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Saturday, December 10, 2016

The best countries for atheists

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is a collection of Humanist, atheist, secular and similar organizations from many countries. It publishes the Freedom of Thought Report, which purports to be, "A global report on discrimination against humanists, atheists, and the nonreligious." The group intends to highlight systemic discrimination.

We believe it is important to document discriminatory national laws and state authorities which violate freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression. As well as affecting the overtly nonreligious, such as atheists and Humanists, such systemic discrimination also often affects the religious, in particular minorities and non-conformists, and the unaffiliated (those who hold no particular religion or worldview-level belief).

Systemic, legal discrimination can include such things as established state churches (resulting in religious privilege), religious instruction provided without secular ethical alternative classes in schools, through to severe punishments such as prison for crimes of “insulting” religion, or death merely for expressing your atheism.
There are four categories of systemic discrimination: Constitution and government; Education and children’s rights; Family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals; and Freedom of expression advocacy of humanist values. For each category there are six possible rankings [see Ratings System]:
Black = Grave Violations
Red = Severe Discrimination
Orange = Systemic Discrimination
Yellow = Mostly Satisfactory
Green = Free and Equal
Gray = No Rating
Here's the result for the entire world.

Canada is ranked as "Systemic Discrimination" in all four categories. The USA gets the best rating (Free and Equal) in two categories: "Education and children’s rights" and "Freedom of expression advocacy of humanist values." It gets the second highest rating (Mostly Satisfactory) in: "Constitution and government" and "Family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals."

The conclusion is obvious. If you are an atheist you are much better off living in the USA than in Canada!

Hemant Mehta, better known as The Friendly Atheist, published the same figure on his blog a few days ago [New Report Highlights the Worst Countries in the World for Atheist Citizens. Many Canadians responded in the comments. One of them, CanuckAmuck, said,
I am dubious about some of the standards of this report. Not to appear butthurt, but to equate Canada to Russia in terms of "Constitution and the Government" is to say the least, asinine. And to report that "Society and Community" is "graver" for the atheist here than in the U.S. is likewise so.
I agree completely. Read the other comments to see what others think of this report.

Respond in the comments if you think atheists are better off in the USA than in Canada.


  1. If you read the report, the rating is easily justified as it relies mostly on legislative factors. So things like the Catholic public school systems, mention of the "supremacy of God" in the constitution, the existence of blasphemy laws, the presence of a crucifix in the Quebec National Assembly, etc., all factor in.

    Whether these by themselves make Canada as as a society less accepting of atheism seems dubious to me.

    1. I know what the report is based on. That doesn't mean it's "easily justified." It's ridiculous to conclude that in Canada there's systemic discrimination against humanists and atheists but not in the USA.

      It makes the report biased and useless.

    2. Agreed. The criteria they use are useless. Canada may have a law against blasphemy but it is literally never enforced and I doubt a single person has ever stopped himself from blaspheming because of it. It's as anachronistic as the recently repealed law criminalizing anal sex (Not to mention the still-extant law against selling crime commics.)

      That said, we do deserve to be marked down for permitting a religious school system.

    3. I was told once that several American states have laws against atheists holding elected offices. Is this true?

      I was also told that the phrase "In God we trust" is the official motto of the United States and it appears on their currency. Surely this can't be true in in a country that's so free and equal?

      What about Charter schools? Aren't some of them religious? That means they get state funds, right?

      Do you think anyone is going to say a prayer at Trump's inauguration?

      How many atheists/nonbelievers have been elected to Congress (or President)? What about state legislatures? Are there a lot of atheists there?

      Evolution is not taught or severely neglected in many American schools. Is that because America is a very secular society that doesn't let religion influence public policy?

    4. Dr. Moran, You're right. Those things are true in the U.S. In many areas, atheists are as free as anybody else, but in many other areas, there is quiet pressure against atheism.

      Formal, public events in government and schools often start with Christian prayers. On the one hand, those prayers are purely ceremonial, but try to get them stopped and you'll find that lots of people consider them essential and anyone who would oppose them dangerous.

    5. but in many other areas, there is quiet pressure against atheism

      I lived in Oklahoma for a time. In many areas, the pressure against all non-Protestants is more than quiet.

    6. What about Charter schools? Aren't some of them religious? That means they get state funds, right?

      The US Department of Education requires that charter schools follow the same requirements as other public schools in this regard. They are not to provide religious instruction, but may teach about religion from a secular viewpoint. Is this requirement ever violated in charter or other public schools? I'm sure it is. Call 911.

