you should have a chat with him, sometime?

  • JonnyB

    Maybe a bit late, looking at the age of comments on here, but do either of you have any experience (even anecdotal) of Pinguy OS? It’s Ubuntu optimised for newbs (with all common apps pre-installed to help those coming from Win/Mac).
    I am off to an E European country next week & there a few Ubuntu users (whom I support) there who are looking for a new distro to try. This distro seems great for Linux newbs, on paper, but I dont have a spare box to test it on at the moment & would hate to use them as guinea pigs ;)

  • JonnyB

    Not so sure I agree with this in terms of the present RCC, but I definitely agree that Linux is the PC embodiment of the true message of Christianity.
    Open source FTW :)

  • JonnyB

    I marked it 1 out of 3 – the last one

  • JonnyB

    Educated! :)

  • JonnyB

    In addition to the comments by SOSJ I would also like to add that, depending on your method of collection for the stats, many users (especially Linux) would be using things like ‘NoScript’, which wont show on the info from your stat collector (especially google-analytics).
    Interestingly, there are 10 scripts on this page.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t say I actually used it, but I have heard of it. As far as I can tell it takes a lot of the legwork of getting your Ubuntu desktop up to speed.

    I like the idea, but personally I like to get down and dirty, to get things set up my way. But this is stupidly time consuming, lol!

    If you wanted some similar options in the same vain (variations on Ubuntu), I would suggest Linux Mint – which is boring, but brilliant for users from Mac/Windows. Or perhaps Elementary OS, which I was very impressed with – it does not have many programs installed – but has the Ubuntu software centre, has all codecs etc, and is the fastest distro I remember trying.

    If you don’t have a spare box, I suggest you create a ‘live usb’ to test out what you like – without effecting any installed system.

  • JonnyB

    Thanks for the prompt reply.
    I am fine for myself (I triple boot – including Ubuntu on an ext HD for mobile repairs etc.), but am lacking in boxes to test ‘untried’ (for me) distros & have about a week, from Tuesday, in this E. European country to install a few systems for people who want to move from Win/Mac. I dont have much time for ‘babysitting’ and, so, was just curious if you had any experience of Pinguy for the purposes of leaving them with an OS that they can just ‘boot & run’, so to speak.
    For now, I think I will stick with the Gnome (pre-Unity) Ubuntu & install the basics for them. Thanks, again, for the response :)

  • JonnyB

    A for “down & dirty” – nothing beats the satisfaction you get from CLI ;)

  • Archg

    What a load of claptrap.

  • W Oddie

    Not stupid: just a joke: this was humour. Got it?

  • Victor Lawrence

    I too believe the article was written as a joke.  Let’s not take it too seriously.  Besides, sometimes I think that computers were created by Satan.  Both Macs and PCs.  At least that’s what I think when I have problems with my PC.  I’m kidding.

  • Christine

    Generalizations!  One of my Macs is so old it’s made in the USA, and it’s still going strong.  That’s Mac quality for you.

  • ngpl

    I’m sure there is an affinity between Catholicism and Apple Mac. But Mac is to PC as Democrat to Republican, so it may not be the kind Catholicism of which William Oddie approves. Mac is the kind of Catholic that likes women priests and gay marriages.

  • http://coolcatholics.org Marvin

    I’m a Catholic, and I use a Mac, for about the same reasons as Umbrto Eco cited. Brilliant, and I never thought of it that way before :)

  • http://jabstaboops.andthesethygifts.com/ Paco

     +1 for Linux Mint sharing!

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