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Non-believers demand political recognition as Australia's largest single 'religious' group

The godless in Australia say enough is enough. After today’s release of Census data showing that non-believers make up 30.1% of the population – easily overtaking the previously-highest response “Catholic” for the first time in Census history – the Atheist Foundation of Australia says it is time to stop pandering to religious minorities and take religion out of politics. [Ed. This article also notifies of a 2018 Atheist convention in Australia featuring Salmon Rushdie.]

Kylie Sturgess, president of the AFA, says:

“The godless in Australia is a huge force to be reckoned with. Whether you’re an atheist, agnostic, humanist, rationalist, a free-thinker or even someone who considers themselves spiritual but not religious, you’re part of a powerful voting block that deserves to be heard.

Our political, business and cultural leaders must listen to the non-religious when we demand public policy that’s based on evidence, not religious beliefs. This includes policy on abortion, marriage equality, voluntary euthanasia, religious education in state schools and anything else where religious beliefs hold undue influence.”

The AFA says while certain religions – represented by the Australian Christian Lobby, for example – enjoy close connections with certain politicians, atheist representatives have tried, and failed, on multiple occasions to meet with policy-makers.

Kylie Sturgess says:

“It seems to us that certain religious groups get automatic consideration in the public policy sphere. They enjoy a privileged position that isn’t afforded to other large groups, such as the non-religious. That has to stop. Politicians, business leaders and influencers take heed: this is an important milestone in Australia’s history. Those who marked down ‘No religion’ deserve much more recognition. We will be making our opinions known, and there’s power in numbers.”

The Atheist Foundation of Australia will kick-start this much-needed recognition with Reason to Hope, the largest convention of its kind in the southern hemisphere, to be staged in Melbourne in February next year. Headlining the global atheist convention will be Sir Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, with British science comedian Robin Ince, American author Greta Christina and Australians Jane Caro, Tracey Spicer, Rod Quantock, Clementine Ford and Jason Ball also scheduled to appear.

See details at

atheistconvention.org.au

(The site does not have https, so we cannot link directly due to the unreasonable dictation of current browsers that stigmatises any site mentioning a URL that does not have https in front of it; you will need to use a search engine.) Tickets are now on sale for the 2018 Global Atheist Convention.

In the lead up to the 2016 Census, the AFA led a public awareness campaign about changes to the way the religion question was asked. For more background, see below:

The 'Mark no religion' campaign

The AFA’s national public awareness campaign to ‘Mark no religion’ ran for six weeks prior to Census night.

It included signage at more than 500 pharmacies and supermarket carparks, on various websites, on one billboard in Melbourne, and via social media.

The campaign was instigated and paid for by the Atheist Foundation of Australia, with help from crowdfunding and other groups such as the Rationalist Society of Australia, Sydney Atheists and the Humanist Society of Victoria.

It invited Australians to mark ‘No religion’ on their Census form, if that best described their religious state.

The 2016 Census was the first in Australia’s history where the ‘No religion’ option sat at the top of ten possible responses, rather than at the bottom.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics made this change to make the religion question consistent with the way other questions were asked on the form.

Australia’s non-religious population has grown since the first Census in 1911, from 0.4% to today’s 30.1%. Up until now, only ‘Catholic’ had a higher response rate, at 25%.

Global Trends

Globally, the numbers of ‘non-religious’ is increasing. Religiously-unaffiliated people account for 16% of the world’s population. They make up the largest “religious group” in seven countries and territories, and they are the second-largest group in roughly half (48%) of the world’s nations. *

In 2016, Ireland’s number of “non-religious” people increased by a whopping 73%. Scotland’s increased from 40% to 52%. In 2014 the percentage of non-religious people in England and Wales grew from 25% to 48.5%. In 2013, New Zealand’s ‘non-religious’ numbers grew from 35% to 42%.

