Liam Neeson was born in Ballymena, Northern Ireland.
Neeson was raised in a ”strong Catholic family” during a time and place where being Catholic was a bit of a liability. Northern Ireland, a part of Protestant United Kingdom, was for many years a battleground between these two religions. Neeson has said that he was unaffected by “The Troubles,” as this violent part of history is called.1
Neeson did attend a Presbyterian Church growing up. He was impressed by the theatrics and passion of a certain preacher: the now legendary Ian Paisley. Neeson would sneak into Paisley’s sermons to watch the spectacle. He later said Paisley’s penchant for the dramatic inspired him to become an actor.2
Neeson admits to having abandoned his Catholic roots after a certain amount of fame, saying:
I was at a crossroads in my life. I was reasonably successful as an actor. [I was] getting drunk at night and getting laid as much as I could.3
Then, while preparing for a film role about a Jesuit priest, Neeson began researching more about his childhood faith. Neeson learned about the Spiritual Exercises of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius Loyola and the two sides of his life–acting and Catholicism–merged. He said:
It was a real revelation to me, and it brought two big parts of my life together. The Irish Catholic side was married to the life of an actor and I found out acting could be a form of prayer.3
Still, Neeson seems a bit confused spiritually. Maybe he just got back into Catholicism for the acting perks, but he has expressed a certain amount of religious ambiguity, which has gotten him into trouble at times. Neeson said he considered converting to Islam after filming in Istanbul, saying:
The call to prayer happens five times a day, and for the first week, it drives you crazy, and then it just gets into your spirit, and it’s the most beautiful, beautiful thing… It really makes me think about becoming a Muslim.4
Then, as the voice of Aslan, the lion character in the C.S. Lewis book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Neeson stirred-up controversy when he had the gall to suggest that Aslan might represent Mohammed or Buddha as well as Jesus Christ.5 Anyone who knows C.S. Lewis knows he was a huge Christian and that the Narnia series is basically the Bible for kids.
Neeson isn’t so much into politics. When he was still a student in school in Northern Ireland he didn’t even know why his fellow students were protesting one of the most violent days in his country’s history.1 Neeson recounts being caught off-guard during his college years by protestors, who accosted him while he was leaving class one day because they thought he was a “scab,” or supporter of British Royal Forces who had massacred 26 unarmed protesters. But he was just ignorant. Neeson said:
That’s how out of touch politically I was. It was terrifying, but it was a real awakening for me that I had better start learning about my history.1
All his Irish history is a bit moot at this point. Neeson became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2009.6 This begs the obvious question: Republican or Democrat? Conservative or Liberal?
Well, there isn’t much to go on with Neeson. Some question and answer sites are convinced he’s Republican.7 But there appears to be no evidence of this except for the fact that he’s a little antagonistic toward the liberal health culture of Los Angeles. He said:
In Los Angeles, it’s like they jog for two hours a day and then they think they’re morally right. That’s when you want to choke people, you know?8
- Liam Neeson: Bloody Sunday made me learn my history. Belfast Telegraph. [↩] [↩] [↩]
- Neeson reveals Paisley influence. BBC News. [↩]
- Liam Neeson talks about rediscovering spirituality through acting. Beliefnet. [↩] [↩]
- Liam Neeson Says He Thought About Becoming A Muslim. The Huffington Post. [↩]
- Liam Neeson upsets Narnia fans by claiming Aslan could also be Mohammad as well as Christ. Mail Online. [↩]
- US sympathy prompts Liam Neeson to take citizenship. Telegraph. [↩]
- Is liam neeson republican? ChaCha. [↩]
- Liam Neeson Quotes. Brainy Quote. [↩]