World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Discrimination against atheists

Article Id: WHEBN0007194871
Reproduction Date:

Title: Discrimination against atheists  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Religious discrimination, Atheism, Criticism of atheism, Demographics of atheism, State atheism
Collection: Atheism, Discrimination, Persecution by Christians, Persecution by Muslims, Religious Discrimination, Religious Persecution
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Discrimination against atheists

Countries in which, as of 2007, apostasy of the local or state religion was punishable by execution under national (black) or regional (dark gray) law. Currently, this occurs only in Islamic nations.[1]

Discrimination against atheists, both at present and historically, includes the persecution of those identifying themselves or labeled by others as atheists, as well as discrimination against them. As atheism can be defined in various ways, those discriminated against on the grounds of being atheists might not have been considered as such in a different time or place. In 13 countries, people can face the death penalty if convicted of atheism.[1]

Legal discrimination against atheists is uncommon in constitutional democracies, although some atheists and atheist groups, particularly in the United States, have protested against laws, regulations, and institutions that they view as discriminatory. In some Islamic countries, atheists face discrimination and severe penalties such as the withdrawal of legal status or, in the case of apostasy, capital punishment.


  • Ancient times 1
  • Early modern period and Reformation 2
  • Modern era 3
    • Nazi Germany 3.1
  • Contemporary era 4
    • Human Rights 4.1
    • Western countries 4.2
      • Europe 4.2.1
      • Brazil 4.2.2
      • Canada 4.2.3
      • United States 4.2.4
    • Islamic countries 4.3
      • Algeria 4.3.1
      • Bangladesh 4.3.2
      • Iran 4.3.3
      • Saudi Arabia 4.3.4
      • Turkey 4.3.5
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Ancient times

Some historians, such as Lucien Febvre, have postulated that atheism in its modern sense did not exist before the end of the seventeenth century.[2][3][4] However, as governmental authority rested on the notion of divine right, it was threatened by those who denied the existence of the local god. Those labeled as atheist, including early Christians and Muslims, were as a result targeted for legal persecution.[5][6]

Early modern period and Reformation

During the Early modern period, the term "atheist" was used as an insult and applied to a broad range of people, including those who held opposing theological beliefs, as well as suicides, immoral or self-indulgent people, and even opponents of the belief in witchcraft.[2][3][7] Atheistic beliefs were seen as threatening to order and society by philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas. Lawyer and scholar Thomas More said that religious tolerance should be extended to all except those who did not believe in a deity or the immortality of the soul.[5] John Locke, a founder of modern notions of religious liberty, argued that atheists (as well as Catholics and Muslims) should not be granted full citizenship rights.[5]

During the Inquisition, several of those accused of atheism or blasphemy, or both, were tortured or executed. These included the priest Giulio Cesare Vanini who was strangled and burned in 1619 and the Polish nobleman Kazimierz Łyszczyński who was executed in Warsaw,[2][8][9] as well as Etienne Dolet, a Frenchman executed in 1546. Though heralded as atheist martyrs during the nineteenth century, recent scholars hold that the beliefs espoused by Dolet and Vanini are not atheistic in modern terms.[4][10][11]

Modern era

During the nineteenth century, British atheists, though few in number, were subject to discriminatory practices.[12] Those unwilling to swear Christian oaths during judicial proceedings were unable to give evidence in court to obtain justice until the requirement was repealed by Acts passed in 1869 and 1870.[12] In addition, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was expelled from the University of Oxford and denied custody of his two children after publishing a pamphlet titled The Necessity of Atheism.[13]

Atheist Charles Bradlaugh was elected as a Member of the British Parliament in 1880. He was denied the right to affirm rather than swear his oath of office, and was then denied the ability to swear the oath as other Members objected that he had himself said it would be meaningless. Bradlaugh was re-elected three times before he was finally able to take his seat in 1886 when the Speaker of the House permitted him to take the oath.[13]

