Counting Atheists – Better Than Counting Sheep.

9 August 2011

Tonight is Census Night in Australia, when all 21/22 or whatever million of us will be counted.  I rather enjoy reading the results of a Census with its snippets of interesting information – after the last one for instance, we were told that one in four Australian residents was born overseas.  They want to know how much we earn, how we get to work (though as transport planning is dire in this city, I presume they ignore that bit) and the usual contentious question “What is your religion?” 

Note – NOT “Have you got a religion” but the rather presumptious “What is your religion”.  Of course, you can mark “No religion”.

AND I BEG YOU . . . . if you do not have a religion, please mark that box.  Don’t put the religion of your parents, your husband, the place you went to school.  Put “No religion”.  That is the only way to get rid of the ridiculous power that Australian State and Federal Governments allow religious institutions to have over the lives of all Australians, irrespective of their personal religious, or rather non-religious, views.

A few weeks ago I was waiting in a queue when I was asked by a woman waiting with me what I had done to warrant using a walking stick.  I explained about my accident and she said that God would help me.  I told her I was an atheist.  She was very apologetic.  “I’m so sorry – I thought you were English”.  That rather stumped me!  I confirmed that I was and she said she thought ALL English people were devoted Christians.  I didn’t discover where she’d got that idea but I explained that actually England has probably one of the largest populations of professed atheists in the Western world. 

I would think that Australia is fairly similar in that respect but unless we tell the Government this fact, they’ll continue to pour public funds into religious coffers (like the $165 million funding of Catholic World Youth Day) and refuse to introduce laws that they believe will offend the religious “majority”, like same-sex marriage.  In the UK, there was a bit of a kerfuffle about same-sex marriage, it was introduced nevertheless and is now practically a non-issue.   

Please tonight stand up and be counted. 


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  1. well bloody said Sally!

  2. I was the only one in my household to mark no religion. And I did so sneakily, so that the loud, demanding one would not see and subject me to a lecture about how the religion that was chosen for me that I no longer agree with or associate with is what I am.

  3. actually… we went with marking the other box and filling in “ATHEIST” or “AGNOSTIC” (we didn’t want to assume that the small fry had already taken on our beliefs).. we thought that marking “No Religion” just suggested that we hadn’t really thought about it or made up our minds.

  4. I put “Christian” in “other” – because I am a Christian who has at times attended Catholic, Anglican, Uniting, and Assemblies of God churches. But I do hope they put some effort into analysing the “Other” category.

  5. Well said Sally – I asked L what he wanted ticked & he matter of factly said “no religion”. No guilt, trauma or pressure – the way it should be.

  6. As Linda did, I put “Christian” in the “other” box; I do not belong to any of the listed denominations (they are not religions).

  7. When I put “atheist” on paperwork at work, it gets translated into “no religion”. This irks me, as I consider that to include “undecided” as well as “miscellaneous mysticism and spirituality”.

  8. I am happy to read your post and it’s contorted my choice to check no religion. I was baptized but first, this religion was not on the list and second it was the choice of my parent not mine. And I agree about the fact that state and religion must have noting in relation.

  9. I do agree with those who say that “no religion” implies a default position, given no thought. Many of us are quite well-informed about most of the major religions, have read widely and debated, and come to what we believe to be an informed decision not to believe in a higher being.

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