New report on discrimination against nonbelievers

The International Humanist and Ethical Union has issued a long report on worldwide discrimination against atheists:  “Freedom of thought 2012: A global report on discrimination against humanists, atheists, and the nonreligious” (“FT2012″; free download at link). The report was created with the cooperation of the American Humanist Association, the Center for Inquiry, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and the Secular Coalition for America (thanks, guys!).

The 69-page report was discussed in a recent article in the Washington Post,The seven countries where the state can execute you for being an atheist.” Those countries are shown on the map below (in red), along with countries where nonbelief can send you to jail (orange), and those where nonbelievers have reduced rights (yellow):

atheism-mapkey2

Data source: International Humanist and Ethical Union (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

As the Post reports:

The report tracks, among other things, which countries have laws explicitly targeting atheists. There are not many, but the states that forbid non-religiousness – typically as part of “anti-blasphemy” legislation – include seven nations where atheism is punishable by death. All seven establish Islam as the state religion. Though that list includes some dictatorships, the country that appears to most frequently condemn atheists to death for their beliefs is actually a democracy, if a frail one: Pakistan. Others include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, the West African state of Mauritania, and the Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. These countries are colored red on the above map.

You should have a look at the report, since it’s free and you don’t have to read the bulk of it, which details the discrimination in many countries.  But a few remarks.

The right to nonbelief is protected by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifically articles 18 and 19:

Article 18.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

But as FT2012 notes:

Although atheist speech is protected by both Article 18 and Article 19, there has been a regrettable tendency to defend atheist speech by appeal solely to Article 19 while religious speech is defended by appeal to Article 18. Indeed, when the UN debated whether to outlaw “defamation of religions”, some countries [JAC: I believe that the countries promoting the "anti-defamation" language were mostly Islamic] tried to frame the debate as a conflict between Articles 18 and 19, between the rights of religion and the right to free speech. Of course, there is no such conflict: religions do not have human rights; individuals have human rights, including the right to speak and the right to manifest their beliefs through religious criticism and persuasion. . .

Article 18 also protects the rights of atheists, humanists and other non-religious people beyond freedom of expression. It protects the right not to reveal your beliefs or religious identification, and the right not to take part in religious ceremonies. It protects the right to have or adopt atheist beliefs or to leave a religion. It also guarantees the right to practice and teach your non-religious beliefs, and even to perform ceremonies—including weddings, funerals and other rites of passage—in accordance with those beliefs.

Finally, the report notes the increase in nonbelief:

Atheists (those who do not believe in any god), and humanists (those who embrace a morality that does not appeal to any supernatural source), and others who consider themselves non-religious, are a large and growing population across the world. A detailed survey in 2012 revealed that religious people make up 59% of the world population, while those who identify as “atheist” make up 13%, and an additional 23% identify as “not religious” (while not self-identifying as “atheist”). The report by the Gallup International Association (available at http://www.wingia.co /web/files/news/14/file/14.pdf) is in line with other recent global surveys. It shows that atheism and the non-religious population are growing rapidly—religion dropped by 9% and atheism rose by 3% between 2005 and 2012—and that religion declines in proportion to the rise in education and personal income, which is a trend that looks set to continue.

The report aims to document threats to nonbelievers’ freedom of conscience, and 56 pages of the 69-page report are devoted to specific countries. Many of the violations occur in Africa and the Middle East, but Europe and North America aren’t immune. A few excerpts from reports on the latter:

Germany
Discriminatory Laws:
The constitution and other laws protect freedom of religion or belief. However, the criminal code addresses the insulting of faiths, religious societies, and ideological groups. Article 166 of the German Criminal Code states, “Whoever publicly or through dissemination of writings insults the content of others’ religious faith or faith related to a philosophy of life in a manner that is capable of disturbing the public peace, shall be punished with imprisonment for not more than three years or a fine.”

Italy
Discriminatory Laws:
The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief. However, under article 724 of the penal code, blasphemy is considered as an “administrative offense” and punished with a fine. Administrative law requires that all classrooms in state schools display crucifixes.

Crucifixes???

Poland
Discriminatory Laws:
The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief. However, Poland’s penal code states “Whoever offends religious feelings of other people by publicly insulting an object of religious cult or a place for public holding of religious ceremonies, is subject to a fine, restriction of liberty or loss of liberty for up to 2 years.”