Nazi Germany

In Germany during the Nazi era, a 1933 decree stated that "No National Socialist may suffer detriment... on the ground that he does not make any religious profession at all".[14] However, the regime strongly opposed "godless communism",[15][16] and most of Germany's atheist and largely left-wing

  • 2012 report on discrimination against atheists, humanists and the non-religious

External links

  1. ^ a b c Robert Evans (December 9, 2013). "Atheists face death in 13 countries, global discrimination: study".  
  2. ^ a b c Davidson, Nicholas (1992). "Unbelief and Atheism In Italy". In Michael Hunter; David Wootton. Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment. Oxford University Press. pp. 55–86.  
  3. ^ a b Armstrong, Karen (1994). A History of God: The 4000-year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Random House, Inc. pp. 286–87.  
  4. ^ a b Kelley, Donald R. (2006). Frontiers of History: Historical Inquiry in the Twentieth Century. Yale University Press. p. 115.  
  5. ^ a b c d Gey, Steven G. (2007). "Atheism and the Freedom of Religion". In Martin, Michael. The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 250–253, 260–2.  
  6. ^ Armstrong, Karen (1994). A History of God: The 4000-year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Random House, Inc. pp. 98, 147.  
  7. ^ Laursen, John Christian; Nederman, Cary J. (1997). Beyond the Persecuting Society: Religious Toleration Before the Enlightenment. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 142.  
  8. ^ Brooke, John Hedley (2005). Heterodoxy in Early Modern Science and Religion. Maclean, Ian. Oxford University Press.  
  9. ^ Kłoczowski, Jerzy (2000). A History of Polish Christianity. Cambridge University Press. p. 155.  
  10. ^ Onfray, Michel (2007). Atheist manifesto: the case against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Leggatt, Jeremy (translator). Arcade Publishing. p. 24.  
  11. ^ Chadwick, Owen (2003). The Early Reformation on the Continent By. Oxford University Press.  
  12. ^ a b Larson, Timothy (2003). "Victorian England". In Cookson, Catharine. Encyclopedia of religious freedom. New York: Routledge.  
  13. ^ a b Gey, Steven G. (2007). "Atheism and the Freedom of Religion". In Martin, Michael. The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 253–255.  
  14. ^ a b Baynes, Norman Hepburn (1969). The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922 – August 1939'. H. Fertig. p. 378. Without pledging ourselves to any particular Confession, we have restored faith to its pre-requisites because we were convinced that the people needs [sic] and requires [sic] this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out. 
  15. ^ Smith, Christian (1996). Disruptive religion: the force of faith in social-movement activism. Routledge. pp. 156–57.  
  16. ^ Stackelberg, Roderick (2007). The Routledge Companion to Nazi Germany. Routledge. pp. 136–8.  
  17. ^ Bock, Heike (2006). "Secularization of the modern conduct of life? Reflections on the religiousness of early modern Europe". In Hanne May. Religiosität in der säkularisierten Welt. VS Verlag fnr Sozialw. p. 157.  
  18. ^ Kaiser, Jochen-Christoph (2003). Christel Gärtner, ed. Atheismus und religiöse Indifferenz. Organisierter Atheismus. VS Verlag. pp. 122, 124–6.  
  19. ^ Ernst Helmreich, The German Churches Under Hitler. Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1979, p. 241.
  20. ^ Evans, Richard J. (2005). The Third Reich in Power. New York: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-303790-3; pp. 245-246
  21. ^ Himmler's Auxiliaries. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  22. ^ Richard J. Evans; The Third Reich at War; Penguin Press; New York 2009, p. 546
  23. ^ The Third Reich. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  24. ^ The Nazi Persecution of the Churches, 1933-1945 By John S. Conway p. 232; Regent College Publishing
  25. ^ "CCPR General Comment 22: 30/07/93 on ICCPR Article 18". 
  26. ^ International Federation for Human Rights (1 August 2003). "Discrimination against religious minorities in Iran" (PDF). Retrieved 3 March 2009. 
  27. ^ Davis, Derek H. "The Evolution of Religious Liberty as a Universal Human Right" (PDF). Retrieved 3 March 2009. 
  28. ^ Gervais, Will M.; Shariff, Azim F.; Norenzayan, Ara (2011). "Do You Believe in Atheists? Distrust Is Central to Anti-Atheist Prejudice" (PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101 (6): 1189–1206.  
