Not religious any more?

That’s the question the Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) is posing as it launches a public awareness campaign ahead of the 2016 Census on August 9.

The campaign invites Australians to mark ‘No religion’ on their Census form, if that best describes their religious state.

AFA President Kylie Sturgess says the 2016 Census is the first in Australia’s history where the ‘No religion’ option sits at the top of ten possible responses, rather than at the bottom.

Ms Sturgess says: “By positioning the ‘No religion’ option at the top, this corrects the bias in previous censuses that assumed everyone belonged to some sort of religion. Not everyone does. In fact, many people born into a religion may consider themselves spiritual and moral, but no longer religious. If that’s the case, then we invite them to mark the ‘No religion’ box.”


By marking the ‘No religion’ box, respondents send a compelling message to governments and policy makers about Australia’s secular population, which is growing significantly. From 1911 – 2011 the number of Australians marking ‘No religion’ rose from 0.4% to 22.3%. In the most recent Census in 2011, only ‘Catholic’ had a higher response rate, at 25%.

Ms Sturgess says: “Answering the religion question thoughtfully and honestly matters because it benefits all Australians when decisions on how to spend taxpayer dollars are made on sound data that accurately reflects modern-day Australia. That’s why we’re making people aware of the No Religion option and inviting them to think about whether it’s right for them.”


Globally, the number of people reporting ‘No religion’ is also increasing. When New Zealand’s census organisers similarly re-ordered the responses to their religion question in 2013, the number of people marking ‘No Religion’ rose from 35% to 42%.

In 2014, 48.5% of the population of England and Wales marked ‘No religion’, compared with 25% in 2011. And in Scotland this year, 52% of the population said they weren’t religious, compared with 40% in 1999. Ireland, Canada and the United States report similar trends.


The AFA’s national public awareness campaign kicked off this week in all capital cities and will run until Census night, August 9. The campaign includes signage at over 500 pharmacies and supermarket carparks, and on various mainstream websites. Closer to August 9, an Australia-wide social media campaign will ramp up the overall reach.

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


Yes, you can. Marking the ‘No Religion’ box simply means you don’t currently practice a religion nor consider yourself to be religiously observant.

Many people feel spiritual, and lead moral lives encompassing values like charity, peace, love, fairness, respect, humility and honesty without identifying as religious.


In 2015 the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the body running the Census, announced it was changing the order of responses to make the religion question consistent with the way other questions are asked on the form. It points out this approach is also consistent with a number of other countries.

Census data is used by governments when making planning and policy decisions on issues such as housing, social security, transport, education, industry, shops and hospitals.


If you write things like this in the ‘Other (please specify)’ box they all get lumped together and counted as ‘Not defined’. While it may be funny, it makes no difference and is a wasted answer. You can write ‘agnosticism’, ‘atheism’, ‘humanism’ and ‘rationalism’ as those are recorded as sub-categories of ‘No religion’, but it’s easier to just mark the ‘No religion’ box.

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Kylie Sturgess

Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
PO Box 3582
Parramatta NSW 2124

Phone: (02) 8007 4503
Email: [email protected]

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