Be Honest to Godless, Ireland January 15, 2011

Be Honest to Godless, Ireland

The Irish Census will take place in April and Atheist Ireland wants atheists to admit they’re not religious when the question comes up:

All they’re asking for is some honesty:

Atheist Ireland wants to see accurate answers to the question on religion. The last Census showed 3.7 million Roman Catholics (that’s about 87% of the population) and 186,000 people with no religion (that’s about 4% of the population). We believe the true figure for Roman Catholics is much lower than 87%, and the true figure for people with no religion is much higher than 4%.

We believe that this inaccuracy happens because many people tick their childhood religion out of habit, or tick a religion that they don’t really practice, or let somebody else fill in the answer for them. But you won’t write in your childhood home address unless you still live there. So don’t write in your childhood religion unless you still really practice it.

As far as I can tell, there’s no box for “atheist” so you’d have to fill it in under “Other Religion”… I know some of you oppose that philosophically, but if that’s what it takes to get the point across, do it.

Why bother doing this at all?

If we get a falsely very high figure for Roman Catholics, and a falsely very low figure for people with no religion, it makes it more likely that the State will discriminate against people of other religions and nonreligious people when providing these services.

… careless answers to the question of religion will have an impact on the allocation of State resources, and on the political lobbying power of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland…

No doubt that a more accurate headcount would swing the numbers in our favor.


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  • Nancy

    I just followed the link to look at the question and if you keep looking, below the boxes to specify your “Other religion”, there is a box for No Religion. They sure do make it easy to miss.

  • Claudia

    I hope their campaign works, but I’m curious as to why they believe that the true numbers of the nonreligious are higher.

    In Spain we have a similar problem. We’re considered “overwhelmingly Catholic” despite the fact fewer than 20% of people attend Mass regularly. I think it’s because most people are baptized (though that’s happily changing) and the Church counts you as a Catholic forever from there on out. In practice, we’re a very secular country, but you’d never know it when looking at the official numbers.

  • Declare oneself atheist and you process blasphemy. In Ireland, blasphemy is a crime punishable with a fine up to $35,000.

  • Ibis

    Lucky Ireland still has a census. We Canadians are not so fortunate.

  • S-Y

    I’m probably not the only one who suspects that the placement of “No religion” was maliciously intentional.

  • yes Hemant, because atheism is a religion.

    Herp Derp

  • The UK census has the same issue and the BHA census campaign is calling for people to tick the “No Religion” box if they’re not religious.

    Given that 15% attend church at least once a month and less that 2% attend church weekly it seems pretty obvious that the UK isn’t very religious. If Ireland has only 20% religious attendance then it isn’t very religious either.

    They should say so.

  • Claudia

    @ChristopherTK I think you misinterpret what is meant by blasphemy in the Irish law. Merely declaring yourself an atheist does not count as blasphemy, because that law only prohibits insults to someone else’s religious beliefs.

    Besides that the law was openly flouted as soon as it entered into effect, with no prosecutions so far, and will be up for appeal soon.

    The notion that merely filling out your religious or nonreligious preference in a census could be counted as blasphemy in a European nation is patently absurd.

  • JB Tait

    They might get a more representative result if they offered:
    [ ] Lapsed (Enter denomination abandoned)
    [ ] Atheist
    [ ] Agnostic
    [ ] Skeptic
    [ ] Humanist
    [ ] Other (Optional: specify)
    [ ] None
    [ ] No Preference

    * Check all that apply

  • Philbert

    @claudia – what counts as an insult is entirely subjective. That’s why blasphemy laws are so dangerous.

  • I’m tired of people filling out surveys boxes with the religions of their parents when they don’t believe. It artificially inflates their numbers, and deflates ours. People would be shocked to find out what percentage of people actually don’t believe in religion but are too chicken shit to admit it.

    Fill out the surveys properly, you Irish bastards!

  • Hugh

    There is a tendency in Irish officialdom to regard catholicism as the default, and lack of religion as inconceivable. I once had a temporary data entry job at University College Dublin, going over student registration forms and converting their responses to various questions into numerical codes. For religion there was a long list of codes: 01 = Roman Catholic, 02 = Church of England etc. but nothing for “no religion”. I was told that if someone wrote “no religion”, “agnostic” etc., I should enter the code for “refused to answer”.

  • Old Fogey

    Why do people talk about “admitting” that you have no religion?

    I don’t admit it – I assert it, or insist, or confirm, or whatever. Admit means that it is something wrong that you are ashamed of.

  • Bertram Cabot, Jr.

    Speaking of HONESTY, Mehta, why do you keep calling this blog the “friendly” atheist?

    You admitted some time ago that that does not describe you.

    Quit living the lie, sport, if you are going to pass judgment on everyone else.

  • ACN

    ah the troll again.

  • jolly

    The churches must be overfilled on Sunday in Ireland or do they really have enough churches to fit almost the entire population inside?