Freedom of Thought 2014 report published

The third Freedom of Thought report, highlighting global discrimination against atheists, humanists and the non-religious, was published yesterday by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).

The report assesses every independent country around the world, and every country gets a rating. There is also a brand new poster style map.

In their preface, Gulalai Ismail and Agnes Ojera, both working to promote human rights in Pakistan and Uganda respectively, said:

“The rights of the non-religious, and the rights of religious minorities and non-conformists, are a touchstone for the freedoms of thought and expression at large. Discrimination and persecution against the non-religious in particular is very often bound up with political suppression, with fears about progressive values, or with oppression in the name of religion. Humanists and secularists are often among the first to ask questions, and to raise the alarm when human rights are being trampled, when religion is misused or abused, or — even with the best intentions — if religion has become part of the problem. Silence the non-religious, and you silence some of the leading voices of responsible concern in society.”

The authors indicate that several states are 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, the report also looks at the social issues. Are the non-religious marginalised? Is atheism a social taboo? Is it even possible to ‘come out’ atheist without risking being cut off from friends, or rejected by family?

In this 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 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”.

2This 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.”

Read and/or download the report