  29. ^ Hartmann, René (March 2008). Most American secularists have few expectations..." An Interview with AAI president Stuart Bechman""". MIZ Magazine. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  30. ^ "Fee for leaving church is brought before European Court of Human Rights | I". International League of Non-religious and Atheists (IBKA). Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  31. ^ "Anmälan till JO – Riksdagens ombudsmän". Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  32. ^ "Why must agnostics be obliged to teach faith?". The Irish Times. 2 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  33. ^ Berkeley, Rob; Savita Vij (December 2008). "Right to Divide? Faith Schools and Community Cohesion" (PDF). London:  
  34. ^ Peev, Gerri (20 December 2007). "Religion: I don't believe in God". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). Retrieved 14 April 2010. 
  35. ^ Liljeberg Research International: Deutsch-Türkische Lebens und Wertewelten 2012, July/August 2012, p. 68
  36. ^ Die Welt: Türkische Migranten hoffen auf muslimische Mehrheit, 17 August 2012, retrieved 23 August 2012
  37. ^ "ΝΔ: Ο ελληνικός λαός πρέπει να γνωρίζει αν ο Τσίπρας είναι άθεος - η απάντηση ΣΥΡΙΖΑ". 
  38. ^ """Μεσογαίας Νικόλαος: "Αμαρτία αν δώσουμε ψήφο σε ανθρώπους χωρίς πίστη, αξίες και σεβασμό στην ιστορία. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  39. ^ "Μητροπολίτης Γόρτυνος: "Το ράσο μου πετάει τριφασικό ρεύμα" (Video)". Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  40. ^ "Ateus e drogados são os mais odiados pelos brasileiros". (in Portuguese). May 3, 2009. Retrieved August 4, 2013. 
  41. ^ "No More Prayers in Legislature". Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  42. ^ Hurst, Lynda (9 May 2008). "Stirring up yet another religious storm". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  43. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  44. ^ "Values". Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  45. ^ a b c d Dawkins, Richard (2006). The God Delusion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 43–46.  
  46. ^ Harris, Sam (24 December 2006). "10 myths – and 10 truths – about atheism". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  47. ^  
  48. ^ Zellner, William W. (December 1995). "Deep In The Bible Belt – One Atheist Professor's Experience". Freethought Today. Retrieved 2013-05-11. 
  49. ^ a b "Humanists Praise Pete Stark for "Coming Out" as a Nontheist". American Humanist. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  50. ^ Thornton, Paul (18 April 2007). "Disliked, not oppressed I may be a reviled atheist, but that doesn't mean I can claim equal victimhood with truly repressed minorities". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  51. ^ Grothe, D.J.; Dacey, Austin. "Atheism Is Not a Civil Rights Issue". Free Inquiry 24 (2). 
  52. ^ a b c West, Ellis M. (2006). "Religious Tests of Office-Holding". In Finkelman, Paul. Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties. CRC Press. pp. 1314–5.  
  53. ^ Giacalone, Robert A; Jurkiewicz, Carole L. (2005). Handbook of Workplace Spirituality and Organizational Performance. M.E. Sharpe.  
  54. ^ Urofsky, Melvin I. (2002). Religious Freedom: Rights and Liberties Under the Law. ABC-CLIO. pp. 39–40.  
  55. ^ Lampman, Jane (7 December 2006). "At swearing in, congressman wants to carry Koran. Outrage ensues.". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  56. ^ Douglas, Davison M. (2006). "Belief-Action Distinction in Free Exercise Clause History". In Finkelman, Paul. Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties. CRC Press. p. 119.  
  57. ^ Belknap, Michal R. (2005). The Supreme Court Under Earl Warren, 1953–1969. Univ of South Carolina Press.  
  58. ^ Friedman, Dan (2005). The Maryland State Constitution: A Reference Guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 44.  
  59. ^ Bishop, Ronald (2007). Taking on the Pledge of Allegiance: The News Media and Michael Newdow's Constitutional Challenge. SUNY Press. pp. 39–40.  
  60. ^ "US to keep 'under God' pledge". BBC News. 14 June 2004. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  61. ^ Mintz, Howard (15 June 2004). "U.S. Supreme Court Dismisses Pledge Challenge". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  62. ^ Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions, Phil Zuckerman*
  63. ^ Winkler v. Chicago School Reform Board
