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New International Religious Freedom Act a first for atheists

Crowds of atheists and other freethinkers assembled by the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool for the Reason Rally on June 4, 2016 in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) When President Obama signed a newly strengthened international religious freedom act Friday (Dec. 16), the intention was to protect religious believers around the world.

But the freshly signed act is being heralded by some legal scholars as a different milestone — for the first time, atheists and other nonreligious persons are explicitly named as a class protected by the law.

“The new law has some really interesting language in it,” said Caroline Mala Corbin, professor of law at the University of Miami. “It takes an expansive view of religious liberty, saying freedom of religion is not just about the right to practice religion. It is also about the right to have your own views about religion including being agnostic and atheistic.”

The law, called the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act — IFRA for short — has been in place since 1998. The original version established the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a religious freedom watchdog that has charted abuses against Christians, Jews, Baha’is and other religious minorities in countries that include Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, and Vietnam.

The new version of the law, named for a former Virginia congressman who championed its original version, specifically extends protection to atheists as well.

“(T)he freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is understood to protect theistic and non-theistic beliefs,” the act states for the first time, “and the right not to profess or practice any religion.”

It also condemns “specific targeting of non-theists, humanists, and atheists because of their beliefs,” and enables the State Department to target “non-state actors” against religious freedom, like the Islamic State group, Boko Haram and other extra-government groups.

The new law has been heralded by both Christians and atheists. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called the legislation “a vital step toward protecting conscience freedom for millions of the world’s most vulnerable, most oppressed people,” while Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, called it “a significant step toward full acceptance and inclusion for non-religious individuals.”

Getting the atheist language into the law was a four-year process, said Maggie Ardiente, communications director for AHA. In 2012, Ardiente and other atheist advocates met with members of the State Department to raise awareness of the persecution of nonbelievers. AHA legislative director Matthew Bulger took a seat —  the first occupied by a representative from an nontheist organization — on the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, an informal group of religious leaders that consults with the State Department on religious liberty issues.

The AHA and other nontheist groups like American Atheists and Center for Inquiry have lobbied Congress on behalf of imprisoned and persecuted atheists in Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and elsewhere for several years.

Atheists in those countries have faced imprisonment, lashings and execution, sometimes at the hands of violent mobs. In September, a Saudi man was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for professing his atheism via Twitter.

The new version of the bill will strengthen the existing law in several ways:

  • It directs the president to sanction individuals who carry out or order religious restrictions.
  • It instructs the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom to report directly to the U.S. secretary of state.
  • It requires all foreign service officers to be trained in the “strategic value of international religious freedom.”

Corbin said the new language in the IRFA could influence how U.S. courts regard atheists at home. All Americans are protected by the First Amendment, she said, but “there has always been controversy about the degree to which they (atheists) should be protected. This law makes clear they are to be protected to the same extent” as religious believers.

Corbin also links the president’s signing of this act to another first.

“President Obama was the first president to explicitly acknowledge nonbelievers in his inaugural address, so this seems to fit into his legacy vis-a-vis nonbelievers,” she said. “What the next administration is going to do with this law and nonbelievers is a completely different question.”

About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

50 Comments

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  • “It also condemns ‘specific targeting of non-theists, humanists, and atheists because of their beliefs,’ and enables the State Department to target ‘non-state actors’ against religious freedom, like the Islamic State group, Boko Haram and other extra-government groups.”

    Um… what do you mean by “target”?? This law could be rather chilling if it is, say, proposing to give the state powers to do extensive foreign intervention and adventurism under the justification of preserving religious freedoms.

    “It directs the president to sanction individuals who carry out or order religious restrictions.”

    My ~goodness~, did they seriously just pass a law that would, if carried out to its fullest, result in placing Sanctions on nearly every country on the planet?! Heck, this pretty much means the law tells the president to shut down ALL TRADE with the US’s biggest trade partner (the PRC really doesn’t have good religious freedom laws…)

    What the heck?? After THIS election of all elections, who thought it was a good idea to give the president a directive to place economic sanctions on nearly every country on the planet if he so chooses?? Anything from France to ISIS would be fair game if the above is implemented.

