Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions, and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.
Sociology of religion is the study of the beliefs, practices, and organizational forms of religion, using the tools and methods of the discipline of sociology. This objective investigation may include the use of both quantitative methods (surveys, polls, demographic, and census analysis) and qualitative approaches, such as participant observation, interviewing, and analysis of archival, historical, and documentary materials.
Agents of socialization differ in effects across religious traditions. Some believe religion is like an ethnic or cultural category, making it less likely for the individuals to break from religious affiliations and be more socialized in this setting. Parental religious participation is the most influential part of religious socialization–more so than religious peers or religious beliefs. For example, children raised in religious homes are more likely to have some degree of religiosity in their lives. They are also likely to raise their own children with religion and to participate in religious ceremonies, such as baptisms and weddings.
Belief in God is attributable to a combination of the above factors but is also informed by a discussion of socialization. The biggest predictor of adult religiosity is parental religiosity; if a person's parents were religious when he was a child, he is likely to be religious when he grows up. Children are socialized into religion by their parents and their peers and, as a result, they tend to stay in religions. Alternatively, children raised in secular homes tend not to convert to religion. This is the underlying premise of Altemeyer and Hunsberger's main thesis–they found some interesting cases where just the opposite seemed to happen. Secular people converted to religion and religious people became secular. Despite these rare exceptions, the process of socialization is certainly a significant factor in the continued existence of religion.