Counting heads

Census Form

CountMeOut, a website which allows people to formally defect from the Catholic Church, had suspended its website.

The reason given is that the Catholic church has changed the rules, so it is no longer possible to leave.

According to CountMeOut, about 1000 people in Dublin alone went gone through the formal defection process last year. Over 12000 forms were downloaded from the website.

But how many atheists are there in Ireland? I checked the CSO website, since I recalled that more people answered “no religion” in the last census than were members of any religion except the the Roman Catholic church.

A look at the census form shows (see below) there’s a box labelled “no religion” under the religion question.

186318 people are ticked the “No religion” in the last census. Strangely, a further 929 chose to write “atheist” in the box provided.

So I called the CSO to ask “what’s the difference?”

“We don’t formally make the distinction. If people have made that distinction themselves, we publish it separately,” a CSO spokesman said.

“Technically I suppose its possible to have no religion without being an atheist.”

“I’d assume the vast majority of atheists would tick ‘no religion’.”

Census Form

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.


  1. I forget what I put down in the census for that particular item but I suspect it might have been “No Religion”. I don’t practice any religion, I don’t believe any of the stories, and I see most of the rituals (or the small few that I am familiar with) as bizarre anachronisms.

    But it wouldn’t be true to say that I am an atheist. Atheism is “the doctrine or belief that there is no God” . This would be overstating things in my own case.

    So, basically, I would see the “No Religion” option as a milder version of “Atheist”.

    Is there no “agnostic” option?

  2. I considered Jedi last time. This time, I’m thinking of starting a movement to put Church of Feck, just to hear a CSO spokesman on the radio explaining how many Feckers there are in Ireland.

    The form (see above) lists several major religious groups (in 2011 the categories will include Catholic, Curch of Ireland, Presbyterian, Muslim and Orthodox) and a separate box for “no religion”. There is also an option to write whatever you wish if you don’t fit into one of the major categories.

    The phrase “no religion” causes a problem for some people. Does “no religion” mean atheist, agnostic, or someone who may be either a theist or deist, but is not a member of any other church? The CSO spokesman I chatted to leans to ‘no religion’=’atheist’, but you can see where there might be confusion.

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