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The Census should have the None option as the first option

The Mid-West Humanists and similar groups and people note that the order of replies to questions in the Census causes bias in how people reply

This applies to the question about a person’s religion, and to some other questions also.

You can read the 2016 Census form on the Central Statistics Office website.

There are 4 questions (of 11 questions) about the household on page 2 of the Census form, that have between 5 and 9 optional answers, with one answer being “none” or a similar word – central heating fuel, source of piped water, destination of sewage, and cars (or vans). Question H6 Central Heating includes “No central heating” as option 1. In the other 3, “none” is the last option.

There are 4 questions (of 34 questions) about each person on later pages of the form, that have between 7 and 11 optional answers, with one answer being “none” or a similar word.

Of these, only in the religion question (Q12) is the “none” option last.

Q19 Mode of travel daily, Q20 Time leaving home in the morning daily, and Q25 Formal Education all have the “none” option first.

So, if your house or other residence has no central heating, or if you do not travel daily to work, school, or college, or if you have never been to any school, you do not have to pore over several irrelevant options before finding the right answer for you (or your residence) at the end.

How putting the “None” option last causes bias

If you glance through 4 to 10 options which are all wrong, and you are a little bothered by filling the form, you may mark a box that is not true.

You may notice so much about the various options, that you do not notice the content of the last option. You may behave as if the set of answers forces you to pick one of the first few options, even though they are not true about you.

On seeing that of these 8 questions, the Central Statistics Office has put the “none” option first in 4 and last in the other 4, I wonder if the CSO thinks that there may sometimes be bias in having a particular option at either the start or the end.

I notice the confusion caused by having to read 4 to 10 options that do not fit yourself, so that you are not concentrating when your eyes reach the last option (which is the right one for you).

How non-religious groups and people have thought that the Census question of the last decades causes bias, and how to improve it

Atheist and humanist organisations have in recent decades said that the presence of several religions as the first few optional replies to the religion question leads to people thinking of a religion to which they subscribed in the past, and marking the box for that.

They have proposed splitting the religion question into 2 parts. First, Do you have a religion? (yes/ no). Second (if you wrote Yes), What is your religion?

It has been difficult to get the CSO to consider changing the question.

If the question does not become divided into 2 parts, to put the “none” option as the first option would a good step. The CSO are clearly not opposed to a “none” option being the first option in a census question.

When the census is complete, the Mid-West Humanists intend to write to the CSO to seek to have the religion question improved.

Census 2016 – mark box 7 “No religion” rather than free-text under box 6

This is about the reasons to mark box 7 “No religion”, and not to write your own words under box 6.

The Mid-West Humanists meet, one evening each month in the Absolute Hotel, Limerick, and at brunches and other social events. We meet so that we can talk and listen to other people who do not have a religion or believe in a god.
People come because they notice that society does not quite recognise that people might have NO religion (while society easily recognises people having a variety of different religions).

As well as society not fully allowing that quite a lot of people have no religion and do not think that there is an afterlife or any gods, the State and its services are quite clearly biased towards every person having a religion (the state, like society, easily recognises that people have a variety of religions).

The most important service from the state is Education. People with no religion generally want to let their children understand both no religion and the variety of religions that other people have. And they want their children not to receive ideas that are not facts but only some people’s beliefs as if they are facts.

You may also meet difficulty when making a legal declaration that what you say or write is true. On becoming a witness in court, people mostly have to ask to make the affirmation with no mention of religion. When you do this, the judge or jury now knows you are distinguished from most people by having no religion, and sometimes this lets them treat your evidence less fairly.

The State might come to recognise the substantial portion of the people who have no religion, and then treat them fairly in its services, if the state received more accurate information through the Census.

Here is the 12th question for each person in the Census 2016 form: –

Census IRL 2016 Q12 Religion

Census IRL 2016 Q12 Religion

The Central Statistics Office’s computer reads the marks in the boxes, and calculates the numbers in categories 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7. The total of people who marked no 7 will be the CSO number of people with no religion. The more people who do not have a religion who mark box 7, the more the State must recognise that their numbers are substantial.

The religions (or non-religious titles) that people write in the 20 spaces under no 6 will be read by people in the CSO. From these the CSO will derive numbers of people with religions other than the five in the list on the form.
“Atheist”, “Humanist”, “Agnostic”, “No Religion”, and various other words that actually do not mean a religion will result in Census numbers for those titles, as if they are religions. The CSO presents them within a list of other religions (of which there are usually many hundreds). These numbers, which in the 2011 Census were in the tens of thousands, do not enter the public information as numbers of people with no religion.

So, the Mid-West Humanists suggest that people with no religion mark box 7 “No religion”; and do not write in the spaces under box 6.

The Mid-West Humanists also note that (as the CSO instructs enumerators) Question 12 on religion is about your religious belief, actions, or attachment NOW, not at any earlier time in life.
We ask people who are aware of their past attachment to a religion, but who now do not believe in that religion’s doctrines and/or do not attend that religion’s services, to mark box 7 to indicate that they do not have a religion in 2016.

