Church or Chapel?

Be frank; lay it on the line, tell it like it is, don't duck the truth; the real truth, the unadulterated truth, the reason you follow the team in blue and not the club in green and white. This should rank amongst the easiest questions you will ever be asked. Why do you follow the team you do?

Some will proudly boast that Rangers is their local team and that their allegiance is therefore natural and legitimate. Can we assume then that those same people would follow Celtic if their home turf was near to that unfortunate edifice on London Road? Somehow, I don't think so.

Others will claim a fatherly or even grandfatherly influence rather than spell out the detail of why they attend Ibrox and not Parkhead. If a father or grandad followed Rangers due to religious tribalism, and if a son or grandson is inclined to stand behind the same line, perhaps they should have the good grace to admit the role of religious identity in delivering them to where they are now.

If people follow Rangers for "football reasons", what could they possibly be? If it's because Rangers play in a certain way, will these supporters walk away when the team plays in a different way? Again, I don't think so.

Rangers FC was chosen by Protestant people to be their preferred football club, and they warmed to It because they were at ease and at home amongst their own. They might have had friends, colleagues and family members who were Catholic, but they could never have settled into the Catholic environment that has long lingered at Celtic.

All across the world Rangers and Celtic are defined as being the flagbearers of two groups in Scottish society; Protestants and Catholics, and yet amongst supporters of both clubs, there's a pretence that religion has no bearing on whether a person opts for blue or green.

Some people see Rangers as a unionist club, but the Rangers support is no more unionist than a Celtic support which staunchly backs a leading unionist party: the Labour Party. Indeed the unionist vote may be more widespread amongst the Celtic support than it is amongst the Ibrox legions who cast their vote significantly less "en bloc" than their rivals.

There can be no denying that society has changed and that active religious allegiance is on the wane in Scotland, but the loyalty to a once-strong family faith doesn't easily get left behind. Our religious heritage still defines us even although many think that a new-age atheism is the enlightened place to be.

The enmities of the past are enmities still today as historical tribal allegiances live on despite the growing abandonment of regular worship and Christian belief. Our Protestant and Catholic backgrounds are still as important in defining us - and separating us - as they were when supporters were more inclined to visit Church and Chapel.

Celtic has tried to re-invent itself as part of the Irish family, but this Scottish club is waving the Irish banner to mask its one true faith: Catholicism. Rangers waxes on about being open to all, which it is, but is still reluctant to associate itself with the Protestant tribalism which swept the club along at the top of the Scottish game for decades - and still does today.

If ever a football club had a Catholic ethos, that club was Celtic, and if ever a club was the standard-bearer for its surrounding Protestant community, that club was Rangers.

Irishness, unionism, monarchy, republicanism, Conservatism and Labour are all strands that play a part in making up the identities of fans of Rangers and Celtic, but they pale into insignificance next to an evolving constituency based on religious tribalism.

It is a corruption in society that intimidates people into thinking that a free country can't have football clubs whose fans have made a choice based on their faith and the faith of their fathers.

If there's bigotry afoot, it comes chiefly from politically correct zealots who have attempted to create a climate where any deviation from the official party line is a dissent that should be crushed.

Even when faith is replaced by atheism, football allegiance in Glasgow is still mostly determined by which Christian sect is, or was, most prominent in the lives and backgrounds of Rangers and Celtic fans.

Surely only a bigot would have a problem with that?