Sweden
Discriminatory Laws:
The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief. Members of religious communities are allowed to designate part of their income tax to go to their church, but the nonreligious have consistently been refused the right to designate their Humanist Association to enjoy the same privilege.

Chapter 16 Section 8 of the penal code criminalizes “A person who, in a disseminated statement or communication, threatens or expresses contempt for a national, ethnic or other such group of persons with allusion to race, colour, national or ethnic origin or religious belief…”

United Kingdom
Discriminatory laws

More than 30% of state-funded schools (which are 100% funded by public monies) in England and Wales are run by church authorities, and their number is increasing. These schools are allowed to discriminate against students—in their admission policies—and teachers—in hiring, discipline and firing, even in subjects that do not relate to the religious mission of the school—based on their religion (either because they are not religious or belong to a different religion or denomination than the school authorities) or their personal life (for example, teachers may be fired, or simply not hired, because of their sexual orientation or even because they have children out of wedlock). The right to discriminate in employment was recently extended to non-teaching posts in England. In addition, a large number of these schools have statutory obligations to provide confessional religious teaching rather than nonconfessional teaching which, again, is entirely publicly funded.

In England and Wales, every state-funded school (which are 100% funded by public monies) is legally required to hold a daily act of collective worship.

DAILY WORSHIP?

And oh, Canada!

Canada
Discriminatory Laws:
The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief. However six of the ten provinces provide partial or full funding to religious schools. Most of these publicly funded religious schools are Roman Catholic. Although five provinces allow other denominations to run publicly funded schools. Publicly funded religious schools can discriminate on religious grounds in hiring and in accepting students. Around 16 percent of the Canadian population claims no religious affiliation, yet in the vast low-population expanses of Canada, the religious school may well be the only public school within a reasonable distance for many non-religious students.

Ontario is the only province that funds Catholic religious education while providing no funding for other religious schools. One third of Ontario’s public schools (around 1,400) are Catholic schools, and they receive 100% of their funding from the government. Catholic schools discriminate against non-Catholics in hiring staff. Catholic schools can also exclude non-Catholic children.

The U.S. isn’t immune, either, of course.  Although we have constitutional protection of both religious and nonreligious expression, there are still (unenforceable) laws on the books like these:

At least seven states–Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas–have in place constitutional provisions that bar atheists from holding public office. One state (Arkansas) even has a law that bars an atheist from testifying as a witness at a trial. The Supreme Court effectively struck down these kind of provisions as unconstitutional in 1961. However, their continued existence is a reminder of the pervasiveness of the idea that atheists are untrustworthy, and perhaps even not truly American.

The report also refers to the pervasive proselytizing that occurs in the U.S. military.

Come on, Brits and Canadians—get rid of that government-funded, faith-based education! We’ll work on stuff here in the U.S.

h/t: John B.

74 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    In Italy, can they hang those crucifixes upside down?

    • Phil Giordana FCD
      Posted December 18, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

      I actualy think they could. The upside down cross is, after all, the symbol of St Peter.

  2. Simon
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    As someone who went through the “legally required … daily act of collective worship” in the UK, I think it acted like a vaccine. We all got exposed to this as kids. Most of us actually turn off it as adults. (In practice “daily worship” is interpreted very broadly, it often can be effectively non-religious.)

    I often wonder if the religiosity of the UK would go up or down if we didn’t regularly force it upon our children. It’s not obvious to me what the answer is.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      I concur with my namesake – beyond elementary school I don’t remember any real god content. However, I’m not sure that the religiously recounted exploits documenting the weekend performance of the first and second 15 were not a form of collective worship.

      The price you pay for an established church is that there is minimalist lip service. The benefit is that there is no real belief or follow up on that. It’s a compromise I can live with. In the context of the essentially “couldn’t care less” agnosticism that I grew up with it all seems to have been pretty benign. Certainly in comparison to my current state of living in the American South, where my kids had no religion in schools but we are bombarded with church adverts every time we go to see a movie or speak to a neighbor.

      • Dave
        Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        Same again. As I remember from my school days (standard C of E state school) in the 60s and 70s, the daily act of “worship” consisted of bored kids shuffling their feet for 5 minutes and half-heartedly mouthing the words to whatever dirge we were told to open our hymn books at that day. I can’t imagine that any more than a small fraction of us took it seriously. All I can remember from RE lessons was the teacher attempting to rationalize the supposed miracles in the Bible, e.g. suggesting that the Walls of Jericho might have been brought down by an earthquake, or that the blind man cured by Jesus might have had glaucoma, which the Big Guy cured by rubbing some stuff into his eyes. There seemed almost to be an element of embarassment about the idea that any of these things could have been actually “miraculous”, i.e. requiring supernatural intervention.

