Monday, June 23, 2008

Discrimination and Persecution of Atheists, Agnostics and Irreligious People


There are still too many stories of different religions persecuting each other. None of these groups have the higher moral ground nor can they invoke their God to prove their God actually exists.

There are also instances (with less publicity) of persecution and discrimination against Atheists, Agnostics and Irreligious People. This is the Focus of this Post.

* * *


Article 18
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

ECHR & UKHRA98 - Article 9 - Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion
ECHR & HRA98 - Article 10 – Freedom of Expression

* * *

The Meaning of Atheism, Agnosticism and an Irreligious Person.

According to Wikipedia, Atheism, as an explicit position, can be either the affirmation of the nonexistence of gods, or the rejection of theism. It is also defined more broadly as synonymous with any form of nontheism, including the simple absence of belief in deities.

According to, An Atheist is a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

According to Wikipedia, Agnosticism (Greek: without + knowledge; after Gnosticism) is the philosophical view that the truth value of certain claims — particularly metaphysical claims regarding theology, afterlife or the existence of God, gods, deities, or even ultimate reality — is unknown or, depending on the form of agnosticism, inherently unknowable.

According to An Agnostic is
1. a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.
2. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.

According to Wikipedia, Irreligion is a lack of religion, indifference to religion, or hostility to religion. Depending on the context, it may be understood as referring to atheism, agnosticism, deism, skepticism, free thought, secular humanism or general secularism.

According to, An Irreligious Person is
1. not religious; not practicing a religion and feeling no religious impulses or emotions.
2. showing or characterized by a lack of religion.
3. showing indifference or hostility to religion.

* * *

Discrimination and Persecution in Specific Countries

Discrimination against atheists is a negative categorical bias against atheists or secularism. Such prejudice and discrimination is a type of religious intolerance. In nations where freedom of belief is biased towards established religions, the issue becomes persecution of atheists.

Even though religious freedom is guaranteed in the
Danish constitution some laws exists that are considered discriminatory against non-religious citizens. The state church is partially subsidized by public funds. The state pays for the salaries and pensions of bishops, the pensions of priests and provost, 40% of the salaries of priests and provosts and all expenses concerning the conduction of church services in Ertholmene. The monarch is required to be a member of the state church by the Danish Constitution.

Egypt introduced new identity cards in 2004 which identifies each citizen of Egypt as one of three religions: Muslim, Christian or Jewish. No other entries are possible, nor is it possible to leave the space for religion blank. If atheists are unwilling to lie about their religion, they are denied many basic human rights. Egyptian atheists cannot obtain birth certificates, death certificates, marriage or divorce certificates or passports. Without identity cards they have no access to medical treatment, cannot vote, cannot be employed, cannot do business with banks, not even to withdraw money from their own bank accounts.

This treatment is a requirement of Sharia law, which the Egyptian constitution states goes above normal law, and even above the constitution. This treatment of atheists is not limited to Egypt, but is practiced in almost all muslim-majority nations, with the notable exception of Turkey.

Religious freedom is constitutionally guaranteed, yet the state collects a church tax ("Kirchensteuer") from all registered members of the Evangelical and Catholic Christian faiths. De-registering oneself costs up to €50, depending on the federal state (as of 2000, has increased in the meantime). Payment is not required when switching between the two "taxed" faiths. This fee is required, too, if the person who wants to leave the church doesn't have any own income, in cases of someone who is 14 (the legal age in Germany at which a person can chose his religion without the parent's consent), or in cases of someone who is unemployed.

In Iran, Irreligious people are not recognized as citizens. While Jews, Christians and other minorities have the right to take part in university entrance exams and can become members of parliament or city councils, irreligious people are not granted even their basic rights. Most irreligious people, however, hide their beliefs and pretend to be Muslims. Non-believers—atheists—under Islam do not have "the right to life".
Apostasy in Iran is punishable by death.

In 2007, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of Norwegian parents who had sued the Norwegian state. The case was about a subject in compulsory school, kristendomskunnskap
med religions- og livssynsorientering (Teachings of Christianity with orientation about religion and philosophy), KRL. The applicants complained that the refusal to grant full exemption from KRL prevented them from ensuring that their children received an education in conformity with their atheist views and philosophical convictions. A few years earlier, in 2004, the UN Committee on Human Rights in Geneva had given its support to the parents.

