I’m A Heathen and I’ll be Putting ‘Pagan’ on the Census, Here’s Why
- by Dan Coultas
The national census is occurring on 21st March 2021 (except in Scotland where it has been postponed until 2022). UK national statistician, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, has stated that after 220 years of the national census, this is likely to be the last. Question 16 of the census relates to religion and has tick boxes for the ‘big six’ religions, as well as a box for ‘no religion’. There is then an opportunity to write a descriptor under ‘other’.
For many of us our first thought will be to write the specific term that we feel best describes our own spirituality. For me this would be Heathen, for others it would be Asatruar, Anglo-Saxon Heathen or any other number of terms that describe a broadly similar belief system. This is perfectly understandable; we want to accurately describe our own spirituality.
Our diversity is our strength, but in this case it could be our downfall. Even within Heathenry there are many different terms that would mean the numbers of those individual answers counted on the census results would be far too small to register.
If we all agreed to swallow our pride and agree on one answer, for example ‘Heathen’, we could probably muster about 0.0005% of the population. However, if we are able to go further, and join together with Druids, Wiccans and followers of all other Pagan traditions and put ‘ Pagan’ we would be able to achieve a significant number which would actually register on the statistics.
“But I am Heathen, I don’t care what other people think of us, it’s between me and the Gods”
That’s fine, of course your spirituality is your own. But lets consider what could be achieved by swallowing our pride, burying the various hatchets that tend to fly between us and playing nice with others.
This is not just about having a nice big number on some statistics. It is about what those statistics can be used for. We are closer than ever to getting some of the rights and recognition many of us have been craving for decades. There will soon be a review of marriage laws in England & Wales, which could see legally binding handfastings becoming much more accessible. The Ministry of Defence is seriously considering employing Pagan chaplains in the armed forces. Likewise, there are moves for Pagan chaplains in the police, fire service and the NHS, and an expansion of the number of chaplains in universities and hospitals. The bottom line is that we need statistics to justify these things. If are numbers are lost by diluting them with hundreds of different individual paths, we will be greatly reducing our ability to justify these real, tangible benefits which will directly affect the lives of our community.
I will be writing ‘Pagan’ on the census. Not because the Pagan Federation is telling me to, not because I want to see a big number on some statistics, but because I genuinely believe it can make a real difference to the community, and give Pagans across the UK the same rights enjoyed by followers of other religions.
There is no point trying to tell Heathens what to do, but if you want any of the things that a strong showing in the census could lead to, I implore you to join me in writing ‘Pagan’. In frith,