The Australian Christian Lobby is encouraging people to take care in how they fill out the religion section of the census next Tuesday night, August 9.

It comes as the Atheist Foundation of Australia mounts an advertising campaign seeking to increase the numbers of people ticking ‘no religion’ in the census. 

“While the question is optional, the ACL encourages people to fill in their religion so that policy makers have a clear understanding of the religious make-up of the population,” ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said.

“The atheist campaign seems to assume that ‘no religion’ is the default or neutral position.

“No religion does not mean someone is an atheist. If people feel they are atheist, they should write that in the space provided. Marking the box ‘no religion’ is not the way to record one’s atheism.

“Many people believe in God and the transcendent but are not part of a religious community. That doesn’t mean they have ‘no religion’.

“Many people who say they have no religion will, on deeper reflection, realise that they do believe in something and so should indicate that on the census if they feel comfortable.

“Many people may not regularly attend church but they do appreciate their Christian heritage and have an attachment to their religious cultural heritage. These people should not be confused by the atheist’s campaign.

“A more accurate way of recording the number of people as atheists would be to have a box for this on the census form. Encouraging people to mark ‘no religion’ does not mean they don’t believe in God or the transcendent, as atheists do.

“It might even be helpful in the future for the Australian Bureau of Statistics to provide a box for agnostics.”

Mr Shelton said only a limited number of organised religions had categories listed on the census form and this could confuse people who can’t find their particular denomination or religion.

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