Census and Sensibility

Book review done. Still waiting for editing job to begin. Have been thinking about fiction a lot, but just don’t have the time.

I yesterday received an interesting email from Jordan Stratford of the Apostolic Johannite Church, who had read my “Contemporary Gnosticism” paper, and had a few comments. It was strange to be contacted by someone I’ve written about, but I’m glad that my paper has engaged members of the gnostic community, and that, even if they don’t agree with all I have to say, that they are at least taking it seriously. Perhaps more on this at a later date…

But first, I wanted to flag something up for those reading in the UK who are filling out their census – putting Jedi or Church of Chris Martin or any other satirical religion down might show disdain for organised religion, but it lowers the stats for the numbers of actual atheists and agnostics in the UK. (And yes, I’m aware of the methodological issues around invented religions such as Jediism – see my forthcoming chapter on Discordianism…) The UK may be the most secular state in the world, but the census won’t demonstrate that if we fill in jokey answers, as happened in 2001. See BoingBoing co-editor Cory Doctorow’s blog for the original debate.

Having said that, at work today, a friend made a clever and amusing point about how she’d been asked what religion her baby was on a post-natal form. “I haven’t decided which way to brainwash him yet!” we laughed. “He says he’s an atheist but acts more like an agnostic!” And so forth. So I asked her what she’d put as her religion in the census. “We just ticked other,” she shrugged. I didn’t probe any further; a busy kitchen is not the place to force someone into revealing their Wiccan affiliation. Nevertheless, I suspect she’s actually agnostic.

Meanwhile, an unpleasant court case involving a couple in a town in Wales involving children and other vulnerables in a “sex cult” has led to a predictably sensational critique of “Satanist” Aleister Crowley. I am no Thelemite, but Crowley is no more guilty here than the Beatles were in the Sharon Tate murder. An abusive bastard is an abusive bastard, no matter who he takes inspiration from, and no matter how misguided his interpretation. Here is the original Daily Mail article, and you can read more on how the Book of the Law doesn’t condone paedophilia here, albeit from an unashamedly Thelemite point-of-view.

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