        I don’t know what it’s like in UK schools today, but I’d have a hard time believing that today’s kids are any more religious than we were back then. White British kids that is – the offspring of immigrant families from more pious parts of the world are probably more likely to take it seriously.

        The idea that there are still countries where you can be legally imprisoned or killed for being an atheist is appalling though. And don’t forget that in many countries where in theory you have freedom to disbelieve, the social sanctions against anyone who has the courage to “come out” would still be extreme.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 15, 2012 at 4:28 am | Permalink

          And same again. I like Simon’s vaccine analogy, I tend to think of it as being like cowpox to the smallpox that is ‘serious’ religion.

    • Steve Bowen
      Posted December 15, 2012 at 3:05 am | Permalink

      Many UK Schools ignore the requirement anyway

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-14794472

      • Sawdust Sam
        Posted December 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        As a contemporary of bric’s (below), I had similar experiences. As I recall, the RCs and the odd(!) Jehovah’s Witness were excused, as was any boy who could persuade his mum to write an appropriate note.
        The fundamental cynicism of the exercise was reinforced in the school building boom of the 60s and 70s. In spite of the 1944 Education Act, which had codified the requirement that the school day should start with a corporate act of worship, schools were built with assembly halls that were not big enough to accommodate all pupils at the same time.

    • bric
      Posted December 15, 2012 at 3:32 am | Permalink

      Same experience here, I was at a boys’ Grammar School in the late 50s-early 60s: the defacto religion of School was rugger in winter and cricket in summer (and some of the things that went on in an all-boys morning assembly are not suitable for family discussions)

  3. Posted December 14, 2012 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    There you are, no such thing as free will in these affairs.

  4. Posted December 14, 2012 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Not sure why the report is called “Freedom of thought,” since thought cannot be censored.

    • Rob
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      Really? What’s brainwashing then?

      • Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink

        There’s been a lot of debate about what “brainwashing” actually is, or whether it even exists. I would say that while people can be trained to think one way or the other, by definition thought cannot be censored.

        • Rob
          Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

          How is “training to think one way” not censoring? You’re controlling the output.

    • DV
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Thought cannot be censored, but can be punished. That’s what it means to have freedom of thought – not freedom to have the thought, but freedom from harassment, marginalization, and punishment.

  5. Ian Liberman
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    I am from Ontario and I agree that the funding of these schools must stop. The only thing positive is that because it is government money, creationism is not allowed to be taught as part of the curriculum and gay straight alliance clubs have been forced on the Catholic Schools.

  6. Bob K
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    As a resident of Canada, and specifically Ontario, it troubles me to no end to see the funding of Catholic Schools here, however some interesting events unfolded recently that may be harbingers of things to come.

    As an example, our Provincial government recently put forth measures for schools to support anti-bullying initiatives. With understanding that some bullying can target specific groups, some emphasis was place on LGBT awareness. The student groups were allowed to use the term “gay” if they wished, during formation of these groups.

    The Catholic Board saw this as an attack on their “religious freedoms”. The government was firm.

    The Catholic board is learning church-state separation runs both ways. If you get paid by the state, be prepared to dance to their tune, no matter what your “Good Book” says.

    I truly hope this is the beginning of the end for religious funded schools here. A one system, secular public educations system MUST be the way for Ontarians.

      • frank sellout
        Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        I think people need to understand the history of Ontario to understand how Catholic schools came to be funded. Ontario is not a Catholic province but it had an agreement in the 19th century with Quebec that they would fund Catholic schools and Quebec would fund Protestant schools. Quebec gave that up a long time ago but it still lingers here, the main problem being that no goverment wants to take on the political fallout when elections are so close.

        The LGBT anti-bullying initiative that the Catholic school board tried to stop was interesting because the head of the Catholic church in Ontario said that they would not allow it and then the Premier, (who is like the Governor of a State), came on ten minutes later and said that they would allow it, that the Government made the rules. It was a real slap down.

        Obviously, I dislike the funding of Catholic schools in my province but I will tell you this, I know dozens of people who went to Catholic high schools and by the time they were through, they were no longer Catholics. They’ve done a very good job of running people out of their religion here.

