Monday, August 28, 2006


The national census was held on August 8th. This is the one time when atheists get to officially declare their lack of belief. Religious people get Sunday services, Friday prayers, Christmas, Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, funerals, martyrdom videos etc. to stand up for God. In the census question about religion, one of the options is "No religion", and ticking it is a tiny little ritual which comes but once every five years for atheists. So I thought I'd have a look at the last census (in 2001) to see what the results were then.

I have combined the results for "No religion" (2,905,993), "Inadequately described" (352,090) and "Not stated" (1,835,598). In the broad definition of atheism, they can all count. And the figures are:

Atheist: 5,093,681 (27.14%)
Catholic: 5,001,624 (26.65%)
Anglican: 3,881,162 (20.68%

So, by a narrow margin, atheism is Australia's biggest denomination! In an era when religious commentators are seeking to influence public debate on issues like stem cell research, abortion and science education, the media and lawmakers should take note. Comments from a representative of atheist Australia would carry more weight.

The census from which these figures were drawn was taken just over a month before the September 11 attacks. I will be watching the results of the 2006 poll with great interest. Those attacks were carried out by religious zealots. If atheists drop below 27.14%, the terrorists will have won!