By Hemant Mehta
Last year, when Humanists International released its annual “Freedom of Thought Report” describing serious cases of discrimination and persecution against atheists around the world, the bottom line was that 69 countries still believed blasphemy was a crime. The death penalty applied in six of them. 18 countries punished apostasy (leaving religion), and 12 of those said it was a capital offense.
Today, they released a supplement to that report, looking at the treatment of openly non-religious people in eight specific countries: Colombia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines and Sri Lanka.
What is it like to be a Humanist in those countries, which have a range of responses to those who reject religion?
Instead of conducting a survey or evaluating national policies, they did something different here. They just asked their members who lived in those countries what things were like on the ground. Did they feel persecuted? Have they been censored? What would they say is the general perception of atheists? That may not be scientific, but it’s not inaccurate either. This approach is rather clever, given how tough it would be to get a more scientific assessment of the problem in these nations.
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