Religion/Nationality, Nationality/Religion – One in the same?

Yesterday, I read the remark (sorry I can’t remember exactly where) that a person’s religion is defined by the country which they grew up in. I immediately agreed with this statement. While I can only speculate that my faith may have taken another route had I not been brought up in Ireland, looking back at my earlier years I can determine that by living there, I really did not have a chance to be anything else other than a Roman Catholic.

For a young person growing up in Ireland today, things are most certainly different. Many have become disillusioned with the Church and are chosing to affiliate neither themselves or their children with the religion. My situation was different. Being born rather late into a household with a 70-year-old Grandmother, the respect, and perhaps fear, of the Church was already a strong presence. I was christened within a month of being born and made attend Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation from then until the age of 18. It would have terribly upset my Grandmother if this had not been the case.

Even if my family had held different views, attending school would have forced the Catholic mantra upon me anyhow. Back then, schools still received time off on holy days and if one didn’t receive Communion or Confirmation, one was considered an outcast. During those important two years it felt as if no other learning was done other than hymns, prayers and parables.

Progressing onto secondary school one would presume this would change but upon enrolling pupils are almost immediately asked their religion in front their new peers. Admittedly my school was not as religion filled as many others to be found across Ireland. We had only one nun and very little religious objects could be found adorning the halls. Nevertheless, all that was taught in religion class was Catholicism. Never once was I informed about another. In fact, a girl in my class who was Jehovah Witness, the only person not a Catholic, had to leave the class during this period. What a way to pinpoint a vulnerable child at a pinnacle point in there lives.

Upon turning 18 I became less associated with the Church. Admittedly, this was much to do with the abuse scandals which still continue to circulate the media. I still consider myself a Catholic, although not a practising one – at least not in conventional terms. I believe in the faith but not the institution.

Living in Ireland during the last 100 years can result in one having Catholicism pushed down their throats. Today this is very much changing and people are allowed to live their lives on the basis of what is best for them, not by rules forced upon them by anybody else. Now that I live in Berlin I feel that I have moved from one extreme to another. Here, people can believe what they like, although I am sure that Berlin is a much different case to the rest of Berlin. Nevertheless, it feels good to have the opportunity to make my own choices.

What do you think? Did the place in which you grew up have an impact on your beliefs?

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