Atheists, agnostics, and the 2011 census…

The British Humanist Association has launched a campaign to encourage non-believers, and the seriously lapsed, to tick the “no religion” box on the 2011 census form with the aim of challenging religious privilege in Britain, says the Guardian. This is because the 37-odd million recorded Christians aren’t reflected in church attendance, and the BHA think this is because people are misdescribing themselves as Christian. But is it anything more than apathy, though? After all, the Christian god is supposed to be omnipresent, so is sitting in a chilly and uncomfortable church once a week really necessary. And what the hell is it with churches – why does religious observance have to be such an uncomfortable experience?

I have no problem, I always tick the No Religion box – I’ve been an atheist since the age of six, before I even knew the word existed. I’ve explained why elsewhere here, so I shan’t repeat it, but it was my decision alone, uninfluenced by anyone else. I will say this, though, my disbelief is not based on ignorance – in my teens, for several years, I topped my school in Religious Instruction exams. I know exactly what it is I don’t believe, and why.

What I can’t understand, though, is why an atheist, or even a fence-sitting agnostic, would ever tick the Christian box? Personally, I see no reason to hide behind a religion I have eschewed as fallacious. It would be dishonest, at best.

As for the seriously-lapsed, I think they inhabit a grey area between belief and disbelief**, different to that of the agnostic, and, hopefully, will one day come to a decision one way or the other. Until then, I see no problem with them ticking whatever box is relevant to the religion they are confused or undecided about (despite what the BHA appears to think, other religions than Christian are available).

**My ex, a lapsed Catholic, was attracted to Anglicanism – not all religious lapses  are anti religion. Life isn’t that black and white.

No idea what agnostics should tick – there isn’t a Hedging my Bet box.

If, however, you believe the fairy tales are a crock, do have the guts to stand up and be counted.

You don’t have to be a Dawkinsite, by the way – there were atheists before he came along, and we’ll be here long after he’s gone, it’s just that most of us don’t feel the need to make a production out of it. Just like most religious people, we quietly get on with our lives. And, like the religious, we are just as capable of doing good, though without the afterlife bribery factor, as doing ill.

If you are an atheist, then please have the intellectual courage to say so when census time comes around. It’s not as if it’s against the law, after all. We still have religious freedom in this country (which is, though, officially Christian), and that includes the right NOT to believe.

2 thoughts on “Atheists, agnostics, and the 2011 census…

  1. I am an Agnostic. But the Church of England will have recorded me as one of their supporters because I was christened in Church when I was too young to know anything about it. Once they have got you on their list how can you get yourself off it – and how many people would bother.

    • There’s a very good chance that you – and I – have also been baptised, by proxy, into the Mormon Church, though personally I care as little about that as about the original one.

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