This document contains a general and one more detailed discussion of
the Freedom of Thought Report 2015, the '2015' issue of the annual survey
on the discrimination against and persecution of
nonreligious people in countries around the world.
(On the cover it is called "a [g]lobal report on the rights [and] legal
status [of] and discrimination against humanists,
atheists and the non-religious".)
The Report is published by the International Humanist and Ethical Union
(IHEU), an accredited nongovernmental organization at
the United Nations, and covers the year 2015 on the
Christian Calendar, which is, give or take ten days,
the seventieth year after the end of
the Second World War.
In the IHEU report each one of a total of 196 countries or territories is
checked against a table of sixty so-called 'boundary conditions' which are
associated with a particular freedom-of-thought status.
A country's overall 'Freedom of Thought' status is based on the most
severe status which is triggered.
The rating system of countries used in the Report comprises five
They are in order of severity (and as spelled by the authors):
- Free and Equal
- Mostly Satisfactory
- Systemic Discrimination
- SEVERE DISCRIMINATION
- GRAVE VIOLATIONS
2 THE BEST TO WORST COUNTRIES
The IHEU report relies on a United Nations geographical schema to list and
organize nation states.
In this approach the world is first divided into six (inhabited)
continents or continent groupings, which in turn are subdivided into four
or five regions.
What the Report does not do explicitly is to group the
independent countries and territories of the world on the
basis of the 'Freedom of Thought' class they are said to belong to.
I have done this myself in the following table, which shows, for the whole
world together, which countries have which final 'Freedom of Thought'
status according to the '2015' IHEU report, in descending order from best
The best countries, characterized
as free and equal
Taiwan (R of China)
Countries characterized as mostly satisfactory
America (US of),
Congo(-Brazzaville: R of the),
Saint Kitts and Nevis,
São Tomé and Príncipe,
Countries characterized by systemic discrimination
Antigua and Barbuda,
Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK of),
Papua New Guinea,
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,
South Korea (R of Korea),
Trinidad and Tobago,
Countries characterized by severe discrimination
Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Central African Republic,
Congo(-Kinshasa: DR of the),
The worst countries, characterized
by grave violations
Arab Emirates (UAE),
China (PR of),
North Korea (DPR of Korea),
3   EXECUTIONERS AND INCARCERATORS
The Freedom of Thought Report distinguishes four areas of interest:
- Constitution and government
- Education and children’s rights
- Family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals
- Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values
Here i will focus on the Report's fourth area of interest, especially the
freedom of expression, among which freedom of speech.
There are many different ways in which a state can take such a freedom
It starts with outlawing expressions of an irreligious character or of a
religious character different from what is im- or explicitly the state
It ends with executing people, usually fellow citizens, because what they
express or are claimed to express is outlawed and punishable
The religious terms for the 'crimes' committed are apostasy, the
conversion to a different faith (than the state religion) or to no faith at
all, and blasphemy, an outspoken criticism of (the most sensitive
part of) religion in general or the state religion in particular.
I shall call the countries that kill people for 'blasphemy', so-called
'thought crimes' and 'apostasy' "the Executioners".
I shall call the countries that do not kill people for any of these alleged
crimes but nevertheless feel the irrepressible urge to imprison them
The Report is accompanied by a special open-data spreadsheet which does not
only show the final 'Freedom of Thought' status of each country but also
its 'blasphemy', 'apostasy' and 'thought-crime' laws statuses.
It is on this spreadsheet, derived from the Freedom of Thought Report,
that i have based the following two tables with the lists of Executioners
and Incarcerators in this world on this planet in the Christian year
AD 2015, that is, (for the larger part) the
Hebrew year AM 5775 and the Islamic year
The worst, countries that sentence people to
death for 'blasphemy', 'thought crimes' and 'apostasy'
The second-worst, countries that sentence people
to death for 'thought crimes' and 'apostasy', while
imprisoning them for 'blasphemy'
The third-worst, a country that sentences people
to death for 'blasphemy' and 'thought crimes' (but does not kill or
imprison them for changing or leaving their religion)
The worst, countries that imprison people for
'blasphemy', 'thought crimes' and 'apostasy'
The second-worst, countries that imprison people
for 'blasphemy' and 'thought crimes', and confront people who want to
change or leave their religion with restrictions or fatwas
Morocco (fatwas for apostasy),
The third-worst, countries that imprison people
for 'blasphemy' and 'thought crimes' (but not for changing or
leaving their religion)
One more, a country that imprisons people for
'blasphemy' (but not for their other thoughts or for changing or
leaving their religion)
4 FREE AND NOT EQUAL
While the Executioners and Incarcerators are the countries with the worst
state religionism, where nonreligious
citizens are neither free nor treated as equals, one would expect
nonreligious citizens in countries characterized as 'Free and Equal' to be
precisely that: free and equal.
