IHEU Releases 2015 Freedom of Thought Report Focusing on Anti-Atheist Discrimination

In line with the celebration of Human Rights Day last Thursday, December 10, the International Humanist and Ethical Union or IHEU published its lengthy Freedom of Thought Report for 2015. The IHEU is a U.N.-accredited NGO that promotes the welfare and growth of humanist, atheist, rationalist, freethought and similar groups around the world.

The report which is published annually ranks countries based on the state of anti-atheist or non-religious discrimination and persecution around the world. The report also details the plight and current social and legal challenges faced by atheists, humanists and freethinkers in each country.

Countries ranked are eventually classified into five categories: “Free and Equal” being the best and most supportive countries for the non-religious, “Mostly Satisfactory”, “Systemic Discrimination”, “Severe Discrimination,” and “Grave Violations” where the non-religious individuals suffer the most.

A lot of atheists will be dismayed that only a few countries are considered to be “free and equal.” The top countries include Belgium, The Netherlands, and Estonia. Even the United States which takes pride in being the “land of the free” was only classified as “mostly satisfactory”. Additionally, the U.K. ranks lower at “systematic discrimination”.

Freedom of Thought -anti athiest

On the other hand, among the worst countries for atheists, humanists and freethinkers include Sudan, Iraq and Nigeria. In these countries, atheist are gravely discriminated and even persecuted. The worst living conditions for atheists or non-religious are experienced by those living in Northeast and Central Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia. With the exception of Taiwan and Japan, all Asian countries are poorly ranked and are classified for having severe discrimination and grave violations against atheists.

In countries where the worst forms of discrimination are prevalent, atheists and apostates are often killed judicially or extra-judicially. There are also cases of children being taken away by the state from their atheist parents. The report also mentioned key government leaders like Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak who suggested that secularism or humanism is essentially a form of deviance. Saudi Arabia also gets the spotlight for creating a law that considers atheists as terrorists. The report also mentioned hate campaigns as the most popular form of discrimination all across the world.

In the more “free” or liberal countries like the U.K. and U.S., anti-atheist discrimination takes another form. Instead of punitive measures against atheists, governments and organizations commit discrimination by providing privileges or preference to individuals who belong to a particular religion. Most states are also guilty of not doing anything or for inaction to the discriminative acts or policies of groups or organizations like churches and educational institutions.

But the 2015 report isn’t entirely negative. There’s hope since according to the report, certain improvements were recorded this year like the abolishment of the “blasphemy” laws in Norway and Iceland.

And in response to the report, American Humanist Association executive director Roy Speckhardt said that “The sobering findings of this report should move our elected leaders to stand up for religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world.”


Follow the Conversation on Twitter