What Foot Do You Kick With?

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Just for fun, today I took the Belief-O-Matic Find Your Faith quiz. The faiths I most agree with, apparently, are Theravada Buddhism (100%), Unitarian Universalism (94%), Secular Humanism (90%), Liberal Quakers (87%) and Mahayana Buddhism (74%). I was rather disturbed, however, to find that I am 37% in agreement with Scientology. So much for statistics.

It did make me think back to how religion influenced my life in Glasgow, where I grew up. Religion is of paramount importance to working-class Glaswegians. You are either Catholic, Protestant or gay heathens. No in-betweens. I was the product of a mixed marriage: my mum was Proddy, dad was a lapsed Catholic. And to further confuse things, my dad was also the product of a mixed marriage. His mum was Protestant, dad Catholic, and when they married they made a pact. If they had boys they would be brought up as Tims, the girls as Prods. Dad stopped going to church as soon as he could and the girls only went occasionally. With me so far?

My dad lived close to Celtic football ground and mum was from Govan, near Ibrox and Rangers. This matters. If you are a Catholic you MUST support Celtic. There can be no deviation or exceptions. Likewise, all Protestants must support Rangers.  It’s tribal, as much a part of a Glaswegian’s blood as platelets and corpuscles.

There are many ways of finding out to which tribe a new acquaintance belongs or, in Weggie, “whit fit he kicks wi’.” Protestants kick with the right foot, Catholics with the left. The most common way is to ask which school they went to. You can be 42 and someone will still ask. Proddies never go to a school whose name starts with Saint or Holy. Another method used to be to ask what they had for tea on a Friday night as all good working class Catholics would have fish or “Catholic Steak” then as their weekly offering of abstinence, a practice now died out.

I was brought up Protestant. In fact, when I got together with my husband, also a lapsed Catholic, mum took an instant dislike on religious grounds; she is a true blue bitter Proddy. My dad was much more accepting of people regardless of their religion, race or orientation.

At school my best friend was Catholic and went to the local Catholic secondary. We had to pretend not to know each other if we bumped into each other on our way to and from school.

Another aspect of religion you have to remember in Glasgow is the Orange Order. Over the summer months there are several Orange marches where people, united in their hatred of Catholics, would parade through the streets, banging drums and playing the flute. Each march would be led by a man twirling a baton who was accomplished at walking backwards while the band played “The Sash My Father Wore”.

So far it all sounds pretty pathetic and amusing, right? If only it were.

When Rangers and Celtic play each other in an Old Firm game, domestic violence increases by as much as 88%. Assistant Chief Constable John Neilson, of Strathclyde Police, said in 2009 that the force arrested more than 550 people on the day of a Rangers – Celtic match, all of whom were drunk. There are countless beatings and stabbings related to football support and many deaths. In fact, in ‘Rangers’ pubs there is blue baize on the pool tables instead of green.

Yet both of these sides are Christian. A case of the Judean People’s Front or the People’s front of Judea.

And now I have just found out that Glasgow University has a bias towards the teaching of Catholic teachers. Priority will be given to Catholic entrants. What about the kids who want to teach at secular schools? What about the kids who believe in one less God than them?

I am an atheist and I respect the rights of everyone to follow their own faith until it negatively affects others. Just what is going on at Glasgow Uni?

It’s a funny old life.
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8 Comments

  1. Squeaky
    Feb 16, 2011

    having read a fair bit of good ol’ Brookmyre, i had a fair idea of a fair bit of this (if that makes any sense…?) but only on the surface. and i’m glad of that. the thought growing up in a place where i had to deny my best friend for that, or any, reason is just anathema to me. i guess i was lucky to have parents who didn’t care about religion, and grow up somewhere that it just was. not. an. issue.
    your post had me chuckling at the absurdity of it all, and at the same time feeling the bone-crushing horror of it.
    i’m sure i read somewhere that Jesus was a bit of a peace-loving hippy…
    and the paragraph third from the end instantly had me boiling with outrage.

    “I am an atheist and I respect the rights of everyone to follow their own faith until it negatively affects others.”

    halellujah and amen, sister.
    *hugs*

  2. Becca
    Feb 16, 2011

    Excellent post Nettie with very pertinent points. As I said on twitter I can understand the uni having a catholic course, whether that’s right or wrong, but not the lack of secular alternative.

    • nettiewriter
      Feb 16, 2011

      Exactly! Where is the secular alternative? That’s what makes me angry.

  3. Gill Fraser Lee
    Feb 16, 2011

    Very interesting to me as my family are from just down the Clyde at Port Glasgow (aka Dirty Wee Port …) and were all raised as Protestants. My Granny (originally from Northern Ireland) would say ‘she’s quite nice, for a Catholic’ with no irony whatsoever. The Celtic/ Rangers thing is tribalism, and not religion. My own view is that it’s so strong in a working class area because it helps to have someone to look down on when you’re pretty near the bottom yourself!

  4. Melanie Garrett
    Feb 17, 2011

    I had to laugh at the idea of the fish on a Friday thing now being out of date. My mother-in-law, a Glaswegian presbyterian of long-standing, always served fish on a Friday, which I always found slightly odd. But now that she is living with us, I tend to do the same so she feels at home. She happened to mention recently that I presumably do this because I was raised a Catholic – before dropping the bombshell that this was why she did it, since her mother was a Tim.
    @Gill Fraser Lee, you are so right about the ‘no irony’ whatsoever, side of things. When I was in my late teens, my father’s mother, also a staunch presbyterian, from Grampian, remarked over dinner that she was very liberal for her age group, but then she’d had to be…she had one daughter-in-law who was Catholic, and another who was Jewish. Nobody laughed but me, and they all seemed to have thought I’d gone mad.

  5. Viv
    Aug 9, 2013

    My mum and dad married across the barricades, sort of. Liverpool in the 40s and 50s was very like Belfast. My father’s family was Catholic, Mum’s Protestant. Mum’s dad had already warned off one Catholic suitor.
    I prefer Quaker worship where no one asks these questions, but a friend years back tried when asked at uni in Belfast what he was said, I’m a Buddhist. His inquisitor came back with, “Ah but are ye a Protestant Buddhist or a Catholic Buddhist?”
    Pure tribalism.

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