Unfortunately, like in economic politics, in whatever sense freedom
and equality are used, they are different qualities which do not
necessarily go together, to put it mildly.
Even freedom of thought on its own is, at face value, a trivial pursuit
until we interpret it as the freedom to express one's thought, and
to express one's thought not only when alone or with others in private but
also in public.
With the freedom to express one's thoughts in public comes the recognition
of agreement with others and the wish for freedom of assembly and
But with the freedom to express for example atheist ideas may come the
inequality from being banned from holding public office because of one's
The IHEU Freedom of Thought Report 2015 uses the legal language from the
time and the circles around the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Nowhere does it use the term religionism, let alone the phrase
state religionism or the concept of religious state abuse.
However, anyone who has any idea of what racism and sexism,
but also feminism, mean will, in these days, be able to understand
that state religionism is a form of religionism demonstrated, not by
private individuals or organizations, but by the state
And the same person will be able to understand that religionism is a brand
of exclusivism or exclusionism on the basis of religion.
Now, a state is not only religionist because it executes nonreligious
people, puts them in prison or bans them from government positions, it can
also be religionist in its use of official symbols, symbols whose use or
nonuse is of great importance in the
denominational field in
The Report does pay attention to this aspect of state religionism as well
in the following text at the end of the General Introduction under
Rights violations against the non-religious:
[R]eligious privilege is not only a form of
discrimination in and of itself, but it is also a
signifier of more general societal discrimination
against atheists. ... ...
Even when there is just a vague state preference for generic religion, or
belief in a god, we see it reinforcing societal prejudice and
discrimination against the non-religious. Therefore,
we also include religious discrimination, or religious
privilege, in this report even when its supporters claim it is merely
ceremonial or symbolic. We agree it is sometimes symbolic, but what it
symbolizes is the state’s preference for religion (or a particular
religion) and the second class status of the non-religious (or of
religion or belief minorities generally).
Clearly, it is possible to be free in that one is not killed by the state
or imprisoned for making one's irreligious ideas known to others.
And clearly, it is possible to be free and equal in that one is not killed
by the state or imprisoned and in that one may enter the civil service or
can hold any government position like anyone else.
And yet, it is possible to be free and to be equal in this one respect,
while not being treated as an equal citizen among equal citizens in
one or more other respects.
Let us have a look at The (Northern)
Netherlands as an example.
It is one of the best rated of the thirteen countries in the extra-slim
'Key Countries Edition' of the Report (among which Saudi Arabia too, one of
the worst rated).
Under Constitution and government the IHEU report says: "The
[Kingdom of the Netherlands] is secular, with separation of religious
and political authorities, not discriminating against any religion or
How does this enthusiastic assertion tally with the Report's statement in
the Introduction quoted
above that '[e]ven when there is just a vague
state preference for generic religion, or belief in a god, ... it
reinforc[es] societal prejudice and discrimination
against the non-religious' and its promise that it will 'also include
religious discrimination, or religious privilege, ...
even when its supporters claim it is merely ceremonial or symbolic'?
Here are some of the facts which the members of an international audience
may just not know about, because no-one can know all the conditions in all
the countries of the world.
Even Dutch citizens may not be aware of these facts, because, i fear,
there's none so blind as those who won't see.
But this typically applies to their own garden, for there's none so
sharp-sighted as those who see only the weeds in their neighbors'
The intimate relation between monarchism and Christianist state
Monarchy as a political system is not an issue in the Freedom of Thought
Report; the sole thing which counts in the present context is to what
extent the Dutch state was —in '2015'— neutral and/or
inclusive vis-à-vis its subjects' denominational beliefs and
(Yes, i consider capital-H Humanism a 'denomination' too.)
