7 worst countries to be an atheist named

The seven worst countries to be an atheist have been named in an annual report documenting the persecution of non-believers around the world.

India, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan all actively persecute the non-religious, according to the Freedom of Thought report published this week.

ReutersArmy soldiers stand guard at a street in Pakistan, which was cited as one of the seven worst countries to be an atheist.

It found the majority of countries 'fail to respect the rights of humanists, atheists and the non-religious' either by denying them citizenship, obstructing access to education and in the worst cases executing people who leave their faith.

In Pakistan, India and the Maldives the report highlights the murder of humanists and atheists and in Malaysia and Mauritania it points to 'new waves of incitement to hatred or violence'.

In Sudan and Saudi Arabia in particular there have been new death sentences faced by those who convert from Islam to atheism.

The report is similar to the Christian persecution charity Open Doors' annual World Watch List of the worst countries to be a Christian. It's 2017 report named North Korea, Somalia, Afghanisatan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria and Iraq as the countries where Christians face the most persecution.

Andrew Copson, president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) which is behind the report, said: 'When the non-religious are being persecuted, it's usually the case that specific religious minorities are too.'

Copson, who is also head of British Humanists UK, added: 'This is not a coincidence. It is part of how human rights work. If you violate one right, then not only are you likely to be violating others, you will also be degrading the social good, and making other rights harder to achieve. This is why human rights are interconnected and indivisible.'

Focusing on the non-religious, the report says in most of the worst-performing countries they are caught in a dilemma.

'On the one hand, they can remain invisible, perhaps conforming to religious practices for the sake of an easy life, and be largely safe,' the report says.

'Most of the time they are invisible. Unlike most sizeable religious minorities there is not even a pretence that they are welcome to their idiosyncratic beliefs or permitted to build their churches. Rather, the non-religious cannot freely associate or express themselves in daily life, and outside of online networks they cannot build the non-religious equivalents of religious associations in the "real world", as humanists do in "Western" countries, for example.

'On the other hand, if they so much as state their non-religiousness, let alone offer any rationale for it, or advocate for explicitly humanist ideas or values beyond that, then they are immediately shouted down for trying to "proselytize", or as a cause of "hurt sentiments" or "offence". It is very often an all-or-nothing scenario: silence, or be immediately regarded as a pariah and a provocateur.'