The International Humanist and Ethical Union has published its 2013 Freedom of Thought report that takes a country-by-country look at the “Rights, Legal Status, and Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists, and the Non-religious” and rates them according to five categories: 1. Free and Equal 2. Mostly Satisfactory 3. Systemic Discrimination 4. Severe Discrimination 5. Grave Violations.
The 244-page report looks at each country in light of 44 practices (that it calls ‘boundary conditions’), each one corresponding to one of those five classification conditions. They look at both de facto and de jure elements. The final rating of each country is determined by the worst match.
I have listed just those countries in the best and worst categories.
Best (Free and Equal): Sao Tome and Principe, Benin, Niger, Sierra Leone, Jamaica, Uruguay, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Kosovo, Belgium, Netherlands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru.
Worst (Grave Violations): Comoros, Eritrea, Somalia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Swaziland, Gambia, Mauritania, Nigeria, China, North Korea, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Maldives, Pakistan, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.
In 13 countries (the ones in bold) you can be put to death for apostasy or for conversion from the official religion
There are no real surprises in the list of worst countries but the list of best countries has some notable omissions, such as that apart from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Kosovo, there are no countries from North America or Europe, regions that boast of their religious tolerance. This is because, as Darren Smith points out, many Western European nations have state religions that are supported financially and otherwise by their governments, so that “While most of these Western European nations are not certainly considered to be repressive in reputation, many have structured laws that if strictly enforced can initiate a code of religion that can be sufficient to force a change to their societies.”
In many countries there is a gap between what they say and what they do. For example, in my birth country of Sri Lanka, while the “constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association… the government often interferes with media independence, and the Buddhist population has often shown hostility, occasionally violence, towards non-Buddhists.” It ends up classified under the heading “Serious Discrimination” because it practices “systemic and severe prejudice”, an accurate description in my opinion.