Freedom of thought

The American Humanist Association on the Religious Freedom Act:

The American Humanist Association lobbied both Democrats and Republicans for inclusive language in HR 1150 that would recognize the rights of humanists, atheists and other nonreligious individuals, in addition to defending theistic religious minorities. The Act states that “the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is understood to protect theistic and non-theistic beliefs as well as the right not to profess or practice any religion.” The Act also condemns “specific targeting of non-theists, humanists, and atheists because of their beliefs” and attempts to forcibly compel “non-believers or non-theists to recant their beliefs or to convert.”

There’s an ambiguity in that last sentence, thanks to a word that could be a verb or a noun and works either way. It’s not “the Act condemns and attempts” but “the Act condemns targeting and it condemns attempts to compel.” Replacing “attempts” with “efforts” would have solved that problem.

The persecution of openly humanist and atheist writers has become an area of increasing concern especially after the string of murders of secular bloggers and publishers by religious extremists in Bangladesh. The American Humanist Association, along with other international advocates for religious freedom, have also been critical of the flogging of secular writers in Saudi Arabia, as well as a Saudi law that equates atheism with terrorism.

“Legislators are finally recognizing the human dignity of humanists and granting the nontheistic community the same protections and respect that have been given to religious communities,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “With the increasing global persecution of humanists and atheists at the hands of religious authoritarians, we’re proud that Congress and the US Department of State are standing for the liberty of all people, both religious and non-religious,” Speckhardt added, in reference to findings from the recent release of the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s 2016 Freedom of Thought report.

“A historic piece of legislation that for the first time in our nation’s history recognizes non-theists, the International Religious Freedom Act is the result of extensive advocacy efforts from the humanist community and the support of our religious allies,” said Matthew Bulger, legislative director of the American Humanist Association. “Religious freedom for all people, theists and non-theists, is an American value we must protect.”

It’s far from a universal American value though. A great many people really do think everyone should be required or at least heavily pressured to have some form of supernatural belief. They mostly don’t come after us with machetes, but they don’t like or trust us.

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