  64. ^ "Department of Defense settles part of litigation challenging its involvement with the Boy Scouts of America". 16 November 2004. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  65. ^ "National Boy Scout Organization Agrees to End All Local Government Direct Sponsorship of Troops and Packs". American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. Archived from the original on 2008-11-21. Retrieved 2006-03-02. 
  66. ^ "Boy Scouts Jamboree to Stay at Army Base". Washington Times. Archived from the original on 2006-04-19. Retrieved 2006-03-02. 
  67. ^ Marinucci, Carla (2007-03-14). "Stark's atheist views break political taboo". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  68. ^ "California Lawmaker Becomes Highest-Ranking Official To Say He's a Nonbeliever". Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  69. ^ "Critics Say Atheist N.C. City councilman Unworthy of Seat". Fox News. 7 April 2010. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  70. ^ "Faith in the System".  
  71. ^ Page, Susan (2007-03-12). "2008 race has the face of a changing America". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  72. ^ Penny Edgell; Joseph Gerteis; Douglas Hartmann (April 2006). "Atheists As "Other": Moral Boundaries and Cultural Membership in American Society" (PDF). American Sociological Review 71 (2): 218.  
  73. ^ "Atheists identified as America's most distrusted minority, according to new U of M study". UMN News. Retrieved 2006-03-22. 
  74. ^ (2009). Mandatory Prayer in the Army on YouTube. Retrieved on November 28, 2010
  75. ^ "MAAF (2009). Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers. Retrieved November 28, 2010 from http". // 27 April 2011. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  76. ^ "LaGrone, S. (2008). Soldier alleges religious bias at Lakenheath. Retrieved on November 28, 2010 from". Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  77. ^ "MILITARYRELIGIOUSFREEDOM.COM". Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  78. ^ Fleet, Josh (28 September 2010). "Jones, W. (2010). Air Force Academy Cites Progress In Tackling Religious Intolerance. Retrieved on November 28, 2010 from". Huffington Post. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  79. ^ "Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (n.d.) Report on chaplains. Retrieved on November 28, 2010 from". Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  80. ^ Fleet, Josh (16 January 2011). "Banks, Adelle (January 6, 2011) Army Faces Questions Over 'Spiritual Fitness' Test.". Huffington Post. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  81. ^ "MAAF. (December 30, 2010) The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program's Unconstitutional Soldier Fitness Tracker and Global Assessment Tool. Retrieved on January 6, 2010 from" (PDF). Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  82. ^
  83. ^ Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions Phil Zuckerman
  84. ^ Castle, Marie Alena. "Your money and/or your life: mugged by the mythmakers". Atheists For Human Rights. Retrieved 2009-02-27. 
  85. ^ O'Hair, Madalyn. "George H. W. Bush: "Atheists Neither Citizens Nor Patriots". American Atheists. Retrieved 2009-02-27. 
  86. ^ a b Burns, Saxon (30 November 2006). "Godless in Tucson; Atheists—the least-trusted group in America—speak out". Tucson Weekly. Retrieved 2009-02-27. 
  87. ^ Sherman, Rob. "Vice President Bush Quote Regarding Atheists". 
  88. ^ Frequently misquoted as "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots.", starting with GALA Interim (Fall 1988). "On the Barricades: Bush on Atheism".  .
  89. ^ "Transcript of President Bush's News Conference". New York Times. 4 November 2004. Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  90. ^ Constitution of the State of Arkansas (PDF). Little Rock, AR: Arkansas State Legislature. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  91. ^ "Constitution of Maryland". Annapolis, MD: Maryland State Archives. June 10, 2011. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  92. ^ "Constitution of the State of Mississippi" (PDF). Jackson, MS: Secretary of State, State of Mississippi. p. 117. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  93. ^ "North Carolina State Constitution Article VI Section 8.". Retrieved 2012-12-28. 
  94. ^ "South Carolina Constitution Article 17 Section 4.". Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  95. ^ "Article IX, Disqualifications". Tennessee Blue Book 2011-2012 (PDF). Nashville, TN: Secretary of State, State of Tennessee. 
  96. ^ "Texas Constitution, Article 1, Section 4.". Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  97. ^ "Pennsylvania Constitution, Article 1, Section 4.". Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  98. ^ Robert Evans (Dec 9, 2012). "Atheists around world suffer persecution, discrimination: report". Reuters. 
