Frequently Asked Questions
How should I answer?
Do I have to answer the Religion question?
No, you don’t have to answer the Religion question and for whatever reason, about 9% of people didn’t in the last census. But we would encourage you to do so.
It’s important the government and other organisations have accurate data to better inform their decisions.
In Australia, it’s OK to say you are not religious. Unlike some other countries, there is no penalty for saying you are not religious.
You can be confident that your answer to the Religion question is confidential (as are all your answers to the census).
Why is it important to be accurate when answering the Religion question?
Because information from the census is used to decide which programs and services to fund and where to fund them.
For example, religion data is used for policy and planning purposes related to the location and development of educational facilities and church buildings, aged persons’ care facilities and services, and the provision of other social services by religious organisations. It may also be used in sociological research, and in assigning chaplains and other care providers to hospitals, prisons, armed services, universities, and other institutions, and to determine the allocation of time to community groups on public radio and in other media.
If information from the Religion question is not accurate, religious leaders can exaggerate the importance of their following. Politicians might then formulate or reject laws based on such claims.
Laws and public policies should benefit all members of society, not just those who practise a certain faith. All government decisions should be based on accurate data that is clearly and publicly available, so politicians can be held accountable.
In 1901, at the time of the first Australian census, about 96% of the Australian population identified as Christian. But that has not been the case for many years. At the last census in 2016, only about half the population (52%) said they were Christian. The fastest growing group is those who identify as having ‘No Religion’, increasing from 19% in 2006 to 30% in 2016.
Am I Religious?
What makes someone religious?
There is a wide variety of faiths and denominations, and the particular beliefs of one group are not necessarily shared by another. This can make it difficult to actually determine what makes someone a truly religious.
We recommend critically evaluating the central tenants and beliefs of a religion to determine if you truely believe them.
What if I identify with religious values?
Values such as “love thy neighbour”, “do not commit murder”, and “thou shall not steal” are shared by many religions, cultures, and societies throughout history. As such, many values labelled religious are shared by people of all faiths, including those who have no faith at all.
It is no surprise that every culture discovered treating people as they wish to be treated led to civilised and respectful societies.
If I was born into a Christian family, should I mark Christian?
Even if you were baptised, that does not necessarily mean you have to consider yourself Christian. Only those who accept the basic tenets of the Christian faith should consider themselves Christian. Those tenets are described in the ‘Nicene Creed’.
In essence, the Nicene Creed says, “We believe in one God. We believe God made everything. We believe a virgin gave birth. We believe Jesus suffered, was crucified, died and was buried.
We believe Jesus rose from the dead after three days. We believe Jesus ascended into Heaven where he sits on the right hand of God. We believe Jesus will physically return to judge the living and the dead. We believe in one Church. We believe in baptism. We believe the forgiveness of sins. We believe the resurrection of the dead. We believe in everlasting judgment and everlasting life.”
If you don’t believe this, you should at least reflect on whether you should consider yourself a Christian for the purpose of the census.
If I go to church (or mosque or temple) for weddings and funerals, should I say I am religious?
If we are invited to a wedding or a funeral at a religious place, most people will accept in the spirit of friendship, no matter what their personal religious stance. But attending such occasions does not make you a religious person.
It’s important that you only mark a religion if you are a practising follower of that religion.
I was baptised / confirmed / had a bar mitzvah, does that make me a religious?
Only those who currently accept the basic tenets of a faith should consider themselves religious.
What if I am an active atheist, humanist or rationalist?
It’s OK to specify that you consider yourself an atheist, humanist or rationalist – your response will be counted as ‘No Religion’. However, we recommend you should just mark No Religion.
What if I say that I’m a Pastafarian or a Satanist?
Yes, the census will allow you to specify ‘Pastafarian’ or ‘Satanist’ when you answer the Religion question, but this counts as a Miscellaneous Religion. It thus reduces the ‘No Religion’ numbers and advantages the Religion numbers.
How should I answer for my children?
If possible, let them answer for themselves.
Most children have not yet had the chance to choose for themselves what religious or non-religious worldview they believe in and wish to live by. It’s not fair – and not accurate – to impose an adult’s view upon them. So, if possible, let them answer for themselves or at least, mark ‘No Religion’ for them on the basis that they haven’t yet decided for themselves.
In Australia, the freedom to choose is a fundamental right.