Children and the mysterious origins of sectarianism…

Great confessional piece from Anthony McIntyre, on the nature of childhood and the mysterious origins of sectarianism. He talks of his 10 year old daughter now living in the south, who on interrogating the census form, no longer knows what a Protestant is:

When she was around five and living in West Belfast, she came in one day to announce to me her latest discovery – Protestants were bad. I asked her to explain the thinking behind that ponderous judgement and she simply told me that Protestants shoot you. The identity of ‘you’ was not made clear but already in her young mind an ‘us and them’ divide was being forged. The Protestants were ‘them’ and the ones being shot were ‘us.’ They of course were bad for shooting us, whoever made up the ‘us’ camp. I didn’t go as far as to explain to her that her father was no innocent when it came to shooting Protestants. Work for another day.

Being only her father and not her god I had no desire for her to be made in my image. So, a few days later we set out on a journey to the home of a unionist friend. He and I sat and chewed the fat while his mother in law entertained the child for three hours. On our way home I explained to my daughter that the woman she had such a good time with was a Protestant and that she had not shot us. The moral of the story: Protestants were not bad and they do not shoot us.

There was no understanding on her part of any of the politics around her. But already she was being moulded by the discourses she encountered in her daily life. She never disclosed where she picked it up, probably having forgotten.

Anthony concludes:

I became alive to the fact that in the act of forgetting, my daughter had unlearned the bad and learned the good about people. It left me wondering what Milan Kundera would have thought of the idea that memory over forgetting isn’t always a victory.

For some reason, it put me in mind of the first lines of Louis MacNeice’s great poem, When we were children:

When we were children words were coloured
(Harlot and murder were dark purple)
And language was a prism, the light
A conjured inlay on the grass,
Whose rays to-day are concentrated
And language grown a burning-glass.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Skinner

    I did some youth work about 10 years ago in South Fermanagh. Amongst the kids I looked after was a lively 11 year-old boy named Kevin, with whom I got on well. One day at the end of the session he was hanging around while I was loading various equipment, as all the kids were wont to do (they loved the sessions that much they never wanted to go home). He asked me where I was going after and I replied, “home, I live in Enniskillen”. I noticed his face wrinkle a bit, so I asked him if he had ever been there. He said “yeah a few times but I don’t like it”. I was surprised and asked him what he didn’t like about it. “Too many Protestants” came the jarring reply. I was slightly taken aback by his openness but I was not hugely surprised, just as I would not have been hugely surprised to hear the converse in other parts of Fermanagh. I think he had misread my background because he had assumed that a Protestant would not be like me, someone he liked. To my eternal regret I never told him that I was Protestant but over the years I often wondered what effect that might have had.

    Recently I was perusing the local paper and recognised him from a photo. Of course he is now a grown man, strongly built but still with the same lively look in his eye. I was genuinely saddened when I read the report. He had got involved with a backward element in that same region of Fermanagh and was displaying the same sort of intolerance that he had naively revealed all those years ago. I blame myself in part for not doing my bit to open his eyes before he got too entrenched during his formative years. But it also made me wonder who, or what, planted the seeds of that sentiment all those years ago, before I even met him.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Not much of a mystery really. So many places for young minds to pick up these attitudes and they usually centre on the home environment.

    Now for example if I was say aggressively anti-police I would be very careful how I reacted to a police officer making some lawful demand of me if my children were present. Little ones pick up signals better than DAB radios.

    Of course I would never let my kid sit on my knee when blogging. Perhaps others are not as cautious?

  • Skinner

    I think there is already a natural ‘pull’ towards our own side and a fear of the other side, exacerbated by divided education. The sentiment will go and fester even without being fed in the home environment. It takes positive counter-balancing by parents and teachers to stamp it out. Sport has a huge role to play and I think the GAA should have a look at ways to encourage more Protestants to join.

  • Local hack

    And would a full integrated education system be a possible remedy to killing the weeds that start developing in the youth?

  • Turgon

    The reality is that this is a divided society. Sectarianism is actually the same thing if it is called unionist / nationalist rather than Prod / Taig. I know some may try to construct a system whereby that is not always the case but the overlap of the Venn Diagrams would be almost complete.

    It sounds so much less bad to some to say unionist / nationalist or indeed British / Irish (or Ulster / Irish as you will) rather than Prod / Taig.