What was not only the case about 70 years after the end of the Second
World War, but long before and still today, is that the Dutch head of
state is officially called "King by the Grace of God".
The symbol of the Dutch monarchy under the House of Orange-Nassau is not
just a crown but a crown with a cross, the major symbol of the Christian
religion, on top of it.
This same Christianist crown decorates the seat of each and every Dutch
parliamentarian elected to represent a 1/150th part of the Dutch
(It is therefore symbolically suggested that less than 0.7% of the Dutch
subjects are non-Christians, whereas the real percentage may be higher by
a factor of 10.)
What the Kingdom of the Netherlands claims to be the 'national anthem' is
nothing but a subnational song of Orangeist Christians.
(It is the text that steals the state; its literary quality and solemn
tune are fine.)
The population is being told that the title of the anthem is (Het)
In reality the full name of this song about the first 'Dutch' Prince of
Orange, is Wilhelmus van Nassouwe, een nieuw Christelijk lied
(William of Nassau, a New Christian Song).
Written by an orthodox Protestant this work contains twelve references to
God and six to the Lord.
Besides the Netherlands and Spain, the warring parties of the time, one
more country is mentioned in this so-called 'national' anthem, namely
Israel with the Biblical figures King Saul and King
A majority of Christianist holidays in duplicate
A country which is neutral and/or inclusive vis-à-vis its citizens'
denominational beliefs or nonbeliefs
would not keep and keep on keeping religious or
theocentrist holidays as public
holidays, let alone the holidays of one particular religion or of one
particular brand of a particular religion.
(Unless it has been freely agreed to on the condition that the number of
legally recognized nonreligious or
normistic special denominational
days be the same or proportionate.)
Yet, this is precisely what the government of the Netherlands does
—indeed, like numerous other regimes on Earth— while
faithfully following the two-cycle system of the Gregorian Christian
Calendar (with a solar year cycle and an entirely unrelated week cycle).
There are ten to eleven legal holidays in a Dutch year and a mere one or
two of them do not have any direct bearing on the cult of Jesus Christ.
The Gregorian New Year's Day, celebrated on about the tenth day after the
Northern winter solstice, is, perhaps, a case in between.
Eight legal holidays are out-and-out Christianistic: they comprise Good
Friday and Easter, Pentecost and Christmas in duplicate ('First'
and 'Second Easter Day', et cetera) and Ascension Day (which will
equally delight all kabbalists of the number two score).
Some Dutch advocates of a 'more inclusive', that is, hopefully, a tiny bit
less exclusivistic, society have suggested that at least one Christian
holiday be replaced with an Islamic one.
(A few kilometers down South, in Belgium, much more far-reaching proposals
are being discussed.)
God's own euro coin
When the euro was introduced in the year 2002 of the Christianist Era the
design of the noncommon obverse side was left to the individual euro area
countries, while each country was also allowed to have its own edge
inscription on the two-euro coin.
Germany selected EINIGKEIT UND RECHT UND FREIHEIT (Unity and Justice and
Freedom) and Lithuania (thirteen years later) Freedom, Unity,
Prosperity in Lithuanian, mottos which are meant to unite people.
The Netherlands chose GOD ZIJ MET ONS (God Be With Us) and Latvia (twelve years later) God Bless
Latvia in Latvian, mottos which only divide the people between those
who believe in the
denominational primacy of gods and demons,
in the singular or plural (the theocentrists), and those who believe in the
primacy of norms and values, also in the singular or plural (the normists).
To make matters worse, the Dutch motto is the same as the words GOTT MIT
UNS which the members of the Nazi SS used to show off on their buckles.
Not only did the Dutch government callously pass over the opinions and
feelings of the nonreligious and victims of the Nazis, it even lugged
160 million two-euro coins out to Britain in order to have the motto
engraved there, as it did not manage to get this job done at home in time.
Britain did manage, because —o irony— it was not joining the
Meanwhile, this arrogant abuse of state property for theocentrist
propaganda is still continuing.
