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IHEU Documents Global Persecution of Non-believers

The International Humanist and Ethical Union has released the Freedom of Thought Report 2013, which documents rampant discrimination against and persecution of the non-religious in countries around the globe. You can download the full report here.

It is the first report focusing specifically on the rights, legal status, and discrimination against Humanists, atheists and the non-religious in every country in the world.

The report found that:

  • You can be put to death for expressing atheism in 13 countries
  • In 39 countries the law mandates a prison sentence for blasphemy, including six western countries
  • The non-religious are discriminated against, or outright persecuted, in most countries of the world

A new report launching today, Tuesday, examines every country in the world for legal discrimination and human rights violations which specifically affect atheists, humanists and the non-religious.

The “Freedom of Thought” report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union,IHEU, found widespread discrimination by governments in every region.

Issues  from children forced to pray in school classrooms, to the most “Grave Violations”.such as death for breaking “blasphemy” laws, are considered in the report’s comprehensive rating system.

Death for unbelievers

12 countries in Africa, 9 in Asia, and 10 in the Middle East, were given the worst rating for committing “Grave Violations”. Some of these governments were found to openly incite hatred against atheists, or authorities which systematically fail to prosecute violent crimes against atheists.

Furthermore, in 12 of the worst-offending states, religious authorities can put atheists to death for the crime of “apostasy” (i.e. leaving religion; in all cases the religion was Islam).

Blasphemy

Around the world, the Report found 55 countries with ‘blasphemy’ laws on the books, or other laws forbidding criticism or “insult” to religion. In 39 such countries the law mandates a prison sentence for blasphemers.

Three states, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, can execute “blasphemers”. In another three states, militant Islamists acting as religious authorities in some areas are also dealing out Sharia punishment including death for “offences” to religion: namely Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram and other Islamists in Nigeria, and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Despite some social restrictions here in the United States, atheists in this country are still incredibly privileged in comparison to much of the rest of the world. We may face bias and stigma but we do not often face actual discrimination, persecution or prosecution. We must work toward the day when no one faces such abuse merely because they don’t believe in someone else’s gods.

Comments

  1. says

    You can be put to death for expressing atheism in 13 countries

    And how many deaths has that lead to? Zero? You have to admit that that’s an awfully high bar. Most people haven’t even been to 13 countries, much less expressed atheism in all 13 of them.

  2. steve84 says

    The report is complete bullshit.

    They merely looked at the laws and not at how they are actually used or at any discrimination not based on laws. So you have countries in Europe with blasphemy laws that are rarely if ever used scoring the worst grades. Or countries that have state religions, but are very secular otherwise also with bad grades.

    Then you have the US which has separation of church and state on paper, but is very close to a theocracy in practice, having an average grade.

  3. says

    Modusoperandi @1: Most people haven’t even been to 13 countries, much less expressed atheism in all 13 of them.

    Challenge accepted! Now I’m off to see if Kickstarter will fund a backpacking tour of…oh, let’s say Europe. I’ll need to make sure I get plenty of extra cash to make sure I get good, drunk, and loud enough that my proclamations of atheism will be heard by enough witnesses.

  4. says

    @steve84 #2 – I have lived in states that had sodomy laws, where, as a gay man, I could have ended up in prison for having sex.

    I can assure you that it matters little whether or not the law is actually enforced: its mere existence becomes an excuse for ferocious bigotry. In Texas, for example, “deviate sexual intercourse” was a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine. Although invoked very rarely, it was routinely used as an excuse to discriminate: gay people were presumed to be criminals, so employers could fire them at will or refuse to hire them, landlords could legally deny them housing, banks could legally refuse to loan money, etc. Even today, ten years after Lawrence v. Texas struck down sodomy laws in the US, ten states still have such laws on the books and police regularly use these laws to arrest, charge and try people even though such cases are always thrown out, dragging the victims through public and very expensive humiliation.

    From what I have read, the exact same thing occurs in many countries with their blasphemy laws. The validity of the law and the likelihood of getting a conviction are irrelevant: they are used to harass, humiliate and punish people for the “crime” of not following the dominant faith.

  5. steve84 says

    I was talking about Western Europe. Not Pakistan. In Europe people blaspheme a lot. And very few people care. Despite laws to the contrary. Yet, that criteria basically guaranteed the worst grade. Unlike in the US you also won’t be fired for being an atheist in most Western European countries. Eastern and maybe South Eastern Europe is something different.

    They also have something against government sponsored religious schools, yet conveniently forgot that the US has those too. Under names like “school vouchers” or “school choice”. Then there is “Liberty” “University”, which received hundreds of millions in federal money.

  6. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @steve84
    Except no. There are plenty of European countries where it is criminal to incite hatred against religion, and those laws are frequently used, and more frequently their mere threat of use silences speech.

  7. steve84 says

    And yet, it’s infinitely easier to live as an atheist in Europe than it is in the US. The real persecution of atheists happens in America.

  8. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Oh, one other thing.

    They also have something against government sponsored religious schools, yet conveniently forgot that the US has those too. Under names like “school vouchers” or “school choice”. Then there is “Liberty” “University”, which received hundreds of millions in federal money.

    So, we both agree this is bad, right? And we both agree that the US and Europe should follow the purported ideals of the US which is a strict separation of church and state, and thus no state funded religious schools, right?

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