    I am very dubious that this society will change materially. If one looks at other ethnic conflicts elsewhere in the world they rarely go away (yes I know there are no ethnic differences here but the term is still valid). Be it Bosnia: Muslims, Serbs and Croats or Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda the divisions seem to flare up into international conciousness periodically but are there all the time.

    Enforced Integrated, non religious education might help but one has to ask whether that is what is wanted here.

    In actual fact sectarianism is about division and many of the manifestations of division are not of themselves bad. The GAA is a sporting organisation but has a Gaelic ethos. I am most unlikely ever to encourage my children to take part in it but that does not make it a wicked or immoral organisation as and of itself. The smae is true of all manner of organisations we have here in NI.

    What we need here in Northern Ireland is not to smother and ignore our differences nor produce an anodyne non culture: we need to accept one another’s culture in a much more generous fashion than we do. However, the fear is always that the other side will not reciprocate with any such gesture but rather pocket the concession and demand more.

    Finally and if this is man playing I apologise: I find the above from McIntyre a bit rich. He may preen and claim that he is educating his child without such labels and even do a bit of confessional by saying that one day he will explain that he shot Prods.

    However, does he teach his children that they are Irish? that this place is Ireland and should not be part of the UK?

    The above are entirely his right (and I teach the opposite to my children) but just because McIntyre has shorn his child of religious education / preudice does not mean that he is not educating her in other prejudice which is in actual fact exactly the same thing in Northern Ireland. I doubt he murdered Protestants simply because they reject transubstantiation but murder them he did.

    Difference is not wrong, even a degree of divide is not wrong. The wrongness is things like killing people because of difference. A person who commits murder is personally responsible: no amount of blaming your upbringing or culture (or religion) excuses the heinous nature of that crime.

  • Skinner

    But equally, Turgon, no amount of saying it is wrong seems to prevent killing. The most polarised people I know are those who were not exposed to the ‘other side’ when they were younger. Those who are better adjusted are mostly those who were members of a sports club that had mixed membership.

    I don’t know if you are making a connection between the GAA having a “Gaelic ethos” (whatever you mean by that) and the unlikeliness that you would ever encourage your kids to join. Can you not be a unionist and dabble in a bit of “Gaelic ethos”?

  • Local hack

    We all teach our children prejudices – it is unavoidable – however, should the state enforce those values with separate schools and services for either side of the community?

    Should it not be the message of whatever state you live in that we are all just numbers and ultimately tax payers but equally given the same opportunity as the next man/woman?

  • Eglise en bois

    Interestingly we must accept we live in a sectarian and divided society.

    Our children pick up on this, and even the most liberal, ecumenical, all embracing members of this society have prejudices and our children pick up on them. Even if we as parents were perfect, our little darlings aren’t at school too long before they hear, see and recognise the prejudice in society. Even in the most integrated of schools. All around them are segregated schools and obviously they are “inferior” because – well they are not like us! Oh another divide!

    where I believe we have gone wrong is we constantly view culture, art, sport, religion in the terms of Anthony McIntyre’s daughter us and them, consciously or unconsciously but we never are willing to admit it, us of course being good them being bad (in case you didn’t realise)

    We rarely accept we have made mistakes and fuel the sectarianism around us, it’s always someone else’s fault. Curiously too if we do seek to redress the difficulties of the past frequently over compensate and seek to take all the blame, making us appear disloyal to our own origins and overly keen to beat ourselves up.

    Remember we have two views of the troubles, two views of religion, two views of sport and even when we cross the invisible divide we praise ourselves for crossing the divide to where “we don’t belong”! setting ourselves out to be superior!

    Sectarianism is multifaceted and extremely complex, it breeds where their is fear and like racism it is a part of us all!

    Our children cannot be cocooned from it and they will not be immune to it, the best we can do is encourage them to recognise it in themselves and help them to deal with it. But maybe we should start with ourselves first!

  • I think it has to start in the home, those little unthinking comments when the news is on, the occasional muttering at the newspapers. It starts there and progresses. In the old days whole families were bought up on “it was all the other sides fault”, which was then exacerbated by the teaching in some schools and the games in the playground and the choice of ‘heroes’.

    Its visible on Slugger, some people quote chapter and verse on some ancient crime as if they were personally wounded by it and with no reference or tolerance for the wounds of anyone on the other side.

