Hey, look what just arrived in my neighbourhood.
It’s the new “No Religion” billboards from the Atheist Foundation of Australia.
Australia’s having a census this year, complete with the religion question.
As the next Australian Census approaches (9 August 2011), the Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) is preparing for one of its biggest and most important projects. The AFA is campaigning to encourage individuals and families to think about the importance and impact of their answer to this leading Census question: “What is the person’s religion?”
The AFA will be unveiling billboards across the nation in major cities stating “Census 2011: Not religious now? Mark ‘No religion’ and take religion out of politics.”
They’re addressing two distressing tendencies in the census.
One is that people just put ‘Anglican’ or whatever their religion of origin is, even if they’re non-believing. This inflates the religious numbers, and may overestimate the allocation of services to churches, insofar as the government relies on the census to make these decisions.
What is the data on religion used for?
Data on religious affiliation are used for such purposes as planning educational facilities, aged care and other social services provided by religion-based organisations; the location of church buildings; the assigning of chaplains to hospitals, prisons, armed services and universities; the allocation of time on public radio and other media; and sociological research.
The other tendency is to write down some joke religion. Don’t get me wrong; I love the FSM as much as anyone, but I advertise his message on t-shirts, not on serious documents. From the FAQ:
What happens if I write Jedi Knight?
It gets counted as ‘Not Defined’ and is not placed in the ‘No religion’ category. This takes away from the ‘No religion’ numbers and therefore advantages the religion count. It was funny to write Jedi once, now it is a serious mistake to do so.
This year I’m writing ‘Atheist’, which is a legitimate category, and can be taken together with the ‘No Religion’ and ‘Agnostic’ groups.
I’d love to see the number of ‘Nones’ in Australia grow as large as possible this year. If you’re not currently religious, consider the ‘No Religion’ box. It’s more honest and accurate.