With more than a dozen countries criminalizing atheistic expression and anti-atheist sentiment widespread even in purportedly secular countries, organizations have popped up around the globe to rescue persecuted atheists, lobby for civil rights, and promote community and security for atheists, agnostics, and other freethinkers. Secular Rescue was launched by the Center for Inquiry in 2016 in response to the recent spate of murders of secularist Bangladeshi writers and intellectuals, and its efforts have drawn attention to the plight of freethinkers living in the Global South in need of asylum. The Atlantic recently profiled the organization as well as the conditions contributing to the greater visibility of atheists in regions conventionally assumed to be inhospitable to the growth of secularism and freethought.
Russian man faces possible year in jail after denying the existence of God online
Viktor Krasnov was charged in response to an online exchange in which he described the Bible as a “collection of Jewish fairy tales” and said “there is no God.”
Following the jailing of punk rock group Pussy Riots in 2012, lawmakers passed legislation that criminalized “insult[ing] the religious convictions or feelings of citizens.”
Despite Russia’s constitutional status as a secular state, President Vladimir Putin has led a campaign to promote traditional religious values to consolidate Russian national identity, long tied to the Russian Orthodox Church prior to the rise of the Soviet Union.
Turkish group lobbies for equal treatment and protection for atheists
The Turkish Atheism Association has created a petition calling for the end of automatic registration of Turkish newborns as Muslim, the removal of religion from Turkey’s ID cards, and the inclusion of the association in official meetings with non-Muslim groups.
Although a 2010 poll found only 1% of Turkish people identify as atheist, the group hopes the 5,000 signatures it hopes to attain will bring attention to their marginalization in Turkey’s nominally secular society.
The association was founded in 2014 in Istanbul, but a court blocked access to its website in March on the grounds of “provoking the people.”
NFL running back Arian Foster, currently playing for the Houston Texans, has come out as a freethinker and nonbeliever, one of very few professional players to have ever professed nonbelief. With little to no separation between church and field in the NFL, Foster sits down with ESPN to share his experiences being out to teammates, the evolution of his belief, and the ubiquity of Christianity in football.
Singapore releases teenage blogger convicted of obscenity and offending religious sensibilities
Amos Yee, 16, was convicted and sentenced to four weeks of detention, which he had already served during his 50 days spent in jail.
Yee had criticized revered former Singapore PM Lee Kuan Yew–considered the founding father of Singapore–with a video celebrating his death, comments decrying Christianity, and an image of depicting Lee and former British PM Margaret Thatcher in a sex act.
Prosecutors did not pursue reformative training for the youth, which could have led to detention for up to 18 months, but the case drew international attention for its surfacing of Singapore’s restrictive policies on personal expression.
Complexities of translating Chinese religious identification establish the nation as perennial statistical outlier in polling
Although the widely cited WIN/Gallup poll on global religiosity indicates 61% of Chinese respondents identified as atheist, 27% as nonreligious, and only 7% as religious, the Chinese term used to translate “religious” carries more politicized, institutional connotations than in other languages.
In addition, one anthropologist notes that many Chinese people have more syncretic belief systems and practices than in other parts of the world.
Because the survey was administered online, there could have been additional pressure to identify as atheist as the Communist Party is officially atheist and surveils online communications.
“In other parts of the world, the survey is more uniformly understood. … In East Asia, the signals are more complex, but it still gives some insight.”