What an anti-climax. Yesterday was Census Day so where are the results? Having taken their polling into the 21st Century and computerising the whole circus, why wasn't Minister of Statistics James Shaw on the box at midnight, dressed up like the Lotto lady, pressing the button to reveal the lucky winners.

Like election day, I was hoping to pick up today's paper and see the results. Do the houses in my neighbourhood finally have more bathrooms than the Remuera-ites. How heavily have we pagans whipped the Christians this time round. That sort of thing.

I'm writing this before the "vote" officially closes, but I'm guessing the media today will be full instead, of flurried census organisers claiming success in this the first fully online — well sort of — Census, while trying to bat away the slight problem of a huge "non-vote".

No doubt they'll be telling us how they plan to mop up the "no shows" with hit squads armed with Biros and paper forms, venturing into the primitive darklands and the retirement villages where computers and broadband have yet to reach.


To me, it's been a lost opportunity to bring a bit of fun into this dreary, if worthy, exercise in civic duty. Only the Humanist Society, no doubt sniffing another victory against their Christian foes, got into the spirit of the occasion. They pumped out posters and online advertising calling on "New Zealanders who don't practise a religion" to be "proud" and tick the appropriate box on their Census form, or order to hasten the move "towards a fully secular society where the rights and beliefs of everyone are respected, protected and celebrated".

I saw no signs of the Christians, or for that matter, the Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, or Sikhs minority religions who at the last Census made up 6 per cent of the population, answering the challenge.

As for the other questions, it's hard to recall many that lent themselves to such lobbying. It's hard to get much of a tussle going over what form of heating you have, or whether or not your house is mouldy.

Still, as issues go, crossing the Godless barrier is a pretty good one to be going on with. The possibility that more than 50 per cent of Kiwis have declared they have evolved into "post-religious" beings, has the making of great headlines, to say nothing of being something of a wake-up call to our policy makers.

And unless Vladimir Putin's operatives have hacked into our online polling system and stacked the results with Russian Orthodox believers, the breakthrough to a Godless majority must be a distinct possibility.

In the 1996 Census, only 25.5 per cent ticked "no religion". Ten years later that had jumped to 34.7 per cent. In the 2013 census, it was up to 41.5 per cent.

Over the same period, those claiming to be Christian fell from 63 per cent to 49.1 per cent, making them a minority for the first time. In 1956, more than 90 per cent of my parent's generation had claimed to be Christian.

An analysis of the 2013 Census by the Royal Society of New Zealand noted that "the full defection rate from the main Christian denominations is masked by the addition of immigrant Christians ...". They observed that a vote for "no religion" was highest in the under 39 age bands. The paper also noted that unlike countries like Canada and Australia, we had done very little, as a nation, to address this increased religious pluralism. It pointed, for example, to our God centric national anthem and the parliamentary prayer, which was a reminder of how wimpish Parliament's Speaker Trevor Mallard was in his recent rewriting of the prayer which he intones at the beginning of each sitting.


Initially he slashed both the Queen and Jesus Christ from the script, but later reinstated Her Majesty. But he and his colleagues were too scared to address the obvious anachronism that the prayer was still addressed to an Almighty God who, at last official count in 2013, 41.5 per cent of citizens didn't believe existed. As of last night, that figure could have topped the 50 per cent mark.

Shame we won't know until at best, sometime between October and December this year, when the first results start to dribble out.