The Internet is a wonderful thing. It affords common folk access to information which may formerly have been difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. It also allows us to exchange messages, sometimes instantly, with people across the street or across the globe. The Internet keeps changing and evolving. It’s not possible to know what marvels it will bring into our lives in the next five, 10 or 15 years.
This technological revolution, of course, brings with it an attendant set of problems. These are well documented. Pornography, bogus information, and viruses which can destroy our computers are but a few issues which have been keeping ethical, technical and legal minds whirring.
Those of us who use email regularly often suffer from the blight known as spam – email junk mail. Downloading one’s mail can be exciting, enlightening, frustrating, or downright infuriating. We employ filter programs and “spam blockers,” but they only keep a small percentage of the unwanted mail from reaching our computers. Spammers constantly find new ways to skirt the parameters of the filters. On any given day, an email user might receive offers to buy real estate, get a better mortgage rate, gamble, or see pictures of naked people.
Much of the spam comes in the form of opportunities to better ourselves. Pills are offered which will increase the size of various body parts, or help us lose inches from the waistline. We can reduce our debt and get a free digital camera with one easy click of our mouse. Many of us receive two or three offers each week to help some poor Nigerian reclaim millions of dollars from banks in Africa – and receive a handsome percentage ourselves.
One of the regular themes in spam is “happiness.” Who can resist the possibility of getting happy? This is a major cultural theme in the U.S. and the West, in general. Witness the great popularity of the song “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams or the earlier hit, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” by Bobby McFerrin.
Somewhat regularly an innocuous-looking email is recirculated offering a booklet – and a form of salvation. Sent by “TWTH,” the email offers to show us “The Way To Happiness.” With a minimal amount of effort one can find out more about this booklet and the foundation that publishes it. By its own definition, TWTH Foundation is out to save the world. Here’s the foundation’s self-description from its website:
The first moral code based wholly on common sense, originally published in 1981, its purpose is to help arrest the current moral decline in society and restore integrity and trust to humankind. The Way to Happiness further holds a Guinness Record as the world’s single most translated non-religious book in the world.
Written by L. Ron Hubbard, it fills the moral vacuum in an increasingly materialistic society, containing 21 basic principles that guide one to a better quality of life.
This code of conduct can be followed by anyone, of any race, color or creed and works to restore the bonds that unite humankind. (from http://www.thewaytohappiness.org/)
Over the next few weeks, I will take a look at this booklet, the foundation that sponsors it, its author and its claims. I won’t wait a week, however, to declare that any attempt to achieve eternal happiness while excluding God, is doomed to failure. This scheme is one such attempt and, ultimately intends to take our eyes off Jesus.