Organized and Personal Religions

by Haider on February 17, 2010 · 16 comments

in Religion

You may assume that people have a choice to make in their lives: to either follow an organized religion, or carve out their own personal religion (collection of beliefs, rituals and moral code) to live by.

But that would be a wrong assumption to make.

It’s not a question of either/or. You always adhere to a personal religion, whether you wish to acknowledge this fact or not.

No matter how hard you try to adhere to the teachings of an organized religion (should you choose to do so), you will always be living by your own personal religion.

Your personal religion can be strongly shaped by the organized religion you adhere to. But it always exists separately to organized religion.

While organized religion may offer you a set of beliefs, you are always the one who makes the connections between those beliefs. You’re always the one who relates those beliefs to your personal life experiences. In matters of life and religion, the spokesmen and women of organized religion can’t speak on your behalf (i.e. on behalf of your personal religion). You are the only spokesman or woman of your personal religion.

Your personal religion expresses what you truly believe in, how you truly feel and how you will conduct yourself in life. It defines what your true priorities are. If you want to know what you believe in, you can’t ask anyone else for answers. You must look to your own personal religion.

Of course, you can always ask others questions. About what an organized religion teaches or what other people believe in. But religious beliefs aren’t transferred automagically as soon as you claim membership to an organized religion. Your consciousness must become aware of a belief and then become convinced of its truthfulness. Just because you are told that your organized religion teaches X, Y and Z, that’s not a guarantee that you – as an individual – will embrace these teachings wholeheartedly.

Every religion I’m aware of has been shattered into separate sects, each with its own set of beliefs and practices. Divisions usually arise when an adherent of a religion senses a strong divide between his personal religion and the teachings of his organized religion. To eliminate the contradiction, he establishes an organized religion based on his personal religion. This happens to individuals and groups. Its origin is almost always the need to fully express one’s personal religion.

So why is it so important to draw a distinction between organized religion and personal religion?

You cannot experience personal growth by being oblivious to your own person and all the factors that influence your life. You need to know who you are as a person. What you think, how you think, what you feel, why you feel it, what experiences shaped your life, what motivates you, what annoys you, what principles you uphold, who you admire, why you admire them, what you enjoy, what bores you and a string of other questions that are personal to you.

No other person can answer these questions on your behalf. The Pope himself can’t answer these questions on behalf of a single Roman Catholic (apart from himself, of course).

You should be comfortable with the fact that you have your personal religion, without feeling guilty that it doesn’t fully match your organized religion. What you need to work on is your personal religion. That’s the key to success and well-being.

Whenever you think about the teachings of your organized religion, dig deeper to find the true teachings you are living by:

What do I think? How do I feel? What will I do?

Ultimately, these are the three questions that will shape your life.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Free Powerful Affirmations Audio - Claus D Jensen February 17, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I really like those three questions!

They kind of say it all…

Greetings,
Claus D Jensen

2 Haider February 18, 2010 at 9:25 am

Thanks for passing by, Claus.

The questions are so simple, but, strangely, easy to forget!

3 Sara February 19, 2010 at 4:37 am

This is really great and timely advice. No lie- just today I was thinking, “If I decided to create my own personal religion, what would it entail?” Then I found your post in my inbox! I guess I already have one, even if I had never formally acknowledged it before. Some similar advice:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” -Buddha

:)

4 Haider February 19, 2010 at 10:11 am

Hi Sara!

Nice to know the post was timely for you!

I love that Buddha quote. To me it sums up my own outlook on how I choose my beliefs and outlook on life.

Although we each have our own personal religion we are currently living by, it’s important to be consciously aware of it, and to make adjustments to it when our personal edicts aren’t serving us in life. If we talk negatively to ourselves, it’s part of our personal religion. Our personal religion is telling us to judge ourselves harshly. Is that a good thing? No it isn’t. So how can we change our personal religion so that it’s better suited for our needs and well-being?

I’d like to write more on that. But for now, I just wanted to introduce the idea of personal religion to my readers. :)

5 Manal February 22, 2010 at 2:45 am

I like the term Personal Religion.

I always refer to it as a belief system. Even atheists have their own beliefs. I don’t think any human can be free of beliefs. The non believer believes in non believing. :)

Answering the three questions your proposed at the end are a good way to explore one’s own beliefs, values and preferences in life. This was a good introduction to personal religion.
Manal´s last blog ..Dealing with Indecision My ComLuv Profile

6 Haider February 22, 2010 at 11:45 am

Hi Manal,

Belief system is a more accurate term.

