For the tenth 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 2021 Key Countries” link.
The bottom line is… not great.
Humanists are discriminated against in 144 countries across the globe. 83 countries have criminal punishments for blasphemy or apostasy, including 13 where it remains a capital offence. In 12 countries, government figures or state agencies openly marginalise, harass, or incite hatred or violence against the non-religious.
In recent years, there has been an increase in attacks and persecution of humanists and other non-religious people across the globe. There have been murders, arrests, and disappearances of outspoken humanists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and India. There are state-sponsored crackdowns on the non-religious communities in Egypt and Malaysia.
Said President of Humanists International Andrew Copson:
‘This year’s Freedom of Thought Report offers, once again, grim reading. In it we detail the discrimination that humanists and other non-religious people continue to face as a result of daring to express their beliefs and to try to live according to their conscience.
‘The non-religious are one of the most persecuted groups across the globe. But they are also one of the least visible and their persecution is amongst the most under-reported. We welcome this report and hope that it will influence governments both in the UK and abroad to prioritise protecting freedom of religion and belief for all.’
The full report is worth reading if you have the time, but in case you’re wondering about the United States, we get a lower rating on matters of “Constitution and government” and society. That’s due to “official symbolic deference to religion,” infrequent but recurring and widespread social marginalization against the non-religious, and “discriminatory prominence… given to religious bodies, traditions or leaders.”
Still, despite any social stigma against atheists, there’s very little legal opposition to our existence. When it exists, it’s not enforceable. With Democrats in control of the federal government, the worst faith-based actions of our country have at least taken a brief rest but there’s plenty to worry about at the state level, especially on issues involving bodily rights and social justice. Our nation should be a model for free speech and freedom of thought; unfortunately, we’ve allowed right-wing Christians to dictate policy all too often. The Supreme Court, for example, is controlled by a conservative super-majority that has shown unnecessary deference to religion. It’ll take a lot to fight back.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier)