The British Humanist Association has launched a campaign to encourage non-religious people to tick the ‘no religion’ box on the upcoming UK census. This is necessary: it’s important that everyone knows how many atheists there are in the UK because there are still strong biases in favour of the religious. The campaign’s site lists some of the policies that were justified by the census figures from 2001:
- Increase in the number of faith schools
- The continuation of collective worship in schools
- The public funding and support of ‘interfaith’ and faith-based organisations above the support offered to secular organisations
- Suggestions of an increase in the role of faith in Britain under the coalition government
- The appointments of government advisors on faith
- Contracting out public services to religious organisations
- Keeping the 26 Bishops in the House of Lords as of right
- Continued high number of hours dedicated to religious broadcasting
- Specific consultation at government and local level with ‘faith communities’ over and above other groups within society
- Continued privileges for religious groups in equality law and other legislation
The BHA is particularly keen to distinguish between the practicing and the cultural religious. Many people who were brought up religious but aren’t believers themselves doubtless ticked a religion box in 2001, which skewed the figures. There were probably a lot more atheists around than the numbers suggest.
The BHA produced posters to put on busses around the country with the slogan “If you’re not religious, for God’s sake say so". However, the Committee of Advertising Practice has decided that this wording could cause “widespread and serious offense” and forced it to change the posters. This is a worse problem than wasting a charity’s money. There is no good reason at all for anyone to find this wording offensive and it’s another example of the privileging of religion in our society. It’s effectively censorship: clearly some individuals wanted to harm the BHA’s message and contrived some complaints. It is a disgrace that they were allowed to win.