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Australian Census: How “Belief” is Misrepresented

Why Changes to the 2016 Census are Necessary:

Religious lobbies in Australia continue to influence governments on a raft of social legislation.  They claim today’s progressive social agenda offends “Christian morality and the teachings of the Bible”.  Their leverage with politicians (of all shades) centres on “evidence” that their position is endorsed by the religious, or “moral majority”.

Figures quoted come from a seemingly reliable source, the Australian Bureau of Statistics — and most recently, the census from 2011, on religious affiliations.  Over many decades the imprecise wording of census questions have led to skewed data which has been fodder for religious institutions which claim ‘flocks’ they are hardly entitled to.

The 2011 census showed Australia’s population included; 61% Christian, 7.2% non-Christian faiths, and 22.3% listed as having “No Religion”.  What these figures fail to capture are the large numbers of people (from all religions) who have long since “lapsed”, or have never practiced the religion they were taught as a child.

Statistics may vary but it has been discussed and written about over centuries — that large numbers of people who are nominal or “cultural Christians” who don’t believe in God or the bible, and who attend church only for marriages and funerals.  Leading newspapers and online magazines quote these “don’t believe” figures in the order of:  21% for Catholics, 10% of Protestants, and 52 % of Jews — for whom the Old Testaments is essentially their bible.  Based on anecdotal data these figures are hideously conservative.  Only 10% of Protestants who have “lapsed”?  Really?

In August 2016 the ABS will conduct its next census.  Submissions to the ABS have been to amend its wording on the question of religious affiliations.  In order to address the issues of “Cultural Christians”, and reflect more accurately the true nature of “belief”, recommendations have been made.  Among others, one suggestion has been: “Which religion do you now regularly practice?”.  A useful second question would simply be; “Do you believe in a God?”.

A more accurately worded census would finally eliminate any doubt — that Australia is not (nor has to be) a “God fearing” nation.  21st century ethics far outweigh the confused, contradictory and often ruthless teachings contained in two books written 2000 and 3000 years ago.  It would remove the unfounded claim made by church hierarchies — with their personal and political agendas — that they speak for the whole nation on social policy.

Atheism SA Inc.  active atheist assoc., Adelaide South Australia, for atheists, agnostics and non-believers