  • Scope, methodology, and impact TBD by the last sentence of this article. What are the odds? But what were the odds that this Congress would vote to equally protect theists and nontheists in the first place? Maybe “Happy Holidays” isn’t really the Hallmark-of-Hell Card sentiment that it’s been made out to be.

  • Sociologists of religion have studied secular religions to include atheism for a long time. Most academic textbooks on world religions have a section on atheism. Those who have tried to define religion in terms of theism have attempted to exclude atheists. For that matter, atheists often attempt to exclude themselves because they are hostile to traditional religions. Many sociologists of religion are in that category. Still, religion is best defined as a way of life that orients people to ultimate questions and gives them a means by which they make moral decisions. The language of religion can easily be applied to atheist faiths. From the earliest times, “man” has been a religion creating animal. It’s in his DNA. At the core of atheism is an untested worldview assumption and a very specific cosmology that is tied to the philosophy of naturalism and materialism.

  • By using the words “At the core,” are you implying that this is true for every atheist, both self-described and incidental? Also, would you please elaborate on that “worldview assumption and… cosmology” and the “ties” to atheism that you mentioned?

  • Naturalism is the counterpart to Theism, not atheism. It is Naturalism that has replaced Theism as the way our world and Cosmology is know to work. It is in the same way that Astronomy has replaced Astrology in our understanding of the stars, and the same way Chemistry has replaced Alchemy in our understanding of matter; not non-Astrology or non-Alchemy. There is no ‘faith’ required in any non-beliefs (non-Astrology, non-Alchemy, non-Theism, etc)

  • I usually enjoy academic perspectives, Bill, but pigeonholing is for the birds. Doesn’t it make more sense to ask otherbelievers what they believe, and why, and how their beliefs affect their lives and worldviews, etc., and discuss and clarify what they have shared, and seek their input in validating your impressions, before you commit to presenting your conclusions as a well-founded analysis of the demonstrably and understandably diverse beliefs of otherbelieving strangers?

  • Thank you, President Obama! We have long deserved equal rights with religious folk. May this law not be destroyed by the orange one.

  • I teach cultural anthropology and world religions in a graduate school. I have a PhD in the topic and military subspecialty D-Code (PhD) in religion and culture. I advised the military on issues of religion and culture. Last year, I spend my sabbatical teaching in Medillin, Colombia and researching folk religion in Latin America. I also taught on the topic in Lagos, Nigeria last summer in a graduate school there. My Sabbatical report was given to my academic guild and published in a peer reviewed journal.

  • Hope this helps all of you to have a better grip on this topic. I do not speak as a mere apologist. This is my profession. I teach cultural anthropology and world religions in a graduate school as a tenured full professor. I have a PhD in the topic and a military subspecialty D-Code (PhD) in religion and culture. I advised the military on issues of religion and culture during my active duty years in which I worked on five continents to include refugee camps, combat tours, and humanitarian missions. Last year, I spend my sabbatical teaching in Medellin, Colombia and researching folk religion in Latin America. I also taught on the topic in Lagos, Nigeria last summer in a graduate school there. My Sabbatical report was given to my academic guild and published in a peer reviewed journal. I recently published a large textbook on religion in the early Republic (1796-1812). The academic study of religion is an academic discipline. The practice of religion is a personal matter. However, the two intersect and overlap.

  • So I’m sure you understand that simple “atheism” is neither more nor less than an absence of belief in god(s).

    There are non-faith world-views, such as Humanism, which have non-belief in the supernatural as a core element.

    Many confuse the absence of belief in god(s) with a conviction that god(s) do not and/or cannot exist. They are not the same.

    I am of the opinion that the sort of god(s) many believe in are rationally impossible. I cannot demonstrate that no being which could be described as a god is possible; irrelevant probably but not absolutely impossible. Some would call me an agnostic atheist.

