U.S. Religious Freedom Commission: Atheism is Not a ‘Criminal Act’

Here’s a little good news in a dark and scary time.

My co-worker Michael De Dora, who runs CFI’s Office of Public Policy, came across this encouraging sign over the weekend. It’s from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and it begins with the question:

Did You Know … that in the case of imprisoned Indonesian atheist Alexander Aan, the freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief also protects the right not to believe?

After the banging of heads all of us at CFI have done to get attention focused on Aan’s case, and now in the midst of our efforts to shine a spotlight on restrictions on free expression around the world (which includes CFI’s significant contribution to the new IHEU report on atheists’ persecution), this was a pleasant surprise to see — and straight from the body that advises the president and State Department on these matters, no less.

The big takeaway:

The holding of atheistic beliefs or their propagation should not be considered a criminal act. Atheism should be viewed as an expression of conscience by individuals who do not embrace theistic beliefs and should be protected by governments under the rights to the freedom of religion and expression.

Wow. A small thing, really, but just as it was rejuvenating to hear the president explicitly denounce blasphemy laws, man, it feels good to read something like that coming from my government.

About Paul Fidalgo

Paul is communications director for the Center for Inquiry, as well as an actor and musician. His blog is iMortal, and he tweets as @paulfidalgo, and the blog tweets as @iMortal_blog.
The opinions expressed on this blog are personal to Paul and do not necessarily represent the views of the Center for Inquiry.

  • Jon Peterson

    Extremely depressing… but I absolutely agree with you. This tiny token of rational thinking feels really nice coming from such an important figure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003133046168 Christopher Harris

    Atheistic belief? 

  • Stev84

    It’s also noteworthy considering that this commission is mostly interested in the freedom of Christians and less so about religion in general.

  • C Peterson

    Well, yes, technically that’s a bit odd. But “belief” can refer not just to an individual belief, but to an entire system of belief- of which atheism can be seen as a part of. So “atheistic belief” in this context isn’t an unreasonable usage. It’s similar to the way we sometimes find it useful to treat atheism as a religious system, even though it isn’t in any strict way. We just don’t have very good words available to us in some of these discussions.

  • Tom

    I think the case could well be made that atheism isn’t even an act.  When you can even consider criminalising people merely for *being* something, as opposed to *doing* something, you’ve got problems more fundamental even than bigotry.

  • AtomJack

     Not sure why I have to reply to an individual…must be my FireFox settings.

    Anyway, I think that if the people trying to poke holes in religious “supremacy”, if you will, may have better luck treating atheism as a belief to soften it up for the masses. You know how tender the sheeple can be.

  • allein

    There should be an “Add new comment” box just before the comments start..

  • Good and Godless

    “U.S. Religious Freedom Commission” ruling on Atheism is like the National Football League ruling on Birdwatching.

  • Tor

    Dear Friends,
    Please direct your attention to Uganda, which is on the verge of criminalizing, even with a death penalty, *being* gay.   And as if that is not enough, Ugandan friends, relatives and associates will be penalized for not reporting the “known homosexual” in their presence.  This is a real and present danger.

  • se habla espol

     Zero is a number; the empty set is a set; null belief is a belief… .

  • Jennifer

    This has to be an error. No government agency could possibly come to a conclusion as accurate as this.