Join Donate

Humanists ‘are discriminated against in 144 countries’ – 2021 Freedom of Thought Report

Humanists are discriminated against in 144 countries across the globe. 83 countries have criminal punishments for blasphemy or apostasy, including 13 where it remains a capital offence. In 12 countries, government figures or state agencies openly marginalise, harass, or incite hatred or violence against the non-religious. These are the top-line findings of the tenth annual Freedom of Thought Report by Humanists International, which is being launched today.

Humanists International is the umbrella body for all humanist, atheist, and secularist organisations around the world. It campaigns internationally to defend non-religious people at risk of persecution and violence. Each year it produces the Freedom of Thought Report which is the only worldwide survey of discrimination and persecution against the non-religious. It provides the most up-to-date information on each country and a rating system for their human rights performance.

In recent years, there has been an increase in attacks and persecution of humanists and other non-religious people across the globe. There have been murders, arrests, and disappearances of outspoken humanists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and India. There are state-sponsored crackdowns on the non-religious communities in Egypt and Malaysia.

Humanists UK is a member of Humanists International and helps with the compilation of the report. It will be using these findings to call on the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to do more to protect humanists at risk around the globe.

Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson is also the elected President of Humanists International. Speaking in that capacity about the report, he commented:

‘This year’s Freedom of Thought Report offers, once again, grim reading. In it we detail the discrimination that humanists and other non-religious people continue to face as a result of daring to express their beliefs and to try to live according to their conscience.

‘The non-religious are one of the most persecuted groups across the globe. But they are also one of the least visible and their persecution is amongst the most under-reported. We welcome this report and hope that it will influence governments both in the UK and abroad to prioritise protecting freedom of religion and belief for all.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596; or Humanists International Casework and Campaigns Manager Emma Wadsworth-Jones at

Read more about our international campaigns.

Read the Freedom of Thought Report.

Read more about Humanists International.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

Search Humanists UK