An Important Message For My Australian Readers

They’re gonna count the Aussies
It’s a census, by design—
First they’ll write it up in English
Then translate it into ‘Strine

It’s been five years since they’ve done it
So it’s time to ask once more
Coming up, the ninth of August
That’s what Aussies have in store.

And they’ll ask them their religion—
Question nineteen, if you search—
And this tells them how much money
They can send off to the church

And it’s not just any money—
It’s your taxes they collect!
So it’s yours—your hard-earned money—
And that matters, I suspect.

Who decides if you are Christian?
Who decides if you are not?
Were you born into a culture,
Or, more aptly, were you not?

Do you believe that you are Christian?
Do you hold the Nicene Creed?
If you don’t, why does it matter?
That’s the question: why, indeed?

As my Australian readers know better than I do, this is a Census year, and this August they will be surveyed. The Atheist Foundation of Australia wants to make sure that people know the purpose behind one perhaps seemingly innocent question–question 19, which asks their religion. (Please do explore that link; there are a lot of questions answered there, making a good case for marking “no religion” even if you, a non-believer, have usually identified as a member of a particular religion for traditional, cultural, or social reasons.)

I know I have my share of readers down under (actually, perhaps more than my share; I may have someone else’s share as well), but my tentacle-print is still quite small; I encourage one and all to spread the word over the next couple of months (not my verse; it’s crap–but the linked page, and perhaps the one I will talk about in the next paragraph). It’s nice when you can make a real difference in the world.

If you want to help the effort to spread this campaign a bit more directly, you can also support (and/or urge the support of others) the indiegogo campaign, here, to fund media buy-ins.

The bottom line is, why does the government (via the Census) care what religion you are, if the government is secular? The answer, as it so often is in government… is money. Your tax money, to be specific, which… y’know, that first link (and here it is again) has a whole section on “why does it matter?” The thing is… it does.


  1. StevoR says

    Thanks for this Digital Cuttlefish – from an Aussie who”has previously listed ‘Jedi’ and ‘Çricket’ in the religion column of the census and thought it pretty much a completely pointless joke. Very interesting.

  2. John Morales says

    Hardly a disinterested, objective reference, that site.

    Your tax money, to be specific, which… y’know, that first link (and here it is again) has a whole section on “why does it matter?” The thing is… it does.

    It does, does it? How, specifically?

    There’s a great paucity of specific information as to how identifying as non-religious will actually reduce funding to religious bodies.


  3. John Morales says

    The more I look at that site, the more sophistic it seems.

    What happens if I write Jedi Knight/Pastafarian?

    It gets counted as ‘Not defined’ and is not placed in the ‘No religion’ category. This reduces the ‘No religion’ numbers and therefore advantages the religion count. While it may be funny, it is a serious mistake to answer in this way.

    OK, so one is not marked as ‘no religion’ — but one is not marked as religious, either.

    If I mark ‘No religion’ on the census, does this mean I’m an atheist?

    ‘No religion’ does not mean you are an atheist.

    It simply means you don’t currently practice a religion and have no inclination to do so.

    You may never openly or even privately identify as an atheist, a skeptic, a humanist, a rationalist – or whatever label there is out there that makes you uncomfortable. This is about no label for you – and no religion either.

    OK, so one is marked as ‘no religion’ — which means one is not marked as religious.

    Either way, one is not marked as religious — in both cases, one is part of the complementary set to those identifying as religious, no?

    I fail to see any merit to the claim that the former “therefore advantages the religion count” in contrast to the latter.

  4. tardigrada says

    John Morales #3

    OK, so one is not marked as ‘no religion’ — but one is not marked as religious, either.

    I understand it that way that you are placed in the “religious but undefined” category as soon as you write/tick something else than “no religion”. It’s just a distinction between the main religions and the countless minor ones, but still religious.

  5. kage says

    The question itself is the evidence.

    The question is “What is the person’s religion?”. There is a box labelled No Religion, then a list of boxes labelled with (I assume) the most common religions, then “Other (please specify)”.

    I can’t see how an answering “other” can be counted as anything but religious.

  6. John Morales says

    kage, you can refer to my first link above to confirm that the question is optional (which is prominently noted in the form), so that no response need be given (resulting in “not defined” for tallying purposes).

    In short, not answering yields the same result as answering (say) “Jedi”:
    (Link last updated 24 September 2013)


    Answers such as Jedi and others which have not to this point in time been identified as a religion in the classification will be coded to the one category “not defined”

  7. Scott says

    Why does this issue cause argument every census? The issue of religion Is no ones business. Why is it included? I’m a very proud Australian and atheist. –

    I’m Australian, I’m atheist and that will probably be the only question I answer honestly on the form.


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