Like the vast majority of people in this country, I was born into a Catholic family and was brought up as a Catholic. However, as I have not considered myself a Catholic for many years, and putting down “liberal agnostic who sometimes attends services at the Unitarian church” doesn’t seem quite right, I’m going for “no religion” on the census form next month. In a country that still essentially uses baptismal records as an excuse for not providing totally secular, non-denominational education, I think it’s important that those of us with no formal religious belief or none at all make our voices heard.
However, according to Brian Whiteside of the Humanist Association, some census enumerators are actively discouraging this. In yesterday’s Irish Times, he wrote that:
on the question of religion the enumerators have been instructed to guide people to fill in the form to reflect their background rather than their current position. How does this help us plan for Ireland’s future?
How indeed? If this is true (and anecdotal evidence in the comments to the column suggests that it is), then the CSO are actively encouraging people to give them an inaccurate picture of religious practice in this country, and it’s nothing short of a disgrace. As Whiteside says,
imagine a survey on car ownership. The question “Do you have a car?” is not asked; the survey goes straight to “What type of car do you have?” And then, someone who has no car is encouraged to say they have a Morris Minor because, way back, it was the traditional family car.
What do you think? Have you encountered CSO staff giving such advice? And if they want our religious background, how far back do they want us to go? Parents? Great-grandparents? Prehistoric ancestors? Maybe we should all go for “sun-worshiper”….