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Censu(s/r)ing Religion – AFA Census Campaign

by Findo on January 20th, 2011

The Atheist foundation of Australia has a campaign running:

Unfortunately, because of the wording, many people will select the religion of their baptism or initiation at youth, despite not being a religious person at all,” said David Nicholls, President of the Atheist Foundation. How they answer this question in the Census will influence decisions by Australian governments. Often the transfer of taxpayer money to religious organisations is justified on the basis of the Census results, as are special concessions and exemptions including the right to discriminate against some groups.

It’s very similar to a recent British campaign, to which Cranmer made a worthy point:

Whilst it is undoubtedly true that many people tended to treat the 2001 census question on religion as a question of ethnicity – and there are indeed valid concerns to be expressed – the BHA appear to be dismissive of those many millions for whom the Christian culture of the nation is something with which they clearly wish to be identified: the ‘cultural Christian’ is not necessarily irreligious; he or she may be content to believe without belonging.

That is not the same as atheism, agnosticism or scepticism.

Never-the-less, I think I would actually like to see less cultural Christianity too (though I don’t necessarily agree that religious views should not have a say in the public and political arena).

But far from being the slow death of Christianity I think it is just the kind of pruning that authentic Christianity could do with. Now that is not to say I don’t want people in the church – but rather, I want the people in the church, those identifying as Christians to actually be so, to actually be people who love and follow Christ.

While I don’t think Christianity is dying out, I think cultural Christianity is. For the last century or so, Australia, like much of the west, has been predominantly a Christian culture, with most people nominally identifying as Christian, and in many ways I think it is these who are most concerned about the demise of a Christian culture.

When we look at the New Testament we see a church that is not in a Christian culture, but a culture that is extremely anti-Christian. In many ways, once the culture became Christian under Constantine, it was somewhat downhill for the church in terms of authenticity.

So I would echo the sentiments about not ticking ‘Christian’ because you were baptised – but I’d also encourage you to think about your beliefs, and think about what it means to identify as a Christian, and consider being a follower of Christ.

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