        Cheers!

        • Timothy Hughbanks
          Posted December 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

          Five of my brothers and I were baptized as Catholics and the three oldest went to Catholic schools for most of their education. Not a Catholic among them now – as one of my brothers put it, “There were so many rules, I couldn’t wait to break them.” As for myself, catechism helped to convince me of how batshit crazy religion is.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted December 15, 2012 at 4:33 am | Permalink

            A bit like the effect of religious education in UK schools, then, except more so.

            A cynical atheist would argue on pragmatic grounds that compulsory religious education is fine since it seems to produce more nonbelievers than believers…

  7. Posted December 14, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I’d have a lot less disrespect for domains decreeing death for disbelievers if a deity did the death-dealing.

    b&

    • Rob
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      Exactly.

      It was all very well going on about pure logic and how the universe was ruled by logic and the harmony of numbers, but the plain fact of the matter was that the Disc was manifestly traversing space on the back of a giant turtle and the gods had a habit of going round to atheists’ houses and smashing their windows. – Terry Pratchett

    • Pray Hard
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      Ben, I think the gods used to do that in the old days, but they have billions of followers now to do the dirty work.

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted December 15, 2012 at 12:57 am | Permalink

        I get it. Sort of like how a wasp queen has to build the first brood cells herself and then go out and kill things to bring back to feed her first hatchlings.

        After they become adults she gets to sit back and just bring more wasp souls into the world.

        Free will debates would sound a little different if we were mostly all sterile workers ruled by a leader’s pheromones.

      • Posted December 15, 2012 at 7:44 am | Permalink

        Their billions of followers would have you believe that their gods were active in the past…but there’s the rub, innit? Even back then, the gods were absent and / or derelict.

        b&

  8. TJR
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Looking at the map showing places with execution or imprisonment for atheists, I can’t help thinking there’s some sort of pattern there, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…….

    • eric
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      They’re all hot?

      J/K, it says right in the Post article that all of them are countries were Islam is the state religion. No need to beat around the bush about that, if that’s where you were going – just say it.

      • gbjames
        Posted December 14, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

        Well, one of them is not. Laos. Laws there favor Buddhism.

        • Philip.Elliott
          Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

          Unless I’m misreading the map, Laos is the lightest color, indicating atheists have reduced rights, not that they will be imprisoned or executed as in the Islamic countries colored with the orange and darker yellow.

          • Philip.Elliott
            Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

            sub

          • Posted December 14, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

            I was surprised by Laos, too. Has anyone ever actually been imprisoned there for being an atheist?

        • eric
          Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

          As Philip (and the Post article) say, the seven countries where you can be executed for atheism are all countries where Islam is the state religion.

          But thank you for pointing out that my proposed correlation is actually stronger than the religious one. We should blame the heat! :)

          • Pray Hard
            Posted December 14, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

            Islam is an ideology of sun-baked brains.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      some sort of pattern there

      degree to which the countries support the idea of secular government.

      seriously.

    • Pray Hard
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      TJR, it starts with an “I” …

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 14, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

        There’ve been times when the red countries would have been in Europe, and the initial a different one.

  9. Simon Hayward
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Is there anywhere that prescribes a specific belief – as opposed to proscribing a lack of belief in something? (For example do you have to be Catholic, on pain of excommunication presumably, to live in Vatican city) It would seem to be a simpler, although clearly more odious, way of ordering things. Certainly this approach has been used in the past. One of the rights that early settlers to the Americas sought was the freedom to burn people for being Catholic – lest they be accused of the sin of indifference to their heretical nature apparently.

    • pktom64
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      Sorry, my #9 below was meant as a response to you…

    • Pray Hard
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      Um, Saudi Arabia … yes, you might say it “prescribes a specific belief”. That’s putting it rather mildly.

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted December 14, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

        I take the point but I was thinking more of, for example, people traveling to a country. I know plenty of people who have worked in Saudi in the oil industry, but as far as I know nobody has checked that they face Mecca on a regular basis. I don’t know if there is any place that will keep you out specifically if you don’t worship the correct juju, although I imagine the strict islamic countries would be the obvious contenders.

        Clearly if you live somewhere long term there can be serious consequences for not fitting in with the locals – per other comments on this tread.

