Ticking “No Religion” on my Census Form

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.

Ticking No Religion for Census 2016

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.  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


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8 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I’m Catholic too, though to be honest, I’m more of a non practicing Catholic much to my mum’s dismay. My daughter is Catholic too (but my husband is a Baptist). But that’s a different story to tell 😉 Anyway, I can’t believe that people would actually have their kids baptised just for a place in a school. Then again, that’s their choice isn’t it? To each their own I guess.

  2. I didn’t realize entry was based on faith. I think that is disgusting because regardless of your beliefs it should not affect your school place. I am not religious either!

  3. Good for you – I wholeheartedly approve. I always tick that box too on any forms. It’s a shame that such things play such an important role still in children’s lives. This is not the middle ages any more – we need to move forward!

  4. I was christened C of E, I married in church. Both my children were christened. Do we go to church? Only wedding, christening and more recently a large number of funerals.

    I don’t know what I believe, I’ve seen nothing to tell me God exists but I’ve seen nothing to say he doesn’t. I will class myself as C of E but not visit church on a regular basis but do want to be buried C of E

    I’m open to all religions as long as they are open to mine. Unfortunately I’ve never had the opportunity to discuss some bodies religion with them like an understanding adult. No blaming an other religion, just sit and have an adult conversation.

  5. You raise a very interesting and very controversial topic. I am German, not religious, not raised in any belief and married to an Irish man. When I had my first child 9 years ago there was no question about whether we would want him baptised. It was no skin off my nose and this may sound odd or whatever, but it was important to me that my child would fit in in Catholic Ireland and not be the odd one out. It was just the done thing. He is now 9 and doesn’t believe in God or the teachings of the Church. He is open minded about all religions. Things have come a long way since then in ireland. But unfortunately not enough. The reality is that I got my other 3 children baptised as well, not for religious reasons, but to fit in and to be accepted and to get a place in the local school. The reality is that this is still a requirement especially in rural schools. The Church still has a strong hold in this country and I think it is time that Education and Church are separated and that parents are given a choice of schools, religious and non-denominational, and that religion teaches all religions. If I had my time again i would do things differently and hopefully in a few years people won’t feel pressured into getting their children baptised solely for the securing a place in the local school.
    we will be ticking ‘no religion’ in the consensus.

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