The UK is having a census next year. And you’re invited*!
These only happen once every ten years, so I’m pretty sure my details were filled in under my parents’ list of dependants last time around. This’ll be the first time I get to speak for myself in a big demographic analysis of just who’s living in this country anyway.
I hope they don’t ask anything too challenging. I think you get to look stuff up if you aren’t sure, and I can probably remember my ethnicity without too much trouble. Yep, I’m definitely white. Now I just have to hope I don’t flip out under pressure when it comes to actually filling in the form and call myself an Eskimo or a fish.
One thing I do know, however, is that I’m going to sign myself up for “No religion”.
The Census Campaign exists to try to persuade non-religious people to do exactly that. The British Humanist Association have set up a wonderfully readable and detailed site, to explain the significance of the census, and to help people of various religious ideas best represent themselves when filling it out.
One problem is that many people tend to tick “Christian” out of habit, because they remember sitting through a lot of church services throughout childhood at the behest of their school or their parents, and so consider themselves “culturally Christian”. It seems that a lot of people must have done this in the last census, because when you look at polls that ask people specific questions about what they believe, there are far fewer people who genuinely hold to the Christian faith than who ticked that one box on the form.
The reason this is a problem is that this data is used by the government when deciding things like how to allocate resources. If the government has a distorted view of the country’s religious make-up, then they’re more likely to end up spending tax money on things that aren’t wanted by people whose tax money it is, like faith schools or state visits from malevolent dictators.
The Census Campaign’s website is well worth looking around. You’ll find answers to a lot of questions, and good advice on issues like ethnicity and cultural background that might affect your answer to the religion question. The main message is: non-believers would be best represented by ticking the “No religion” box in the forthcoming UK census.
If you’re not religious, for God’s sake say so.