ColumnistsDaragh Keany

Opinion: A plea to all regarding Question 12 on tonight's Census

Question 12 on this year's Census form
Question 12 on this year's Census form

I have never really paid much attention to the census before.

My wife filled in the last one for us and every one before that was the responsibility of my parents. But all of a sudden I have developed a sense of duty to complete tonight’s extensive form.

Especially the ‘religion’ question. Question 12.

Let me be clear…I haven’t been to mass in decades. I have been to christenings, weddings and funerals of course but I didn’t listen to a word any of the priests ever said. Even at my own wedding I zoned out for most of it until I was told to lob the gob (paraphrasing slightly) on my new wife.  

I don’t believe in God, or heaven, or omnipotence, or the Sabbath, or any of the countless fictional tales in the bible. Allah, Vishnu or Muhammed don’t float my boat either, by the way.

I don’t have a dark past where I was fiddled with by a priest and, to the best of my knowledge, no one in my family does either.

I just don’t do the whole religion thing because I apply logic to my beliefs. I choose tangible things to worship, love and take solace from as opposed to imaginary spirits. And I believe and lot more people here do too than the official CSO numbers would suggest.

So am I a hypocrite for tying the knot in a church, for christening my kids or for ticking the RC box on the application form for my five year old daughter’s new school. It’s a sad indictment of society, but absolutely not.

How pathetic is it that we need to pretend to be Roman Catholic in order to ensure our children get accepted into most schools?

I didn’t think twice about ticking that box last year and I would do it again if I needed to. In fact I would declare to be Muslim and kneel before Muhammed clasping a copy of the Quran if it gets my daughter into the school I want.

But tonight I will be ticking the ‘No religion’ box. And I will take great pride in doing so.

Question 12 on this year's Census form

I am all for the right to choose so I understand the irony in what I am about to say but – please can you all do the same? At the very least consider it. And here is why.

It certainly will not have an immediate impact on you or on Ireland. It will not result in Archbishop Eamon Martin frog marching down to little Chloe or Paddy’s school tomorrow morning and demanding they be expelled.

It won’t dilute your identity either which the narrow-minded ultra-christians would lead us to believe.

BUT it may well start to gnaw away at the farcical monopoly that the Catholic Church have over the population. In 2011, 84.2% of the population identified themselves as Roman Catholic. Which, by my maths means that just under 4 million of us are Catholics. Come on now. Just think about that.

Of course, 4 million of us have RC written on our birth certs and 4 million of us, if put on the spot, would probably say RC, but is religion important to all 4 million of us? Absolutely not.

And yet that mystical 84.2 percent figure is the reason that the church has the power that it has. That 84.2 percent is the reason why the church is given as much (propaganda-riddled) airtime in the lead up to crucial referenda as the logical pro-choice side.

What the hell do clergymen know about abortion or marriage equality? And who do they think they are to shove their antiquated views in our faces?

That 84.2 percent is also why I had to lie on my daughter’s application form for her school over a year ago. And it is absurdly wrong that I needed to do that.

If you want to be a practicing Catholic then go for it. Power to you. My wife is (hence the church wedding), as are lots of my family and some friends.  Each to their own. If my wife finds comfort in her belief in God then I am happy to let her believe that. I would never enforce my beliefs on her. So the same has to apply from the other side. If I choose not to believe in it then why should I have to abide laws or opinions? That’s my point.

Despite their power, the Catholic church is increasingly insignificant in our every day lives. Even those who are still RC and still believe in God and still go to mass the odd time should consider ticking the ‘No Religion’ box. If it isn’t your life or vocation then at least let us start the ball rolling toward claiming back our own chance the choose. 

This will not happen over night. But if the true percentage of people claiming to be RC is realised then maybe we can start to reduce the archaic influence of the church on matters that should not include their opinion. 

I am talking about on a macro and micro level. From the REALLY important things like the rights of women to choose to do what they want to their bodies right down to the silly little things like harmless old me trying to get my kids into the local school, without having to lie on a form.