We have a census coming up. Time to freak out. Some people have concerns over their privacy and information security, others are worried that they haven’t received their login details or forms yet, but let’s get on to the bigger issue, here.
According to some bloke on Facebook that I’ve never heard of, we should all identify as Christian in the religion section of the national questionnaire. Why? Because if we don’t, all the Muslim people will identify as Muslim. (Spoiler alert: Muslim people will most likely identify as Muslim in the census, regardless of what you or I identify as. Muslims aren’t actually identifying as Muslims to spite people that aren’t Muslims. I have this information on good authority. Who knew?)
However, this bloke on Facebook (with his questionable spelling and grammar) and his mates (by mates, I mean the thousands of people sharing rubbish like the above and various other posts and emails) say that if people don’t identify as Christian, and others do identify as Muslim, we will magically become a Muslim country. This is the sort of thing that makes me want to go into a caps-locked rage:
Australia: Secular Democracy.
Firstly, we’re supposed to be a secular democracy. While it’s true that we celebrate some Christian holidays, it’s also true that these have become more cultural than religious. Christmas and Easter, the big two, are celebrated all over the country. This is basically a hangover from the days when the majority were Christian. However, many now celebrate with Santa and the Easter Bunny rather than Jesus and God. Some skip those and use the holidays for family gatherings or parties. Some just enjoy the days off. For those that want to celebrate the Christian aspects of the holiday, they can. We have a little thing in Australia called freedom of religion. You’re allowed to be a Christian and do Christian things. That is your right. Just as Muslim people have the right to celebrate their religious holidays and do Muslim things. No matter how much it bothers people who are not effected by it in any way whatsoever. It’s a pesky little thing called “Basic Human Rights“; the ability to have a religion or to not– your choice! Check out section 116 of our constitution– it’s pretty clear.
The Push for ‘No Religion’.
This year’s census has ‘no religion’ as the first option on the form. Why? To encourage people who don’t actually identify as religious to give an accurate response. Choosing ‘Catholic’ because that’s what you were christened as a child, when you don’t identify as Catholic, skews data. That matters. The data collected in the census is what helps policy makers and the government decide where and how to allocate funds, for example. This is why the Atheist Foundation of Australia has been campaigning for people to mark ‘no religion’ if they do not practice or identify as being part of a religion. In the last census, 22.3% of people marked no religion. That’s an increase of 29.4 % since the previous census. This makes a difference to how much influence religious groups have and to how much money the government allocates to religious groups who operate as charities. Religious groups don’t pay tax and, unlike other charities, don’t have to report on their activities or finances. If more and more people are non-religious, the funding allocations at the very least should reflect this.
But, but… The Muslims!
Yes, terrifying, isn’t it? I mean, last census, 2.2% of Australians identified as Muslims. That’s a whopping increase from the census before, when 1.7 % of respondents ticked the Muslim box.
There was actually a higher increase of people identifying as Hindu, but whatever, right? They aren’t the religious group it’s currently fashionable to hate on. 2.5% said they were Buddhist, no one freaked out over that. 25.3% said they were Catholic but I’ve noticed the government doesn’t check with the Pope before making laws or policies. Contrary to what the far-right, the racists, the xenophobes and the Sonia Krugers of the world might think or fear, we don’t appear to be in any danger of a great Muslim takeover. Use your common sense!
How to Answer the Religion Question this Census.
Keep in mind, this question is optional. If you really aren’t sure about what you believe, you don’t have to give an answer. That said, if you don’t attend a church of any kind, don’t adhere to any religious teachings and don’t look to religion in your day to day life, you should consider marking no religion. Not because atheists want to take over the country or to send a message to whatever religion you most disagree with but simply in the interests of an accurate reflection of what Australia believes. If you do have a religion, then tick that box if you feel comfortable doing so. Again, it’s all about accuracy. Which is also why you shouldn’t write down that you’re a Jedi (unless you truly, truly identify as such-?I’m not judging!) for a laugh.
It won’t get ‘Jedi’ recognised as an actual religion, though. And the numbers don’t go into the ‘no religion’ category- they count as ‘religion not defined’, so Jedi responses may inadvertently make Australia seem more religious than it really is!
In short, please fact check any hysteria you see about the census. Especially when it comes to the religion stuff. A little common sense will go a long way.
#FYBF @ With Some Grace.