There is a bias in a question if the “none of the above” option is last. The Census 2016 form has 4 household questions and 4 questions for each individual person that include a “none” option.
See The Census should have the None option as the first option

Media Release – Mid West Humanists meet Minister for Education and ask that Ireland have a State Secular system of schools

This is what we sent to the local press after the visit to the Minister for Education and Skills

Mid West Humanists

An Atheist Community in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary

www.midwesthumanists.com/                        info@midwesthumanists.com

www.facebook.com/groups/midwesthumanists/                        28 November 2014

MEDIA RELEASE

 

For Immediate Release

 

Mid-West Humanists meet Minister for Education and Skills and ask that Ireland have a State Secular system of schools

 

Members of the Mid-West Humanists (MWH) met Jan O’Sullivan TD Minister for Education and Skills on 28 November 2014 to ask that Ireland’s system of schools, primary and second-level, be changed to a state system of entirely secular schools.

The Mid West Humanists said to the Minister that the present education system discriminates against children who have no religion and breaches their human rights by denying them access to an education free from the teaching of religious beliefs as facts. These children have the same rights as those of any religion to be taught in an objective manner by the teachers, whom their parents also pay through their taxes. In the last census in 2011 there were 256,000 people who stated that they had no religion, though the true number is substantially more.

The present system – the Patronage system – is biased towards religion, and towards some few religions even more strongly.

There are 3200 primary schools in Ireland. For 94% of these schools, the Patron is a religious organisation, and for 90% the Patron is Roman Catholic. Of the 3200 schools, 1800 are each more than 10km from the nearest other primary school. These all have Roman Catholic patrons. These schools are smaller than average, and these districts cannot support 2 schools.
The changes that the Mid-West Humanists seek to Ireland’s education system, in addition to removing the bias and the discrimination, will make it easier for government to deal with the increasing variety of religions to which people in Ireland belong – including making it easier to provide education.

The secular system that we propose would also liberate teachers who are unhappily forced to teach values in which they no longer believe.

Continue reading

Mid West Humanists tell Minister for Education that schools should be secular and in State ownership

A delegation from the Mid West Humanists met Ms Jan O’Sullivan T.D., Minister for Education and Skills at her office in Limerick on 28  November 2014.

We asked the Minister that Ireland’s education system change from the present system to a State system of entirely secular schools.

 

Here is the full text of the letter we gave to the Minister at the visit.

 

To Jan O’Sullivan TD, Minister for Education and Skills

A Secular and Child- centred Education system for Ireland

 

Dear Minister O’Sullivan

 

We are people with no religion, and there are between 10% and 15% of the population of Ireland who have no religion, perhaps more – the proportion is certainly growing.

While we note that the education system is biased towards religion (and towards some few religions even more strongly),
the changes that we seek to Ireland’s education system, in addition to removing this bias, will make it easier for government to deal with the increasing variety of religions to which people in Ireland belong – including making it easier to provide education.

The Mid West Humanists ask that the system of schools in Ireland, primary and second-level, become a system of entirely secular schools that the state operates itself. Several other changes in relevant law and in the curriculum would follow from this plan
We propose this change with rational arguments, and we aim to show that this would be the best for society in Ireland, with reasons that do not depend on the particular needs or requests of people with no religion, nor on the particular number or proportion of the population who hold any particular religious or non-religious view.

Continue reading

Irish Census 2011

In the last few days (or in the next few) someone will have knocked on your door and handed you your copy of the 2011 Census. You need to fill this out on the 10th of April and many of you will have seen the campaigns being run by Atheist Ireland and the Humanist Association asking you to think before you answer the question on religion and to answer honestly.

For Atheists and Free Thinkers this is easy to do, simple mark the “No Religion” box, but for many people this will be difficult. There are many people who have a belief in a god or the supernatural and who were raised Roman Catholic or Church of Ireland but aren’t sure how to describe themselves now.

Below is the current text of the Nicene Creed as used by the Catholic church (it’s due to be changed later this year) and I’d like to suggest that people who find themselves unsure if they are Catholic, Christian or just Theist should read it. If they really believe in everything it says then Catholic or Christian is probably the correct option for them. If not then I’d suggest that they consider marking the other religion box and writing Theist or even Deist.

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
one in Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son
he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic
and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism
for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the
resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

By way of contrast you might like to read this as well.

An Atheist’s Creed

I believe in a purely material universe that conforms to naturalistic laws and principles.

I believe that the life we have is the only one we will have, that the mind and consciousness are inseparable from the brain, that we cease to exist in any conscious form when we die, and that it is therefore incumbent on us to enable each person to live their one life to the fullest.

I believe in the power of science and reason and rationality to further deepen our understanding of everything around us and to eventually overcome superstition and erase the petty divisions sown by religion, race, ethnicity, and nationality.

I am in awe of the beauty, vastness, and complexity of nature and the universe, and the fact that all arose purely by the working of natural laws.

I believe in the power of ideals such as peace and justice and shared humanity to inspire us to create a free and just world.

I believe in kindness, love, and the human spirit and their ability to overcome challenges and adversity and to create a better world.

I believe in the necessity for credible and objective evidence to sustain any belief and thus deny, because of the absence of such evidence, the existence of each and every aspect of the supernatural.

I refuse to bow, prostrate myself, or otherwise cower before the deities of any religion.

I am neither tempted by the fiction of heaven or any other form of eternal life nor fearful of the fiction of hell.

I choose to live the dignified and exhilarating life of a free-thinker, able to go wherever knowledge and curiosity takes me, without fear of contradicting any dogma.