  99. ^ "International Humanist and Ethical Union - You can be put to death for atheism in 13 countries around the world". Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  100. ^ "Hanged for being a Christian in Iran".  
  101. ^ "Iran hangs man convicted of apostasy".  
  102. ^ a b c "Supporting Islam's apostates"
  103. ^ "'"Somali executed for 'apostasy.  
  104. ^ "Crimes punishable by death in the UAE include…apostasy - Freedom Center Students". Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  105. ^ a b "/news/archives/article.php". Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  106. ^ CTV news, "'Apostasy' laws widespread in Muslim world", quote: "Islamic Shariah law considers conversion to any religion apostasy and most Muslim scholars agree the punishment is death. Saudi Arabia considers Shariah the law of the land, though there have been no reported cases of executions of converts from Islam in recent memory."
  107. ^ Abdelaziz, Salma (2013-12-26). "Wife: Saudi blogger recommended for apostasy trial". Retrieved 2014-01-08. 
  108. ^ a b c "No God, not even Allah: Ex-Muslim atheists are becoming more outspoken, but tolerance is still rare". Economist. Nov 24, 2012. 
  109. ^ Kamrava, Mehran (2006). The new voices of Islam: reforming politics and modernity : a reader. I.B.Tauris. pp. 123–24.  
  110. ^ Hamad, Ahmad (1999). "Legal plurality and legitimation of human rights abuses". In Al-Zwaini, Laila; Baudouin Dupret; Berger, Maurits. Legal pluralism in the Arab world. The Hague: Kluwer Law International. p. 221.  
  111. ^ Zaki Badawi, M.A. (2003). "Islam". In Cookson, Catharine. Encyclopedia of religious freedom. New York: Routledge. pp. 204–8.  
  112. ^ Syria Violence Claims Head of Ancient Arab Poet. Reuters, 12 Feb. 2013. Accessed 15 Dec. 2013.
  113. ^ Jihadists Behead Statue of Syrian Poet Abul Ala Al-Maari. The Observers, France 24. 14 Feb. 2013. Accessed 15 Dec. 2013.
  114. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report 2008-Jordan". US of Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  115. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report 2007-Indonesia". US of Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  116. ^ "Amnesty Calls for Release of Jailed Indonesian Atheist", Jakarta Globe, 15 June 2012
  117. ^ Boyle, Kevin; Sheen, Juliet (1997). Freedom of Religion and Belief: A World Report. Routledge. p. 30.  
  118. ^ Al-Boray, Nagad (1999). "Egypt". Secrecy and Liberty: National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (International Studies in Human Rights). Berlin: Springer.  
  119. ^ "de beste bron van informatie over Lexalgeria. Deze website is te koop!". 2 January 2011. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  120. ^ Writer, Staff (May 30, 2015). "‘You’ll be next’: Bangladeshi blogger gets death threat on Facebook". Times of India (Kolkata: The times of India). 
  121. ^ a b "Discrimination against religious minorities in IRAN" (PDF). Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l`Homme and the Ligue de Défense des Droits de l'Homme en Iran. August 2003. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  122. ^ "Iranian Atheists Association: Issues". Iranian Atheists Association. 
  123. ^ "Iran: A legal system that fails to protect freedom of expression and association". Amnesty International. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  124. ^ "Apostasy in the Islamic Republic of Iran". Iranian Human Rights Documentation Center. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  125. ^ "Iranian Writer Sentenced to Death for Apostasy". Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  126. ^ "Human Rights Questions: Human Rights Situations and Reports of Special Rapporteurs and Representatives -- Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran". Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  127. ^ "Witness Statement: Mahmoud Roghani". Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  128. ^ "Iranian Atheists Association: About Us". Iranian date=. 
  129. ^ Adam Withnall (1 April 2014). "Saudi Arabia declares all atheists are terrorists in new law to crack down on political dissidents - Middle East - World". The Independent. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  130. ^ "A Quest for Equality: Minorities in Turkey". Minority Rights Group International. 2007. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 