In Sweden, generally considered one of the most secularized countries in the world, there exist laws that could be considered discriminatory towards atheists: The king of Sweden must according to the law be a Christian. This is seen as an endorsement of Christianity by many atheists. Until 2000, Sweden had an official state church. Even after the law was changed, there is a special law that regulates the church and its affairs. In many public schools, the commencement after each semester is held in a church and a priest delivers a sermon. Sometimes schools go to church to celebrate holidays. When atheists have objected to this "tradition", politicians have defended it.

United States
In the United States, there is widespread disapproval of atheists. For example, according to, 52% of Americans claim they would not vote for a well-qualified atheist for president. More recently a 2007 Gallup poll produced nearly identical results. A 2006 study at the University of Minnesota showed atheists to be the most distrusted minority among Americans. Notwithstanding such attitudes, atheists are legally protected from discrimination in the United States. They have been among the strongest advocates of the legal
separation of church and state. American courts have regularly, if controversially, interpreted the constitutional requirement for separation of church and state as protecting the freedoms of non-believers, as well as prohibiting the establishment of any state religion.

Several private organizations, the most notable being the Boy Scouts of America, do not allow atheist members. However, this policy has come under fire by organizations who assert that the Boy Scouts of America do profit from taxpayer money and thus cannot be called a truly private organization, and thus must admit atheists (along with homosexuals, and others currently barred from membership).

An organization called Scouting for All, founded by Eagle Scout Steven Cozza, is at the forefront of the movement to expose perceived hypocrisy on the part of the Boy Scouts of America. Cozza and others allege that when the BSA wants to discriminate, they act as a private organization; when they want money or the use of publicly-funded buildings, venues, or property, they act as a public organization.

* * *


USA - Atheist Soldier Claims Harassment - 26 April 2008 -CNN

USA - Discrimination Against Atheists - The Facts by Margaret Downey - Free Inquiry Magazine, V. 24, #4

USA - Religion in America: Atheists Claim Discrimination By Caroline Hsu
2 August 2005 - U.S. News & World Report

USA - Army to EO Reps: “Discrimination Against Atheists OK” By Wayne Adkins
29 April 2007 - American Chronicle

USA - Atheist Discrimination in the Army: A Firsthand Account By Elaine Friedman
16 May 2007 -

USA - - A Free Service for Atheists from American Atheists

Portugal - Atheists Create First Portuguese Association 7 June 2008 The Portugal News OnLine

UK - Our Lost Religion - The atheists may cheer the exit from organised religious belief, but there's no virtue in wholesale ignorance. Friday April 13, 2001 The Guardian

Morocco -
The situation of atheists; discrimination or ill-treatment of these people by the state - 28 October 2004 - UNHCR

Poland - The aim of is to consolidate the community of atheists in Poland, to inform about atheism and atheists, to represent their outlook on life and to protect the ideas of pluralism, tolerance, free-thought and democracy.

Italy - Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics

* * *


The following list of famous people have either been specifically identified as an "atheist" by a reliable source, or have expressed a position that is firmly consistent with atheism. Persons who have merely criticized religion are excluded. Names have been taken from

