Discrimination against atheists

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In certain countries, atheists face discrimination because of their lack of belief. Discrimination may be based on law, personal biases or social customs. A common type of discrimination is to bar atheists from holding political office. In more extreme cases, expressing one's atheism may be illegal. Many theists believe that atheists are immoral or morality depends on religion. Atheists who have abandoned their previous religious views may also be persecuted as apostates.

Discrimination by region[edit]

The Freedom of Thought Report is an annual rating of countries based on their discrimination and persecution of non-religious people. In the 2014 report, among the best countries which equality between theists and atheists are: Belgium, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Taiwan, Estonia, Kosovo, Netherlands and Sierra Leone.

Among the worst countries, with "grave violations" against atheists, are: Comoros, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Swaziland, Gambia, Mauritania, Nigeria, China, North Korea, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Maldives, Pakistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

A study found that fictional evil-doers were assumed to be atheist in almost all countries, particularly ones with a higher religiosity.[1]

Middle East[edit]

Saudi Arabia enacted laws that equate atheism with terrorism. The government of Egypt launched a campaign in June 2014 to warn of the "dangers of atheism".


The president of Malaysia accused "humanism and secularism as well as liberalism" of being "deviant". [2]

United States[edit]

In the US, atheists have almost the worst public image of any other belief grouping (atheism is approximately equal to Muslims). [3] Atheists are sometimes portrayed as unhappy, short lived and mentally unstable. [4] Most US Christians would be upset or unhappy if a close family member married an atheist. [5] In a 2014 survey of traits used by voters to select the US president, the trait that made most people less likely to vote for a candidate was atheism. [6]

Madison, a city in Wisconsin, banned discrimination against people on the grounds of their lack of religion. [7]


For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Bible article:

Some people argue that Christians should have the right to discriminate against atheists, citing freedom of conscience and playing on the idea that atheists are immoral.

"You know there is a lot of reasons why Christians or Jews might not want to hire an atheist. In fact it's in the New Testament. It says things such as 'avoid them', 'disassociate with them', in Romans, Thessalonians, Corinthians. You might want someone who believes in a higher power, for example maybe you are running an airline and hiring pilots and maybe you prefer they believe in Hell. I know that sounds extreme but that shows you why religion is so important, to so many people. To tell people you can't hire only people of faith intrudes on their free exercise of their faith. [8]"

Theists sometimes consider atheists getting the same anti-discrimination protections as them as "extra protections", which is odd considering theists already have those protections. Generally, anti-atheism discrimination laws are just equalising the level of protection between different protected groups.[8]

Catholic church[edit]

Some Catholic leaders claim that atheists are not fully human. [9]

"Man is by nature and vocation a religious being. Coming from God, going toward God, man lives a fully human life only if he freely lives by his bond with God. [10]"

"There is something not totally human if you leave out transcendent [God] and you [atheists] are not fully human. They have an impoverished understanding to what it is to be human. We are all made by God."

— Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor [9]


See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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