Humanists International just published the 2021 edition of the Freedom of Thought report. This new edition shows that discrimination, and in some cases persecution, of humanists, atheists and other non-religious persons is still rife.
Apostasy is prohibited by law in 17 countries, and punishable with death in 12 of them. Critique of religions is criminalised by laws against “blasphemy” or “offense to religious feelings” in 83 countries, often with jail sentences, and with death penalty in 6 of them.
Very often, the law favours the religious over humanists and non-believers, through direct State financing, tax exemptions, religious teaching in public schools…In many States, the law is inspired by religious conservatism or fundamentalism, which causes serious breaches of fundamental rights. Hegemony of religions in public life harms the human rights of women and LGBT+ people.
En Europe même, une minorité de pays est considérée par le rapport comme exempts de discrimination à cause de la religion ou de son absence ou de restrictions à la liberté de pensée. Les religions sont favorisées dans la grande majorité d’entre eux. En outre, le conservatisme religieux allié à des gouvernements aux tendances d’extrême-droite a causé des régressions des droits fondamentaux, notamment des droits sexuels et reproductifs.
Within Europe, only a minority of countries is described as free from any discrimination or restrictions to freedom of thought on the grounds of religion or lack thereof. Religions are favoured in a large majority of European countries. Moreover, the alliance of religious conservatives and fundamentalists with extreme right-wing governments has caused regression to fundamental rights, especially sexual and reproductive rights.
As Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed wrote in his foreword to the report, “freedom of thought is not only foundational for enjoying freedom within religion or belief (i.e. in choosing, exercising and converting one’s religion or belief), but also for exercising freedom from religion in thinking freely on all matters without the influence of religion or belief systems.”
Secularism is necessary to effectively guarantee freedom of thought for all thanks through keeping an equal distance between all religions and the political sphere. Secularism, a universal principle for the functioning of states, guarantees individual freedoms and the peaceful coexistence of various philosophical opinions and religious beliefs.
The Report on the state of Freedom of thought in the world shows that in these times of recurrence of religious obscurantism and fundamentalism and political authoritarianism, it is more necessary than ever to defend and promote secularism, in Europe and beyond.