See also

Compulsory religious instruction in Turkish schools is also considered discriminatory towards atheists.[130]


In March 2014, the Saudi interior ministry issued a royal decree branding all atheists as terrorists, which defines terrorism as "calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based".[129]

Atheism is prohibited in Saudi Arabia and can come with a death penalty if practiced.

Saudi Arabia

In Iran, atheism is not recognised as a belief in a legal sense. The law specifies that all citizens must declare themselves as Muslim, Christian, Jewish or Zoroastrian, with adherents of the latter three religions counted as religious minorities. The four recognised religions provide rights such as applying for entrance to university,[121][122] or becoming a lawyer, with the position of judge reserved for Muslims only.[123] The Penal Code is also based upon the religious affiliation of the victim and perpetrator, with the punishment oftentimes more severe on non-Muslims.[121][124] Numerous writers, thinkers and philanthropists have been accused of apostasy and sentenced to death for questioning the prevailing interpretation of Islam in Iran.[125][126][127] The Iranian Atheists Association was established in 2013 to form a platform for Iranian atheists to start debates and to question the current Islamic regime's attitude towards atheists, apostasy, and human rights.[128]


Several Bangladeshi atheists have been assassinated, and a "hit list" exists issued by the Bangladeshi Islamic organization, the Ansarullah Bangla Team. Activist atheist bloggers are leaving Bangladesh under threat of assassination.[120]


Atheist or agnostic men are prohibited from marrying Muslim women (Algerian Family Code I.II.31).[119] A marriage is legally nullified by the apostasy of the husband (presumably from Islam, although this is not specified; Family Code I.III.33). Atheists and agnostics cannot inherit (Family Code III.I.138.).

The study of Islam is a requirement in public and private schools for every Algerian child, irrespective of his/her religion.


Jordan requires atheists to associate themselves with a recognized religion for official identification purposes,[114] and atheists in Indonesia experience official discrimination in the context of registration of births and marriages, and the issuance of identity cards.[115] In 2012, Indonesian atheist Alexander Aan was beaten by a mob, lost his job as a civil servant and was sentenced to two and a half years in jail for expressing his views online.[116] In Egypt, intellectuals suspected of holding atheistic beliefs have been prosecuted by judicial and religious authorities. Novelist Alaa Hamad was convicted of publishing a book that contained atheistic ideas and apostasy that were considered to threaten national unity and social peace.[117][118]

Since an apostate can be considered a Muslim whose beliefs cast doubt on the Divine, and/or [108] In northwestern Syria in 2013 during the Syrian Civil War, jihadists beheaded and defaced a sculpture of Al-Maʿarri (973–1058 CE), one of several outspoken Arab and Persian atheist intellectuals who lived and taught during the Islamic Golden Age.[112][113]

