How many Kiwis are Jedis? Stats NZ update will better reflect NZ religions in 2018 Census
Thanks to a refresh of religious classifications in the upcoming census, Kiwis who affiliate with being a Jedi will soon be able to know how many others do, too. So will those who affiliate with Maoism, Marxism, and Falun Gong.
An update of the standard classification of religious affiliation means data collected in the 2018 Census of Population and Dwellings will more accurately reflect people's religious, philosophical, and spiritual beliefs. It is the first update to the classification since 1999.
While Jedi and Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are both on the list, most of the changes involve more denominations for religions such as Judaism and Islam.
Andrew Hancock, Statistics NZ senior researcher, said through consultation with stakeholders and the public they came up with the changes to better reflect what people were already writing on surveys such as the census.
"We've got all these people giving these types of responses, such as Jedi, and we want to be able to reflect that in the data," he said. "Yes, a lot of focus has been on Jedi, but there's also changes in Buddhist and additional Catholic groups, and a whole lot of other religious beliefs.
"It's about beng more transparent around the types of responses we get, and being able to make that data available."
He noted the review didn't aim to define religions, "because that's problematic", but rather enable more responses to be coded.
"It's a complex topic, there's a lot of diversity. It's important for cultural wellbeing, seeing how different people affiliate."
According to the Statistics NZ website, for statistical purposes, religion is often defined as either "a religious or spiritual belief or preference, regardless of whether or not this belief is represented by an organised group", or "an affiliation with an organised group having a specific religious or spiritual tenets".
The last three census surveys showed the number of Kiwis who affiliate with Christian religions is declining and the number who affiliate with other religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, is on the rise.
In general, however, more Kiwis are opting for a life without religion. Figures from 2013 showed any claim to a Christian majority in New Zealand is shaky, with fewer than 1.9 million people affiliated with a church — down from more than 2 million in 2006.