Census data on religion creates misleading idea that we are a “Christian nation”
On Tuesday August 10, every Australian will be invited to complete the census, which is carried out every five years.
A primary goal of every census is to collect accurate data from individuals and households.
This allows the federal government to provide:
“… better services and better infrastructure planning – and to allocate funds and resources responsibly.” “
Part of the census – spanning several decades – has been anything but “responsible”.
New academic research now validates what secular organizations have known for years: that census question 23 on religious affiliation is a loaded question that colors the statistics.
It inflates the status of religion and allows billions of unjustified funds to be allocated to rich ecclesiastical institutions, to the detriment of public health and secular education.
Costing $ 470 million in 2016, and expected to be higher in August, taxpayers expect the census to be reliable and accurate. It’s not. It is clear that on one issue in particular, the census data is hopelessly corrupt.
Research scholar Neil Francis has completed an academic analysis of religion in society to produce an in-depth 152-page study titled Religiosity in Australia. The findings are striking, with deep political ramifications.
In the 2016 census, 60% of Australians reported affiliation with a religious denomination. This is widely believed to be a reliable indication of the religiosity of Australians. This is not the case. The bias in the census religion question leads to an overestimation of affiliation on weak family historical grounds, rather than on actual religious beliefs and practices.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is responsible for every aspect of every census. They should know that their published results are misleading.
So the questions to ask are: why is this so, and how is it that ABS has for decades rejected calls from secular organizations nationwide for a more “balanced” issue?
But what is the census question that ABS has been asking for so long and why is it misleading?
The expression “religious affiliation” contributes to contaminate the data by probably extending to the religion to which the family adheres. And the loaded question “What is the person’s religion? ” implicitly assumes that every citizen has a religion and draws the wrong conclusion that Australia is a “Christian nation”.
After every census since 2006, hundreds of submissions have asked for a more “open-ended” question, but ABS has rejected all of them. They claim that the question should not be changed because it requires “continuity”. It seems their priority is only to test “affiliation” and not a person’s genuine belief or religious commitment.
But the question has, indeed, been changed in the past, and “affiliation” simply distorts the truth about whether a person has a current religious belief.
It evokes a family-induced faith that may no longer be followed or relevant.
ABS may not be interested in collecting “here and now” data on Australians’ religious beliefs.
In Religiosity in Australia, Neil Francis points out how the data gets corrupted:
“When specifically asked if they ‘belonged’ to their religious organization, a majority – 62% Australians – said no, including 24% Catholics and 44% Anglicans.
These are alarming statistics when the ABS recorded the response ‘no religion’ to just 30% in 2016. And Dr Andy Marks, vice-chancellor of Western Sydney University, claims that only 7.5% of MPs identify as “no religion.” Against the realistic public figure of 62%, citizens are eight times less religious than federal deputies.
The creation of a false image of religiosity in Australia has allowed governments to distribute billions of taxpayer funds to wealthy churches to run their private religious businesses in education, health, welfare and nationwide senior care – some of which has little to do with real charity or public services. service.
Over the millennia, governments have encouraged and supported religion as a means of appeasing the masses and they continue to do so. This is the tried and tested “carrot and stick” philosophy of Imperial Rome: to cooperate and prosper, or face the consequences.
Countless philosophers have written about the symbiotic relationship between religion and government.
One of the first was the philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, who said:
“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.
So why has ABS rejected all calls for greater transparency?
That’s a good question, given recent events. Religious leaders and a host of Christian activists continuously pressure MPs for greater religious privileges, and more and more since the legalization of marriage equality in 2017.
And it is not uncommon for governments, too, to influence sections of the civil service. The pork barrel has a long, tarnished history, most recently with cracks in sports and parking funding.
For example, the ABC Insiders On July 4, journalist Karen Middleton referred to growing concern over parking lots, where the government has reportedly approved a series of parking plans in fringe Liberal seats ahead of the 2019 election.
“… You now see officials making a ‘political’ defense of the government.”
She stressed that ministries bow to projects that have critical flaws.
And July 5, Independent AAustralia released a report that senior officials at the Reserve Bank of Australia had made inaccurate statements in favor of the government. Public servants are required to serve the nation without partisan bias.
There are also concerns that Australia has lost its global top 10 anti-corruption ranking.
But has ABS come under pressure to maintain religious status?
That is the question. All parliamentarians and the mainstream media would do well to read Religiosity in Australia. The report produced clear evidence that public support for organized religion is not just “on the decline,” it has essentially worsened to half the figure suggested by the 2016 census.
This is primarily a group of devout Catholics, Evangelicals and Pentecostals who believe that only they are qualified to rule, much like Prime Minister Scott Morrison and others who claim to have been called to do “the work. of God “.
The combination of religion and politics never ended well, especially when conservative governments mingled with the new “puritan” tensions of religion based on the beliefs of biblical literalism. They deny science, climate change and human evolution. Tragically, these parents often teach their children the same misinformation.
Unfortunately, ABS is helping to perpetuate this fallacy of a “Christian nation”. And they show another bizarre distortion of reality. On August 10, the ABS census will now include atheism as an optional “religion”.
Has ABS completely lost the plot or been swayed into religious politics?
Brian Morris is a former journalist and founder of the National Secular Lobby (NSL) and Plain Reason.
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