Sir Edward Battersby Bailey FRS (1881–1965): British geologist, director of the British Geological Survey.
Hermann Bondi (1919–2005): Anglo-Austrian mathematician and cosmologist, best known for co-developing the steady-state theory of the universe and important contributions to the theory of general relativity.
Sean M. Carroll (1956–): American cosmologist specializing in dark energy and general relativity.
Francis Crick (1916–2004): English molecular biologist, physicist, and neuroscientist; noted for being one of the co-discoverers of the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962.
Richard Dawkins (1941–): British zoologist, biologist, creator of the concepts of the selfish gene and the meme; outspoken atheist and popularizer of science, author of The God Delusion and founder of theRichard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.
Albert Einstein (1879–1955): German-born theoretical physicist, best known for his theory of relativity and recipient of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Sigmund Freud (1856–1939): Father of psychoanalysis.
E. T. 'Teddy' Hall (1924–2001): English archaeological scientist, famous for exposing the Piltdown Man fraud and dating the Turin Shroud as a medieval fake.
G. H. Hardy (1877–1947): a prominent English mathematician, known for his achievements in number theory and mathematical analysis.
Stephen Hawking CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA (1942–): British theoretical physicist, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, known for his contributions to the fields of cosmology and quantum gravity, especially in the context of black holes, and his popular works in which he discusses his own theories and cosmology in general, including A Brief History of Time.
Sir Julian Huxley FRS (1887–1975): English evolutionary biologist, a leading figure in the mid-twentieth century evolutionary synthesis, Secretary of the Zoological Society of London (1935-1942), the first Director of UNESCO, and a founding member of the World Wildlife Fund.
Sir Peter Medawar (1915–1987): Nobel Prize-winning British scientist best known for his work on how the immune system rejects or accepts tissue transplants.
Jonathan Miller (1934–): British physician, actor, theatre and opera director, and television presenter. Wrote and presented the 2004 television series, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, exploring the roots of his own atheism and investigating the history of atheism in the world.
Desmond Morris (1928–): English zoologist and ethologist, famous for describing human behaviour from a zoological perspective in his books The Naked Ape and The Human Zoo.
John Allen Paulos (1945–): Professor of mathematics at Temple University in Philadelphia and writer, author of Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up (2007)
Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936): Nobel Prize winning Russian physiologist, psychologist, and physician, widely known for first describing the phenomenon of classical conditioning.
Carl Sagan (1934–1996): American astronomer and astrochemist, a highly successful popularizer of astronomy, astrophysics, and other natural sciences, and pioneer of exobiology and promoter of the SETI.
Eleazar Sukenik (1889–1953): Israeli archaeologist and professor of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, undertaking excavations in Jerusalem, and recognising the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls to Israel.
Alan Turing (1912–1954): English mathematician, logician, and cryptographer; often considered to be the father of modern computer science. The Turing Award, often recognized as the "Nobel Prize of computing", is named after him.
Matthew Turner (d. c.1789): chemist, surgeon, teacher and radical theologian, author of the first published work of avowed atheism in Britain (1782).
