Australians should take advantage of the national Census on Tuesday 9th August to bust the myth of high levels of Christianity in the country.
The Australian Census is conducted by the government-run Australian Bureau of Statistics every 5 years with the aim of taking a snapshot of the national demographics.
There has been much controversy in Australia surrounding the question of religious affiliation in the census this year. For the first time answering this question is optional and the option of ‘No Religion’ has been moved to the top of the list.
A campaign entitled ‘Mark No Religion Census’ has been launched by the Atheist Foundation of Australia in trying to encourage Australians that are not active practicing members of a religion especially Christianity to select ‘No Religion’.
‘Mark No Religion Census’ also calls on parents to select ‘No Religion’ for their children’s responses in the census.
This campaign has been criticised by anti-Islam groups claiming that it is important to select a Christian denomination in responding to the religious affiliation question in the census otherwise Muslims may gain an advantage in the overall statistics.
Here are my two cents on the religion issue in this year’s census.
Firstly, I profess that I am a non-denominational Christian. If you’d like to know that means, please do get in touch with me.
Secondly, I believe that one of the most inaccurate Census statistics is that 61% of Australians are Christian.
Many Australian politicians (wrongly) claim that Australia is a Christian country. It is true that Australia has had a Christian heritage but modern Australia in reality to increasing secular and less Christian than ever before.
At the last Census in 2011, around 61% of Australians reported that they were Christians (a combination of the various denominations), however, one must look beyond the numbers and see the society we live in today and question whether that is perhaps the most inaccurate statistic in the country.
The downside of a country with a Christian heritage and children traditionally being raised in a church means that most people that claim to be Christians do not actually understand the key doctrines of the faith. Now I am not suggesting that only people that can recite certain doctrinal statements are the only ones that are Christian but it should be noted that calling oneself a Christian is easy but living as a Christian is difficult.
Voter support for the Christian Democratic Party although not a definitive measurement provides perhaps a more accurate snapshot at the state of Christianity in the country. The Christian Democratic Party is a small minority party that is lucky enough to have had a couple of seats in Parliaments across Australia since 1977. It has never had the ability to form a government in its own right.
The Australian Christian Lobby claims to speak for Christian values in the country yet over the past few years it is clear that the group does not have the support of a majority of Australians. This goes to further highlight that there are far less genuine Christians that the Census might have us believe.
Church attendance (although not an absolute measurement of a person’s faith or religion) is on the decline. Many people believe that Church is irrelevant to their busy lives. The average age of the church attendee is increasing and irreligion is also on the rise in Australia.
In regards to the ‘Mark No Religion Census’ campaign, I do believe although it makes some valid points towards why people should select ‘No Religion’ as their answer, it is, however, a veiled attack on Christianity and religion in general. It is attempting to reduce the important role of Christianity in our country and encouraging parents to take away their child’s ability to answer their religion in the Census.
My opinion is that the Australian Bureau of Statistics could have improved the design of the response section to the religion question. The most popular religion should be at the top in this case Christianity and then underneath indented response boxes corresponding to the various Christian denominations followed by other religions and ‘No Religion’ the last item on the list just above the Other response box.
Although Atheist’s ‘Mark No Religion Census’ campaign is a veiled attack on Christianity, it raises important questions that both Christians (true believers and those by name only) and non-Christians should consider: what does it actually mean to believe in God? What does it mean to know God? How do Christians know that God is real? What is a Christian? What do Christians actually believe in? and why do Christians believe things that are so different to the ways of the rest of the world?
What I believe this means…
Being born into a Christian family does not make you a Christian nor does going to Church.
A genuine Christian has an ongoing personal relationship with God and professes Jesus Christ as Lord.
Becoming a Christian requires an active commitment to practicing your faith including attending Church regularly.
Although some might disagree with me, I believe that if you’ve lost your faith in Christ, it is likely that you never really grasped it in the first place.
Australia needs to realise and acknowledge that it is far less Christian than it is.
Christians especially in the Western world in the decades to come will become a minority (if they are not already).
Christians should have never come to rely on the government to support its institutions such as schools and hospitals.
Living as a Christian will not be easy and should not be easy. There are many Christians by name but fewer Christians in life.
The level of persecution experienced by Christians will rise because there has been an abnormally high level of empathy towards Christianity over the past 200 years.
Christians should expect persecution and holding to the false notion of high levels of Christianity in Australia will only lead to unpreparedness to respond to the changing times of an increasingly secular Western society.
Mark ‘No Religion’ if you are not an active born-again practicing Christian. An artificially inflated statistic of high levels of Christianity in Australia will serve no benefit to Christians nor the general population in the long term.
And let your children select their own answer to the question of religion, don’t use your children as political pawns in the Census.
Finally, if you have not been to church before or haven’t been in a long time why not drop into your local Sunday morning congregational service and see what you’ve been missing out on…
This article was first published in The Typewriter
Roydon Ng is a freelance journalist, blogger and web designer based from Sydney, Australia.