.Mark 'No religion' in the Census

Mark No Religion In The Census

How should I answer?

What happens if I write Jedi Knight/Pastafarian?

It gets counted as 'Other Religions, Beliefs and Philosophies' and is not placed in the 'No religion' category. This reduces the 'No religion' numbers and therefore advantages the religion count. While it may be funny for a few minutes, we suggest it's a mistake to answer this way.

Data on religious affiliation is used for public policy, city planning, community support facilities, and more.

What happens if I write atheism or humanism?

Agnosticism, atheism, humanism, rationalism and several other responses that would not normally count as "religions" are recorded as sub-categories of 'Other Religions, Beliefs and Philosophies'. Do you really believe that these should be included as forms of religion?

You might as well mark the box provided: 'No religion'.

Can I enter a non-religious philosophy such as Atheist under religion and also mark no religion?

No, the on-line form does not allow you to do this and if you do it on the paper form you will be recorded under “Other Religions, Beliefs, and Philosophies”, adding to the total count for “Religion” and reducing the total count for “No religion”. Is this really your intention to do this?

How should I answer for children?

Many children have not decided which set of religious beliefs they will accept as true, or they haven't thought through the ramifications of those beliefs. We therefore believe it is unfair and inaccurate to label these children as belonging to a religion.

A Christian child makes about as much sense as a Marxist child or a Capitalist child.

So we recommend No religion.

However, if you are certain the child in question truly believes the tenets of a religion, please select the appropriate option.

If I mark 'No religion' on the census, does this mean I'm an atheist?

‘No religion’ does not mean you are an atheist.

It simply means you don’t currently practice a religion and/or that religion and religious beliefs are not particularly relevant to you at this point in your life.

You may never openly or even privately identify as an atheist, a skeptic, a humanist, a rationalist - or whatever label there is out there that makes you uncomfortable. This is about no label for you - and no specific religion either.

You always have the option of writing additional information for this question, but ultimately, it's your personal choice as to what you identify as, and you should be truthful on the census form.

Am I a Christian?

Does attending church make me Christian?

Not necessarily.

According to research, there are many people who attend church and other religious activities for the social aspects of such gatherings, and do not actually accept the tenets of the faith. The philosopher Daniel Dennett has conducted a study of ministers and pastors who have lost their faith, yet continue preaching because they do not know what else to do.

Conversely, there may be people who accept the tenets of a faith without ever attending a religious service.

I was baptised, does that make me a Christian?


Only those who accept the basic tenets of the faith should consider themselves Christian. These are outlined by the Nicene Creed.

What if I identify with “Christian Values”?

Values such as “love thy neighbour”, “do not commit murder”, and “thou shall not steal” are shared by many religions, cultures, and societies throughout history. As such, many values labelled “Christian” are shared by people of all faiths, including those who have no faith at all.

It is no surprise that every culture discovered treating people as they themselves wish to be treated led to civilised and pleasant living conditions.

Believing Jesus rose from the dead or was born of a virgin does not give the faithful a monopoly on morality. One can be perfectly moral and caring without a supernatural spy camera watching.

What makes someone Christian?

There is a wide variety of Christian faiths and denominations, and the particular beliefs of one group are not necessarily shared by another. This can make it difficult to actually determine what makes someone a Christian. However, almost all Christian faiths and denominations share the basic tenets of the Nicene Creed.

What is the Nicene Creed?

In 325 AD the first ecumenical council met in the city of Nicaea in an attempt to settle the differences between the competing Christian faiths and arrive at an agreed consensus. The final agreement included the Nicene Creed and other details, such as when to celebrate Easter (the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox).

The creed is now adopted by Anglican, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic as well as Eastern and Oriental Orthodox liturgies among others.

In brief, the Nicene Creed says:

  • We believe in one God.
  • We believe God made everything.
  • We believe a virgin gave birth.
  • We believe Jesus suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried.
  • We believe Jesus rose from the dead after three days.
  • We believe Jesus ascended into Heaven where he sits at the right hand of God.
  • We believe Jesus will physically return to judge the living and the dead.
  • We believe in one Church.
  • We believe in baptism.
  • We believe in the forgiveness of “sins”.
  • We believe in the resurrection of the dead.
  • We believe in everlasting judgement and everlasting life.

Do Christians believe that?

Yes, most do.

Should I answer “Christian” if I don't accept the Nicene Creed?

The position of the Humanist Society of New Zealand is that no one should consider themselves Christian if they do not accept the basic tenets of the Nicene Creed – or at the very least, they should reflect upon whether there are good enough reasons as to why they consider themselves Christian.

So I should be honest?

No one has ever gone to hell for being honest.


Why does it matter?

What is the data on religion used for?

Data on religious affiliation is used for a number of purposes, such as planning educational facilities, aged care and other social services provided by religion-based organisations; the location of church buildings; the assigning of chaplains to hospitals, prisons, armed services and universities; the allocation of time on public radio and other media; and sociological research.

What kind of issues might this lead to?

Exaggerations and inaccuracies in the Census data may lead to groups wielding disproportionate influence within government. By means of these inflated figures, politicians may formulate or disallow laws and policies based on religious precepts.

We believe laws and government policies should benefit all members of society, not just those who adhere to a particular religious faith. As such, all government decisions should be based on empirical evidence rather than religious beliefs.

It is estimated that some $30 billion annually remains untaxed due to exemptions enjoyed by religious organisations. While many religious groups perform helpful and much-needed charity work, a lack of transparency and accountability makes it impossible to determine exactly how much is spent on genuine charitable activities, and how much is devoted to commercial profit making enterprises or devoted to religious activities, such as indoctrination of potential new converts including children (see also Secular Education Network's Facebook group). There is no reason why non-believers should be required to subsidise non-charitable religious activities via tax exemptions.

How does the census work?

What does the question look like?

in paper:

or online:

What is the Census?

Every five years the New Zealand Government conducts a nationwide survey (a census) of everyone in the country at the time, except foreign diplomats and their families.

Who uses Census Information?

The Census gathers vital information on a wide range of topics which government, business, and individuals use to inform policy, funding, and other decisions.

For example, basic services such as housing, social security, transport, education, industry, shops and hospitals use Census information. Also, funding (including GST revenue) is based on census figures, as are the number of seats each electorate.

When is the next Census?

The next New Zealand Census is planned for 6 March 2018.

Is the Census compulsory?

Ultimately, yes.

On census day everyone must take part in the census. These are legal requirements under the Statistics Act 1975.

Is the information confidential?


Section 37 of the Statistics Act 1975 requires that published statistical information is arranged in a way that prevents the identification of a respondent’s details.

Statistics NZ’s general confidentiality principle is that they do not release any output that might identify the characteristics of a particular person or undertaking.

Do I have to answer which religion I adhere to?


Answering which religion you belong to is an optional question. However, we believe that supplying the government with full and accurate information ensures that policy and funding decisions are based on accurate data about New Zealand residents.

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The Humanist Society of New Zealand is the national charity working to promote Humanism, support and represent the non-religious, and promote a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief. The Humanist Society of New Zealand works on behalf of the 41% (over 1.6 million) of people in NZ who declare themselves non-religious, and who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. This campaign is also supported by The New Zealand Association of Rationalists & Humanists, a not-for-profit organisation that exists to serve the interests of the non-religious; those who do not have a belief in gods or the supernatural.


A very big thanks to the Atheist Foundation of Australia for generously providing content from their census campaign which we adapted for use in a New Zealand context. Thanks Aussies!

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