      There is some limited federal'/state funding permitted for non-public religious schools under various court decisions.

    7. It's ridiculous to conclude that in Canada there's systemic discrimination against humanists and atheists but not in the USA.

      Depends what you mean by "systemic." The report focuses on one facet of the total societal environment, the official, legal side. How laws and regulations are enforced and how society at large thinks of and treats atheists are other factors that are more important, and the report apparently doesn't speak to that. It doesn't make the report completely useless, but does limit the area of its usefulness.

      I would think Russia and the former Eastern bloc nations would have a quite favorable atmosphere for atheism, having encouraged (and more than encouraged) it officially for so many decades.

  2. Perhaps in practice atheists are live as well if not better in Canada than in the US, but there is a lot of official support of religion in Canada than the US religious right can only dream of -- publicly funded religious schools (if you want to have your kids indoctrinated in your religion at school in the US you have to pay out of pocket), not to mention the French lyrics of the Canadian anthem that go "Car ton bras sait porter l'épée, Il sait porter la croix.".

  3. I cannot claim expertise on how life is in the USA and Canada, but as an outside observer it seems clear that something is off with these results. Surely one would have to take into account that people would face a lot of non-official discrimination in many rural parts of the USA if they were openly non-believing?

    As for the countries I can judge, I have no idea why, just like Canada, Germany and Australia merit "system(at)ic discrimination" or worse across the board. I have yet to experience any such thing after living in the former for 28 years and in the latter for more than six years now.

    I get if Germany, for example, gets a bad colour for government given the preferential treatment of Lutheranism and Catholicism in politics and taxes, but why "severe discrimination" for advocacy? Is this about hate speech laws that forbid advocating for genocide? If so, ye gods.

  4. This is hilarious. Its so patently done by a activist group unrelated to interest in actual investigation of how beliefs are dealt with in nations.
    Any people have a right to establish god as the source of their nations foundation and strenght.
    canada and america were founded in the belief , and the beliefs, of the people that God existed and was the head of the nations. still is.
    In fact in north america is is religious peoples and ideas that are, at the moment, opposed and oppressed, to some degree, by the state.
    this from the the type of activists who targeted sources of power to attack religion.
    Freedom of religious belief/conclusions is oopposed by the censorship laws in education and elsewhere. Atheist ideas are not.
    The supreme courts base decisions on the rejection of God /religion in many subjects.
    Activist groups making these charts is just lame, high school, competence.
    However yES bring up the subject of who is opposed in nations.
    Stir up the public indeed. Creationists want that.

    1. america were founded in the belief , and the beliefs, of the people that God existed and was the head of the nations. still is.

      No, the United States was not founded as a Christian nation. I know many of the less knowledgable folks believe that, but that doesn't make it so

    2. America was founded as a very protestant , even puritan, group of people groups unified into a nation.
      it was founded on presumptions of a existing society with existing conclusions.
      its very identity and personality was christian.Uniquely its people were morally and intellectually and in every whim protestant or slightly off centre from it. protestant verses human nature.
      its government was based on very dissenting, even presbyterian, concepts in government .
      It only decided to be neutral in imposing religious conclusions because of diversity.
      It was a christian people(s) , christian heritage in culture, government, and cHristian in basic conclusions of government.
      America is really a evangelical protestant civiliation in essence.

    3. "its very identity and personality was christian"

      I'm seeing a pattern with you: you continually state things that aren't true.


    Here's William Bateson, writing home to his beloved Beatrice from the AAAS conference in Toronto in 1921:

    "People dull and boring for the most part. Religion pulls the strings. ... Canada, judging by Toronto, very distant from the US. Like a tame England. ... Not at all like Australia. Much quieter. I fancy myself joining the US, but not, oh not, Canada."

    Give the current US electoral scene, I suspect his view would be more moderate today! For more Click Here .

  6. I'm just wondering what the map (s) and stats would look like if we were to consider the education system in Canada (and the world for that matter), regarding the discrimination and prejudice against the teachers who are skeptical about the "popular views", such the origins or life. Have you found any stats about that Larry? I know you weren't looking for those.

    OK. Let's say I'm a professor at the University of Toronto and I don't accept the total lack of evidence for the origins of life, the biochemical evolution and the macro-evolution.
    And, I would like to express my views while teaching a course on mindfulness or hair loss disorders. What is going to happen to me if I insist? What is going to happen to me Larry if I continue to question THIS MAJOR ISSUE and pass on my doubts to my students? What would you do if I were teaching this next to you?