  • Mark

    You’re a bit rich yourself Turgon …you seem annoyed that AM mentions parenthood in his blog and you give the impression that because of his past , he is somehow not worthy of it . You use a word like preen to describe how he talks about his daughter . We hear about your kids and your german car often enough . Your own admission that it is unlikely that you would encourage your own children to play GAA is telling . IMO your views on segregation say the same . Quite a bitchy post turgon if you don’t mind me saying so .

  • DC

    your german car often enough</i<

    I haven't heard this one – what car does Tirpitz drive?

  • Mark

    You’ll have to ask the man himself DC , I don’t want to sound like a groupie …

  • Turgon

    I never claimed to be free of prejudice. What I do claim (accurately) is that my prejudices have never led to death or injury to another human being.

    I have no problems with McIntyre having the right to be a parent as I neither believe in the death penalty nor that life should mean life. As such now he is released he is entitled to a normal life within the restrictions of his life sentence licence.. However, it is worth noting that McIntyre did not believe in the right to life let alone parenthood of his victims.

    Incidentally as a parent I do not believe any of us are “worthy” of it (parenthood). We all fail continuously. I may try my best with the awesome responsibility but I am not especially good at it.

    My views on segregation may be unacceptable to you: however, they have never led me to murder anyone; McIntyre’s views despite his preening led him to murder.

    I agree with much of that. No I would not encourage my children to join the GAA. Actually I am not that into sport and although my youngest used to play football I am not massively interested in any sport. However, if they wanted to take up any given activity unless I deemed it inappropriate (I do not view GAA as such) I would in no way stop it.

  • Skinner

    Would you be concerned that if your kids got a bit too much of the “Gaelic ethos” that they might emerge into adulthood with a different political outlook than the one you had taught them?

  • dmcoop

    Turgon, would you be happy for your kids to play sport on the Sabbath?

  • Turgon

    Provided they had gone to church I would have no problem with it. I am not very fond of the idea of professional sport on Sundays but I do not regard it as completely wrong. I guess I am biased by the likes of Eric Liddell. I do believe that the sabbath was instituted as a day of rest and relaxation which in our society now means leisure.

    For someone to use their leisure time kicking a ball about seems entirely reasonable and not in the least dishonouring to God. We often go to a play park or cycling on a Sunday. I do not buy into swing tying up nor even competitive sport being wrong on a Sunday.

  • Mark

    Turgon ,

    Do you not think maybe that it’s that kind of circle the wagons mentality that keeps the two communities so far apart . Your views dont need to lead to murder but they can stunt the growth of future generations . I know you have your reasons and I’m not trying to preach ….

  • Turgon

    Well yoiu started out with claiming taht I did not deem Mcntyre worthy of parenthood, then said that my post was “bitchy” and now accuse me of circling wagons: maybe you could consider whether your take on my comments is prejudiced?

    I do not care what views my children hold in that that is their right and they will be my children whatever they say or do. Such I guess is the nature of the unconditional love we all try to give to our children. My mother has different political view to myself but we are still very close.

    The only caveat I have is that I hope that they will have views on personal salvation the same as mine. Being an evangelical Christian and fairly fundamentalist I rergard personal aalvation as the paramount issue. Everything else is of no account as compared to that.

  • DC

    what German car do you drive Turgon?

    Is it a Merc or Audi?

  • Mark

    I found your first post snide and bitchy and i said so and also explained why . Your take on segregation isn’t something I would agree with . Am I unreasonable because of this ? I don’t think so . Maybe you shouldn’t give it if you can’t take it back Turgon .

  • Skinner


    “In actual fact sectarianism is about division and many of the manifestations of division are not of themselves bad.”

    “What we need here in Northern Ireland is not to smother and ignore our differences nor produce an anodyne non culture: we need to accept one another’s culture in a much more generous fashion than we do.”

    I agree that the manifestations of division are not in themselves bad and nor do we want an anodyne culture. However I think the overall and cumulative effect of having so many such manifestations, in circumstances where they dominate our society, is bad.

    As to the solution, where we appear to differ is that you believe that culture, religion and politics are so inextricably involved with each other in NI that we cannot hope ever to unravel them. All we can do is preach tolerance and respect. I believe they can be unravelled to an extent and the GAA is a good example, as it has elements of all three. In the future it should not be so unusual for a GAA team to contain a few Protestants and young GAA members who have no other contact with the ‘other side’ should not grow up assuming them to be people they dislike. Equally a young orangeman may be sent to an integrated school, without the assumption that his cultural roots have been compromised.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Expressing an opinion is not ‘giving it’. I do not see the value of using such aggressive language in this instance, other than to be confrontational. If one has a differing opinion by all means give vent to it and challenge the other but pejorative words such as ‘bitchy’ are unnecessary

    During my time on slugger I have noted this type of response to Turgon’s posts quite often. Perhaps there is history there that I am unaware of but it does stand out.

