”The world is silent while atheists are persecuted”

I thank Andrew Copson, the chief executive of the British Humanist Association, for writing an article about persecution of atheists on Humans Rights Day. What he says is so true! The world is silent while atheists are persecuted.

The plight of the non-religious is not new – the Bangladeshi humanist Taslima Nasrin has lived in exile for nearly twenty years – but the availability of free expression through social media in particular is triggering greater persecution than before. Between 2007 and 2011, IHEU saw only three major social media ‘blasphemy’ prosecutions. In 2012 the report documents more than a dozen cases of people in ten different countries charged for ‘blasphemous’ statements made on social media. People like Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old poet and columnist from Saudi Arabia, denounced as an apostate and now held in a Saudi jail; or Alber Saber, due to be sentenced in Egypt this week, accused of uploading the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ YouTube video, and arrested by the police which his mother called to disperse a mob that was threatening him; or Alexander Aan in Indonesia, sentenced to more than two years for “spreading… religious hatred and animosity” by running an atheist Facebook page.

Europe also violates the fundamental rights of individuals to freedom of expression.

Europe is not immune from these developments. Today’s report includes the case of Phillipos Loizos, arrested in Greece for creating a Facebook page that compared the late monk Elder Paisios to pastitsio, a baked pasta dish; the prosecution in Greece of the producers of the play Corpus Christi, the patrons of which were intimidated and assaulted by neo-Nazi Golden Dawn thugs and Christian activists; pop singer Doda in Poland prosecuted and fined for criticising the Bible.

The truth is:

Many governments shy away from promoting freedom of religion or belief abroad because it can also challenge comfortable orthodoxies and constitutional arrangements in their own countries, but they must not. The silence of some states provides consent for the increasing use by others of blasphemy, apostasy, and other discriminatory laws to prevent free association, chill free expression, punish thought-crimes, ruin lives and even end them. Those with humanist and other non-religious convictions are often in even greater difficulty in nations that disrespect freedom of conscience than those of minority religions, as they are by definition less organised, and less able to draw on community support. They need the support of all global citizens of goodwill to talk about their plight and work within all nations to defend them.

If the world were not silent, atheists all over the world could express their critical opinions about religion without being threatened. If the world were not silent, atheists could come out of prisons and I could return to my country. If the world were not silent, the world would have been a safe place for all of us.


  1. david dodds says

    Freedom is something that could only exist in an ideal world: and we all know the likelihood of that. The fact I am not educated or renound for anything special: my tweeting will go virtually unread, however, it helps vent my frustration of ignorence, something that prevails in many educated. In a most recent tweet I said ( expose religion for what it is not for what it isn’t ) the same applies with atheism. Fanatical atheism is as nasty as fanatical religion: and don’t tell me it does not exist, organised religion is the problem not the personal belief in a living god, this is where atheism has it wrong. all to often it is they who disrespect and tread underfoot human feelings. Have they any idea how much strength belief can give to the terminally ill, and parents who pray for their sick children to recover from life threatening illness, these peaple are not militant religious idiots, they are feeling human being clinging on to hope. Rights and wrongs will exist forever because we will never have the capacity to become civilised.

    I am not relgious nor am I atheist they are mere words.

    • rjlangley says

      While people are sent to prison for blasphemy, children’s genitals are mutilated, institutional child abuse is covered up, and campaigns against gay marriage, women’s rights and voluntary euthenasia are almost entirely religiously motivated (I could go on for hours), it’s good to know there are people like you with the courage to not take sides.

      • david dodds says

        It is not a question of not taking sides and what you say is absolutely right and true. It is just my beleif that ridding the world of religion will not make it all go away; a priest does not become a peadaphile the peadaphile becomes a priest. Are we to say in a totally secular world there will be no peadaphiles, child abusers, rapists, ( I too could go on for hours ), with respect you do say “almost” entirely religiously motivated. Thank you for your comments I sense a decent human being.

        • davidhart says

          You know how paedophiles need to pass themselves off as safe, child-frinedly people in order to have access to children to abuse? The fact that some paedophiles choose to become priests shows that the institution of priesthood, the cloak of unearned respect and deference from the faithful, the ability to deflect suspicion by a show of piety, the ability to directly silence victims by appealing to divine authority, is part of the problem … and these things come from religion. The fewer roles there are in which people can control children and deflect suspicion, the less opportunity there is for predatory paedophilia… and religions create some of those roles. Of course they won’t all be gone in a world without religion, but they will be significantly reduced. You are making the fallacy of rejecting an improvement just because a perfect elimination of a problem is not available.

          Also, organised religions are almost entirely based on personal beliefs in gods. People only belong to organised religion because they actually hold the personal beliefs that those religions affirm (apart from occasional cases where they are cowed by social pressure into pretending to believe). If we can persuade people that the personal belief in gods is unjustified, then organised religion will wither away automatically, as without its core believers, there’d be no one to apply the peer pressure to keep the structure in place.

          And tell me where in the world there are ‘fanatical’ atheists threatening to jail or execute people for expressing the view that a god does exist? Your attempt to equate ‘fanatical’ atheism (whatever that even means) with religious fanaticism is in dire need of some citations. And is dealt with here on rationalwiki, if you’re interested. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Militant_atheism

          • david dodds says

            Your points are well made and well structured. I don’t know if my point is being missed or that I am not very good at making it; I will have one more try. The atheist talks of liberty and freedom and how religion suppresses it, it is tantamount to being totalitarian to decide this is something to be destroyed. Personally I see the world being a much better place without religion… but can I play god with the lives of all those who have no hidden agenda to their fatih, have no hatred in there hearts and only want to live in peace, or is it being said they don’t exist ?. This is not unlike the death penalty debate…the argument being an inocent person may die as a result of getting it wrong. I make no fallacy of rejecting improvement the fallacy is in thinking you are, you can only eliminate what you see… and what you see is just the tip of an iceberg you will never penetrate. all that will be achieved is to drive it underground…where it will thrive in the sewers. The Secular world of tomorrow will be no less culpable than the religious world of today,

  2. american woman says

    I really really wish that people could just let each be lieve what they want to believe, as long as it isn’t hurting anyone else physically.

    • david dodds says

      I could not agree more. Unfortunatly the world is full of bitter twisted peaple, sadly many don’t know that they are. To many strive for impossible ideals whilst others thrive on discord.

  3. billyeager says

    @2 american woman
    What people ‘believe’ isn’t the problem. The decisions people make and the actions they take based on that ‘belief’ frequently are.
    You see, theists can choose to use the same objective reasoning and critical analysis process that skeptics do for presenting an argument or position, but they prefer not to. They choose, instead, to declare that their ‘faith’ in the ooky and the spooky absolves them of such ‘earthly’ considerations.

    Ever try formulating a position by avoiding the use of objective reasoning and critical analysis? Accomplish anything useful?

    • david dodds says

      I know first hand what your saying and in the main agree with you. I am not a defender of religion I find it menacing, however it is beyond many peaple to understand the findings of science, so how objective can they be to place an argument against religious belief.

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