“Census 2011, why mark No Religion?”
Australia is in a very privileged position this year. We have an opportunity to tell our government who we really are, what we treasure about our lives in Australia and what we would like to see in our future in this country. In a country that seems to be increasingly pandering to the Australian Christian Lobby, we have a chance to show our government that we are not a nation of Sunday church-goers, nor kneeling daytime prayers. We have a chance to show, with our sheer numbers, that with this census, that we are not afraid to tell it like it is.
Interestingly, this census has attracted the interest of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, who are running the Census No Religion campaign with the slogan “Census 2011: Not religious now? Mark ‘No religion’ and take religion out of politics.” I see this as a great opportunity for all Australians to set the record straight.
Why does this matter?
To many, the census might seem like a “Big Brother” ploy, trying to extract information from the citizens in order to take advantage of them, but that is far from the case. The census, unlike voting for a political party, gives information about the real lives and habits of the citizenry, real information about what matters to the people. This information is the only real way for a government to make decisions that will affect the way we live and how we would like to live, helping them to create policies and standpoints on a national and international level that is reflective of the real culture of Australia.
With our so-called atheist Prime Minster in power constantly handing much needed funds over to religious organisations and programs, there has never been a more poignant time to mark “No Religion” on your census papers.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not expecting people who are true religious believers to mark “No Religion”, but rather those who don’t actively participate in religion on a regular basis, and especially those who feel no religious affiliation other than the fact that their parents told them they were of a particular religion as children. I know there are many people in this latter situation who are afraid to tell grandma that they are agnostic, or atheist, but this is a perfect opportunity for those people to step forward (anonymously mind you) and be counted.
There are several reasons why this census is important. For one, the current government have the Australian population fooled into thinking that Australia is, and will always be, a Christian nation. While we may have large numbers of self-professed Christians here, the times are changing, and Christianity may soon lose the privileged position of majority. Some have even predicted that religion will all but die out in Australia in the near future. If this indeed turns out to be the case, then the Australian politicians might think twice about their pandering and realise that the Australian populace is much more diverse than the “Christian Nation” that they so often like to portray.
The second reason is that the Australian school system is undergoing a massive push from the Australian Christian Lobby to introduce and enforce the presence of Christian education to primary school children in the form of the National School Chaplaincy Program. There are a few problems with this scheme;
- Australia is NOT purely a Christian nation, in fact in the 2001 census shows “Just over a quarter of all persons either stated they had no religion, or did not adequately respond to the question to enable classification of their religion.” Given a reasonable margin for error, we can safely assume that the majority of this quarter didn’t just fill in the form incorrectly;
- As Leslie Cannold points out in this article, even if our forefathers in this country did base the beliefs and laws on their Christian doctrines, “Our future must be founded on what we believe is good and right for us now, not what those in the past believed. To get there, reason, empathy and generosity will be key.”
- the scheme has been shown to be an opportunity for “school chaplains” to proselytize children while they are too young to know what it is they are being asked to believe;
- the brazen assumption that all children should be taught Christianity is insulting to those of other belief systems, and the chaplaincy system does not allow for this diversity;
- any sort of religious education in schools should be taught on a flat playing field, one where all religions and cultural mythologies are taught to children, not as absolute truths, but as culturally and historically significant parts of human history.
If we continue to call ourselves a Christian nation, whether we are one or not, money will be continually diverted away from important things like education and health into religiously flavoured recruitment schemes. Not only is this a great waste of money, but it’s immoral to press these views upon the children of this nation.
These two points are really just the tip of the iceberg, there are many other things popping up here and there under the banner of “religious freedom” including some which are really means to recruit more people to the fold.
If you have any questions about the Census No Religion Campaign, go to the website which gives a series of simple and reasoned answers to the most common queries.
I hope that you see the logic in this blog piece, and will take the census seriously when it arrives on your doorstep in August. As the website says:
“The coming census in Australia is an important chance to make sure your interests are met in decision making and funding, that views you do not hold are not over-represented in the coming years.”
That is what is at stake here. Be brave and answer truthfully.