(It's a divine miracle that the Vatican, Italy and San Marino were not
enough impressed by the Dutch regime's mighty piety to follow suit.)
There is the theory of
the rights of personhood which we
may apply to what are traditionally called "human rights", such as the
right to freedom of (thought and) expression and such as what is lopsidedly
called "the freedom of religion" or, if you are luckier, "the freedom of
religion or belief".
And there is the practice of the rights of personhood which tells us about
their enforcements and their infringements, especially by the state
anywhere in the world, because it is first and foremost the constitutions,
laws and governments of these states which should operate with all persons
in mind, regardless of their theocentrist or normistic
The former is a question of good philosophy and equally good ideology, the
latter of good social empirical knowledge and science.
The IHEU's annually updated Freedom of Thought Report is a great
contribution to our empirical knowledge about state religionism, and will
help us to become (more) aware of what is wrong in this field and of what
can or must be done to improve the situation of those involved.
One empirical result of the Freedom of Thought Report 2015 is little
surprising where humans judge humans: most countries (88 out of 196) are
found in the middle, in the 'Systemic Discrimination'
category, the third one of five.
But put each country on top of the other within the same category and you
will not get a (Gaussian) probability curve.
Given that The Netherlands should move from the 'Free and Equal' category
to the 'Mostly Satisfactory' one, and assuming that the places of the
others are justified, the first category will count 7 countries, whereas
the fifth and last category counts no fewer than 31.
And, with The Netherlands, the second, 'Mostly Satisfactory' category will
count 18 countries, whereas the fourth, 'Severe
Discrimination' one counts no fewer than 52.
Sad to say —and a warning for all— it's the Incarcerators and
the Executioners who are overrepresented.
The website of the International Humanist and Ethical Union can be found at
The Freedom of Thought Report 2015 itself is available at
Since a country must have a territory and a territory is a geographical
entity countries are named and listed here on the basis of their
geographical designation and never on the basis of their political
In a geographic ordering adjectives such as united or
democratic and nouns such as kingdom or state(s)
should not be given priority of place, as is sometimes done by the United
Nations and the Freedom of Thought Report in its wake.
If the geographical name a country bears offically refers to a much larger
area than where it has de facto authority, it is entirely legitimate to
add a geographical modifier such as North or South.
If the territory is in fact much smaller than what the official name of the
country (still) suggests, the geographical name for the area actually
ruled may be used instead.
The article The, if applicable, is left out.
With these considerations in mind my table shows the countries or
territories described by the Report in alphabetical order per
You will find the link to the special open-data spreadsheet at
Mind you, it is not all that simple.
If religionism is compared to racism and sexism
religion itself is the factor on the basis of which the irrelevant
distinction is made, for example, between Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic
If it is compared to, for example, androcentrism and
gynocentrism, religion in general is the thing aggrandized (seen as
superior) or, since there are two sides to all exclusivisms, the thing
abnegated (seen as inferior).
The distinction is then the one between religion and irreligion.
The phrase state religionism must be interpreted as religionism
demonstrated by the state and not (necessarily) as an ideology
of an official state religion: many countries which abuse the state as an
instrument of religious privilege and propaganda do not have an official
The name Holland for the country on the North Sea to the North of
Belgium and to the West of Germany is a pars pro toto.
The name The Netherlands, which is used in the official name
Kingdom of the Netherlands, is, however, a totum pro parte, because
at present the territory of this country only covers the
Northern part of The Netherlands.
Those interested in this matter should read my article Holland or The
Netherlands? at mvvm.net
If you have a sufficient command of
Deze Taal you can find these
details and further information on the page entitled "Varianten op
Chanson de Chartres / Wilhelmus van Nassouwe" at mvvm.net
For some funny fiction about this subject see Quentin and Andrea:
God's Own Money, a (short) short story in
It can be found at mvvm.net (copy-paste
For some more serious nonfiction about this subject see Het randschrift
op de Nederlandse euro (The Motto on the Edge of the Dutch
Euro), a long document about this affair in
It starts with an exchange of letters between me and the Ministry of
Finance and can be found at mvvm.net (copy-paste