    1. Yes, I wonder how Larry would respond to such a question? This might give you a clue:

    2. the total lack of evidence for the origins of life, the biochemical evolution and the macro-evolution

      Why is it that laypeople who are not expert in these disciplines and are utterly ignorant of the science have such enormous egos that they can confuse their ignorance with a lack of evidence?

      I don't know how to do brain surgery, but I'm not such an ignoramus as to believe that my personal lack of knowledge means it must be magic and not medicine.

      I guess, though I hate to spread tired memes, that we're dealing with lots of Dunning-Kruger.

    3. Alonso Quijano,

      "OK. Let's say I'm a professor at the University of Toronto and I don't accept the total lack of evidence for the origins of life, the biochemical evolution and the macro-evolution."

      Before going any further, you have to think as if you were a professor of science, not a professor in fantasies. I know that the fantasy bit offends you, but wait before reacting.

      1. As a science teacher, you have to consider what scientists would do. There's evidence that life hasn't always existed in out planet, that it was mostly microbial for most of the history of the planet, etc. So. Since there was no life at a time, then there was life, as scientists, we have to conclude that there was an origin of life. No way around. No life to life implies an origin. See that?

      2. OK, now, people used to think that organic compounds were produced only by life forms (thus the name "organic"). The Miller-Urey experiment showed that, well, somewhat complex organic chemicals could be reduced by putting together some gasses and electric shocks. Shocking, I know.

      3. So, after that, many experiments ahem shown production of complex organic molecules under many different conditions. That means that at least how some first chemicals could have ben produced is solved.

      4. Then there's lots of evidence about many things that could have been intermediaries between initial life forms and today's, like the RNA world hypothesis.

      5. Sure, lots of gaps to close, but evidence accumulates, and there's no reason to think that we will never have some potential pictures about how life arose in the planet.

      Now, you might think, but they're not considering "God"! Then you're not thinking like a scientist. We work with what we have. Going for mythologies is not scientific, so we don't go there, even if a few among us might believe those mythologies to be true.

      Please try and understand before jumping in anger.

    4. Excellent post, photosynthesis. I'm sure Don Quixote can't do anything but accept your wise council. :)

      I'll just add that there is nothing in principle that prevents God from being considered as an explanation for a natural phenomenon. It is just that the proponents of this hypothesis have never been able to propose it in a manner that meets the standards of a testable scientific hypothesis. It seems I am constantly citing Sean Carroll in this discussion, but here he is again, addressing this specific issue (You can watch the video or read the article, depending on how much time you want to spend.)

  7. Larry,

    This post should not have been called "The best countries for atheists".
    It should have been called "The best countries for atheists where they can impose their set of beliefs on the majority".

    Isn't this what's all about Larry? Don't deny it!
    You will bullshit everyone as long as it takes and yet; you can't slip one piece of scientific evidence that moved you toward your own faith.
    You have been accompanied by many, many "droves of slaughtered sheep" that go with the flow because they chose to;
    Nick Matzke, Donald Forsdyke, Jerry Coyne, Joe Felsenstein, T. Ryan Gregory, Richard Dawkins, PZ. Myers, Carl Zimmer or Georgi Malinov or any other who CAN'T provide one piece of scientific evidence that persuaded them to believe that live originated on its own. If they do, each of them will receive a large reword.

    But it's not going to happen and we both know that.

    1. If they do, each of them will receive a large reword.

      Yes, we know you will just reword your blather.

    2. who CAN'T provide one piece of scientific evidence that persuaded them to believe that live originated on its own

      This is the guy who denied being a creationist. Just another liar for Jesus.

      (He was such a nice Jewish boy. Too bad so many folks think it takes lying and cheating to follow his advice. Of course that's not his fault, it's theirs.)

    3. Alonso,

      "who CAN'T provide one piece of scientific evidence that persuaded them to believe that live originated on its own"

      Actually, it's the other way around. You need evidence that life originated magically by the action of some supernatural beings (that would be an oxymoron, tough, since a supernatural being would be alive itself, right?), starting with evidence of the existence of such supernatural beings. In the absence of such evidence, we have to go to nature for explanations. Anything else would be no better than imagining that volcanoes are gods because we don't understand how volcanoes naturally form, erupt, etc.

    4. So, no one, including the famous authority among the scientific community of atheists-Joe Felsenstein, is willing to provide one piece of scientific evidence that persuaded them to believe not only that life originated on its own but that gods don't exist.