  • Your statements have not helped me to get a better grip on anything. I’m not even sure what “subject” you are referring to, since you begin with claims about atheists and atheism and finish with claims about your academic and professional chops.

    While your credentials are appreciated and maybe even interesting, they are no substitute for reasoned argument or foundational definitions, which are still not provided.

  • There is a compulsive need by religious extremists and apologists to make up ridiculous, self serving, denigrating nonsense about what atheists believe or how they live their lives. None of which has any relation to the views of actual atheists. The need for some to lie and attack people in service of their religious beliefs is commonplace.

    Bill, your spiel is dishonest offensive garbage. Instead of trying to insult and attack atheists with lies about their beliefs, you should try actually talking to them. Preferably in a non patronizing and non insulting tone.

  • Yet you completely misrepresent atheism and engage in rather empty statements concerning those who have such views. Having an advanced degree does not appear to be an indicator of honesty on your part. You appear to be trying to support religious belief by attacking those who do not have one.

    People we go rail against “materialist naturalism” are generally stumping for supernatural nonsense. Material naturalism being religiousfanaticspeak for rational thinking and evidence based conclusions.

  • so much wrong lol. atheism means one answer to one question. worldviews are something else. there is such a thing as someone *not* having a religion…. but your very premise is that even non-religion is a religion. think about it.

  • “And what really would be the harm in isolating ourselves from governments that employ oppression on their people?”

    Under the proposed standard, you DO understand that most of the ENTIRE WORLD falls short, correct?? This isn’t just calling on the president to cut off all economic ties with Saudi Arabia, it would call upon the president to impose sanctions on France, Italy, Greece, most of Europe for that matter, where state-recognition of religion is still a big thing.

    But do you think this law will be imposed evenhandedly?? Do you really trust Trump to fairly conclude from this law that he must cut off not only all trade from China, but from the vast majority of Europe, all of Africa, and the Middle East as well??

    Or would you fear that politicians will just use this blanket causus beli that you’ve handed them as a hanging threat to punish other countries who don’t fall in line with America on other grounds??

    “Is our own gain reason enough to turn a blind eye to the evils committed by a trade partner?”

    Man do you understand economic sanctions?? Do you know the COST of economic sanctions?? Let’s look at the sanctions against Iraq, which caused over 500,000 deaths of children under five.

    Yeah, man, I am concerned with countries oppressing people on religious grounds. My own religion is suppressed brutally in its own homeland in Iran.

    But I’m not the sort of vindictive prick who would punish the PEOPLE and the OPPRESSED for the actions of their LEADERS, which is EXACTLY what sanctions do!!

    Religious minorities in these countries are ALREADY SUFFERING. Economic sanctions only increase suffering.

    Now I personally want my fellow Baha’is in Iran to be freed from the burden of religious suppression, but sanctions in Iran, which DOUBLED the poverty rate, caused food prices to rise catastrophically, and caused the value of the local currency to fall, ONLY HURTS THOSE SAME OPPRESSED BAHA’IS.

    “Are you really saying it is okay to persecute on the basis of religious grounds on a national level, simply because you want cheap shit from China?”

    No, but nice strawman there buddy!!

    I’m saying it is morally wrong to destroy a nation’s economy and cause the suffering of an already oppressed peoples due to the actions of that country’s leaders. If you think otherwise, you either haven’t thought through the consequences of economic sanctions OR you are a heartless monster, but to be fair I think it’s the former and you aren’t the latter.

    See, I think the problem is that your probably not thinking this through. Only a small percent of people in other nations are RESPONSIBLE for religious oppression. That’s an obvious fact. Not every Chinese person is responsible for suppressing religion and implementing state control over the few state-approved religious organizations.

    But you imagine that sanctions will punish the people in charge, and thus you stupidly think sanctions are a good idea. But we know HISTORICALLY that the exploitative class IS NOT affected by the sanctions, it is the POOR and MIDDLE CLASS of those nations that the entire burden of economic sanctions is placed against.

