In 13 countries around the world, all of them Muslim, people who openly espouse atheism or reject the official state religion of Islam face execution under the law, according to a detailed study issued on Tuesday.
And beyond the Islamic nations, even some of the West's apparently most democratic governments at best discriminate against citizens who have no belief in a god and at worst can jail them for offences dubbed blasphemy, it said.
The study, The Freethought Report 2013, was issued by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), a global body uniting atheists, agnostics and other religious skeptics, to mark United Nations' Human Rights Day on Tuesday.
"This report shows that the overwhelming majority of countries fail to respect the rights of atheists and freethinkers although they have signed U.N agreements to treat all citizens equally," said IHEU President Sonja Eggerickx.
The study covered all 192 member states in the world body and involved lawyers and human rights experts looking at statute books, court records and media accounts to establish the global situation.
A first survey of 60 countries last year showed just seven where death, often by public beheading, is the punishment for either blasphemy or apostasy - renouncing belief or switching to another religion which is also protected under U.N. accords.
But this year's more comprehensive study showed six more, bringing the full list to Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
In others, like India in a recent case involving a leading critic of religion, humanists say police are often reluctant or unwilling to investigate murders of atheists carried out by religious fundamentalists.
Across the world, the report said, "there are laws that deny atheists' right to exist, revoke their citizenship, restrict their right to marry, obstruct their access to public education, prevent them working for the state...."
You know whenever I hear the Christians bitching about being persecuted, or somebody (Like Bristol for instance.) getting all worked up because a fellow Christian who was proselytizing in a non-Christian country has been kicked out or thrown in jail, I always think "Yeah but are they still being rounded up and killed in the streets?" Because THAT is exactly what is happening to people who dare to have no faith whatsoever, or who speak out against the repressive regimes who use religious as a bludgeon against its people.
That is why on this blog I will always stand up for the non religious and stand in opposition to those who wish to push their religion, and the "morals" associated with it, down our throats.
Freedom, TRUE freedom, means to be released from the shackles of ignorance and superstition.