This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Road Less Traveled" by M. Scott Peck. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What’s a personal religion? Do you have one?
Whether you realize it or not, you have a personal religion—also known as a worldview. It’s your perception of the world and your relationship to it. You might be hanging on to an inherited worldview that doesn’t reflect reality, causing dissonance in your life. You could benefit from understanding how worldview works—and how to revise your own.
Read more to learn about personal religion.
Your Personal Religion
To grow in any area of your life, you need to understand the world and your place in it. This understanding makes up something called your personal religion. Your personal religion is most influenced by the environment of your upbringing, including your culture and the respective personal religions of your parents.
As you age, the religion of your upbringing typically begins to clash with your developing perception of the world. As you structure this perception, you may run into three core problems.
1. Limited Idea of Religion
There is a widespread misunderstanding that religion is about God and requires a belief in God. In reality, religion does not require God at all and is simply made up of your own personal beliefs about the nature of reality.
Most people don’t choose their first personal religion. Instead, it’s handed down to you by your caretakers. This means your perception of the world is initially a result of transference—your thoughts and behavior are based on someone else’s perception of reality. For example, if your caretakers see the world as a hostile place, so will you.
3. Contradictory Perspectives
No two people have the same perception of the world. We have a world full of contrasting perspectives, and yet we are forced to coexist. This causes conflict, usually as a result of blind spots where one person thinks their worldview is more correct than others’.
Solution: Continual Revision
It’s critical to develop your own perception of reality. Living by an inherited personal religion will cause you to do and say things that don’t feel authentic to you, and the dissonance will eventually lead to mental illness. To avoid this, spend time observing and revising your worldview to be sure it’s well-aligned with you. Question everything you believe, and maintain an openness to editing your understanding of reality. If you’ve never done this deliberately before, you may find that you need to first reject everything you think you believe.
For example, if you’ve had premarital sex, and you’re suffering because you think premarital sex is a sin that God will punish you for, you might start by asking yourself: “Who taught me this? Can it be proven? What evidence do I have that I will be punished?”
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- The four key elements in the path to enlightenment
- The importance of spiritual competence in relation to mental health
- How you can face challenges and grow through hardship