    Now if I’ve read you wrong, if you ARE the kind of person who would punish a suffering Chinese laborer at the bottom for the crimes of the Chinese oligarchy, then yes, sanctions make sense. But I’m not the kind of person who wants to spite an entire country’s PEOPLE as punishment for the actions of the dictators in charge.

  • This law gives the president a causus beli to impose economic sanctions, which as history have shown hurt ONLY the poor and middle classed of those societies, against pretty much every country in the world, as pretty much every country in the world (all of Africa, much of Asia, much of Europe) falls short of the standard outlined in this document.

    Now tell me, do you trust the Orange One with these new powers the country has just given him?? Why are you thanking Obama for leaving Trump with such vast new powers for him to abuse?? Do you imagine the Orange One will become virtuous and NOT abuse these laws to impose economic sanctions against anyone he doesn’t like??

    Think about it.

  • You couldn’t be more wrong about religion and atheism. Atheism is a lack of belief in god. There is no worldview to be tested, there is no cosmology.

    Religion is a belief in god or gods. it’s worldview has been consistently tested, and according to every single religion on the planet, except Unitarianism, all of the rest of the religions of man are false.

    Now there is testing for you.

  • Most of the atheists I know– admittedly, a small and biased sample– including myself, are not hostile to religion. We simply reject their untested worldview assumptions and very specific cosmology, not one shred of which is supported by anything remotely resembling fact.

    What we are hostile to is their continued attempts to force their untested worldview assumptions and very specific cosmology into the civil law that governs all of us, in effect making their beliefs about reality into the law about reality.

  • He needs to repeat them so people might take his blather seriously.

    As if he isn’t one of many self-pleased Christians who feels the need to make ridiculous derogatory claims about beliefs he does not have.

    We see this constantly with other beliefs as well. Christians who suddenly pretend they are experts on Islam, Judaism, Native American beliefs and so on.

  • It will indeed be interesting to see what effect(s) this legislation has, particularly under the new administration. I doubt much will change in the everyday lives of ordinary people here in the West, but it is another welcome step toward normalizing a misunderstood demographic. I’m glad to see our presence acknowledged and freedom of conscience enumerated under color of law.

  • As president of Americans for Religious Liberty, a past president of the American Humanist Association, and a senior editor and columnist for Free Inquiry, the leading Humanist journal, I applaud this important step forward for full religious freedom. What remains to be done is to further advance the separation of religion and government that is essential to full protection of religious liberty for all. In the US at this time that separation is seriously threatened by those political forces that would divert public funds to special interest church-run private schools and that would restrict women’s rights of conscience on reproductive health issues like contraception and abortion. The IFRA is a small advance, but much more is needed. — Edd Doerr (arlinc.org)

  • That is my concern. I want to give the benefit of the doubt and assume his statements will sound less demeaning in my ears given better context and definition than was initially presented.

  • A couple of questions:

    You claim that only a few people are responsible for the oppression in religiously-oppressive countries. Do you see any culpability in the masses of people who are more comfortable with the mainstream ideological thought that do not actively turn their efforts to opposing such oppression when they see it? Do you see any culpability in the ideology that obscures and even renames such oppression?

    The next question, far more controversial I am sure:

    I have heard it said that the purpose of such sanctions is to encourage the very individuals they will hurt to pressure political officials for positive change. Keeping within that thought structure, I think it logically follows that avoiding sanctions economically props up the regimes that oppress these people causing just as much misery as sanctions, but over a longer period of oscillating reform with only the promise that one day this will bring change.

    Interesting parallels to this problem are the recent election in this country and the enforcement of secular regimes in Arabic nations in the twentieth century. In the first example, people within this nation voted for a person who promised radical (and possibly detrimental) change, change which his opponents claim can be enacted through peaceful, preexisting channels, promising “one day, it will be better.” In the second example, imperialistic Western nations imposed secular institutions in predominantly Muslim nations, nations which progressed forward in many ways, but eventually backslid into oppression and even returned to Islamist governments in certain cases.