  10. pktom64
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    I know Iran allows people to be Muslim (preferred option, best if Shiite I would think), Christian or Jew but the country has a long history of abusing Baha’is (the largest religious minority in the country), i.e. imprisoning them, not allowing them an education or the holding of public offices and things like that.

    I seem to remember that in Egypt, you have to choose your religion for your ID card, being either Muslim, Christian or Jewish. If you’re anything else, you either have to lie or can’t be legally an Egyptian.
    Of course, things are changing right now, but it could be for the worse.

    • Pray Hard
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      “Iran allows people to be Muslim” … ? Allows?
      It’s known as the Islamic Republic of Iran.
      I doubt that Christians and Jews have much freedom to do anything except be good little dhimwits. Gay men are hung from cranes. Disobedient women are shot or stoned. Dissenters “mysteriously” die or disappear in prison. Ahmydenimbritches has stated that Islam will rule the world, you know, Allah willing and all.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted December 15, 2012 at 3:07 am | Permalink

        “Ahmydenimbritches”? Oh, do you mean Achmydinnerjacket? Never did catch the name.

  11. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Another violation in Sweden is, and this touches on Simon Hayward’s question, that the monarch must be lutheran. =D More seriously, it reflects the need to fully separate state and former state church.

    A recent debacle comes from the new school law, where education in school and preschool shall be non-confessional. The problem is that some holidays (yule) and especially the school finish is sometimes taking the classes or schools to church locales. (And then of course most often lutheran.)

    So the churches takes the opportunity to preach et cetera, and the current (liberal!) school minister is fine with that, it is “tradition”. He opens up for schools to choose differently though, so it is a start. Given the parents choice, they want this for their families. (~ 80 % of the population, rough estimates from web polls FWIW.)

    But the minister interpretation takes away the choice for children. And it shows as another violation between state and church.

    • Posted December 14, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      Another violation in Sweden is, and this touches on Simon Hayward’s question, that the monarch must be lutheran.

      Our monarch (UK) may not be Catholic; that’s banned. They can be anything else they like, so long as they swear to maintain the Church of England.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 15, 2012 at 4:46 am | Permalink

        I thought the Queen (/King) was the nominal head of the Church of England. It would surely be deliciously bizarre if the head of the C of E actually belonged to a different denomination (though I’m sure with the British talent for pragmatism and constitutional accomodationism, it would all be quietly resolved).

        (Checks Wikipedia…
        “Eventually, Henry [VIII], although theologically opposed to Protestantism, took the position of Supreme Head of the Church of England to ensure the annulment of his marriage. He was excommunicated by Pope Paul III.”

        Oh yeah, pragmatic like that. ;)

  12. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Exactly how does Germany decide of literature against religion is done “in a manner that is capable of disturbing the public peace”?? What’s the criterion there??

    • Christian
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Heckler’s veto

  13. Rob
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Whoever offends religious feelings of other people by publicly insulting an object of religious cult

    If the translation of this is accurate, an enterprising activist could have quite the effect. It would be amusing to watch the Catholic Church argue in court that they are indeed a cult.

    • Brygida Berse
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      If you are quoting the Polish statute, the translation is accurate, except that the phrase “religious cult” doesn’t suggest coersive or bizzare religious practices. It simply means “religious worship”. There is no ambiguity in the original.

      • Brygida Berse
        Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        *coercive*

  14. Christian
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I see you mentioned article 166 (aka Gotteslästerungsparagraph”) of the German Criminal Code but that’s actually the least of our concerns.

    The official version is of course that in Germany there is separation of church and state but this is just a sham. The real situation is that church and state are pretty much joined at the hip and especially the two main Christian churches (Catholic and Protestant) are granted a lot of privileges (e.g. education (kindergartens and schools) and health care).

    Most people aren’t even aware of this and the average Joe or Jane think that every institution that is run by the church is also financed by them. But this is not the case.

    There is a book coming out in January which addresses this issue. It’s title is “Gott hat hohe Nebenkosten / Wer wirklich für die Kirchen zahlt” ( God Has High Service Charges: Who’s Really Paying for the Church):
    Churches run hospitals, schools, kindergartens. Catholic and Protestant doctors, teachers, children – priority is given to Christians, but the general public foots the bill.

    The name of the daycare center in Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg is St. Boniface. Parents who enroll their children here are promised that they’ll be told stories from the Bible. That church holidays will be celebrated. That everyone prays together. Fair enough, one might say: whoever pays, decides. But the church doesn’t pay a cent. It no longer finances a single Christian daycare center in Hamburg. The city pays for everything. Yet prayers are still said.

