P.O. Box 741 • Amherst, New York 14226-0741 • (716) 636-4869 • Fax (716) 636-1733 www.centerforinquiry.net United Nations Human Rights Council 29th Session (June 15 - July 3, 2015) General Debate on Item 4, Tuesday June 25 Speaker: CFI Representative Roy Brown Fear of Atheism and Freethought Thank you Mr. President. Non-believers are among the most widely persecuted faith group on Earth. There is scarcely a country that does not persecute, oppress, or discriminate in some way against non-believers. Yet this Council continues to ignore their plight in resolution after resolution, sacrificing non-believers on the altar of a dubious consensus with their persecutors. This year, three freethought bloggers have been hacked to death in Bangladesh; Raif Badawi is still under threat of a further 950 lashes for expressing his ideas online in Saudi Arabia; countless freethinkers are imprisoned in Egypt; the list is virtually endless. But why this fear of atheism and freethought? Saudi Arabia has equated atheism with terrorism, but it isn’t atheist jihadis who are terrorising the world. Persecution of non-believers is most evident in those states that impose a state religion. But as Abdul Fatah Amor, the former Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, has pointed out: there are two problems — when the state controls religion and when religion controls the state. Mr. President, atheists and freethinkers do not advocate state atheism, but government that is neutral towards religion and belief, favouring none and discriminating against none. And why the fear of freedom of expression? The problem with suppressing freedom of belief and freedom of expression is that it stifles debate and progress based on science and reason. Year after year the UN Human Development Index has shown that states which respect freedom of expression rank well ahead in terms of education, infant and maternal mortality, longevity and economic development, compared to those that impose a state religion on their people. What the world desperately needs, Mr. President, are genuine respect for freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression. Thank you sir.