That contentious Census question

What is the person’s religion?   







What is the purpose of the Religion question in the Census? I have yet to hear a good justification but am as always open to being educated. It confuses denomination with religion; it uses outdated nomenclature, it doesn’t define ‘religion’ adequately, and it relies on categories that are no-longer the significant players. What purpose does it serve? Who needs to know and why would anyone base decisions on ‘nominals’ over ‘practitioners’? Time to review the need for the question and if not needed, drop it! Since it is optional it will never give a true indication anyway.

Paul Inglis

Sydney Morning Herald  by  Caitlin Fitzsimmons



4 thoughts on “That contentious Census question

  1. Paul Inglis Post author

    Governments often collect useless data. For instance, when couples are getting marriage they have to record the details of children from previous marriages. This makes sense in the allocation of resources to communities. But they are not asked for the details of children they have had when not married. These days this is a considerable number. When challenged on this they are unable to tell me why they do that!

  2. Elizabeth Burns

    I think the confusion with religion and denomination simply reflects the general public’s lack of understanding! I don’t know how an accurate reflection of ‘religion can be ascertained from the questions.
    Rather like the lumping of all Christians into such titles as Australian Christian lobby et al, which certainly does not speak for me.

  3. Bryan Gilmour

    I agree with your comment on the Census issue relating to religion. It is out of touch with the present mores of society and the way changing religious and scientific cultures, philosophies and attitudes have shaped the twentyfirst century thinking and lifestyle. A person’s nominal religious affiliation may no longer be an indicator of person’s twentyfirst century thinking, lifestyle and critical definer of purpose , meaning and direction.
    Bryan Gilmour

  4. Paul Inglis Post author

    The confusion around the Religion question on the Census, reminds me of another way that Governments get personal data collection confused. The current Notice of Intended Marriage has the following questions to be completed:
    “15 Number of previous marriages
    16 Year of each previous marriage ceremony (If known, give date)
    *17 Number of children of the previous marriage or marriages born alive (whether now living or deceased)
    *18 Year of birth of each of those children
    19 How LAST marriage terminated (Insert “death”, “divorce” or “nullity”)
    20 Date on which last spouse died, or date on which dissolution of last marriage became final, or nullity order made D”
    Qs 17 and 18 are obviously useful in the gathering of data relevant to future community services, educational facilities, etc.
    But it occurs to me that of the 200 people I married, many already had children before they were married. They did not count apparently! This is quite common today. When I asked the authorities why they did not gather data about all of these children they were unable to give me an answer.

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