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'Like lesser Americans': Atheists face discrimination, persecution, report says

GENEVA -- Atheists and other religious skeptics suffer persecution or discrimination in many parts of the world and in at least seven countries can be executed if their beliefs become known, according to a report issued Monday.

The study, from the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), showed that "unbelievers" in Islamic countries face the most severe -- sometimes brutal -- treatment at the hands of the state and adherents of the official religion.

But it also points to policies in some European countries and the United States that favor the religious and their organizations and treat atheists and humanists as outsiders.

The report, "Freedom of Thought 2012," said "there are laws that deny atheists' right to exist, curtail their freedom of belief and expression, revoke their right to citizenship, restrict their right to marry."

Other laws "obstruct their access to public education, prohibit them from holding public office, prevent them from working for the state, criminalize their criticism of religion, and execute them for leaving the religion of their parents."

In the United States, for example, where freedom of religion and speech is protected, a social and political climate prevails "in which atheists and the non-religious are made to feel like lesser Americans, or non-Americans," the report said.

In at least seven U.S. states, constitutional provisions are in place that bar atheists from public office and one state, Arkansas, has a law that bars atheists from testifying as witnesses at trials, the report said.


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When I was stationed in Virginia Beach (that was some years ago), I set up a freethinking and Wiccan computer bulletin board. It rapidly became the most popular computer BBS in Tidewater, with over five hundred active members.

It also came to the attention of CBN University, across town.

Then the trouble started, with putative students at CBN coming to my house to picket. Then death threats to my baby son and (now ex-)wife.

The Virginia Beach police would not disperse the pickets: they said I brought it on myself with my BBS.

It got so bad the Navy became fearful for our safety: it terminated my duty at NAS Oceana, and transferred me to recruiting duty in Massachusetts (right at the start of the Gulf War - that was no picnic).

A shameless plug for my White House petition to acknowledge atheists, agnostics, and don't cares are deserving of equal treatment in our country. Please at least look at it even if you don't sign it.

And pass it to others you know. Consider that Obama's campaign adviser does not think we are a constituency worthy of courting what that means both for us, and to the religious.

My immediate family are all Southern Baptist and I am treated as an outcast & termed the word strange. I am the only scientific atheist in the family to my knowledge. I have no expressed feelings about their opinion about me. I find their lack of intellect to be small minded, false based & irrelevant. The scientific method is the best tool humanity has today to explain the world we live in & the universe beyond. These Bronze Age thinkers are intimidated by us & I find it empowering. We need to keep bringing the fight to these theist & use the system of law to fight them until we are not treated as 3rd class citizens.


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