Ireland Should Change Survey Question About Kid’s Faith


Photo Credits: Patheos

Before enrolling children in a public school in Ireland, parents must fill out a form with basic information about the kids: name, ethnicity, their version of a social security number, etc. Beside all that answers the questionnaire also asks parents to declare their children’s religion. The Patheos Friendly Atheist wrote that, as Richard Dawkins famously pointed out in The God Delusion, a label like this makes as much sense as asking parents if their children are Democrats or Republicans. The answer will almost always be their parents’ religious beliefs.

John Hamill from The Free Thought Prophet Podcast wrote a formal letter to the government:

“Asking about the religious beliefs of such young people is absurd. I suspect that what your Department is really asking here, relates to which (if any) denomination that parents intend to raise their children in. That is a very different question and if that is what your Department is interested in, then that is what you should ask. Otherwise, it is risible to ask children who in many cases have not yet learned to read or write, that they should distinguish between their preferences for the teachings of the Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran and Methodist Churches.”

In his letter, Hamill said this education data was being used for important reasons, so why open the door to so much inaccurate information?

“… may I ask if you will ensure that the format of the religion question within the POD forms is changed, in order to adhere to best practice?”

Interesting thing is that John Hamill received a response where the government official said that the religion question was not used for any reason than general data collection, and that they were prevented from including a write-in box… but that “you are correct in pointing out… that the layout of the POD religion question needs to be updated.”

Atheist Ireland has already proposed a new version of the question for the 2021 Census where the first question should be – Do you practice a religion? (Answer only if aged 6 years or over). It’s a great way to define the question about religion, as well as the age limit. The only problem is that kids who are 6 years old still aren’t mature enough to answer such a serious question.

Private Secretary Derek Newcombe said the POD would review the formatting of that question in order to make it relevant. So change could be coming in the future.

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