A survey of more than 35,000 Americans found that the percentage of adults who described themselves as Christians dropped by nearly eight percentage points in seven years, from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. *

*

Source of this article was a media release from
Kylie Sturgess,
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
PO Box 3582
Parramatta NSW 2124
(02) 8007 4503

Comments

I wonder what the question is trying to know about people in Australia. There would be many who have e.g a Christian background, are familiar with many of the stories in The Bible, New and Old Testament and the gospels but don't think about them from one month to the next. They will have attended many church services but not regularly for many years, be quite familiar with the rituals and conventions and be very attached to the music. They may also pay lip service to traditions such as Easter and Christmas, yet, not have any firm conviction that Heaven or Hell await them depending on behaviour, nor indeed that there is any God in the sense of a focussed deity. There are e.g Jewish people in a similar boat who may, despite being non-believers in God have varying associations with their their traditions. Should they consider themselves atheists or Jews? It's rather line- ball I would have thought and these examples are really 2 distinct groups. The question in isolation has the potential to be rather culture- denying. It would be interesting to know the religious tradition most associated with the ones who identify as atheist. Whether or not you claim to be an atheist depends on your own definition and is really a private matter. I could bet that after i die that I will cease to have any further consciousness for all eternity (and I think that this is most likely) but I am not completely divorced from the religious tradition that is undeniably part of my upbringing. What answer did I give to this question on the census? I honestly can't remember!

Comment originally headed, "Chin people want to be visible in Australia." Title changed by candobetter.net editor to emphasise the point made in the comment. Mind you, it might seem equally mysterious to the casual web-surfer. And, is the census trying to find our what religion we all are or is it using religion as an indicator of ethnic identification?

Chin people want to be visible in Australia.

In the news yesterday was an item about the fastest growing ethnic group in Australia, the Chin people of western Myanmar who distinguish themselves by culture and religion from the Burmese in general. They wanted to show up in the census, lobbied for it in some way and succeeded. People in Australia who have a Christian background but for whom church is not part of their lives or they do not follow Christianity literally, it would seem have done the opposite to the Chin people and in a way have made themselves invisible by saying they have no religion. This, to me adds fuel to the myth that "Australia has no culture." Maybe the question itself in the census should be re- worked, so that those emanating from a Christian tradition (and whose funeral services will in all likelihood call on some the traditional Christian favourites like the 23rd Psalm or the Lord's prayer )can be counted as belonging to this tradition even though their beliefs,interpretations and daily priorities are some distance from this. The question of religion as reflecting private beliefs on the day on the day of the census has the potential to reflect a sort of neutrality or blankness in Australia which is misleading.Shouldn't those with a Christian background however reticent they are to lay claim to it in everyday life also be visible?.

To say that Australia has no culture is paradoxical in the fact that it obviously doesn't include the first Australians. Indigenous Australians have the most wonderful and uplifting culture that is only matched by other indigenous cultures. Their connection to the land makes their culture unique as all actions by humanity affect the land.

As an Australian of white Anglo-Saxon descent I have very little connection with my forbears' culture. I am endeavouring to learn more about the culture of the First nations of Australia and I encourage all Australians to do the same. When I pass there will be no service, there will be song and dance and the opportunity for all and sundry to speak their mind.

Maybe the Christian diaspora you believe in is overstated!

Some of these atheists are keen to convert people to their non-belief, to "believe" and follow in their vacuum. It's a type of spiritual Terra Nullius, of nobody owning the land, in this case our religious cultural landscape, or heritage. This is about enabling governments to displace our original occupants with and overlay of foreign culture, and endorsing Multiculturalism. If we are a blank canvas, we can be displaced by foreign cultures and religions, and thus support more immigration. More than people losing faith, immigration has diluted our original Christian background.
At the corner of Bligh and Hunter Streets on Sunday 3rd February 1788, the first Christian church service was held in the Colony of New South Wales. After Revd Johnson returned to England, the colony of New South Wales was fortunate to receive as a chaplain the Revd Samuel Marsden. Marsden was a man of great faith with a strong desire to serve God.
The only other spirituality was that of Indigenous peoples. There's always been a faithful remnant of believers, even though church attendance in some denominations has declined, but churches have transformed remarkably over the years. Many now are non-denomination, without the rituals and traditions of older churches.
Seems that the atheists would want to encourage more people to their "church" of no-religion? Some are more evangelical than religious people!

