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6 Outrageous Incidents of Discrimination Against Nonbelievers

Atheists are often seen as crying wolf when they speak about bigotry. But discrimination against atheists around the world is real.

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2: Alexander Aan, Indonesia. In January 2012, Indonesian civil servant Alexander Aan was attacked by an entirely different mob, after he criticized Islam on Facebook and said he'd left the religion and become an atheist. Following the attack, Aan was arrested for insulting religion (i.e., blasphemy), electronic transmission of defamatory statements (i.e., blasphemy via the Internet), and false reporting on an official form. That last charge is loaded with horrible irony, by the way: Indonesians are legally required to register as one of six official religions... thus literally forcing people who doesn't believe in one of those religions, including people like Aan who don't believe in any of them, to lie.On June 14, Aan was sentenced. He is now serving two and a half years in prison.

3: Phillipos Loizos, Greece. In September 2012, Phillipos Loizos was arrested in Evia, Greece, on charges of posting "malicious blasphemy and religious insult" on Facebook. His crime? Creating a Facebook page making fun of Elder Paisios, the late Greek Orthodox monk revered by many as a prophet -- a page referring to Paisios as Pastistios, connecting him with the satirical atheist faux-religion Pastafarianism, and replacing his face with an image of the Greek beef dish pastitsio. Seriously. Aggravated Photoshopping, with intent to mock. Overzealous police officer? Maybe. But then why was Loizos not immediately released, with pleading, tear-stained apologies and a groveling request not to sue? Why, as of the release of the IHEU report on December 10, is he still being charged?

4: Sanal Edamaruku, India. A humanist organizer and a renowned skeptical debunker of supernatural claims -- sort of a James Randi of India -- Sanal Edamaruku is the president of the Indian Rationalist Association. He's also the guy who, in March 2012, profoundly embarrassed the Catholic Church on national television, when he debunked a supposed "miracle" believed in by thousands by proving that a weeping Jesus on the cross was actually the result of a leaky drain. The Catholic Church, naturally, was profoundly grateful for this information, as it cares passionately about the truth and wants to be sure that any "miracles" it promotes are truly the hand of God...

...No, wait, That's not what happened at all. In April 2012, a group called the Association of Concerned Catholics filed a complaint against Edamaruku with the Mumbai police under Section 295 of the country's penal code... a complaint the Catholic Church didn't officially support but also didn't speak out against or try to stop in any way. The police, recognizing this complaint for the blatant absurdity that it was, laughed them out of the room...

...No, wait. That's not what happened at all. The Mumbai police actually took this seriously. They issued an arrest, charging Edamaruku with "hurting the religious sentiments of a particular community." The police haven't dropped it, either: they have since gone to Edamaruku's home in Delhi to serve the arrest warrant, and to demand information on his whereabouts. What's more, they are denying him "anticipatory bail," so if he submitted to the arrest he could do months of jail time before his trial. Edamaruku, unwilling to do months of jail time for first-degree debunking of fraudulent miracles, has fled the country, and is currently in hiding in Finland. (More information at the Friendly Atheist blog.)

Please note here that -- as in the Greek case -- it is not Islamic theocrats or would-be theocrats trying to get atheists locked up for making them look bad. It is Christian ones. So in case you were going in that whole "this is just a problem of Muslim extremists" direction... yeah, don't go there.

 
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