More Countries Exhibiting Aggression Toward Atheists

For Immediate Release: June 21, 2018
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785


Center for Inquiry Spotlights Hostility Toward Nonreligious in Pew Report

Hostility and harassment toward atheists and the religiously unaffiliated around the world is growing at a frightening rate, according to new data released by the Pew Research Center. While there is a rise in hostility toward religious groups overall in recent years, the Center for Inquiry raised the alarm over reports of overt antagonism toward the nonreligious in an increasing number of countries .

Pew showed that there are 14 countries in which the religiously unaffiliated are being harassed. Though this number remained unchanged from 2015 to 2016, those 14 countries represent a sudden and significant vault from only four countries in 2014.

“This report confirms that the significant increase in hostility toward the nonreligious that Pew found in 2015 is not an anomaly. It also confirms what we hear firsthand from nonbelievers around the world,” said Jason Lemieux, Government Affairs Director of the Center for Inquiry. “The rights and the lives of the openly nonreligious are threatened at an unprecedented level.”

Among nine countries where Pew identified “very high” levels of social hostility toward religious groups, one new entrant, Bangladesh, stands out for the harassment, persecution, and murder of atheist and secularist writers and activists.

In 2015 the Center for Inquiry launched Secular Rescue, a program to help those persecuted secularist writers and activists in countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Iraq whose lives are in danger, offering financial and logistical assistance to bring them to safety. With CFI’s help, dozens of threatened secularists and their families have been relocated, including PEN Writer of Courage Award recipient Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury (better known as “Tutul”), activist Shammi Haque, Iraqi student and activist Lubna Yaseen Banner, blogger Humi Brown (an alias), and many more, several whose identities must be kept secret for their safety.

CFI is an NGO with special consultative status at the United Nations Human Rights Council where the organization regularly calls out countries that persecute atheists, and opposes blasphemy laws that are used as tools of repression against nonbelievers.

“The overall rise in religious restriction around the world is a serious problem that demands our attention and efforts,” said Matthew Cravatta, coordinator of CFI’s Secular Rescue program. “But the threats against atheists and secularists have skyrocketed in just the last few years. People are being terrorized into silence and their lives are in danger, right now.”

“The rise in hostility toward the nonreligious is largely due to a rise in government harassment,” said Lemieux. “Social antagonism and the threat of mob retaliation for perceived slights against religion by atheists remains a grave concern, and it is all the more troubling that state governments, those charged with protecting the people’s rights, are becoming an even greater source of prejudice, persecution, and aggression toward nonreligious citizens.”

“As governments, activists, and the media absorb the whole of Pew’s valuable report, it’s crucial that the plight of the nonreligious is not lost in the shuffle,” said Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “The international community must rally to reverse this trend before more voices are silenced and more lives are lost.”

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at