Why Marking “No Religion” in the Australian Census DOES Matter

Why Marking “No Religion” in the Australian Census DOES Matter July 3, 2016

This was a big thing back in the last census in the UK, and it is the same for Australia, who are having a census later this year.

Information about this can be found here, at http://censusnoreligion.org.au/.

As it states:

Many people in Australia are born into religion but no longer practice or hold the same beliefs.

On the 2016 census, the opportunity to choose ‘No religion’ is now at the top of the list, giving people the chance to consider their answer first.

Accurate census data helps policy makers & political leaders make all sorts of planning and funding decisions. So if you’re not religious any more, mark the new ‘No religion’ box on the 2016 Census.

The Census is an important chance to make sure your interests are met and that views you don’t hold are not over-represented in the coming years.

and

Why mark ‘No religion’?

How you answer this question in the Census will influence decisions by Australian governments.

Often the transfer of your tax dollars to religious organisations is justified on the basis of the Census results. Also special concessions and exemptions are given including the right to discriminate against some groups.

Australia is following in the footsteps of New Zealand and England & Wales, where after an awareness campaign, the marking of ‘No religion’ has increased to nearly 50% of the population in the last 5 years.

But without the accurate data, we can’t know the truth. We are encouraging all Australians to reflect and respond to the question on the Census with consideration and honesty….

Data on religious affiliation is used for a number of purposes, such as planning educational facilities, aged 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….

Exaggerations and inaccuracies in the Census data may lead to groups wielding disproportionate influence within government. By means of these inflated figures, politicians may formulate or disallow laws and policies based on religious precepts.

The Atheist Foundation of Australia believes laws and government policies should benefit all members of society, not just those who adhere to a particular religious faith – even when that religion holds a majority position. As such, all government decisions should be based on empirical evidence rather than religious beliefs….

Due to the wording in the preamble to the Statute of Elizabeth in 1601, all religions and religious works are classed as charities. We are following ideas formed in medieval times when everyone was a Christian, rather than modern, secular, and inclusive principles.

It is estimated that some $30 billion annually remains untaxed due to exemptions enjoyed by religious organisations. While many religious groups perform helpful and much-needed charity work, a lack of transparency and accountability makes it impossible to determine exactly how much is spent on genuine charitable activities, and how much is devoted to commercial profit making enterprises or devoted to religious activities. There is no reason why non-believers should be required to subsidise religious activities via tax exemptions.

What is fascinating is that there is a fundraising campaign, through IndieGoGo, to help raise awareness of this. I was told by Kylie Sturgess who blogs at Patheos (Token Skeptic):

we’ve just hit 84% funded, with a month to go – with $21,123 AUD raised by 323 backers on the IndieGoGo (unlisted is the money via private donors, so we’ve hit our target anyway) – if you go to my blog at Patheos at Token Skeptic, you’ll see my post there about it if you want to quote that….

It’s likely that we’ve just done the biggest fundraiser ever in Australia, if not the world for “No Religion” – the bus campaign in the UK in 2009 raised about 27,000 Australian dollars (but in pounds). Maybe we’ll hit about that much in about another month, and break their record?

You can find information here on Instagram and on the IndieGoGo site. They are now 89% funded, so if you are feeling generous, get to it! If you are Aussie, and have something to say about this, then let me know.

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