I think it's safe to say that if you walked into any secondary school Religious Education class and asked the question 'Who here actually believes in a God?' you'd get little to no hands up or positive responses. Religion, well more so Christianity is dying in Ireland among those under the age of 20.
I have always been religious, and like most who are or who were, that is because of family members. Both sides of my family were SUPER religious, much more than I am now. Up until roughly 5th class it never bothered me. There was never any slagging, no questions about why I was religious. I am actually an altar server, and have been since I was in 3rd class.
There was never a problem in school with that either. Until one day when I was involved in a friendly 'slagging' exchange in which I'd say one light hearted insult and someone would say one back. Now I couldn't tell you what was said overall, but one thing I do remember is something that was said to me. "Shut up priest boy". Now as you do, I ignored and did in fact shut up. That was the first of many times something like that was said to me. Insults or 'digs' that were then subsequently thrown my way would be quite explicit.
Everyone is aware of the scandals that the Catholic Church in Ireland has been through. These only added fuel to the fire of insults. Now some people, who would be insulted about their hobbies, skills and/or personal life would stop doing what they love just so the insults would stop. This never occurred to me! I was never going to give up on my faith just so I could be like everyone else.
I am involved in Scouts in my local town. One of my favourite things about this is how so many diverse people are involved. My age group is called Venture Scouts, and our programme encourages debates and discussions. With no surprise to anyone the 'God' discussion comes up. I'm always asked why I still serve at mass or why I believe in God? To be perfectly honest I'm not too sure. Some people would say how can you believe in something like that with all those outrageous beliefs and ideas?
With me being religious people assume that I don't support same-sex marriage or I don't support abortion. What I say to that is, 'Who am I to push my religious beliefs onto others?' I like to consider myself a different type of Catholic. I don’t believe everything that is said in mass. I don’t agree with everything that is said in the bible. I make my own choices and I believe what I want to believe. (Oh and if you're wondering, I do support LGBT+ Rights and I would love to see the 8th amendment repealed.)
To this day I still get the slagging, the name calling and the odd dig. Do I care? No! I believe in God. When people heard that I was pushing for my school to allow me to do Religion as an exam subject for my Leaving Cert, most were shocked. I'll let you know one thing, in my experience over the last few years it has been more common for people to slate me for being religious. I see these people on the streets handing out pro-life leaflets and people proclaiming that 'God is the only way' over microphones. I say to myself when I see people like that 'You are doing no good there!' The only thing these people are doing is putting people off. These people, and fair play to them for getting out there and standing up for what they believe in, are only making people see what is expected of people who truly believe in everything that is said in the bible and everything that is proclaimed but the Vatican. The 'Mad Holy Joe's'.
So being religious in Ireland today isn't difficult. It's more so odd. All the things that are said to me don't make me want to change just to fit in. So for as long as I choose I will be going to mass and I will proudly say that I believe in God.
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