Steve Wozniak (1950–): co-founder of Apple Computer and inventor of the Apple I/II.

Mary Adams (1898–1984): English producer and administrator in the BBC, instrumental in setting up the BBC's television service.
Joan Bakewell CBE (1933–): English television presenter and journalist.
Paul Bettany (1971–): English actor, known for his roles in A Knight's Tale, A Beautiful Mind, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and The Da Vinci Code.
Derren Brown (1971–): English psychological illusionist, mentalist, and skeptic of paranormal phenomena. Professed to being an atheist in his book Tricks of the Mind and described Bertrand Russell's collection of essays Why I Am Not a Christian "an absolute joy."
Charlie Chaplin (1889–1977): English comedy actor, director and musician; he is considered to be one of the finest mimes and clowns caught on film.
Billy Connolly (1942—): Scottish comedian, actor and presenter.
Sir Noël Coward (1899–1973): English actor, playwright and composer of popular music.
David Cronenberg OC, FRSC (1943–): Canadian film director, one of the principal originators of the 'body horror' genre.
Mackenzie Crook (1971–): English actor and comedian, known for playing Gareth Keenan in The Office and Ragetti in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Jodie Foster (1962–): American film actress, director, and producer. Two-time Academy Award-winner.
Stephen Fry (1957–): British humourist, writer, actor and filmmaker.
Ricky Gervais (1961 –): Emmy winning English TV and film star, Gervais is best known for his shows The Office and Extras, both of which he starred in and co wrote along with with fellow atheist Stephen Merchant.
Tony Hancock (1924–1968): British actor and comedian, star of the popular Hancock's Half Hour.
Sir David Hare (1947–): Award-winning English dramatist and theatre and film director.
Katharine Hepburn (1907–2003): American actress who appeared in 53 films from 1932 to 1994; winner of four Academy Awards for Best Actress.
John Huston (1906–1987): American Academy Award-winning film director and actor, especially known for the classic films The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Asphalt Jungle, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key Largo, The African Queen, The Misfits and The Man Who Would Be King.
Skandar Keynes (1991–): English actor (Chronicles of Narnia films).
Hugh Laurie OBE (1959–): English actor, comedian and writer, star of the television show House.
Nigella Lawson (1960–): English journalist, food writer, broadcaster and television presenter.
Kevin Macdonald (1967–): Scottish two-time BAFTA winning director, most famous for his films The Last King of Scotland and Touching the Void.
Sir Ian McKellen (1939–): English stage and screen actor.
Stephen Merchant (1974–): British actor and writer, co-creator of The Office.
George Meyer (1956–): American television producer and writer, notably for The Simpsons.
Helen Mirren DBE (1945–): English stage, television and Oscar-winning actress film actress.
Jack Nicholson (1937—): American actor, three time Academy Award-winner. Nicholson told Vanity Fair he doesn't believe in God anymore but envies people with faith.
Julia Phillips (1944–2002): Academy Award-winning film producer and author, the first woman to win an Oscar as a producer.[67]
Griff Rhys Jones (1953–): Welsh comedian, writer, actor and television presenter.
Omar Sharif - Academy Award-nominated Egyptian actor who has starred in many Hollywood films; an Egyptian Melkite Catholic who converted to Islam, but is now an atheist.
Theo van Gogh (1957–2004): Dutch film director, television producer, publicist and actor, murdered following the broadcasting of his film Submission.
Peter White (1947–): English broadcast journalist and DJ; blind since birth, he is closely associated with disability issues.[89]
Gene Wilder (1933–): American actor best known for his role as Willy Wonka.