    As to driving German manufactured cars what’s the problem? I drive one myself have I breached some slugger shibboleth?

  • Skinner

    Turgon – just another small point –

    I’m not sure it’s right to say you do not care what political views your children hold, otherwise you would not take the time to teach them that NI should remain part of the UK. Perhaps you mean you will accept whatever their views turn out to be. I think there is an important distinction, because handing some sort of legacy to our children (e.g. tolerance and respect) is inevitable but we should accept that the fine-tuning (e.g. ideas about the political environment in which that is best achieved) is a matter largely beyond our control.

  • Mark

    So the example you gave in your first post wasn’t confrontational then ….

    As to German motors , I drive one myself , no problem at all .

  • Local hack

    Play the ball – not the man

    If Turgon says we should accept we live in a divided society then we chould accept what his opinion is.

    And the earth is flat !

  • nightrider
  • Mick Fealty

    Mark, you’re venting. Calm down and challenge Turgon. Otherwise you’ll get another two weeks in the Sin Bin…

  • Mark

    Really , venting ?? you usually associate venting with fury . You think I sounded furious ? I’ll have to disagree with you there .

  • otto

    “Is it a Merc or Audi?”

    It’s from Stuttgart DC. Might be a porsche. You can probably save a lot of money as a teetotalling independent methodist.

  • DC


    It’s a merc then, I know they make mercs at Stuttgart.

    Watched a documentary about mercs and the hand made engines for the mercedes sport car, I forget the brand. It was the gull winged sports car that were assembled in a special section of the mercedes plant at Stuttgart – or the outskirts.

  • otto

    VW’s too. Might be a lupo. He’s got a werewolf thing (lupine?). Do they make those there?

  • nightrider

    Anyone interested in the roots of sectarianism should tune into BBC2 tonight at 9pm.

  • DC

    VWs are made at Wolfsburg.

  • Pete Baker


    For some reason, it put me in mind of Philip Larkin’s great poem – This Be The Verse

    They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

  • DC

    I checked google map, could be near Stuttgart.

  • otto

    You’re right!

    It could be a VW if it was built before the war though.

  • HeinzGuderian

    “Enforced Integrated, non religious education might help but one has to ask whether that is what is wanted here”.

    It is not only wanted here,it is positively NEEDED !!
    Little children,from whatever background and ethnicity,educated together,without the spectre of religion hanging over them !!
    If you want to brainwash your child into the god you happen to believe in,then do so in your own time. But remember this,a child isn’t born catholic,or protestant,or hindu,or jew,or any other label.
    A child is a child,free from all prejudices,until they are taught differently.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Philip Larkin is perhaps one of the best advocates of the melancholy of life. Not an individual to celebrate a joie de vivre or any positive aspects of the human condition.

    ‘This Be The Verse’ is too raw for me. ‘Talking In Bed’ now there is truth.

  • RedTurtle

    After leaving university I was a naive soul who even thought that almost all Catholics were poor victims, and had not a sectarian bone in my body in terms of discrimination against others. After becoming a trainee accountant and working my socks off I was made redundant. It was only some years later that I actually even realised that I was a victim of Nationalist and / or Catholic discrimination by my employer. Far too late to make a legal claim. Remembering things that were said to me but I was too naive and trusting to understand it’s become quite clear to me now that this is what happened.

    Thankfully I had (unwittingly at that time) gone to England after that redundancy and completed my qualification amongst people who did not discriminate against me. All’s well that ends well I guess.

  • joeCanuck

    The “mysterious” origins do not apply to everyone. My children never heard me say anything bad about anyone’s religion. The first week that my elder boy started in Carrickfergus grammar he came home to announce that all Catholics were bad people. I queried the “all” asking him where he learnt that. He said that all of his friends at school believed it so it must be true. I asked him if he knew any Catholics. Of course not, he replied, I wouldn’t have anthing to do with that sort. I then asked him if he knew that his grannie and grandpa and most of his aunts and uncles were Catholics. Needless to say I had a very confused kid for a while.

  • HeinzGuderian


    Why didn’t you just explain it was a different brand of the same,nonexistent god ?


