A new study has shed light on the relationship between the Irish and Celtic faith.
The study, published in the Journal of Religious Research, reveals the importance of the connection between the two religions.
“Our findings demonstrate that a significant number of Celtics identify with a belief in God in a sense similar to that of Catholics and Protestants,” says study author Professor Paul Egan, of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
“This is not surprising as they believe in God, but that the nature of their relationship to God is unique and different to that between Catholics and Protestantism.”
The importance of this relationship in the Irish Catholic and Protestant worlds is that the Irish have a unique view of God, and therefore they believe God exists in a supernatural, invisible realm.
“There is a belief among the Irish that the world is governed by God who is an omnipotent being who can cause any physical phenomenon in order to further his goals, as in the creation of the universe, the fall of Adam, and the salvation of mankind.”
Our research suggests that this is a very distinct view of the supernatural in terms of the concept of ‘God’, and that it has a more complex and nuanced meaning than other religious groups in Ireland.
“Celtic religious beliefs have a very rich cultural history, dating back to the ancient Irish tradition of oral and religious tradition.”
In terms of beliefs, Professor Egan says that while the Irish Catholics have a strong sense of personal responsibility, the Protestants have a less positive view of themselves and a greater need for external authority, which has shaped their worldview.
“This has led to a sense of a need for an external authority which they attribute to God, whereas the Irish believe that they are divinely inspired by God,” he says.
“We are not talking about a different way of thinking about things here, but a different view of how the world works.”
They are a relatively small religious group, and we can understand their view of things from the perspective of a larger group.
“The study, led by Professor Paul Hogg, of SOAS, also reveals that while Protestants are more likely to believe in a supreme being than Catholics, the Irish are more accepting of people who share their beliefs.”
In the Irish context, the importance for belief in the supernatural is not just about the physical reality of God but about the sense of being an individual person, rather than an impersonal being who has a higher power over all things,” he explains.”
For Protestants, God is not only the power to bring about the end of evil, but also the source of personal salvation.
“It is in this sense that the Church of Ireland and the Catholic Church are both very much about individuals being individuals.”
But what this means for our relationship with the Irish is that we are very much at the mercy of our own faith.
“A belief in a divine being that we can know to be in some way different from us can be very important for us.”
Dr Egan also points out that the religious beliefs of Irish Catholics and Catholics in general are not as well known in the UK as they are in the US.
“I think the UK has a lot of religious history and they have their own mythology, their own rituals and beliefs that they hold dear.
They also have a long history of interfaith dialogue, which I think is very important.”
In this respect, the study finds that there are many similarities between the views held by Irish Catholics in Britain and Irish Catholics across Ireland.
The study suggests that it is important for people of faith in Ireland to develop a shared understanding of the Irish way of life.
For the study, Professor Hogg and his students travelled to Ireland in order “to understand the Irish cultural traditions and to understand their religious beliefs in the context of their modern religious contexts”.
They were also able to look at the role of religion in Irish life.
“Religion in Ireland is not a matter of belief in an external being, but of a sense that people have of themselves as individuals who are worthy of respect and who have a right to be treated with respect and dignity,” Professor Hagg explains.
“The Irish Catholic community has a shared sense of faith that can be found in their everyday practices and beliefs.”
Professor Hogg says that the study highlights the importance that both Irish and British Catholics have in the relationship with their faith.
“We have a common belief that the very fabric of our society depends on the quality of our religious beliefs and practices.”
That is not something to be underestimated.
“While we have a lot to learn from the Irish, I think that it’s good that we learn from them too.”