According to popular interpretations of Islam, Muslims are not free to change religion or become an atheist: denying Islam and thus becoming an apostate is traditionally punished by death for men and by life imprisonment for women. The death penalty for apostasy is apparent in a range of Islamic states including: Iran,[100][101] Egypt,[102] Pakistan,[102] Somalia,[103] United Arab Emirates,[104] Qatar,[105] Yemen[105] and Saudi Arabia.[102] Although there have been no recently reported executions in Saudi Arabia,[106] a judge in Saudi Arabia has recently recommended that imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi go before a high court on a charge of apostasy, which would carry the death penalty upon conviction.[107] While a death sentence is rare, it is common for atheists to be charged with blasphemy or inciting hatred.[108] New "Arab Spring" regimes in Tunisia and Egypt have jailed several outspoken atheists.[108]

Atheists, or those accused of holding atheistic beliefs, may be subject to discrimination and persecution in many Islamic countries.[98] According to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, compared to other nations, "unbelievers... in Islamic countries face the most severe – sometimes brutal – treatment".[99] Atheists and other religious skeptics can be executed in at least thirteen nations: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.[1]

Islamic countries

Article 1, Section 4
"No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth."[97]

An eighth state constitution affords special protection to theists.

Article 19, Section 1
"No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court."[90]
Article 37
"That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution."[91]
Article 14, Section 265
"No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state."[92]
North Carolina:
Article 6, Section 8
"The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God."[93]
South Carolina:
Article 17, Section 4
"No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution."[94]
Article 9, Section 2
"No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state."[95]
Article 1, Section 4
"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being."[96]

The constitutions of these seven "Bible Belt" US states ban atheists from holding public office:

Prominent atheists and atheist groups have said that discrimination against atheists is illustrated by a statement reportedly made by [89]

[83][82] are often based on the "best interests of the child" principle, they leave family court judges ample room to consider a parent's ideology when settling a custody case. Atheism, lack of religious observation and regular church attendance, and the inability to prove one's willingness and capacity to attend to religion with one's children, have been used to deny custody to non-religious parents.child custody laws in the United States court rulings, atheist parents have been discriminated against, either directly or indirectly. As child custody In several [81][80].institutionalized discrimination, atheists have alleged Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program and recently, with the development of the [79][78][77][76][75][74] In a landmark move, California Representative [68][67] Few politicians have been willing to identify as non-theists, since such revelations have been considered "political suicide".

Several American atheists have used court challenges to assert discrimination against atheists. Michael Newdow challenged inclusion of the phrase "under God" in the United States Pledge of Allegiance on behalf of his daughter, claiming that the phrase was discriminatory against non-theists.[59] He won the case at an initial stage, but the Supreme Court dismissed his claim, ruling that Newdow did not have standing to bring his case, thus disposing of the case without ruling on the constitutionality of the pledge.[60][61] Respondents to a survey were less likely to support a kidney transplant for hypothetical atheists and agnostics needing it, than for Christian patients with similar medical needs.[62] As the Boy Scouts of America does not allow atheists as members, atheist families and the ACLU from the 1990s onwards have launched a series of court cases arguing discrimination against atheists. In response to ACLU lawsuits, the Pentagon in 2004 ended sponsorship of Scouting units,[63][64] and in 2005 the BSA agreed to transfer all Scouting units out of government entities such as public schools.[65][66]

In the United States, seven state constitutions include religious tests that would effectively prevent atheists from holding public office, and in some cases being a juror/witness, though these have not generally been enforced since the early twentieth century.[52][53][54] The U.S. Constitution allows for an affirmation instead of an oath in order to accommodate atheists and others in court or seeking to hold public office.[52][55] In 1961, the United States Supreme Court explicitly overturned the Maryland provision in the Torcaso v. Watkins decision, holding that laws requiring "a belief in the existence of God" in order to hold public office violated freedom of religion provided for by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[52][56][57] This decision is generally understood to also apply to witness oaths.[58]

Discrimination against atheists in the United States occurs in legal, personal, social, and professional contexts. Some American atheists compare their situation to the discrimination faced by ethnic minorities, LGBT communities, and women.[45][46][47][48] "Americans still feel it's acceptable to discriminate against atheists in ways considered beyond the pale for other groups," asserted Fred Edwords of the American Humanist Association.[49] However, other atheists reject these comparisons, arguing that while atheists may face disapproval they have not faced significant oppression or discrimination.[50][51]

