It’s 10th December, international Human Rights Day, and we’re marking the occasion with our annual survey of laws and policies — the systemic issues — that discriminate against the non-religious. The Freedom of Thought Report assesses every independent country around the world, and every country gets a rating.
You can find the new edition of the report at freethoughtreport.com/download, and there’s a brand new poster style map. (Just click the image below for the big version.)
But this year we also noticed that several states were persecuting atheists right from the top with what sounds very much like hate speech, blurring the line between legal or political discrimination on the one hand, versus social persecution of hate speech on the other hand.
So, increasingly, our report also looks at the social issues. Are the non-religious marginalized? Is atheism a social taboo? Is it even possible to ‘come out’ atheist without risking being cut off from friends, or rejected by family?
Questions like these are not as easy to measure or verify as the existence or otherwise of a given statute! But as our report evolves, our very small staff team is trying to find ways to answer these questions and represent the results. In the 2014 edition, each country — in addition to the ratings table and the main body text and the “Individual Cases” of people who’ve suffered at the hands of the law — for the first time also features “Testimonies” from people who have contacted or spoken to IHEU about their unique, personal situation, or their views on the society around them.
They may not have been dragged through the courts on blasphemy charges, or had their children take off them for being an apostate, but the people behind the testimonies are also suffering, often in silence. They haven’t been prosecuted for apostasy —but in some cases they can’t ‘come out’ at all!
We’re only just beginning to develop this more personal/social area of the report, and it will mean harder work. But we know that in the most oppressively persecutory countries, based on even the most conservative demographic estimates of non-religious populations, that for every high-profile case of a humanist writer in exile, or an atheist blogger attacked in the street, there are hundreds, if not many thousands, of others who for the most part stay quiet, keep their heads down, go along with what their family says or what their friends expect.
They should not have to do this. In most countries, the majority are free to say, “There is a God and these are my values.” The religious minorities might say “There is a different God or gods, and these are my values.” The non-religious minority must be just as free to say “We are all human, and these are my values”.
This aim — of equality, and the upholding of freedom of thought and expression for all — is not a luxury, it is a necessity. We hope that by exposing where these rights are not upheld for the non-religious, we are working toward a better, free global society for everyone.
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