Atheist activists frequently tout their intense belief that they are discriminated against, mistreated and persecuted. Now, a new study from the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) may corroborate these claims, as it finds that it is not uncommon for secularists to face intense scrutiny — even execution — in nations across the globe.
The report, entitled, “Freedom of Thought 2012,” spans 70 pages and finds that in Europe and the United States, among other localities, there are policies that purportedly favor the religious over non-believers, with atheists and agnostics regularly treated as outsiders.
In Islamic countries, the alleged discrimination is most pronounced and in seven nations atheists may actually pay for their secularism with their lives. Reuters has more about some of the purported discriminatory policies that are waged against non-belief:
The report…said “there are laws that deny atheists’ right to exist, curtail their freedom of belief and expression, revoke their right to citizenship, restrict their right to marry.”
Other laws “obstruct their access to public education, prohibit them from holding public office, prevent them from working for the state, criminalize their criticism of religion, and execute them for leaving the religion of their parents.”
It is important to note that the IHEU is a secular hub for more than 120 atheist, agnostic, humanist and other related organizations in 40 countries. Considering the group’s scope — to advance the cause of non-belief — there is clearly a bias in the preparation and publication of the report. However, many of the findings are compelling.
The levels to which the stated discrimination exists differ greatly by nation. In some countries like Bangladesh, Egypt and Indonesia, among others, atheist views cannot be published, as “blasphemy” laws govern the land.
And in countries like Malaysia, citizens must register with religious systems — and the options are limited generally to the Abrahamic faiths. Non-believers are, thus, forced to reluctantly choose a religion in order to get travel documents, go to college and receive medical care. Reuters continues:
In Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin and North America, countries which identify themselves secular give privileges to or favor Christian churches in providing education and other public services, the IHEU said.
In Greece and Russia, the Orthodox Church is fiercely protected from criticism and is given pride of place on state occasions, while in Britain bishops of the Church of England have automatic seats in the upper house of parliament.
These, of course, are only some of the infractions; the document is filled with a multitude of information about other regions and the treatment of resident atheists. Read the full report for more.