I been watching a series covering the period of Alfred the Great. His was the last little Kingdom (Wessex) still standing as the Pagan Vikings gradually subdued England. By some miracle, Alfred managed not only to resist the vikings, but subdue them, and in doing so united England under one King. It is an amazing story, he was very pious and he converted the Pagan king whom he defeated into Christianity, thus moving England from Paganism to Christianity. And doing so getting rid of a lot of savagery and superstition. The series is called "The Last Kingdom" if anyone is interested, it is a bit Hollywoodised (actually a British production I think), but follows the basic historical story fairly well as we know it today. And yes, it shared culture that binds people. Who would fight for globalism? or a global state?

As a person who is irreligious and who finds those who are religious (atheists included) confused, garrulous and way over the top, it's time to start loving their fellow man. This diatribe that my religion is better than yours is discriminatory in every aspect.

Your religion or the lack of it is entirely a personal thing whatever it may be. You don't need to be religious to be able to love and respect others, you don't need to be religious to be an honest and decent person and you don't need to be religious to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Why do we have to categorise people? Putting them into little boxes - "this goes with this and this goes with that......" I prefer to take people on face value, if I don't agree with something that they say, do or believe and if it is not against the law of the land then so be it. Agree to disagree and get on with your life and let them get on with theirs. Forgive and forget!

John, you say "you don't need to be religious to be able to love and respect others, you don't need to be religious to be an honest and decent person and you don't need to be religious to do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Quite right. But being religious does not prevent you being these things either. One underlying principle of our society is that people can express and defend their ideas and beliefs - without this we can hardly be human. So please do not admonish people for expressing and arguing their beliefs. I am Christian, but I would not say that an athiest, or someone from any other religion should just 'agree to disagree', as in effect that means telling people to shut up.

Matt

It seems to me that there is a difference between an individual belief in a god or gods (belief) and a group believing that these gods hand down a particular moral code (religion). Religious beliefs can be used to manipulate people by those who claim to have special information from gods. Religions are kind of like governments. Progress is a religion. Does no-one else conceive of the idea of a universal force that has no interest in how we behave? Or Mother Nature who rules through the laws of thermodynamics, strictly impersonally? (And 'smart cities' engineers who tell us they can control nature.) (It is late, I may be raving.)

Regarding: "Does no-one else conceive of the idea of a universal force that has no interest in how we behave? Or Mother Nature who rules through the laws of thermodynamics, strictly impersonally?"

I think this is called "Pantheism". C. S Lewis discussed these different conceptions of God in the following

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaGwF7A79_w

Okay, Matthew, I looked at it. Very clear vid. Thanks. I don't get, however, CS Lewis's argument that he (a) was pantheist but worried that the world was cruel and injust and the universe therefore senseless (b) therefore became a Christian. Because if he was a pantheist, he would not feel that the world was cruel and injust; he would feel perhaps that there was cruelty and injustice from certain perspectives, without it invalidating the universe, but being a pantheist, he would assume that the god he believed in would not be interested in CS Lewis's perspective alone.

Also, pantheists, according to Lewis, believe that God is in everything, whereas Christians, according to Lewis, think that God is only in the bits their religion deems 'good'. This reminds me of something that Durkheim wrote, that non-heirarchical peoples had local gods that were a reflection of their tribe and its environment and not separate, and Ancient Greeks, more hierarchical, removed their gods to a mountain nearby, but Christians placed their god outside the universe and thereby distanced themselves from the earth.

I think that the belief in a God the father that is a moral force derives from a human family view of the universe, with the earthly children seeking approval and reassurance from that father. But others - the pantheistic and the atheists and non-theists presumably can see that there is order there and thermodynamic etc rules, and animal including human rules, which include justice.

Sheila,

"Christians placed their god outside the universe and thereby distanced themselves from the earth." - perhaps some people think that, I am not sure Christians do. Christians placed God in the heart of man (i.e each individual) as a spirit to be experienced very personally as love, and in the voice of conscience, rather than in material things - those are just to be seen as His works. To visualise God, a Christian would bring to mind the person of Christ - as someone like themselves - humble, meek, suffering, rather than some super human deity like Thor.

Chesterton describes Christianity as follows:

"Christianity is the only religion on earth that has felt that omnipotence made God incomplete."

"Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point -- and does not break."

" [...] the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.”

And Chesterton compares the Panthiest view with the Christian view in this way:

"The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate. "

"Nature was a solemn mother to the worshipers of Isis and Cybele. Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth or to Emerson. But Nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi or to George Herbert. To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.”