The Australian Census will take place on 9 August this year, which means it’s a good time to remind you to tick ‘no religion’.
61% of Australians classified themselves as Christian in the 2011 census. This is despite the fact that only 7.5% of Australians regularly attend church services, and most take a secular approach in their personal and political affairs.
Census statistics are used and abused in political discourse, and also play a major role in the allocation of funding. As the Australian Bureau of Statistics notes, religious affiliation data is used:
for such purposes as planning educational facilities, aged persons’ 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.
Even if you are religious, the use of your affiliation to outsource social services to private religious groups should give you some reservations. It moves the role of religion away from being a private, ‘spiritual’ affair to an institutionalised doctrine which determines which civic organisations get support.
Religious affiliation statistics are also manipulated to justify the conservative bent of many hot-button social issues from gay rights to euthanasia. This is despite the fact that the majority of Australians support a progressive, secular perspective.
If you are not religious, or even if you are somewhat spiritual but don’t want your beliefs to shape public affairs, make sure you tick ‘no religion’ this census.