Fundamentalists may have an unhealthy hold on the US, but in some countries it’s a full on death grip. The annual “freedom of thought” report from the International Humanist and Ethical Union, an umbrella group which seeks to protect religious freedom and freedom from religion around the world, has issued a report to the UN on laws and practices that punish or restrict atheism up to and including death for unbelievers.
WaPo – The report tracks, among other things, which countries have laws explicitly targeting atheists. There are not many, but the states that forbid non-religiousness – typically as part of “anti-blasphemy” legislation – include seven nations where atheism is punishable by death. All seven establish Islam as the state religion. Though that list includes some dictatorships, the country that appears to most frequently condemn atheists to death for their beliefs is actually a democracy, if a frail one: Pakistan. Others include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, the West African state of Mauritania, and the Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. These countries are colored red on the above map.
This blog would be illegal in those places. Not only would I be in trouble for writing on it, you skeptical lawbreakers could face jail time or worse simply by reading it!
Even in countries where atheism is not a capital crime non believers must be careful. India has no one state religion, it has two informal ones:
Amit explains that the recent Indian census, “There is this question, ‘Which religion do you belong to?’ There’s no box which allows me to choose that I do not belong to any religion, or that I am an atheist. I find that deeply, deeply offensive.” Amit says he wants atheism to be recognized on government forms, “On any form any municipal form, there is no form that I can say atheist and not be questioned, ‘What the hell have you written?’”
Another man says he was forced to write a religion on his daughter’s birth certificate. When he tried to write “None” the official told him that was not allowed.
Atheist say they are often scared to debate religion publicly because of two laws, commonly called the “blasphemy laws.” They’re remnants of the British system, and say a person can be fined or face jail time for maliciously attacking religion.