Religious Socialization Defined

Religious socialization begins for most individuals at a very young age.  People learn religion from their parents and other adults in their everyday lives.  Young children adopt specific religions and religious practices because it was what they are exposed to.  Parents and other relatives and adults who are in children’s lives teach them what it means to live according to a particular religion, its teachings, its basic beliefs, and everything else it involves.  As children learn about and what it means to live according to this particular religion, they are being socialized.  These religious beliefs set the standard for how they will live their everyday life, the rules and traditions they will follow, the way they worship, and holidays they celebrate, and other particulars of everyday life.

People are impressionable, especially young children.  Children, at a young age, want to be like their parents and do what they do.  People beyond their childhood years seek to belong and fit in with a particular group.  Because of these two realities, religious socialization occurs.  People will adopt the religious practices that they experience at a young age due to the exposure they have to that religion.  Later on in life, as they seek belonging and a place in life, they may break away from their original religious socialization and move to another religion as they see all of the religions out there and seek to belong with their peers or thsoe they feel they will benefit from associating with.

Religious socialization is generally positive.  In most cases it provides people with rules, values, and a direction for life.  They have a higher power to believe in and a reason for being.  Religion brings belonging as others who believe and practice that religion reach out to those new to that religion to teach and guide them and make them feel a part of something larger, something important.  Religious socialization generally helps people to use their moral judgement and make good and positive choices in their lives such as refraining from sexual activity until marriage, not consuming alcohol or drugs, or not partaking in violent behavior. 

There are times where religious socialization can be negative though.  If a particular religion encourages people to partake in a dangerous or secluding activity such as living away from the rest of society or partaking in violence against another particular group of people, it is dangerous.  People will be socialized in a way that could immediately or eventually impact their lives negatively.

In summary, religious socialization is inevitable, to a point.  Young children learn about religion from their parents and those closest to them in their most impressionable years.  Their overall socialization is often based heavily on religion and its particular values and beliefs.