Some governments outlaw the very existence of atheists

The International Humanist and Ethical Union put out a report last week on the criminalization of atheism in many parts of the world, as a presentation to the UN Human Rights Council.

States sometimes play on concerns about Islamophobia and religious intolerance to support laws which go far beyond their legitimate concerns, instead rendering any form of religious skepticism, or the expression of a positive humanist philosophy, effectively illegal. The IHEU submission relates to its report published in December, Freedom of Thought 2012, on the same subject of discrimination against the non-religious around the world.

“This discrimination comes in two forms. Firstly, discrimination against non-religious communities through a nation’s constitution and/or legal system. For example, some governments outlaw the very existence of atheists, and others prosecute people who express their religious doubts or dissent regardless of whether those dissenters identify as atheist. Secondly, and more commonly, discrimination occurs against secular people when they manifest their conscience by acting against the dictates of the religion of their family, community or country.

That happens quite a lot right here in the US. If there is a table, the US is bound to have a much worse score than the other industrialized democracies, as it does in things like maternal and infant mortality, inequality, percentage of the population in prison, to name just a few.

A new entry here is persecution of atheism on social media.

“Legal measures against blasphemy and religious criticism, particularly in the realm of social media, are an increasingly common manifestation of discrimination against nonbelievers. 2012 saw a sharp rise in prosecution for alleged atheist criticism of religion on Facebook and Twitter. Between 2007 and 2011, IHEU recorded only three social media blasphemy prosecutions – two of them in Egypt, but in 2012 there were more than a dozen people, in ten different countries, charged for “blasphemous” social media statements. The trend of prosecuting “blasphemies” shared through social media is most marked in Muslim-majority countries. For example, in addition to the tragic, but all too familiar, wave of blasphemy prosecutions in Pakistan, 2012 saw prosecutions for allegedly atheist comments on Facebook and Twitter in Bangladesh, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Turkey.

“Egypt in particular saw a pronounced increase in online blasphemy charges directed at atheists in 2012. Alber Saber is a prominent activist for secular democracy who reportedly operated the “Egyptian Atheists” page on Facebook and has been a vocal critic of fundamentalist Islam. In December 2012 he was sentenced to three years in prison. His countryman, Ayman Yusef Mansur is also in prison serving three years hard labour on charges that he offended Islam on Facebook. Likewise, 17-year-old Gamal Abdou Massoud has been imprisoned for three years for posting “blasphemous” cartoons on Facebook, whilst Bishoy Kamel was imprisoned for six years, on the same charge.”

And our friend Waleed Al-Husseini spent ten months in jail in Palestine for Facebook atheism, and is now in Paris hoping for asylum.

And Tasneem Khalil reports another atheist in Bangladesh hacked – physically hacked, not computer hacked. There are no reports in English yet.




  1. iknklast says

    Well, atheism has been illegal in my family for as long as I can remember. This can be bad, too, because it brings the punishment home directly to the individual from the people he/she cares about the most.

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