While belief in a Christian God is widespread in Ireland, the number of people who practice the religion has declined significantly in the last 20 years.
Nowadays, people find it is easy to label people with religious convictions as nut-jobs and fundamentalists.
They see Christianity as a thing of the past; a backwater, outdated model of social values that has no relevance to the 21st century.
With the Magdalene Laundries and the sex abuse scandal still fresh in the nation’s mind many have turned away from the Church.
However, the ordinary Christians, who follow ethical values, are rarely part of the narrative, because there is a tendency to focus solely on the negative aspects of the system.
They go to school, they get jobs, they log onto Facebook, and they watch Netflix. At the end of the day they are practically normal.
For many, Christianity is a vital support system. The church opens up avenues socially and spiritually.
People form bonds with others who share similar beliefs, and there is a strong community spread throughout the church.
Leanni Snyers, originally from South Africa and studying in Dublin, told Ireland Today about the positive values of her Christian beliefs
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Love your neighbour as yourself. Have integrity and be humble. Give to those in need. Live a Christian life
While the community runs through mutual trust and understanding, its presence and its values are often met with occasional scepticism, and downright hostility.
“I’ve seen a considerable amount of hatred and disdain for Christianity in the Irish people”, said Jonathan Shiell, auditor of the UCD Livingstone Society.
I’d ask someone if they’d like to join the society, and often get responses such as ‘no thanks, I hate Christianity’, or I’ve often been called a chauvinist pig solely on the basis of telling someone that I’m a Christian.
Many turn to Christianity for guidance and to support their values. Praying provides a relief from worries, a time for reflection, and a connection to God.
Yet not everyone starts believing from childhood, as was the case of Elizabeth Lau, a Protestant from Malaysia.
“I grew up in a Buddhist and Taoist family. The eldest was the first to find Jesus in his life through outreaches at his college.
“When things started getting difficult in my life when I was in secondary school, I wanted to go into religion more, hoping to find peace as I saw a change in my brother and thought religion was the way to go.”
Elizabeth added that: “Jesus is my Lord, my Saviour, a friend and comforter. Without Him, I would not have been able to have a relationship with God. Without Him, my life would have gone a different route and I wouldn’t be where or who I am today.”
There is however, some disagreement with certain aspects of the religion.
Leanni said, “I disagree with the traditional role of a woman. I believe that women should be independent.”
I don’t disagree with anything written in the bible but sometimes I do disagree with certain things being preached by pastors and when I do find myself not quite agreeing or not understanding, I go back to the word of God.
Christianity is one of the world’s most popular religions. More importantly it gives people ample opportunity to express their love of a God, without fear or judgement.