Anti-atheist propaganda billboard posted in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in February 2008

United States

Canadian [43] and one of the core values is "Duty to God: Defined as, The responsibility to adhere to spiritual principles, and thus to the religion that expresses them, and to accept the duties therefrom."[44]


A 2009 survey showed that atheists are the most hated demographic group in Brazil, among several other minorities polled, being almost on par with drug addicts. According to the research, 17% of the interviewees stated they feel either hate or repulsion for atheists, while 25% feel antipathy and 29% are indifferent.[40]


In most of Europe, atheists are elected to office at high levels in many governments without controversy.[29] Some atheist organizations in Europe have expressed concerns regarding issues of separation of church and state, such as administrative fees for leaving the Church charged in Germany,[30] and sermons being organized by the Swedish parliament.[31] Ireland requires religious training from Christian colleges in order to work as a teacher in government-funded schools.[32] In the UK one-third of state-funded schools are faith-based.[33] However, there are no restrictions on atheists holding public office – the former Tsipras is an atheist", citing their political opponent's irreligiosity as a reason he should not be elected, even though they granted that "it is his right".[37] In the Elder Pastitsios case, a 27-year-old was sentenced to imprisonment for satirizing a popular apocalyptically-minded Greek Orthodox monk, while several metropolitans of the Greek Orthodox Church (which is not separated from the state) have also urged their flock "not to vote unbelievers into office", even going so far as to warn Greek Orthodox laymen that they would be "sinning if they voted atheists into public office."[38][39]


Modern theories of constitutional democracy assume that citizens are intellectually and spiritually autonomous and that governments should leave matters of religious belief to individuals and not coerce religious beliefs using sanctions or benefits. The constitutions, human rights conventions and the religious liberty jurisprudence of most constitutional democracies provides legal protection of atheists and agnostics. In addition, freedom of expression provisions and legislation separating church from state also serve to protect the rights of atheists. As a result, open legal discrimination against atheists is not common in most Western countries.[5] However, prejudice against atheists does exist in Western countries. A University of British Columbia study conducted in the United States found that believers distrust atheists as much as they distrust rapists. The study also showed that atheists have lower employment prospects.[28]

Western countries

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is designed to protect the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. In 1993, the UN's human rights committee declared that article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights "protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief."[25] The committee further stated that "the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views." Signatories to the convention are barred from "the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers" to recant their beliefs or convert. Despite this, minority religions still are persecuted in many parts of the world.[26][27]

Human Rights

Contemporary era

In a speech made later in 1933, Hitler claimed to have "stamped out" the Gottlosenbewegung atheistic movement.[14] The word Hitler used, "Gottlosenbewegung", means "Godless Movement" in German, and refers to the communist freethought movement, though might not refer to atheism in general. The historian Richard J. Evans wrote that, by 1939, 95% of Germans still called themselves Protestant or Catholic, while 3.5% were so called "gottgläubig" (lit. "believers in god", a non-denominational nazified outlook on god beliefs, often described as predominately based on creationist and deistic views[21]) and 1.5% atheist. According to Evans, those members of the affiliation gottgläubig "were convinced Nazis who had left their Church at the behest of the Party, which had been trying since the mid 1930s to reduce the influence of Christianity in society".[22] Heinrich Himmler, who was fascinated with Germanic paganism, was a strong promoter of the gottgläubig movement and didn't allow atheists into the SS, arguing that their "refusal to acknowledge higher powers" would be a "potential source of indiscipline".[23] The majority of the three million Nazi Party members continued to pay their church taxes and register as either Roman Catholic or Evangelical Protestant Christians.[24]

[20] as a whole and by 1939, all Catholic denominational schools had been disbanded or converted to public facilities.Reich concordat Hitler routinely disregarded this undertaking, and the [19] During negotiations leading to the Nazi-Vatican Concordat of April 26, 1933 Hitler stated that "Secular schools can never be tolerated" because of their irreligious tendencies.[18][17]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.