Religion features throughout the play. It is first referred to in an innocent, child-like way, when 11- year-old Alec hopes God has taken his mother safely to heaven and seeks a sign that this is the case. He is pleased when he looks up and the clouds have parted, revealing a patch of blue sky.
When Alec is seen going to the Mission at the beginning of Act II, he has become almost fanatical about it, having come
equal top in the Bible exam with the Minister’s son. He feels the Mission provides him with security and he felt a...
glow. It was good to feel good. It had come on stronger since my mother had died.
This interest is revealed to be part of Alec's grieving process when he does not have an answer to Mrs Latula’s question,
When did the Lord Jesus come into your heart child? The answer to this question does not lie in the Bible and Alec cannot learn it off by heart as he did the answers to the questions in the Bible exam. Struggling to deal with his emotions, as the answer is personal, he runs out of the Mission, never to return.
or Alec, religious faith is over because the answers are too much of a challenge. This is symbolised in his willingness to burn his hymn-book at the end of the play. By contrast, Davie, who admits to not being a churchgoer, although he is knowledgeable about the Bible and was a long-serving member of the Boys’ Brigade in his youth, finds this idea horrific, suggesting he has the deeper faith.
There is also a passing reference to Buddhism at one point, when Alec, responding to his father’s uneasy and uncompleted assertion,
Ye have tae believe in somethin. Otherwise…, says that in one of the Buddhist books he has read there was a story about a monk who burned a wooden statue of the Buddha, in order to keep warm.
He further concludes:
Ah think the idea was that everythin’s holy – or nothing.
This is a semi-playful allusion to the author’s own serious interest in Buddhism, as well as a hint in the play that there are other religious dimensions in the world that exist outside the narrow sectarian divide of Glasgow.
Billy and Ian refer to religion in a sectarian way, illustrating their allegiance to Protestant Scotland and Rangers, and criticising anything linked to Catholicism simply because it is not protestant. Davie points out the stupidity of this to Billy, but his comments are ignored as Billy does not have the intellect to consider the bigger picture, he simply repeats the stereotype.