Lifestyle & Belief

Atheists face widespread international discrimination, UN is told


People listen during the Reason Rally on the National Mall March 24, 2012 in Washington, DC. Atheists and those who oppose religion in government gathered for a rally where they celebrated not having religious affiliations.



Is non-belief the most dangerous belief? That's the stance of a global atheist group, the International Humanist and Ethical Union, which has submitted a document to the UN describing the persecution non-believers face in many nations. 

The IHEU noted that in many countries, including Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the Maldives, and Pakistan, "atheists can face the death penalty on the grounds of their belief" — a direct violation of the United Nation's Human Rights Accords. 

The IHEU document added that other international legal measures "effectively criminalize atheism (and) the expression and manifestation of atheist beliefs," added Reuters.

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How many atheists are out there? According to a Gallup poll of 57 nations, 23 percent surveyed said they were "not religious," while 13 percent identified themselves as "committed atheists."

China is the world's most atheist country, followed by Japan, the Czech Republic, France, and South Korea, the poll found.

Ghana was the world's most religious nation, followed by Nigeria, Armenia, Fiji, and Macedonia.

The poll also found that people in bottom income groups were 17 percent more religious than those in higher income groups, indicating a correlation between economic prosperity and religious belief.

IHEU claims that it submitted its document to the UN in advance of renewed efforts by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to form international agreements against the "defamation" of religion.

The IHEU also notes on their Facebook page that "atheists' free speech online is increasingly threatened in some countries by laws against blasphemy and apostasy."