Ticking Religious Boxes

In a few month’s time, everyone living in the UK will be expected to fill in the census return so that the government can get its once-a-decade look at the population of the country. As was the case in previous census in 2001, one of the questions will be “what is your religion?” It’s really important to answer that question accurately. And last week the Census Campaign launched in an attempt to persuade people of this fact.

The government uses statistics from the census to justify certain kinds of policy. For example a large number of religion people might indicate that faith schools (or, more accurately, superstition schools) are a good idea. It’s vital that the government have accurate data to base these kinds of decisions on. The campaign suggests that in 2001 a large number of non-religious people ticked a religious box and that therefore the census data over-estimates the number of religious people in  the UK.

There are, of course, a number of reasons why you might tick a religious box. Perhaps you were bought up in a religion which you no longer follow but that you still feel some cultural link with. Or perhaps you think of yourself as christian because you live in a (supposedly) christian country even though you take no part at all in regular christian worship. The campaign would argue (and I would agree with them) that in those cases you’re skewing the statistics by claiming that you are christian.

I assume that the campaign will ramp up over the next six months. But for now, just think about how you would answer the question. Are you really religious? I mean, really?

Oh, and there’s a fund raising drive going on as well. If you donated to the Atheist Bus Campaign, you might consider giving a similar amount of money to this campaign as well.


  1. One could also argue that the government has no business in maintaining a file with this kind of private information in it. French laws do no allow that kind of file anymore, since those have been used during WWII to send French Jews to concentration camps.

  2. faith schools (or, more accurately, superstition schools)

    A bit unnecessary. But yes, it is important that people fill the census out honestly.

  3. Why is religion so important? Why not have a list of hobbies box or a favorite sexual positions? We accord too much respect and deference for religion.

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