    I can see how both examples highlight the advantages and disadvantages of “ripping the band-aid off versus slowly pulling it off” and “helping with that endeavor versus asking one to do it himself.” With these thoughts in mind, I am wondering if you see any value in the view I have just described. Is there anything positive that you can take from such a view?

  • While I’m usually more than happy to defer to an expert – defined as someone having a depth and breadth of knowledge I don’t possess on a given subject – your comments give me pause. Right out of the gate, you perpetrate a category error, conflating atheism with “secular religion,” thus poisoning the well in favor of the case you want to make. It hardly matters if, as you say, “most textbooks on world religions have a section on atheism.” Social constructivist theories notwithstanding, the fact is most working definitions within the field of sociology remain substantively the same as (or are significantly influenced by) Durkheim’s:

    A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden—beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them.

    Oddly enough, you yourself rely on just this sort of definition when you write that “religion is best defined as a way of life that orients people to ultimate questions and gives them a means by which they make moral decisions.” While I agree with your next statement that “the language of religion can easily be applied to atheist faiths,” this is very different from the claim that atheism writ large belongs in the same category as religion. Moreover, even if “’man’ has been a religion creating animal,” and the core of atheism consists of “an untested worldview assumption” and a “very specific cosmology” tied to “naturalism and materialism,” these things have nothing to do with whether atheism is properly understood as a religion. Why? Well, to begin with atheism in general has nothing to offer in terms of ultimate answers or questions, and contains no moral framework of its own (whether this is a problem for atheism or not is a separate question).

    Following Durkheim’s definition, atheism is not a unified system of beliefs or practices, and unites no one into any single moral community. It may be that this is merely a convenient definition, but unless you have something more than vague allusions to alleged similarities between atheistic identities and religion as we know it, I’ll stick with one sociologists actually use.

    To my mind, a much better approach is to conceive of theism and atheism as categories encompassing the various religious and non-religious responses to our collective encounter with the universe. The theism category obviously includes most world religions according to Durkheim’s definition, including (but not limited to) all monotheistic and polytheistic faiths. The atheism category, by contrast, obviously includes (but is not necessarily limited to) most irreligious identities, including secular humanist, agnostic, freethinker, etc., and possibly even a few religious identities, including perhaps one or more Buddhist and/or Taoist sects, Ethical Societies, religious/spiritual naturalists, and so forth, though I’m fairly confident most adherents of the latter would reject the label.

    In other words, I’m fine with the existence of atheistic religions, and with varieties of atheism expressed within a religious framework. What I reject is the improper generalization of atheism as a religion in its own right. Even conceding some emerging orthodoxies within the modern atheist movement I don’t think atheism qualifies as a religion. At least not as a field of study within sociology. So, if you want to successfully argue for your position, you’re going to have to be more convincing.

  • If these credentials mean anything, then you will be able to coherently make your case. In fact, I encourage you to do that rather than cite your vast experience in the field. Simply put, show, don’t tell. Otherwise, this is nothing but an appeal to authority.

  • With all your education and prestige, Bill, do you still lack the wisdom to realize the folly (and the name) of categorically proclaiming as fact untested worldview assumptions about your imperially denied yet empirically undeniable diversity in the beliefs of an entire demographic of strangers?

    I had no idea that I and all other mindlessly identical atheists each have multiple identical faiths with only one identical core and one identical worldview and one identical cosmology tied to one identical philosophy of both naturalism and materialism!

    And here I thought that I didn’t have any faiths, and that I just personally didn’t believe in God, but that I devoutly cared about how people treat each other and advocated for civility toward and by both theists and atheists, and that my worldview was no less tested (or testable) than anyone else’s, and that I could remain open to a number of nontheistic cosmologies, and that I could tie them to as many philosophies as and if I saw fit in order to broaden and deepen my existential embrace of respectful, compassionate, egalitarian humanitarianism whilst eschewing the siren-song stressors of said naturalism and materialism, and that merrily making up stories about strangers’ beliefs was merely a vain, self-exalted, singularly dismissive bolt of whole cloth.

