UK Census

Published March 22nd, 2011 by Bobby Henderson


I’ve heard from several UK Pastafarians that it’s Census time in Britain.  In 2001 there was a movement to make “Jedi” a recognized religion by the government.  It would be fantastic if Pastafarianism could gain similar recognition.

So, UK Pastafarians, on your 2011 Census, if you are a Believer, write Pastafarian as your religion.


I’ve gotten a lot of emails about this and I see a lot of comments saying the same thing – there is a feeling by many that it is important to put “No Religion” on this year’s census form, and the British Humanist Association makes a pretty strong argument for this.

If you say you’re religious on the census and don’t really mean it, then you are treated by some sections of the media, churches, and even government policymakers as if you are a fully-fledged believer.

While there are many True Believer Pastafarians, a large number of us could be described as not literally believing our own scripture. That’s not all that unusual in religion (many Christians don’t take the Bible literally) but that we are honest about our own reservations *is* unusual (and an important part of our religion). I often hear this brought up in arguments why Pastafarianism is not a “real” religion. My feeling is that defining religion is always done with some agenda and we’re best off not fitting into anyone’s small-minded definitions. But this problem remains – there are a huge number of people who get something positive out of Pastafarianism without literally believing the scripture. This census question, when asking people to define themselves in such simple terms, can’t fully capture a person’s view of a very complex subject.

If I was a UK citizen I would find this a difficult choice. Good luck!

77 Responses to “UK Census”

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  1. Besucher says:

    Over here they’re doing the same – and I will say “Pastafari(an)”, if asked.

  2. Jon says:

    On a serious note, if you want census data to be used for helping to tackle some of the issues we have in the UK surrounding religious dogma (faith schools etc), then you should choose the ‘no religion’ option. Otherwise, fundamentalists will pick up on the general number of people professing to have a faith (whether it be Christian, Pastafarism etc) and use that metric for arguing for further religious concessions.

    See what the British Humanist Association has to say about this: http://census-campaign.org.uk/.


    • Keith says:

      The Australian census will be coming up soon. Thanks to reading that article I’m torn between “Pastafarian” & “Pokemon Master” (To my mind, putting down “no religion” doesn’t get the message across as to the stupidity of the question. If I remember, in the Aussie census, an answer is compulsory)

      • Sandra says:

        Completing the Australian census is compulsory, however answering the religion question itself isn’t compulsory. You can leave it blank if you want.

        Getting a certain number of people to tick “Pastafarian” (or any religion) won’t force the Australian government to acknowledge it or anything like that. The data is just used by various religious, community groups, researchers, policy writers etc for whatever they need it for. Answering accurately is the best way to go.

      • Michael says:

        Keith – I think you are making a mistake. Answering no religion is exactly the right selection to be making – I put Jedi last time because I thought it was good satire and so did 390,000 other people – we need those people to put no religion. Just as we do those who (like I will have done before that) just mindlessly put ‘Christian’ because I was born in England to Christian parents.

        There is no person reading the census replies and thinking, “Pokemon Master’ ha ha that’s so funny and insightful I think I am going to reject all my beliefs and bring down the Government from the inside”, instead it will be read by a machine and your reply will ultimately become part of a statistic that says ‘has religion’. Do you want that? Or do you want policymakers to understand the more realistic level of secular thought that exists in your nation.

        Census Campaign 2011 – ‘If you are not religious; for God’s sake say so’!

        • Whitleylad says:

          I totally agree with Michael. I was one of those that 390000 that answered Jedi because I thought it was satirical and I kind of hoped the Government would have to recognise ‘Jedi’ as a religion. However since then there has been some disturbing support from the government, (backed with tax payers money), for Creationist Schools in my neck of the woods, and this is frightening. (The School I’m talking about is the Emmanuel College in Gateshead if you want to boo!) If future Governments makes decisions to support religious affiliations like the Emmanuel College based on Census figures. Then I’d rather forgo the satire to get a sizeable proportion of the UK to say ‘No Religion’ and then officials might think twice when religious nuts want tax payers money to build the next Noah’s Ark Museum, Creationist School, Popes visit etc.

    • matthew says:

      Totally agree. The Jedi thing was a DUMB idea anyway.

  3. Ninjahippy says:

    I have to agree with Jon.
    In most cases the people compiling the data on the census will just see that box ticked.
    They will not distinguish between the religious options.

  4. Keith says:

    PS: If enough people put down “Pokemon Master” the Australian federal government may be obliged to establish an Australian Battle Frontier: It’s worth a shot :-)

  5. Vole says:

    This article is bad advice.

    As Jon says it is very important for atheists to tick the “No religion” box.


  6. Roy says:

    In the UK you do not have to be ‘recognised’ or ‘registered’ as a religion. Unlike the USA, in the UK there are no tax breaks associated with being a recognised religion: most mainstream religions are also registered as charities, which is where they get the financial breaks. The Jedi phenomenon was fun (I did it), but it didn’t really accomplish anything:

    What is perhaps more interesting is that the religion question is optional and not compulsory. This makes the data set weaker in that respect (since it is incomplete), but the reason given by the Office of National Statistics is that compulsion would infringe people’s civil liberties.

    • Neil Hoskins says:

      In fact, the UK is a theocracy, like Iran. The Church of England is “established”, and there are 21 bishops in the upper house of parliament. The head of state is also the head of the established church. It is actually illegal for the head of state to be married to a catholic. This is clearly untenable in the long run, and politicians (starting with Tony Blair, but the current lot seem happy with his version of reality) would like to replace it with a mish-mash of “recognised” religions. If enough people put “Jedi” or “Pastafarian” then under the new regime, those religions would have to be given privileges, too.

      Even if you put “no religion”, the question is loaded, since people tend to tick their cultural affiliations. Richard Dawkins suggested that the simple “muslim” check box should be replaced with, “Do you believe Mohammed rode a winged horse?”

      I’m not convinced the British Humanist Association have got it right on this occasion. To be honest, I’ve still not decided. If anything, I find the ethnicity question even more insulting, and am planning to put “indigenous mzungu”.

      • Brian Fritzen says:

        I am missing the cultural reference: mzungu. What is that exactly? (I am not from the UK). But if the question asks your “race” you must put HUMAN, otherwise you’d be lying….;D

        • Neil Hoskins says:

          Swahili word for a white guy.

  7. Dusty says:

    Another agreement with Jon. At first, I thought entering something humorous would be cute. But the more I think about it, this could have serious power if “NO RELIGION” is checked. We have an opportunity to make an impact here and I feel it would be foolish to waste it.

    • Neil Hoskins says:

      I think you’ve made my mind up. Although I’m not convinced the British Humanist Association have got it right, I think I should probably exercise some solidarity here.

  8. N says:

    Agree with Jon.
    I think is more important to show that there Atheists are present in the UK in significant numbers.

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