    Some 30 million Germans are not Christians. In 2010 alone, 300,000 people left the church. Revenues from church taxes are shrinking, while state subsidies continue to grow every year. The result is that it is not believers alone who are paying, but the general public – paying for church personnel, building maintenance, for Germany’s two largest private employers, Caritas and Diaconia. Moreover, with their special employment laws, churches have a say in the private lives of 1.3 million employees: no divorced kindergarten teachers with new partners, no homosexual doctors, no atheist retirement-home managers. Is this really in keeping with the times?

    Eva Müller provides very concrete examples from around the country of what the church does with the money we all contribute. What’s at stake are enormous public subsidies – and the cohesion of a society in which fewer and fewer people are affiliated with any church.

    There is also a documentary by Eva Müller with the same title which was aired on public television a few weeks ago. The youtube link is here (it’s in German, though).

    • Christian
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Dang, blockquote fail. The four paragraphs below the link are a citation from that website. The last paragraph is mine again.

    • Posted December 14, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      This goes on in spite of the fact that the churches in Germany are heavily involved in politics. Traditions die hard!

  15. Matt Bowman
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I’m not surprised that schools in Italy hang crucifixes in the classroom. During the Amanda Knox trial I noticed a crucifix hanging on the wall in the court room. The prosecutor, Mignini, took full advantage by referencing Satanism during the trial.

  16. Sastra
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    “…expresses contempt for a national, ethnic or other such group of persons with allusion to race, colour, national or ethnic origin or religious belief…”

    One of these things is not like the other…

    I think the most significant message the gnu atheists need to get out is this one: religious beliefs are hypotheses.

    You believe them when you think the evidence supports them and you stop believing them when you no longer think the evidence supports them. They are objective fact claims.

    They are not moral commitments. They are not tribal signals. They are not badges of identity. They are not genetic codes. They are not unalterable marks of personhood.

    They’re tentative conclusions — same as any other conclusion. And they therefore belong in the marketplace where you can express contempt for them and not be instigating or instantiating bigotry.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

      + 1

  17. Posted December 14, 2012 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    It’s not just discrimination though is it. Murder of not beleivers and apostates isn’t what I’d called discrimination it’s completely immoral. I can live with a bit of discrimination but not an outright threat of ending my life is I choose not to beleive

  18. paraag s.
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on from an unknown indian american and commented:
    Both interesting and troubling… and definitely worth reading.

  19. Andrew Sinnott
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m a teacher in a state school in the UK, and have trained in two other state schools, none of them faith schools and there was/is no act of worship in the religious sense. The daily act of worship in non faith schools is either assemblies – when a whole year group (‘grade’ to North Americans) will listen to an important message about wider personal development, for example anti-bullying, from a senior teacher, or receive rewards and recognition – or form time, when they spend 20 minutes at the start of the day in forms getting registered, being informed of events and activities etc. Each year group is split into forms and they have a teacher (form tutor) that provides a pastoral role, and stays with the form throughout school. Kids who are having any number troubles often speak to their form tutor before any other adult, and so the teacher and the form play a very important role in school life. It’s unfortunate that its called an act of ‘worship’, but to me as a teacher it’s an essential part of school life. And I’ve only ever heard a prayer once!

  20. MadScientist
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Ah, yet another reminder that religion is evil and uses intimidation and threats of murder to coerce people into being believers. Even in the USA the use of intimidation is still a thriving part of religious culture, but at least the government forbids the death threats.

  21. Kevin
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    “Come on, Brits and Canadians—get rid of that government-funded, faith-based education! We’ll work on stuff here in the U.S.”

    Nah. Get rid of the ban on prayer in public schools.

    • Rob
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      There is no ban on prayer in public schools.

    • Posted December 14, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      I completely agree!

      All children must be forced to regularly worship the great god Quetzalcoatl in the traditional manner, with suitable prayer and sacrifice.

      Wut? Not what you had in mind? You instead want teachers leading children in Christian prayer?

      Okay, fine. But they must be to the one true recently-returned Christ, when he took the Earthly form of David Koresh.

      Still not good enough? You want something a bit more respectable, with wider appeal?

