A European Census

Centuries ago, so the Apostle Luke tells us, the Roman Empire wanted to discover who was where, for the basic desire to make sure they had the right number of people under the control of the Emperor – and that their taxes were being paid!

Today, a European initiative encourages countries to conduct a census in 2011. Across Europe most of us should all fill in census forms, so we can work out how many citizens our countries have and what we believe and what we are all doing and what standard of education we have.

What differs across countries is exactly what information is required. Is it only the United Kingdom that has a question 17 for instance “there is no question 17 – go to question 18”?

Then there is belief. In Britain there is a humanist campaign “For God’s sake say no” as the Census supremo tries to discover how many Muslims, Buddists, Hindus and Christians there are. On the Czech form one cannot be simply “Christian”—about fourteen different denominations are options. So one can declare oneself a member of “Brotherly Union of Czech Baptists” – will there be more than 4000 of us? The form for Lithuania, the country of the last pagans in Europe, suggests choosing from five Christian denominations besides the Catholic, plus Jewish, Muslim, or Karaite faiths. Baptists, being more than ten times smaller compared to the 4000 of the Czech lands, will have to do with specifying the category of “Other.” There is an option, however, of ignoring this question altogether.

And then in education Europeans are generally asked about the highest level of education they have reached. The British as well as Lithuanian forms are rather disparaging at this point. The British, though being the longest form of those surveyed, eventually after stumbling over the non-question 17 suggests putting down Bachelor, Master or Doctor. The Czech form thinks Bachelor isn’t worth the effort but if you are an Engineer, Magister or one of countless Doctors—Medicine, Veterinary Science, Jurisprudence, Philosophy, Theology or Arts—you have an array of choices.

For most of us at IBTS the questions about travel to work will no doubt be easiest.

A detailed examination of the census forms of all EU and EEA countries would reveal many interesting cultural and ethnic obsessions which could provide much food for thought and theological reflection. In the meantime, one of the authors of this blog post is disappointed that in the question “how do you describe yourself” the options only include “British, English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish” – why not Yorkshire?

– Keith and Lina


  • Catriona

    In Scotland the religion question has three kinds of Christian…

    Church of Scotland
    Roman Catholic
    Other please specify

    I understand that England just has ‘Christian’…

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