DIY Religion: What is it and Why it Doesn’t Work

Pharell Williams

Perhaps you’ve heard the ubiquitous Pharell Williams song, Happy. The chorus goes infectiously like this:

Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

I could easily write a dissertation on just the chorus of this song, but I will spare you all the ink and pixels and cut to the chase.

Worldviews have been historically judged on two separate criteria:  1. Is it true?  2. Does it work?

In the 1980s a professor at Stanford named Richard Rorty did something really sneaky and subversive and said these aren’t two separate questions. Prof. Rorty said they are one question and they are circular in nature. In other words, something is true if it works and vice versa. How he accomplishes this feat is by marrying two different streams of thought – pragmatism and post-modernism. Pragmatism values ideas for their practical worth. Post-modernism values ideas that tear down and deconstruct “capital T” Truths.

I severely doubt Pharell has read Rorty’s Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity but he is clearly espousing a similar sentiment in Happy:

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

Translation: Happiness is truth. Happiness is subjective. Pursue happiness.

This is the credo of DIY religion. Happiness is god. Do whatever makes you happy.

DIY religion is like going to Costco, except your shopping cart is your head and heart, and the items in the cart are worldviews:

If you want a little Jesus (you know, just the Sermon on the Mount Jesus please), a little Ghandi (you know, to be hip and stuff), a little Nietzsche (you know, to keep it morally loose and authority-less), a little Darwin (you know, to make sure we don’t let too much God in the mix), and a heaping portion of Rorty (you know, to make ME the ultimate curator and taxonomist of time/space, history, truth, morality, goodness, and beauty).

Yesterdays professors are today’s ideas without genealogies.

DIY religion doesn’t work because individual humans are severely limited, biased, and full of blind spots. Individual humans are limited by space and time – one doesn’t have the benefit of living in every culture in every time period. Individual humans cannot experience every aspect of the world. Individual humans cannot read every bit of information every created. Individual humans cannot interact with every other individual human. These limitations make individual humans very poor curators and taxonomists of truth, goodness, and beauty. This is why history, creeds, and long-standing narratives are very important to the human condition.

There is enough truth in every lie to make it float.

The reality is that happiness is really important but it is not individualistic and subjective.

Question One of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?”

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you

 

3 Responses to DIY Religion: What is it and Why it Doesn’t Work

  1. Allen says:

    Really insightful, Michael. Love this: yesterday’s professors are today’s ideologies without geneologies.
    This is the place where college students are most confused. Everyone has told them they can pick and choose and there are no consequences to contradictions.
    Have you read this from the Atlantic?
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/?utm_source=SFTwitter

  2. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Without God man’s wisdom is foolishness. Great post Pastor

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