In the UK we have a national census every ten years. The results of the census provide critical information that is used to set public policy for future years. This is particularly important for things that need long term planning, such as provision of housing, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure projects.
I have a problem with one of the questions. It simply asks:
What is your religion?
Now the main problem with this is that I don't have a religion. There is a box to tick for 'No religion' but that's not quite the same thing as asking 'Do you have a religion, and if so what is it?'. In the last census 72% of people ticked the box for 'Christian', but a more recent survey into British social attitudes found that only 43% described themselves as Christian and 51% said they were non-religious.
The mythical 72% figure has been used for everything from justifying the growth of exclusive faith schools to maintaining the automatic seats for Bishops in the House of Lords. The NHS spent £29m on Chaplaincy services last year - around £50,000 per chaplain - with large variations between the highest spending trusts and the lowest spending. If spending was reduced to the lowest level, then £18.5m could be saved and spent on other areas that provide a clinical benefit, such as 1000 nursing assistants or a new community hospital. Apparently there are also 390,000 practising Jedi Knights (making them the fourth largest religion in the UK!), but we have yet to see the establishment of any Jedi Academies to cater for their Midichorian based needs.
A proposed campaign by the British Humanist Association with the slogan 'If you are not religious, for God's sake say so' has been labelled 'offensive' with advertisers being unwilling to display the posters.
Unless you are a regular church goer, or hold another belief, then you should make sure to tick the 'No Religion' box and remind your friends and family to do the same, and then maybe we can start to get a true picture of the state of belief (or lack of it) in this country.