In a world first, a list of the best and worst countries to be an atheist has been published.
The report is published by the world’s leading organisation for the non-religious, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).
The IHEU also supports humanists at risk of persecution, and has issued a renewed call for funding and donations to continue their important work
This year the IHEU launches it’s 7th annual Freedom of Thought Report at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. For the first time the report contains a ranking of every country in the world, according to its level of discrimination against atheists, humanists and the non-religious.
At the same time, the organization issues a call for support, from atheists and humanists in wealthier nations around the world, for valuable funds to continue its work.
Commenting on the launch of the 2018 report, Andrew Copson, President of the IHEU, said:
“This is a world’s first. For the first time our report will show, with authority and accuracy, the discrimination faced by people around the world because of their non-religious beliefs. This report paints a dark picture, with significant discrimination faced by our non-religious friends and colleagues around the world.
“At a time of growing nationalism, we continue to see those who are brave enough to criticise and critique conservative religious leaders demonized as ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘subversive’.
“At IHEU, we are leading the world in campaigning to promote and protect the rights of atheists and humanists – but frankly we cannot keep up with the large and powerful lobbies of the Christian-right in America and conservative Islam in the middle-east. This is why we issue a frank request; if you are lucky enough to live in one of the ‘top 10’ countries identified in this report, please consider making a donation today, so that we can continue our important work to protect those in the ‘worst 10’.”
|São Tomé and Príncipe||2||4|
|United States of America||6||8|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||8||10|
Above: the top 10 countries assessed by various forms of discrimination against the non-religious.
Below: the bottom 10, worst-performing countries. A colour-coded “Signal light” summarizes the severity of ratings applied in each of four thematic areas. Read more about the Ratings System and find the full Ranking Index at freethoughtreport.com.
|United Arab Emirates||1060||191|
Speaking at the launch of the report at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, said:
“The Freedom of Thought Report has become an invaluable source of well-researched and important information for policymakers. The report highlights the range of discrimination that people can face around the world because of their non-religious beliefs, something that many would like to ignore.”
Commentary on the 2018 edition and rankings
Sharing the number 1 spot, Belgium, Netherlands and Taiwan are congratulated for their “pluralistic” approach to religion in public life.
In the worst spot, Saudi Arabia comes into particular criticism for a 2014 law defining the “promotion of atheist thought in any form” as terrorism, and for the prosecution of liberal activists and campaigners generally, including a death sentence handed down in 2017 for an alleged ‘apostate’, Ahmad Al-Shamri, on the accusation of atheism.
In Pakistan, last year’s “anti-blasphemy crackdown” features prominently, several alleged atheist bloggers and activists having been arrested and tortured on charges of making posts online that were “insulting” to religion. Pre-trial detention and the slow progress of ‘blasphemy’ cases is a well-known issue in the Pakistani justice system, and some of those arrested as “atheists” early last year remain in prison.
The report notes that the appearance of Malaysia and Maldives in the bottom-10 rankings might surprise some. However, both countries have seen incidents of anti-atheist rhetoric in the past few years. In the Maldives, alleged atheists have been kidnapped, and secular activists have been disappeared or murdered; citizenship is restricted to Muslims and the previous government had been running an autocratic programme of Islamization, though this may change following an unexpected defeat in last month’s elections.
For further discussion of the ratings and rankings see the Editorial Introduction 2018.
To view or download the report see freethoughtreport.com.
Greece, regarded by many as the birthplace of democracy in Europe, has been hit hard by the current financial crisis, and seen a rise of extreme nationalism in recent years.
|Constitution and government||Education and children’s rights||Family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals||Freedom of expression advocacy of humanist values|
Constitution and government
The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of expression, assembly and association. However, anti-blasphemy laws and state sponsorship of religion exist.
The government financially supports the Orthodox Church; for example, the government pays for the salaries and religious training of clergy, finances the maintenance of Orthodox Church buildings, and exempts from tax Orthodox Church’s revenues from properties it owns.
Education and children’s rights
Orthodox religious instruction in primary and secondary schools, at government expense, is mandatory for all students. Although non-Orthodox students may exempt themselves, in practice public schools offer no alternative activity or non-Orthodox religious instruction for these children.
Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values
Recent years have seen a number of blasphemy cases, coinciding with increasing xenophobia and civil strife in Greek society. Article 198 of the Greek Penal Code states that “1. One who publicly and maliciously and by any means blasphemes God shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two years; 2. Anyone, except as described in par.1, who displays publicly with blasphemy a lack of respect for things divine, is punished with up to 3 months in prison.”
Article 199 states that “one who publicly and maliciously and by any means blasphemes the Greek Orthodox Church or any other religion tolerable in Greece shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two years.” Similarly, the country outlaws any speech or acts that “insults public sentiment” or “offends people’s religious sentiments.”
On June 9th, 2012, three actors in the play “Corpus Christi” were arrested on the charge of blasphemy following a lawsuit filed by Greek Orthodox Bishop Seraphim of Piraeus. Then, in November, the Athens public prosecutor charged the organizers, producers and cast of the play with blasphemy. If convicted, they could face several months in prison. According to newspaper reports, Bishop Seraphim was accompanied to court by members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.
In late September, 2012, a man was arrested in Evia, Greece, on charges of posting “malicious blasphemy and religious insult on the known social networking site, Facebook”. The accused, 27-year-old Phillipos Loizos, had created a Facebook page for “Elder Pastitsios the Pastafarian”, playing on a combination of Elder Paisios, the late Greek-Orthodox monk revered as a prophet by some, and the Greek food pastitsio, a baked pasta dish made of ground beef and béchamel sauce. “Pastafarian” refers to the spoof religion of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, itself an intentional pun on aspects of Creationism. A manipulated image on the Facebook page depicted Elder Pastitsios with a pastitsio where the monk’s face would normally appear.
On March 14th, 2013, Greek artist Dionysis Kavalieratos was tried in court on blasphemy charges for three of his Christian-themed cartoons that were displayed in a private Athens art gallery. The gallery owner was a co-defendant. He was acquitted.