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?”
“Unfortunately, because of the wording, many people will select the religion of their baptism or initiation at youth, despite not being a religious person at all,” said David Nicholls, President of the Atheist Foundation.
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.”
“It is time the Australian community questioned whether they hold religious beliefs or not. How they answer this question in the Census will influence decisions by Australian governments. Often the transfer of taxpayer money to religious organisations is justified on the basis of the Census results, as are special concessions and exemptions including the right to discriminate against some groups.
“This very sentiment has hit a sore spot in NSW with a decision handed down last week to allow the Wesley Mission, and thus Christianity, to discriminate against homosexual people on the basis of religion,” David Nicholls said.
Along with the AFA, organisations across the globe are campaigning for the same at Census time. Most outstanding is the British Humanist Association’s campaign titled “If you’re not religious, for God’s sake say so!”
The AFA also wants to draw attention to how misleading the official figures can be. Twenty percent of the population are aged under 14 years, and the representation of them in these Census figures is important. “As Professor Richard Dawkins rightly points out, children are not little Buddhists, Muslims or Christians; they are only parroting parents, peers and culture. Furthermore, a parent will be filling in this form on their behalf and also for older children.
“The highest number of non-religious people are placed in the demographic between adolescence and middle age, where they are able to think critically and rationally about the world around us and the myths that have been haunting us for generations.
“The figures for godless individuals in the New Zealand Census this year are expected to reach or pass the 50 percent mark, and good on them, but it should be us. It will be a first for any western democracy and is an indication of the steep upward trend in Atheism and Agnosticism of the last decade,” he said.
Donations can be made via the following methods.
Cheques/Money Orders to-
Atheist Foundation Of Australia Inc
Private Mail Bag 6
Maitland SA 5573
Atheist Foundation Of Australia
Acc No. 10120389
PLEASE enter your NAME and the word CENSUS into the reference section. Send an email with your return address so I can post a receipt.
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
Private Mail Bag 6
MAITLAND SA 5573
Ph: (08) 8835 2269
I'd like to see this campaign expanded so it's more appealing to those Aussies who simply reject atheism on sight.
That is, reach out to non-practising christians, secular jews, new agers, agnostics, etc.
I'm thinking particularly of non-church-goers who might be motivated to take a political stance on census day, by marking their family as No Religion - yet obviously still identifying conversationally as a (cultural) christian - to take a stance against beefing up the numbers of the denomination they're estranged from. For those who've grown suspicious of their denominational institution (the oft-mentioned, "catholics leaving in droves") they might even consider marking No Religion as part of "being a good christian", by embracing non-sectarianism, church/state separation, etc.