For the eighth straight year, Humanists International has released its annual “Freedom of Thought Report” describing serious cases of discrimination and persecution against atheists around the world. You can download the report right here by clicking on the “Download the 2019 Key Countries edition (PDF)” link.
There’s some good news overall. Since 2015, eight countries (or parts of countries) have repealed or are on the verge of repealing their blasphemy laws, including three in the past year.
At the same time, though, the nations where blasphemy is a punishable offense are taking the fake “crime” more seriously than ever, either making the punishments more severe or depriving the accused of any form of due process.
But here’s the bottom line: 69 countries believe blasphemy is a crime. The death penalty applies in six of them. 18 countries punish apostasy (leaving religion), with 12 saying it’s a capital offense.
The worst nations in the world when it comes to these particular human rights violations? Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan. The best include Belgium, the Netherlands, and Taiwan.
The United States ranks 32nd on that list of 196 nations, a drop from 8th last year. That’s in large part due to “very strong, deeply-rooted Christian [conservatism]” that has made it more difficult to “preserve the inherent secularism of the constitution from persistent challenges.” We’re on a bad path even if we’re not quite there yet.
I would add that while there may be a social stigma against atheists, there’s very little legal opposition to our existence. When it exists, it’s not enforceable. That said, Christian activists have succeeded in getting their beliefs enshrined into the law to the point where being Christian can give you a license to discriminate against certain groups of people. Lawsuits have to be filed to stop those rules from going into effect.
Still, it’s disturbing that the United States is no longer a model of free speech and religious freedom for the rest of the world because we’ve allowed right-wing Christians to dictate policy and have to fight to stop them from creeping closer to a theocracy.
You can read the full report right here.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)