I used “Personal Religion” to include rituals people may do to express their values. And, of course, not everyone has explicitly defined their belief system, so I don’t think it qualifies as a “system.” More like a haphazard bucket of beliefs. :P

7 JadeDragon@innovativepassiveincome February 28, 2010 at 10:32 am

If you believe in truth, and believe that truth can be confirmed by the fact that millions of others have also confirmed it is truth, then your personal religion should line up with an organized religion. How you actually apply the personal religion to your life is another matter. We all have shortcomings but we just need to keep plugging away and sticking to our beliefs.
JadeDragon@innovativepassiveincome´s last blog ..Constant-Content.com Helps Writers Again My ComLuv Profile

8 Haider February 28, 2010 at 11:11 am

Hi Jade,

Thank you very much for your comments.

Your personal religion doesn’t have to conflict with your organized religion, but there will always be a difference. What you follow is your personal religion. What you would like to follow could be an organized religion. Being aware of your personal religion and explicitly defining what it is will help you identify the root causes of the struggles you experience trying to follow your organized religion.

This is an introductory post to explain what I mean by personal religion, and I’ll be writing a lot more on this subject in the future.

As to how the truth can be confirmed, the number of people who hold a belief isn’t a reflection of how true it is. But this I will leave for another post! ;)

9 Akif May 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Your way of reflecting the thoughts makes your article to burst the ground and open endless number of paths for new ideas. For intelligent people like you that provides more benefits to exercise valuable thinking, feeling and doing. However it is not straightforward for people less educated as they can be confused with multiple options available for feeling and doing and get lost with the right way for personal religion. There are a lot of examples to underpin above stated and one of them can be considered confused thinking about multiple God’s faces.

Anyway I like you way of thinking and looking forward to your further posts….!!!

10 Haider May 9, 2010 at 11:39 am

Dear Akif,

Thank you for your input.

I’m not advocating that people follow a personal religion. I’m saying that based on people’s thoughts and feelings, they already are following a personal religion. There’s no way of escaping this, since we are human beings and we relate to beliefs differently.

I definitely agree with you about the confusion that can arise from considering all the possibilities available to us, which is why it’s essential that we are aware of our approach to thinking, and seek to increase our knowledge and ability to reason, so that we can arrive at accurate beliefs that support us in life.

Looking forward to further feedback from you. ;)

11 Newton John Gatambia. January 17, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Hi Haider,
Great stuff there and thanks for it,
Its a very important issue to think about and engage bearing in mind that we are all in a spiritual search journey or path which itself qualify to be called our personal religion or else the personal religion could be the destination where this path lands or stops. My faith in God have I made more clear while walking in this path not as a fool but as one who constantly is guided by his spirit but also by the gifts he has given me.
Newton.

12 Haider January 17, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Hi Newton,

I think it’s crucial that we embrace our own thoughts and observations as being a fundamental part of our spiritual journey. If we rely on religious figures and a religion to frame our journey while dismissing our thoughts and denying our feelings, we will only undermine our spirituality. It’s sad that many individuals who are part of religious communities become oblivious to their own individuality.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

13 Newton John Gatambia. January 21, 2013 at 3:13 am

thanks for the remarks, I do believe that thoughts, feelings, emotions and our spirituality form us in totality and they are inseparable. Its is on a basis of continuously engaging each that we are able to shape our self.
What do you think is at the innermost core of your being?
1. Your belief(s)/ faith.
2. The power of the divine’s works in you.
3. Your goals/achievements.
4. Your life lessons/experiences.
5. Your profession and/or career.
6. Your thoughts/ideas/emotions and feelings.
7. Your character and personality.
8. Other (state please..)
hoping to hear your thoughts.

14 Haider January 24, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Hi Newton,

I would say your brain is at the core of your being, and everything else stems from it. From regulating bodily functions to conscious awareness of yourself and your surroundings.

I see spirituality as the mental capacity to view the world and our place in it from a broader perspective. Rather than be caught up with the concerns of the moment, we are able to appreciate our life on a grander scale.

Everything you’ve listed is connected to the workings of our brain. Our beliefs are formed by our mental understanding of the world. We have the capacity to change our beliefs by being open to different interpretations of facts, or critical of the “evidence” and arguments we are presented with or brought up to accept as true.

Our goals are defined by what we value, and what we choose to dedicate our lives to. Our emotions express our values on a physiological level (which is why they are a better indicator of what we value than what we say we value).

Our life experiences are stored in memory and often with emotional associations that can define our choices and how we choose to see ourselves. Our identity is formed largely by the impression we have of ourselves and the impression others have of us, especially as we were growing up (and especially by people we love, respect and admire, such as parents and authority figures).

The wonderful thing about the mind – and where most of our life journey takes place – is in ridding ourselves of the illusions we have come to accept as true, and unearthing truths we did not know of before. A huge chunk of learning involves unlearning.

It’s this openness to truth and not being attached to any belief or identity that helps the mind work at its best, and that’s what we should aim to cultivate.

15 Abdul June 2, 2014 at 7:46 am

Thanks Haider for this blog. Keep writing.

16 Haider June 5, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Thanks, Abdul.

I haven’t written in this blog for years. Will hopefully get back to writing this summer. :)

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