Valuing Religious Freedom in Australia: Census 2016
Atheist Australia has launched a new website and advertising campaign this week to encourage people to mark ‘No Religion’ on their Census Form this coming Tuesday 9th August.
The campaign can only be described as disingenuous and an attempt to eradicate the voice of those who value freedom of religious belief in God, regardless of whether that be as part of a formal Church or a more informal belief.
We are lucky in Australia, to live in a great country where we do have freedom of religion, we can choose to have and practice religious beliefs or not. This should not be something to be feared or eradicated from public discourse.
Whilst, not wanting to give ‘air’ to Atheist Australia’s campaign, it is hard not to be critical of the method being used and the attitudes proposed.
The website censusnoreligion.org.au claims, for example, that: “accurate census data helps policymakers & political leaders make all sorts of planning and funding decisions. So if you’re not religious anymore, mark the ‘No religion’ box on the 2016 Census.” It is misleading to suggest that the government makes public policy decisions in relation to the number of people that signed the Census form in relation to one particular religious group or not. The government should and generally does, pursue a public policy for the common good, not on the basis of whether citizens hold religious beliefs or not.
The website also states that: “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.” This implies that Atheist Australia feels that the government currently over-represents the views of non-atheists in Australia. It again is difficult to see how this is true, when every citizen, regardless of religious belief, has the opportunity to vote for Local, State and Federal government politicians who they feel represent their views best on a whole variety of issues.
The website goes on to highlight what it means to write 'No Religion.' On the main page banner, we see a quote which states: “No religion does not mean that you’re an atheist, it simply means that you don’t currently practice religion and that you have no intention to do so in the future.” So, according to Atheist Australia, they are suggesting that people who believe in God, but do not currently practice religion, should also put ‘No Religion’ in the box.
This is confusing, an atheist is someone that has a disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God. Could we not argue that Atheist Australia is seeking to have more people to sign up to ‘No Religion’ so that their beliefs and values can be better represented?
It can only be assumed that Atheist Australia is keen to see an increase in the number of Australians who identify as ‘No Religion’. This, of course, will be very helpful in their future campaigns to be able to state that there are ‘X’ number of Australians who identify as Atheists…or ‘No Religion,’ apparently these are the same.
Please sign this petition in solidarity with other Australians who believe in the importance of the right to religious freedom as something that both believers and non-believers can value.