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Top 3 Worst Places to Be an Atheist in 2015

Saudi women
Veiled Saudi women take photos of their children during a ceremony to celebrate Saudi Arabia's Independence Day in Riyadh, September 23, 2009. |

The U.N.-recognized International Humanist and Ethical Union has recently released its annual report listing the countries in the world where it is considered most dangerous to be an atheist.

The report, entitled the Freedom of Thought Report for 2015, lists Malaysia, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia as the worst places to be an atheist in 2015.

The annual list reportedly bases its ranking on the country's history of discrimination against outspoken atheists and the current acceptance of atheism by the coutry's government.

"Freedom of religion or belief requires equal and just treatment of all people irrespective of their beliefs," the report states, adding, "But when states start to define citizens not by their humanity but by their membership of a religious group, discrimination automatically follows."

Rafida Bonya Ahmed, who wrote a foreword to the annual report, detailed the experience of losing her husband, atheist blogger Avijit Roy, who was attacked and killed by machete-wielding Islamic extremists near his home in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, in February 2015.

Ahmed was also attacked but survived.

"These killings are one part of the problem of extremism in one part of the world, and our freedoms of thought and expression are under attack in many other ways and in many other places around the globe," Ahmed wrote.

In announcing the newly-released report, Andrew Copson, president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, pointed to recent attacks on groups accused of "insulting religion" in 2015, including the Islamic militant-inspired attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris, killing 12 in January 2015.

Copson added at the report's launch event in Brussels that "Last year, we recorded a rise in hate speech and rhetoric: Presidents saying 'humanism and liberalism' were a threat to the State, laws branding atheism as 'terrorism,' and so on."

"This year we've seen that rhetoric bubble over into truly malicious acts of persecution," Copson added, as reported by Ecumenical News.

The recent report also lists countries that have proven to be most accepting of atheists, including Belgium, the Netherlands, and Estonia.

Similarly, the countries that were voted the least accepting of atheism have also been voted the least accepting of Christianity by other watchdog groups in years past.

The Christian watchdog group's Open Doors USA also lists Iraq as being in the top three for religious persection in its annual World Watch List.

Saudi Arabia is also listed high, ranking number 12 on the Open Doors list.

The recent Freedom of Thought Report was issued on Dec. 9, on the United Nations' annual Human Rights Day.

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