Best and Worst Places for Atheists to Live


The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has published its “Freedom of Thought Report” for 2015 in which examines the state of anti-atheist or non-religious discrimination and persecution around the world. The IHEU is an umbrella organization accredited by the U.N. which promotes the welfare of humanist, atheist, rationalist, secular, skeptic, freethought and Ethical Culture organizations worldwide. The “Freedom of Thought Report” classifies countries around the world 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. The report also details the plight and current social and legal challenges faced by atheists, humanists and freethinkers in each country.

The worst places to be an atheist are certainly countries with the category named “Grave Violations” in which non-religious people are not secure and suffer the most. Atheists are the most threatened in Malaysia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. On the other side, the top countries for being an atheist include Belgium, The Netherlands, and Estonia. A devastating fact is that only a few countries can be characterized as “free and equal”.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, wrote the foreword to this year’s report and he is concerned about many issues.

“On the one hand, there are the atrocious violations of religious freedom rights in situations of intra-state conflict as in the case of the monstrous crimes committed by the Daesh in Syria and Iraq; the brutal attacks on the Rohingya in Myanmar; or the heinous activities of the Boko Haram in Nigeria.  On the other hand, established democracies are also reporting rising levels of intolerance including anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiment.  The outrage over the former and the shock over the latter often distract from the horror of the persistent violations of the human right to freedom of religion or belief in the numerous countries that suppress religious freedom either through blasphemy and apostasy laws or through other claims of privilege based on religion or belief.”

He added that despite the fact that blasphemy is outlawed, in at least 59 countries punishable with a prison term or in some cases death, at least 36 countries continue to enforce their anti-blasphemy laws. There are laws against apostasy in 22 countries, and at least 13 countries provide for the use of the death penalty for blasphemy or apostasy. “These laws potentially automatically criminalize dissent and free-thinking, and victimize “non-believers”, humanists and atheists. What is even more shocking is the cruelty with which those who are accused of violating these laws are often punished – by state agents or by non-state actors, including neighbors and relatives,” according to Ahmed Shaheed.

Even the U.S. doesn’t have a perfect statistics. The report cited the following: “Despite the long history of the secular constitution, the Cold War Era in the 1950s saw increased paranoia towards atheism because of its association with Communism. In 1951 the Catholic group “The Knights of Columbus” successfully lobbied to have the words “Under God” added to the pledge of allegiance. Similarly, the United states Motto was established in 1956 as “In God We Trust” and can be found on all paper currency in the US.” That form of discrimination is so-called “systematic discrimination” unlike the forms of discrimination in countries where prevalent, atheists and apostates are often killed judicially or extra-judicially.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia

If you like our posts, subscribe to the Atheist Republic newsletter to get exclusive content delivered weekly to your inbox. Also, get the book "Why There is No God" for free.

Click Here to Subscribe

Donating = Loving

Heart Icon

Bringing you atheist articles and building active godless communities takes hundreds of hours and resources each month. If you find any joy or stimulation at Atheist Republic, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.

Or make a one-time donation in any amount.