      Well, Jesus did personally tell Rev. Moon all that was worng with Christianity, which is why Moon established the Unification Church. I’m sure they’ve got the right prayers for students.

      Or maybe you’d prefer a Mormon prayer? Greek Orthodox? How ’bout a nice Oophite snake hymn? They were Christians before Constantine was born, so they must have been much more authentic than those Johnny-come-lately Catholic upstarts.

      Be careful what you wish for.

      b&

      • Rob
        Posted December 14, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

        But Ben, any student is free to make any or all of those prayers.

        • Posted December 15, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

          Of course.

          Which is why, whenever somebody bemoans the ban on prayer in schools, it’s not private student prayers (which aren’t banned) that are the subject of regret, but of public official-led prayers. You know? Morning prayers over the PA system, right after the Pledge of Allegiance? Coaches leading the team in prayer right before the Big Game? That sort of thing.

          Ain’t that right, Kevin?

          b&

  22. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    … wait, wait, wait; I had a terrible day (met my first “No True Scotsman” sanctimonious godbot in person and is still unwinding) so I didn’t catch on to the good news I dearily need to hear:

    A detailed survey in 2012 revealed that religious people make up 59% of the world population, while those who identify as “atheist” make up 13%, and an additional 23% identify as “not religious” (while not self-identifying as “atheist”). …

    It shows that atheism and the non-religious population are growing rapidly—religion dropped by 9% and atheism rose by 3% between 2005 and 2012—and that religion declines in proportion to the rise in education and personal income, which is a trend that looks set to continue.

    *** DOES THIS MEAN NONES HAVE GONE FROM THE 5TH GROUP TO THE LARGEST GROUP IN MERELY 7 YEARS!? ***

    [Takes that, and greedily extrapolates trend over 50 years or 2 gen:] Non-paradise is here, and non-heaven is near!

  23. NWalsh
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    After reading most of the above as a Canadian I feel very satisfied compared to most of the world. Yes there is work to be done but….I have seen polls stating the 16% non religious affiliation more than doubled.
    I apologize in advance for off topic, but I believe America’s problem is as much guns as religion, and that aint going to be fixed.

  24. Posted December 14, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Australian Catholic and Religious schools are also state funded. No oversight of where the money goes, and the Tax Dept never gets any records either.

    Even worse is that the Gov also pay for Chaplains to go into schools.

    Not a youth worker, not a health worker, a Chaplain, someone who must be recommended by their church.

    • NWalsh
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Did not see any mention of OZ or NZ in the article. Things cant be that bad?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 15, 2012 at 5:11 am | Permalink

        Speaking for NZ (and this is general impressions from memory) – I think our laws require non-discrimination on religious grounds and sexual orientation. Most people (including, I think, Christians) would not want to see religion intrude into state functions, and it would be considered a little odd if any political candidate made much of his religious affiliations. We do have a couple of minor religiously based political parties, but they currently don’t have any MP’s elected. As I said, minor.

        IIRC our current government does have a proposal for publicly-funded privately-run schools (which would in practice be mainly religious ones). A number of public schools do have a religious half-hour based on material supplied by evangelical groups, from which parents can request their kids be exempted (a not entirely satisfactory ‘solution’), they get around the law by ‘closing’ the school for that half hour, but the number of schools doing this is declining.

        There is currently debate over a bill to allow gay marriage, which may or may not pass. Abortion is readily available, and the godbots long ago gave up on contraception. On the other hand, voluntary euthanasia is still blocked, even though a majority of the public is cautiously in favour.

        To sum up, if I stood up in the train and loudly proclaimed “I’m an atheist” the universal reaction would be the same as if I said “I’m a Christian” or “I’m a Hindu” – ‘So what?’, ‘Who cares?’ and ‘Sit down and stop making an asshole of yourself’.

  25. Pray Hard
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    And the OIC is incessantly pushing for criminalization of “blasphemy” all over the world through the UN. They will never stop, never give up. We can pooh pooh their efforts and say that it’ll never happen here, but I’m not taking it lightly …

  26. Lindsay
    Posted December 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Hey Jerry,

    we’re working on it in Canada. The vast majority favours de-funding the Catholic school board in favour of only the Public board, but laws put in place to protect Catholicism, which was then a threatened minority, when the country was founded is causing these issues with school funding today. As so I’ve been told by my more law-savvy friends at least. Hopefully popular public opinion will deliver us from the fiery furnace of Catholic favoritism soon.


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