Who is the Atheist Census?

Here’s a strange thing. An atheist census, run by… well I don’t know. There’s no name or organizational affiliation mentioned. The terms and conditions are very detailed though, very corporate, which makes me very, very curious who these people are. If you agree to their terms you’re agreeing to be bound by certain laws in Alberta, Canada. That’s the most solid information I’ve found so far.

The site is well designed, with slick animated graphs that, frustratingly, don’t show any actual numbers. I have issues with some of the questions, for example the “Irreligion” question has the following answers:

  • Atheist
  • Agnostic
  • Atheist Agnostic
  • Humanist
  • Rationalist
  • Buddhist Atheist

It seems far more sensible to me to remove “Atheist Agnostic” and make the question “Check all that apply”. (After a lot of thought, I finally went with humanist because that’s more important to my identity than any beliefs and I’m not a very good rationalist.) There’s a similar problem with the “Religion Raised In” question, in that it’s quite possible to be raised in multiple religions. And the gender binary lives on, only Male or Female are available.

There’s a very weird feeling to the site. It has no personal touch at all, pretty graphs that aren’t very useful, a clause requiring arbitration in any legal dispute unless you’re violating their copyright, and requires email validation before your data will be counted. There’s a definite corporate feeling to it, which seems very strange to me after getting used to the people at FreeThoughtBlogs as the voices of modern atheists.

I sent an email asking some questions to the site, if I get any answers I’ll post them here.

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on May 12, 2012, in Daily Post and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. The website is also registered through a proxy company which means that the actual owner remains anonymous. The idea that they would ask for donations without any information about themselves is also quite strange. I’d be quite interested to hear what they tell you. I exchanged some emails with them myself a couple of days ago and they lead me to believe that there was something fishy, or should I say “phishy” going on here.

    • Well that’s ominous.
      I noticed the emails you get from them have a catch-phrase highlighted by changing the color, which seemed weird. Color changes and semi-random capitalization are things I tend to associate with crackpots, but that’s hardly damning evidence. Just enough to make me a little uncomfortable.
      No email reply yet, but if I get anything I’ll pass it along.

  2. Googling the site I came across a self-published press release that lists Lucas Matheson as the founder. I was involved in the Edmonton Atheist community when I lived there and don’t recall ever meeting Lucas.

  3. I tried searching for Lucas Matheson online and came up with nothing other than links to that press release. I emailed with a person who called himself Lucas and was representing the project and like I said he was very evasive. In the end, after not answering any of my questions, he asked me if I didn’t have something better to do with my time. I didn’t respond after that. Here’s the last message from @atheistcensus on twitter:

    Did either of you go through with the census? I did not validate at the end because I was worried it was a scam. If you get this supposed letter I’d love to see it.

    • I first heard about it because my email was automatically added to something. I replied with some questions about where they got my email (both to the automated email address and the one listed on the site) and heard no response. I haven’t filled out the form because the entire thing just feels sketch.

      • I went ahead and did the whole thing, since this is a pseudonym and there’s not really a whole lot of damage they could do. Well, that I’m aware of, at least.
        Still no reply to the email I sent.

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