News 2016 – Let’s make ‘no religion’ the largest group in Australia

14 Aug 2016

News – 14 August 2016

Let’s make ‘no religion’ the largest group in Australia

Billboard signing: Not religious anymore? Mark 'No religion' on the 2016 census.Humanist Society of Victoria became a financial sponsor of the Mark ‘No religion’ campaign for the Australian Census, which was organized nationwide by the Atheist Foundation of Australia. The biggest sign around Melbourne was the luminous screen over the Ascot Vale Hotel, Maribyrnong Road, which carried the message as pictured here for two weeks up until 7 August.

What will it all mean?

All reponses to the Census question, ‘What is (the person)’s religion?’ are sorted using a decimal scheme of classification, as if to settle the less begging question, What is the person’s position on matters of religion? Each person is allowed only one alternative.

In this scheme, the institutional or traditional religions and sects are listed in six groups, and a seventh group is reserved for natural religion and irreligion.

Group 7 was formerly called No Religion, but this time round it is a ragbag called Secular Beliefs and Other Spiritual Beliefs and No Religious Affiliation. Its three parts are 71, No Religion, so described; 72, Secular Beliefs, including Humanism and Atheism; 73, Other Spiritual Beliefs, including Theism. On the Census form on line, only the No Religion option appears as a tick-box; to get to the categories of 72 or 73 you have to mark Other and then write your description, and you can’t mark both No Religion and Other.

This means that while previously a secular belief rated as a subset of the No Religion category, it is now treated as an alternative to No Religion. (The advice on this point is given on the campaign website is obsolete.) It is hard to see the logic in that.

The people counted in Group 7 will be an ill assorted mix, yoking atheists and theists together. ABS would be wise to publish 71, 72 and 73 as distinct categories. In the last Census of 2011, the sum of 71 and 72 was 22.3% of the population, 73 (effectively spiritual but not religious) gathered 0.8%, and 8.6% avoided the question entirely.

Report by Stephen Stuart

Census 2016: Tuesday 9 August

In case you haven’t caught up with the news, the format of the ‘religion’ question in this year’s census has been changed from previous censuses.

The question ‘What is the person’s religion?’ has remained the same, as have other instructions, BUT the BIG change is that the ‘No Religion’ box has been placed at the head of the list of options.

This is most likely to result in a noticeable jump in the percentage of people registering as ‘no religion’, up from the 22% in 2011.

Even on 2011 data, ‘no religion’ is the second biggest grouping in nearly all states, except NSW where ‘no religion’ comes in third.

We hope you will discuss this with family and friends, who no longer identify with a religion, and encourage them to mark ‘no religion’. It is well known that a proportion of people who now have no religious adherence still mark the religion they had some previous attachment to such from schooling or family.

Report by Rosslyn Ives