      Well, I gotta tell you man, I don't know what countries are the best for atheists but if they can sell this kind of garbage as a scientific theory and put it in text books at schools and the best universities in the world, the countries that allow this to happen are the countries run by atheists. Here is why:
      If Intelligent Design believers would do the same and forced the governments to teach in schools and put it in text books as scientific theory the ID inference, can anyone guess what would the atheists like Coyne, PZ Myers and Dawkins do? They would be all over it demanding to be removed from the education system as religions, creationism and etc.

      And yet, what do we have here? The same situation; atheists are selling their set of beliefs but I'm being insulted for even daring to question their them. Because that's what they are as far as I'm concerned because no one in this world, I will stress again, no scientists in this world, including the best in the business of the origins of life, has one piece of scientific evidence to support the false claim that life originated on its own. I'm so confident of this fact, that I'm willing to pay the highest price for it staring with $1.

    5. Don Quixote, I can't give you just one piece of scientific evidence that convinces me that evolution is true because there are so many bits of evidence and the value of evolution theory is that it puts together so many different observations. There's LOTS of evidence.

      If you really want to know about the evidence (I'm sure you don't) you'll read Jerry Coyne's book Why Evolution Is True, which is intended for the non-scientist.

      You won't read it, though. You don't want to know about evidence. You just want to complain about how oppressed you think you are because your religious beliefs aren't taught as if there were evidence for them.

    6. Alonso,

      I take it that you don't read answers. You must be asking hoping for no answers, then, instead of checking you assume that there was no answers, and you comment on your assumption. No wonder you never hear anything about abiogenesis. You don't check and you don't think.

      Nice way to represent your faith. It's proper of ignorant fools, right? At least that's what you imply.

    7. one piece of scientific evidence that persuaded them to believe not only that life originated on its own but that gods don't exist

      That's fairly easy. There are two I can think of right offhand.

      - Newton's finding that gravity is responsible for the planetary orbits (which Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler had found were heliocentric rather then geocentric, and ellipses rather than perfect circles).

      - The Wöhler synthesis of urea, showing no special "vital force" was required to make organic substances, it was just regular old chemistry.

      Those were the two historic roles of the traditional God - creation of the Universe (as it was known at the time), and creation of life on Earth. These two findings established scientifically that no God was necessary for either role. This began a process of constant rollback to smaller and smaller gaps to find God in, until now religious adherents have to lie to themselves and others about the state of scientific knowledge and the nature of reality in order to try to find some small cranny into which to insert their deity.

  8. Hmmm...I'm still perplexed as to why the burden of proof is on me?

    If you consider me to be a "closet creationist" that's according to your own claims, creationists should have no proof or scientific evidence for their claims.

    So, why don't you provide the evidence for your claims and we will never have to talk about this issue again?

    I hope you all understand what is involved? You are all expecting me to provide the evidence for my "new faith forced upon me by you", and you don't have not one piece of evidence to back up yours.

    Have you really thought it through? Do you really realize how embarrassing this is going to be for you if you can't provide anything to back up your beliefs?

    How is attacking my supposed faith reliefs your anxiety over your own insecurities?

    1. Who are you even talking to? Are you incapable of attaching your responses to the comment you're responding to?

    2. John Harshamn,

      If you are incapable of discerning who or what people I'm responding to, how did you discern life originated on its own?

      Can you answer this question John Harshamn?

      Why do you think my comments are more difficult to understand than the assumptions you had accepted without having one clue that they are even close to being correct with regards to the origins of life?

      Unless you are the only one holding up the secrets, you might as well fill me in. I'm all ears.

      I'd be very curious to hear you spill your guts how you became an atheist and on what scientific, experimental grounds. (I'd hope that is true in your case and not just the hate against creationists).

      You see John, most common people view scientists as authorities. Some used to view priests as authorities but that has changed. The worship of science and scientists is changing too..

      I actually tested as to why people trust science or scientst. Most of highly educated people tell me that"...If such and such believe it, it must be a scientific fact. Why else would anyone allow it to be printed in text books that are used at the most "regarded universities in the world"? Who is behind this John Harshman?

      Can you discern what I'm talking about John Harshman?
      Who is in charge of this propaganda? Is it any different than Hitler's propaganda of the extermination of minorities for the "better good"?

      Please tell me, that as a German, you can explain all that.

    3. John, what does it matter who he is? He's not even good at putting forth any positive evidence for being skeptical about evolution, preferring to spout conspiracy-theory nonsense about "worship" of scientists (as we see with global warming, right?), and apparently also blissfully unaware of tenure.