A recent study from the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) showed that atheists and other religious skeptics suffer persecution in many parts of the world. In at least seven countries, atheists can be executed in their beliefs become known.
According to the recent IHEU report, “unbelievers” in Islamic countries face the most severe treatment at the hands of the state. Ironically, this is something that atheists and Christians have in common. Currently, there are at least ten documented countries in which Christians can be executed for stating their beliefs.
The reports, “Freedom of Thought 2012,” points to policies in some European countries and the US which “favor the religious and their organizations and treat atheists and humanists as outsiders.” The report states that “there are laws that deny atheists’ right to exist, curtail their freedom of belief and expression, revoke their right to citizenship, restrict their right to marry.”
Other laws “obstruct their access to public education, prohibit them from holding public office, prevent them from working for the state, criminalize their criticism of religion, and execute them for leaving the religion of their parents.”
According to its survey of some 60 countries, the seven where confession of atheist beliefs can bring capital punishment are Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
According to another report, the most dangerous countries for Christians are similar: Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia also made the list, along with Yemen and North Korea.
While the report maintains the danger of execution in those countries, the 70-page report lists no recent cases of actual executions for “atheism.” In one instance in Iraq in 2010, and at least 58 Christians were killed in a bomb attack on a church during an evening Mass.
In many countries, atheists and humanists are forced to lie to obtain their official documents. Without official documents it is impossible to go to university, receive medical treatment, travel abroad or drive.
While freedom of religion and speech is protected in the United States, the report said, a social and political climate prevails “in which atheists and the non-religious are made to feel like lesser Americans, or non-Americans.”
The report asserts that even in the US, there is discrimination. In at least seven states, constitutional provisions are in place that bar atheists from public office. Arkansas has a law that bars an atheist from testifying as a witness at a trial.