  • patio dev

    I grew up in a family, were current affairs were discussed daily. Growing up in NI meant that current affairs included discussion of violence and party politics. My cousin would shelter her children from such topics fearing that her children would pick up bad habits i.e. an awareness of our side and the other side. Now years later I hear her 21 year old son vent sectarian bile, he attended many ‘cross community’ events which in actual fact were events were our differences was ignored and not discussed.
    I used to believe in non-religious education but as I mellow with age I believe parents should have choice. Integration makes a great sound bite. Like the Alliance Party slogans of division costs etc, yes lets close down the Falls swimming pool sure isn’t the Shankill pool just round the corner.

  • joeCanuck


    I didn’t finish the anecdote. I was/am an atheist but I didn’t want to bias my kids in any direction; and my first wife, a presbyterian, did believe in god.. They did both choose atheism eventually.

  • youngpolitico

    I’m prejudiced. I was brought up in a protestant home (not churchy types but the “we’re not catholic” type), in a loyalist estate in South Londonderry. Joined a flute band, joined the Orange Order, joined the black precpetory, dabbled with joining the UUP, dabbled with joining the DUP. Was offered to join the UVF, was offered to join the UDA but well in the end I realised I didn’t know why I was so prejudiced and when I looked into things I foudn I had been told a lot of nonsense and propaganda.

    I’d love to say that now I love everybody but I don’t. I try… really I do but then something happens and I find myself blaming Republicans. I lost my job… blamed in on Republicans. Had my dole cut off… blamed it on Republicans. Sectarianism is the cushion I use to make myself feel better and I think that is the problem a lot of us have in Northern Ireland… it’s better to blame others for our problems than to actually face them.

  • Mr Crumlin

    Youngpolitico – as honest a post as I have read – hang in there – us republicans are not all bad!!

    I have three young kids and my eldest lad is now 10. I moved to Crumlin from west belfast before he was born.

    He wanted to fill his section of the census in and got stuck on the religion part – I asked him what one he should tick – he thought Church of Ireland as we live in Ireland. I was proud of that because when I was 10 I ‘knew’ it all. I ‘knew’ where I could and couldnt go – I ‘knew’ about the hunger strikers and went to Bobby Sands’ funeral. I ‘knew’ not to trust the RUC and that the Brits were not on my side. As it happens I was mostly right!

    I wasn’t brought up to hate anyone but I now believe that Catholic (or republican/nationalist) sectarianism is that we believe we are not sectarian – that we don’t hate Protestants at all and that we are above all that – we are from the one true faith and we are therefore better than them. That is Catholic sectarianism.

    I have some prejudices but I think as long as you are aware of that then thats not as dangerous as those who are ignorant of their bigotry. In fact Im never as suspicious as when I meet someone who says they’re not bigoted. But that probably says more about me than it does about them.

  • otto

    I’ve been told by a catholic friend that there’s something “a bit feniany” about me.

    Not sure how I caught it. Might be the catholic mother or the Walter Mackin books (a formative influence I share with the DFM apparently). Maybe its the drinking and the gobshitery.

    Or maybe its the ginger afro.

  • HeinzGuderian

    As long as we continue to have *religious education*,the problem of sectarianism will continue.
    By all means discuss religion is schools. But discuss it in the same way as Santa,or dragons,or winged horses……………Fantasy Classes……..unless,of course,there is evidence to the contrary ?

  • Pigeon Toes

    Having my child on the very surprising receiving end of sectarianism/racism last week, I realised the perpetrator was quite unaware of the words he had blasted at my son.

    I decided not to make an issue of it, in the full knowledge that neither child knew where the “insult” lay,

    Sadly though neither did the school…

  • PT

    I’m sorry to hear that I hope you had a quiet word with the headmaster and reminded him/her of the law regarding racist/sectarian attacks. Too many children are damaged by bullying of one form or another and too much of it has occurred, apparently unnoticed by the authorities, in school, perhaps a letter CCd to the minister for education might spur the school to some effort…

  • wee buns

    The school that my kiddos attended, (perhaps because it was one of the first integrated) suffered from being so very preoccupied with its ‘all-embracing ethos’, that it often ignored bullying, as if it’s integrated status put it up & above criticism. You have to cut through that crap. It’s really difficult because you don’t want to make things any worse for your child by drawing attention to them, but you can draw attention to the schools bullying policy. Just ask what it is. Ask for a written copy. Ask how they implement it. Make them aware.

    Integrated education: it should have been a key requirement of the GFA across the board. Interestingly such schools tend to have higher numbers of catholic families subscribing, so are not truly 50/50 catholic/protestant. All non Catholics are categorized as ‘other’, in order to make up numbers on the Protestant side of the quota.

    The struggle to contain the stresses of the segregation presses harder as kids get older; from the wearing of a football shirt, to the ‘no go’ areas after dark. I think a lot of sectarianism ironically stems from parents attempts to protect kids, trying to keep them from stepping outside the perceived safety of their group. The best protective move I made while still in the north was to get an address in a leafy suburb.

    Integrated secondary education is doubly important because of the gender balance it provides . Single gender schooled teenagers are noticeably less stable behavior wise. Re Donegal, the worst was a few busted noses, gang rivalries with boys from other towns, some vodka saturated nights and a few scrapes with the guards. In other words the ‘normal’ stuff. I’m pretty confident these boys wouldn’t know sectarianism if it danced naked in their faces and I’m very happy about that. Back when I was at school it was a certain nun who actively taught bigotry, that Protestants were, for example, not allowed into heaven. Even at the time these views were obviously outrageous to me but it’s guaranteed many took such as gospel.

    It’s impossible to quantify but I sometimes wonder how much damage was done by these ‘people of God’ at the height of the conflict when they should have been pouring oil on troubled waters. Again, zero accountability.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Again, zero accountability.’

    Thats fine with the god botherers . You are only accountable when you are dead as in no longer alive -and thus your ‘accountability’ will remain a mystery to all those left behind . Re your post and the ‘nun’ I believe Catholic doctrine makes no such claim that Protestants don’t get into heaven . I recall being taught in school that ‘some ‘ Protestants make it across the pearly gates but with the stringent qualification that they had to be especially good indeed almost saintly . At the tender age of 11 or 12 this was somehow a comfort as the fewer prods in heaven then the more places for us .

    Came as a bit of a shock to young Elliot who was a pal of ours lived on the same street and was the only ‘prod ‘ When informed he was definitely hell bound as we all knew he was by no stretch of the imagination saintly inclined -he scoffed and told us that it was the other way around .

    Further investigation of this conundrum i.e where do all the not so saintly prods go in the afterlife led to some strange thoughts . It was clear that bad catholics and bad prods went to hell but you had to be really bad like Hitler or somebody to merit hell fire for eternity . The not so saintly Catholics could always get sent to Purgatory and by the collection of innumerable indulgences thay could reduce the purgatorial term by a million years or more which in the context of eternity may not sound like a long time but hey it was better than a kick in the arse .

    One idiot religious teacher did suggest that quite possibly the not so saintly protestants might be allowed into Limbo along with all those unbaptised babies in places like China , India , Africa etc . A number of years afterwards the thought struck me what happens to those billions of Chinese and Africans and Indians and Arabs who were not only not baptised but who were practising Buddhists , Hindus , Islamists etc etc .

    It was not their fault that God decided to be a Jew and grow up in the land of Israel /Palestine ?

    These billions surely did not deserve either hell or purgatory so by default they would also be ensconced in Limboland which now to my teenage imagination was beginning to look like an exciting post death amalgam of the united dead nations made up of everybody on the planet bar a few hundred million Catholics i.e only the good and saintly one .

    When young Elliot was confronted with the prospect of spending an eternity with billions of the unbaptised as well as the hundreds of millions of Chinese , Indians and Africans in Limboland exclusivity he was non plussed for a moment and then explained that Grace would save him . She must have been some lady that Grace 😉

  • wee buns

    ”Re your post and the ‘nun’ I believe Catholic doctrine makes no such claim that Protestants don’t get into heaven.”

    Damn right and there’s no mystery where sectarianism is learned.

    I never believed (as tourists will tell you) that the conflict was about Catholics and Protestants.

    Kenfessionskrieg = it is territorial

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    We are sponges and soak up what’s around us.

    My folks, Alliance voters, were never sectarian but at some level I picked up that the Catholic family next door were somehow ‘other’, in some mysterious way. When we got together as families – rare – I could sense the parents making an effort, that it something they felt they should do but didn’t really want to. You take it in at some level and it’s only looking back on it you realise it was your main childhood interaction with the other tradition – and it was awkward. It was easier just to keep ourselves to ourselves and that’s what both families mainly did.