Monday 1 August 2011

A Guide to the Census Guides

As you probably know, the 2011 census will take place on August 9th. Some of you may already have received the census forms. Even though the census has many questions, the religion question gets all the attention. Various groups have asked people to carefully consider which religion they mark; they should only mark religions they actually follow. You can see that the question hasn't been changed since 1971; seven of the possible answers are some form of Christianity. Even Christians have complained that they wouldn't know which denomination to choose. This was different in 1971, when Anglicans and Catholics considered each other separate species. Even though a few of them interbred succesfully.

Then there is the field "Other", which lets you fill in your religion of choice. But beware. The Australian Bureau of Statistics only accepts answers that follow their classification scheme. You can be an anarchist, calathumpian, infidel, or zilch (all code 7010 atheist), but you cannot be Jedi, or Pastafarian. If you fill in one of the latter, your answer will be ignored as "Not defined". And finally, you've got the field "No Religion". We advice to mark this field. That you follow no religion is all the ABS needs to know.

There are some great campaigns websites that will give you more information. First, of course the AFA website The AFA is also responsible for the "Mark No Religion" billboards that you might have seen, and you might have seen Jason Ball on TV explaining the campaign. Also worth a visit is the Queensland Humanist Census-Campaign website. And finally, Reason Australia - the new umbrella organisation for free thinking groups - has information on the census on its website as well.

Furthermore, there are plenty of blogs that cover the topic. Just to mention three that are especially noteworthy. The first is Andrew Skegg's Guide to the Census. Browse his blog; he has more on the topic. Then there is Danny Allen's A Vote For Jedi Is A Vote For Jim Wallace. If you don't know who Jim Wallace is, he is the best advertising for reducing the influence of religion in politics. But remarkable is also Ravings and Rantings of &rew. Written by an engaged Anglican, who asks not to pretend to be Anglican, if you do not know or care what it means to be Anglican.

Finally, there is our own meta FAQ, a site that addresses the most common misconceptions. Go to You are welcome to add your own response to a common misconception. Simply give a tagline that expresses a misconception, and a measured response. My favourite misconception at this time is Mosques will be built everywhere, if you don't mark Christian. If you don't lie on your census form, then the terrorists win.

Originally posted  by ansgar

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