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Media Release – Dawkins backs ASA on ABS submission

Richard Dawkins supports Atheism SA action before 31st May 

Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and key spokesman for the ‘New Atheist’ movement has thrown weight behind the recently formed Atheism SA and its bid to change the ABS Census question on religion, says Brian Morris, the Association’s president.

“We contacted the Richard Dawkins Foundation in England to seek backing for the Australia-wide campaign on the Census and we’re delighted that they responded on their high-profile facebook page, urging Australian atheists to lodge ABS submissions in support.”

“Dawkins directed attention to the ASA website page where the case is spelled out and why urgent action is needed.”

“The critical factor here is that submissions close on 31st May, a full 3 years before the 2016 Census is circulated”, Morris said.

“Wording of the Census question on *Religious Affiliation* has been discriminatory and has distorted ABS data over many years.”

“The inflated figures give an impression that belief in mainstream religion remains high, contrary to declining church numbers, and this faulty data merely entrenches grants and tax benefits to religion, at the expense of secular services and charities.”

Encouraged by the backing of Dawkins, Atheism SA is urging non-religious people to lodge ABS submissions before 31st May.

Morris said the seemingly innocuous question; “What is the person’s religion?“, actually discriminates against the millions of Australians who are either agnostic, atheist, or who have never practiced the religion they we were taught as a child.

“It’s a leading question, and when posed by an authority like the ABS, it draws people to select from the given list of religions.

The *no religion* option is buried at the end and ignores the high percentage of those whose faith has *lapsed* but who do not regard themselves as atheist or agnostic.”

The upshot of this, says Morris, is that ABS data is badly skewed.  “It gives an impression that the majority subscribe to popular religions and it allows these various religious monopolies to maintain high levels of tax relief and government funding.”

He said the question on *Religious Affiliation* should read; Does the person believe in, and practice, a specific religion?, and that the no religion option be put first.  “That’s the model in New Zealand, and the ‘no religion’ vote is 50% higher than here.”

“We’ve provided a wealth of supporting detail to explain precisely why past questions have been discriminatory, and how they have distorted the results — data that benefits organised religion at the expense of secular charities and services.”

 “The 2011 Census recorded just 22.3% with *no religion* but anecdotal evidence over many years has shown at least another 30% have never practiced the religion they were taught as a child.  These people do not regard themselves as religious.”

 “It makes a mockery of the national Census when an inherent bias in the system creates advantage for an already wealthy and powerful sector of the economy, and sustains its estimated $31 billion annually in grants and tax exemptions,” Morris concluded.

Atheism SA Incorporated.