Douglas Adams (1952–2001): British radio and television writer and novelist, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Tariq Ali (1943–): British-Pakistani historian, novelist, filmmaker, political campaigner and commentator.
Sir Kingsley Amis (1922–1995): English novelist, poet, critic and teacher, most famous for his novels Lucky Jim and the Booker Prize-winning The Old Devils.
Eric Ambler OBE (1909–1998): influential English writer of spy novels who introduced a new realism to the genre.
Isaac Asimov (1920–1992): Russian-born American author of science fiction and popular science books.
Aldo Braibanti (1922–): Italian writer and dramatist, famous for having been sentenced to nine years' imprisonment for 'plagiarism'.
João Cabral de Melo Neto, (1920–1999): Brazilian poet, considered one of the greatest Brazilian poets of all time.
Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917–2008): British scientist and science-fiction author.
Roddy Doyle (1958–): Irish novelist, dramatist and screenwriter, winner of the Booker Prize in 1993.
George Eliot (1819–1890): Mary Ann Evans, the famous novelist, was also a humanist and propounded her views on theism in an essay called Evangelical Teaching'.
Ken Follett (1949ndash;): British author of thrillers and historical novels.
E. M. Forster OM (1879–1970): English novelist, short story writer, and essayist, best known for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th century British society.
Alex Garland (1970–): British novelist and screenwriter, author of The Beach and the screenplays for 28 Days Later and Sunshine.
Constance Garnett (1861–1946): English translator, whose translations of nineteenth-century Russian classics which first introduced them widely to the English and American public.
Sir William Golding (1911–1993): British novelist, poet and Nobel Prize for Literature laureate, best known for his novel Lord of the Flies.
Graham Greene OM, CH (1904–1991): English novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenwriter, travel writer and critic.
Germaine Greer (1939–): Australian feminist writer. Greer describes herself as a "Catholic atheist".
David Grossman (1954–): Israeli author of fiction, nonfiction, and youth and children's literature.
R. J. Hollingdale (1930–2001): English biographer and translator of German philosophy and literature, President of The Friedrich Nietzsche Society, and responsible for rehabilitating Nietzsche's reputation in the English-speaking world.
Ludovic Kennedy (1919–): British journalist, author, and campaigner for voluntary euthanasia.
Paul Krassner (1932–): American founder and editor of the freethought magazine The Realist, and a key figure in the 1960s counterculture.
W. Somerset Maugham CH (1874–1965): English playwright, novelist, and short story writer, one of the most popular authors of his era.
Charles Maurras (1868–1952): French author, poet, and critic, a leader and principal thinker of the reactionary Action Française.
Ian McEwan, CBE (1948–): British author and winner of the Man Booker Prize.
Arthur Miller (1915–2005): American playwright and essayist, a prominent figure in American literature and cinema for over 61 years, writing a wide variety of plays, including celebrated plays such as The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, All My Sons, and Death of a Salesman, which are widely studied.
Sir John Mortimer CBE QC (1923–): English barrister, dramatist and author, famous as the creator of Rumpole of the Bailey.
Dame Iris Murdoch (1919–1999): Dublin-born writer and philosopher, best known for her novels, which combine rich characterization and compelling plotlines, usually involving ethical or sexual themes.
Aziz Nesin (1915–1995): Turkish humorist and author of more than 100 books.
George Orwell (1903–1950): English writer and journalist, a novelist, critic, and commentator on politics and culture, one of the most admired English-language essayists of the twentieth century, and most famous for two novels critical of totalitarianism in general (Nineteen Eighty-Four), and Stalinism in particular (Animal Farm).
Harold Pinter (1930–): British playwright, screenwriter, poet, actor, director, author, and political activist, best known for his plays The Birthday Party (1957), The Caretaker (1959), The Homecoming (1964), and Betrayal (1978). Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005.
Terry Pratchett (1948–): English Fantasy author known for his satirical Discworld series.
Salman Rushdie (1947–): Indian-born British essayist and author of fiction.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822): British Romantic poet, contemporary and associate of John Keats and Lord Byron, and author of The Necessity of Atheism.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894): Scottish novelist, poet and travel writer, especially famous for his works Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Allen Tate (1899–1979): American poet, essayist and social commentator, and Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress 1943–1944.
Sue Townsend (1946–): British novelist, best known as the author of the Adrian Mole series of books.
Naguib Mahfouz - Egyptian novelist who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature and is regarded as one of the first contemporary writers of Arabic literature.
Ismail Kadare - World-renowned Albanian writer.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
(1969–): Dutch feminist and politician.
Natalie Angier (1958–): Nonfiction writer and science journalist for The New York Times; 1991 winner of Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting.
Peter Brearey (1939–1998): British secularist, socialist and journalist, Editor of The Freethinker from 1993 until his death.
William Montgomery Brown (1855–1937): Episcopal bishop and Communist author.
Richard Carrier (1969–): historian, philosopher, and atheist activist.
Chapman Cohen (1868–1954): English freethought writer and lecturer, and an editor of The Freethinker and president of the National Secular Society.
Margaret Downey is an atheist activist who is the current President of Atheist Alliance International.[9]
Joseph Edamaruku (1934–2006): Indian journalist, author, leader in the rationalist movement, and winner of the International Atheist Award in 1979.
Saraswathi Gora (1912–2006): Indian social activist, wife of Gora and leader of the Atheist Centre for many years, campaigning against untouchability and the caste system.
George Holyoake (1817–1906): English secularist. Holyoake was the last person in England to be imprisoned (in 1842) for being an atheist.[21] He coined the term "secularism" in 1846.
Ellen Johnson: President of American Atheists, 1995-2008.
Hemant Mehta (c.1983–): Author of I Sold My Soul on eBay, chair of the Secular Student Alliance and author of the blog
Michael Newdow (1953–): American physician and attorney, who sued a school district on the grounds that its requirement that children recite the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, containing the words "under God", breached the separation-of-church-and-state provision in the establishment clause of the United States Constitution.
Charles Lee Smith (1887–1964): an atheist activist in the United States and an editor of the Truth Seeker until his death. He also founded the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism. Smith was arrested twice in 1928 for selling atheist literature and for blasphemy. Since he refused to swear an oath to God on the Bible, he was not allowed to testify in his own defense.
Barbara Smoker (1923–): British humanist activist and freethought advocate. Wrote the book Freethoughts: Atheism, Secularism, Humanism – Selected Egotistically from The Freethinker.

* * *

No comments: