Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes.
Those of us who endured a miserable Irish Catholic childhood will sympathise with the above. But that is the thing about religion - it’s not as though we had much choice, given the “get them early” recruiting philosophy of most of them.
That’s if they will even wait that long. Certainly, in my own case (not, by any means, a unique one) I was only a few days old when I was bundled from Holles Street Maternity Hospital into Westland Row Church - swaddling clothes and all - for deliverance into the mass(ed) ranks of the Holy Catholic Church. Of course, that was in the days before it was accepted that you never knowingly place a child – no matter how young - within groping distance of a priest.
And don't get me started on the miserable Irish Catholic schooling (don’t ask me what non “Catholics” did for an education back then). "Give me the boy, and I’ll give you the man” , the Jesuits founder, Ignatius Loyola rather cynically put it. In an Irish context, the said “boy” was usually about five years of age upon starting his Church-run State "education" - which meant around 13 years in their sweaty clutches. Even the Hitler Youth would have baulked at getting them that early.
But for those who did not have the wit to reject the superstitious dogma outright, after that lengthy period of indoctrination, it would seem that there are certain advantages inherent in being a Catholic, according to piece in today’s Irish Times. Namely, that you can be corrupt as sin, and still sleep easily at night - once you have said your Act of Contrition before going to bed, that is. Then you just get up the following day, and do it all over again!
A 2000 study by Daniel Treisman, a University of California professor, found that countries with a Protestant tradition tend to be less corrupt - presumably because they don’t have the same ready facilities for repentance and forgiveness on tap.
Indeed, the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, concurs that Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark have been the least corrupt countries over the past 13 years - while the Catholic countries of southern Europe have been at the other end of the scale. And let’s face it, nearer to home, most people here would accept that even when British politicians do wrong, more often than not they resign, or are made do so. In Ireland they get voted back in with increased majorities.
Don’t get me wrong – I think religion is a bad idea in general, so I’m not singing the praises of one brand of nonsense over another (and let's not forget the oppressive ignorance that is Islamic fundamentalism).
But as far as cultural legacies go, the corruption explanation is an interesting theory in a European context, is it not?
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