Abstract and Keywords
For four centuries Ireland has been the theatre of contesting politicized religions. The religious conflicts which accompanied the Protestant and Catholic Reformations made it imperative to know why you were one rather than the other (or so you were told by the religious and political elites). So it is important to know what was taught by the elites and the structures that developed in consequence. However, this does not mean that religious confrontation was constant. For, contrary to the stereotype, Ireland rarely experienced widespread religious-based conflict. People’s ‘faith’ encompassed very much more than the elite ideal, and sometimes the churches themselves had to adapt. This chapter traces developments in the churches over four centuries, both structurally and spiritually. It also looks at popular beliefs and how these intersected with official doctrines; and it develops this panorama of religion in Ireland against its political context, European as well as Irish and British.
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