Growing Children and Official Religious Teachings

In chapter 4, McGuire assesses official and unofficial religion and different interpretations of what the former entails. An aspect that is addressed is the importance of children’s socialization in terms of learning about or becoming part of a religion. Growing children in religious communities learn what it means to be a member of a religious community or organization through information that has trickled down to their level from interpretations of superiors and elders within the religion’s hierarchy. How can a religion, or a certain interpretation of what a religion means be authenticated when it is all a subjective matter of opinion? Just as literature can be interpreted and analyzed to find different meanings by different people and audiences, so can many of the fables and stories from religious texts be found to mean different things in different contexts. Because of different interpretations found by varying audiences, how can religious teachings be considered “official” if they are taught in variety of ways? As McGuire quotes from one woman who states, “I was in my thirties before I realized that a lot of the stuff I learned about religion in grad school wasn’t the official church teaching.” (pg. 105), teaching styles vary. It seems as though many individuals who were raised as members of an official religion fall out of touch with their religiosity once they are allowed the opportunity to make their own life choices. Although this certainly is not the case with all people, it appears that a child’s first impression of religion as an enforced part of their life causing them to lose touch with the faith of their parents later in life. McGuire presents high proportions of Americans who believe that, “…the individual ‘should arrive at his or her religious beliefs independent of any church of synagogue’” (pg. 106). Perhaps if children determine which religion, if any at all, suits them as they grow and mature, they might feel as if they are making their own choices, instead of being forced to follow their parent’s religious beliefs.