This month, on the 24th of April, every household in Ireland will be filling out the census form. They’ll document every little detail about every person in the house that night – details of education, employment, religion, earnings, practically everything except for what they have for breakfast. This happens once every five years and gives the government information which they can then use to develop policies and allocate funds for development of things like schools, community amenities and various other schemes to improve society. It gives the state an honest picture of what it’s citizens look like. That is why I am finding it important to ensure my census form has the “No Religion” box ticked.
Five years ago, when I filled in the form, I ticked the box that said Roman Catholic. I was baptised. I’ve gone through 14 years of religious education in both primary and secondary school. At that point, I had not really thought about it too much. Despite not going to mass if I could help it, my upbringing influenced the answer I wrote down, not how I was currently living. To me, this form was largely inconsequential for me, as just one person.
Five years on, and my life has changed dramatically. No longer am I a carefree college student, I’ve now got a toddler, a stable family unit and a greater understanding of the impact of these kind of questions on such a document. I’ve written before about my thoughts on the education system in this country and the faith-based entry system which the vast majority of schools are party to – discrimination which is covered within the law. Â This has been the status quo in Ireland, and is being backed up by inflated figures of the religious population – those who no longer practice but were brought up in a certain religion, like me, adding to the figures which back up the state’s case to make no change.
As it stands, my child is at a disadvantage when it comes to gaining a school place in 2018 or 2019. Neither I nor his father practice religion currently, regardless of any previous religious practice. We have declined to baptise him “just because”. I know many people who have baptised their child merely to get a school place – and the thought has crossed my mind more than once that it would make things easier. However, I do have friends and relations who are very serious about their faith and I respect that. I would feel like it was disrespecting what they believe in to merely sign my child up for a piece of paper to get in the door. It shouldn’t be a choice that any parent has to make for such a reason, but that is modern Ireland and our education system.
If people are honest about their belief systems – whether or not they practice any religion, or if it is just a statistic box they’ve ticked but not practicing what they preach – it will make for a fairer picture of society on which the government (if one ever forms, at this point) can mould the future plans for schools and our education system in general. Ticking Yes merely because your Mammy still thinks you go to mass, when you’ve not been since Christmas Eve three years ago helps nobody.
This is something I feel strongly about – if we are to make change, honesty is the first step. Make sure your census form shows the reality – it’s the only way we’ll see a society which is treated as how it actually is, instead of how people think it is.
The Humanist Association of Ireland is running a campaign to this effect, you can check out their website here
Follow more of my ramblings on Facebook.