Monday, January 29, 2007

Back to the Dark Ages

A friend notified me over the weekend of a very interesting article in The Press, which was about christians attempting to declare New Zealand a 'christian country'. Many disparate groups such as the Anglican, Catholic, and even the Destiny churches are banding together to claim that since over 50 percent (53% to be exact) of respondants in the last Census identified themselves as christian in some way, that the rest of us should just bend over and assume the position. Stupidity is more widespread than even I in my righteous pessemism had previously suspected.

I happen to have a copy of the Religious Affiliation section of the 2006 Census (available here online as an Excel spreadsheet - don't ask me why...) and indeed the total number of people who identify themselves as christians is sizable. But the range of groups is unbelievable: everyone from Coptic Orthodox to Quakers, Elim to Mormons, Pentecostal to Nazarene. If you sat these people down in a room together, they'd hardly have anything in common by way of beliefs and religious practices. Of any of the groups surveyed in the Religious Affiliation category, 'No Religion' is the single largest group - nearly 1.3 million Kiwis (almost one third of the population). An additional 242,610 people objected to answering, 249,711 didn't answer at all, 1,743 didn't know, 10,653 responses were unidentifiable, and 30,945 responses were outside the scope of the survey. Interestingly, there is a disclaimer at the bottom of the document, which states
"This data has been randomly rounded to protect confidentiality. Individual figures may not add up to totals, and values for the same data may vary in different tables."
and a footnote which states
"Includes all the people who stated each religious affiliation in the 2006 Census, whether as their only religious affiliation or as one of several religious affiliations. Where a person reported more than one religious affiliation, they have been counted in each applicable group."
This raises two matters:
  • Firstly, a single person is able to state that they have more than one religious affiliation, thereby increasing the perceived numbers of responses for religious groups while not, in fact, actually representing a greater number people.
  • Secondly, if a respondant ticked more than one box, why have they done so? Is it because they don't really believe in the beliefs they are claming to have, or that they aren't sure? Wouldn't this make them Agnostics?

In the Press article, a member of the Destiny church claims that although they believe in a functional separation of church and state, that christianity is tacitly recognised as the national religion, and that this "doesn't affect anyone's freedom of choice". True, but only because they are not allowed to affect our freedom of choice by law. This doesn't stop them trying. Take for example the Exclusive Bretheren's bribing of the National party at the last election... It's bad enough that our national anthem is the not-entirely rousing dirge "God Defend New Zealand (because our army, navy and air force are a joke)". The claim made by the Human Rights Commision that everyone—regardless of their religion or lack thereof—is treated equally before the law is nonsense: Given the tax breaks and labour law exemptions which church groups enjoy, how can it be said that this equates to equality?

The time has come to stand up and be counted. Join The Resistance, and fight for your continued right to rationality and truth!