As we await the Humanists International Freedom of Thought Report for 2020, here are the ten best and worst countries for atheists, humanists, and secularists to live in based on last year’s Report.
Ireland is rated as having systemic discrimination, and is placed 115th out of 196 countries.
Ten Best Countries
The best ten countries, starting with the best, are Belgium, Netherlands, Taiwan, France, Japan, Nauru, São Tomé and Príncipe, Norway, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
At its best in these countries:
- The state is secular, with separation of religious and political authorities, not discriminating against any religion or belief
- There is no formal discrimination in education
- There are no religious tribunals of concern, secular groups operate freely, and individuals are not persecuted by the state
- No fundamental restrictions on freedom of expression or advocacy of humanist values
The Belgian Constitution states that:
“Enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognised for Belgians must be provided without discrimination. To this end, laws and federal laws guarantee among others the rights and freedoms of ideological and philosophical minorities”
“Freedom of worship, its public practice and freedom to demonstrate one’s opinions on all matters are guaranteed”
“No one can be obliged to contribute in any way whatsoever to the acts and ceremonies of a religion or to observe its days of rest”
Ten Worst Countries
The worst ten countries, starting with the worst, are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Maldives, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Brunei, Mauritania, Malaysia, and Sudan.
At its worst in these countries:
- Complete tyranny precludes all freedoms of thought and expression, religion or belief
- Religious authorities have supreme authority over the state
- State legislation is largely or entirely derived from religious law or by religious authorities
- Quasi-divine veneration of a ruling elite is enforced, subject to severe punishment
- The non-religious are barred from holding government office
- Religious or ideological indoctrination is utterly pervasive in schools
- Religious instruction in a significant number of schools is of a coercive fundamentalist or extremist variety
- Expression of non-religious views is severely persecuted, or is rendered almost impossible by severe social stigma, or is highly likely to be met with hatred or violence
- There is a pattern of impunity or collusion in violence by non- state actors against the nonreligious
- Government figures or state agencies openly marginalize, harass, or incite hatred or violence against the non-religious
- It is illegal to register an explicitly Humanist, atheist, secularist or other non-religious NGO or other human rights organisation, or such groups are persecuted by authorities
- Expression of core Humanist principles on democracy, freedom and human rights is brutally repressed
- ‘Apostasy’ or conversion from a specific religion is outlawed and punishable by death
- ‘Blasphemy’ or criticism of religion is outlawed and punishable by death
- It is illegal to advocate secularism or church-state separation, or such advocacy is suppressed
- It is illegal or unrecognised to identify as an atheist or as non-religious
This year’s Freedom of Thought Report will show whether any of these countries are becoming better or worse in their treatment of the nonreligious.