In a bid to compete with Apple's iTunes music service, Microsoft is planning to set up its own subscription-based online music store later this year. It is said to be working with record labels and copyright holders in preparation for the launch. Last September, the company unveiled its MSN-branded music site but it didn't have a subscription plan." From the article: "The tentative features of the new service -- which is still under development -- include advanced community aspects and playlist-sharing. But sources say Microsoft is also considering a more direct attack on Apple, seeking rights from copyright holders to give subscribers a new, Microsoft-formatted version of any song they've purchased from the iTunes store so those songs can be played on devices other than an iPod." [Slashdot]
Well, that would put a damper on Apple's lock-in strategy, which is based on the fact that people who own iTunes songs need to play them on Apple players. It would therefore also eliminate Apple's main strategic for holding back from offering a subscription service.
If anybody has deep enough pockets to do make an offer like that, it's Microsoft. And they DO have deep enough pockets.
Asked in the Blasphemy Debate whether he had ever felt any 'spirituality' himself, Hitch replied - indirectly - that he had met religious people morally superior to and braver than himself: people who in terrible countries and dangerous situations had done witness for the rights of others, been self-sacrificing. 'When they say that religion is their motivation,' he added, 'I'm obliged to respect it'. Precisely. This is why I wrote above that I cannot take at face value his statement about not being able to stand anyone who believes in God. More importantly, this is for me a definitive, a crushing, rebuttal of those who treat religion with contempt. One can, one should, argue about its truth content and its rational basis or, as I think, lack of one; because that is our duty with respect to all beliefs. But I have read now about hundreds of people impelled by their religious faith to acts of great and courageous humanity, and we who have never done that owe them respect and more than respect, we owe them the celebration of what they did; for such people are the glory of humankind. The religious, I will end by saying, do not for their part have any monopoly here, either. That is the way the world is, a bit complicated.
While it is true that there are people who have done wonderful things because of their religious beliefs, it is equally true that people have done horrendous, horrible things because of their religious beliefs. I.e. 9/11, the Crusades, etc.
One can even view Hitlerism as a form of religious belief. I've been reading Victor Klemperer's WWII diaries (he was a German Jew married to an Aryan who barely missed being shipped to a death camp when the war was suddenly over). He was on the run for the several months between the bombing of Dresden and the end of the war, pretending to be Aryan. One encounter with a true believer he spoke with along the way, when the end of the Third Reich was near, is particularly telling: "How the turning point would come, he did not know, but he knew that it would come. 'Adolf Hitler' had always managed it, one had to 'believe blindly' in him, one blindly believed in so much that had stood the test of time so much less than the Fuhrer." How nearly identical that sounds to words spoken by many true-believers of more "legitimate" religious faiths.
The bottom line is not the question of what you believe; it's the question of whether you choose to "blindy believe" or not. If you choose to blindly believe, then under the influence of that belief you will be able to do things you wouldn't normally do. You may do wonderful, selfless things that the world long celebrates; or you may suppress your compassion in the service of a "higher cause", and line hundreds of innocent men, women, and children against the wall and shoot them. Your choice to blindly believe will enable you to go either way, because history has shown the blind belief can make it appear that immediate compassion must be suppressed so that other, more important, goals can be achieved.
And whether such strong belief leads to tremendous good or tremendous evil depends largely on the happenstance of what those around you believe at that particular place and time (combined, of course, with the degree to which you are truly willing to be blind in your belief). A major influence here is the effectiveness with which a particular belief is disseminated; for instance, the rituals of the world's successful religions are exquisitely tuned for propagating their beliefs.
It must not be construed that going in a profoundly evil direction is something that only a few sick people do in unusual circumstances; all one has to do is look at Nazi Germany or the Crusades to see that that is not true. There is no reason to assume that the number of individuals who engage in extraordinary positive acts under the influence of blind belief outnumbers those who engage in extraordinary negative acts under that influence. Today, merely has to count the month's suicide bombings to see this.
The fact that the more extreme effects of blind belief on human behavior are apparently not more to the good than to the bad, combined with the fact that technology is more effective at amplifying the bad, leads to the following inescapable conclusion: the net effect of blind belief will, on average, be much more bad than good.