    I generally consider such prejudiced proclamations to be simple elitist ignorance; but when the act is aggravated by the perp’s proffering of academic credentials, I add “willful” to the charge.

  • Gee Bill. All of that at and you still haven’t a clue about atheism.

    That’s alright. Semper Fi.

  • Thanks, Bill Payne… I’ve got a degree in Electrical Engineering and after a LOT of thought, I decided that I’m an atheist.

    I don’t care how many degrees you have and what your cv lists… Having those items on your resume does not in any way prove your point or validate your beliefs, because ‘beliefs’ they ARE.

    You can’t prove that your God or anyone else’s god exists any more than I or anyone else can prove the negative.

    It’s, at best, a matter of belief, but in the absence of any Real Tangible Evidence, a lot of people are willing to ‘believe’ that no such thing as a “God” exists.
    The ‘proofs’ are founded on beliefs and circular logic at best.

    If you’ve got a better ‘argument’ or proof, Bring It On. Atheists have been waiting and looking for such real proof for a L O N G time…

  • Excellent post!
    Made me wonder if Bill Payne thinks atheism is a ‘religion,’ because if he does, I’d love to see a link to “The Atheists’ Bible.”
    Hm? 🙂

  • J.C.. that reminds me of a conversation with my mom maybe 55 or more years ago.

    I posited that “I think Nixon is a crook.”

    She replied, “How can you say that about Our President!?”

    I replied… “Because he has shown that he’s got many kinds of evidence that he’s a crook! I can respect the OFFICE of The President, but that, in no way means I MUST RESPECT the guy who’s IN the Office… Two Very Different Things.”

    Same with folks with long resume’s who think that their list of letters after their names somehow imply that They Are The Source Of Truth.

    Few things can be farther from “The Truth.” Talk about egoism and lack of humility…

  • “Do you see any culpability in the masses of people who are more comfortable with the mainstream ideological thought that do not actively turn their efforts to opposing such oppression when they see it? Do you see any culpability in the ideology that obscures and even renames such oppression?”

    Counter-question: If you find the masses culpable in their own oppression then why would you care about the oppression in the country in the first place, in which case why would you support sanctioning them??

    Either you care about the people being oppressed, in which case you should not want to impose Sanctions because those oppressed persons will be the primary people affected by those Sanctions

    OR you don’t care about the people being oppressed, in which case why would you want to impose Sanctions in response to oppression in the first place??

    “I have heard it said that the purpose of such sanctions is to encourage the very individuals they will hurt to pressure political officials for positive change.”

    I’ve heard that said too. But we have the historical record to clearly show us that this is not what happens when Sanctions are imposed.

    Did the peoples of North Korea, Iran, and Cuba rise up and overthrow their tyrannical governments?? No, instead we saw the regimes of those countries simply blame ALL economic woe of the country on the Sanction-imposing country, and we saw more common people embracing their nation’s narrative and turning their anger against America rather than becoming angry at their own country.

    “Is there anything positive that you can take from such a view?”

    If it worked the way you said… there might be some value in it, but it doesn’t work that way at all, as history has repeatedly shown again and again and again. You can’t argue the effectiveness of Sanctions in sparking uprisings against the tyrannical governments of those countries unless you have complete disregard for the historical record.

    Thus the discussion of causing short-term harm for long-term progress is not relevant (though an interesting moral quandary for other issues) because the harm caused by economic sanction brings ~no~ long-term benefit whatsoever (except benefits to the tyrannies of the world, who gain a convenient scapegoat for the nation’s woes).

  • Leave it alone and change the nation through cultural pressures. Culture now travels at ridiculous speeds thanks to the internet, and countries can be exposed to more liberty-oriented values through that.

    Sanctions, though, are historically shown to only hurt the people they rule. Some say that harming the poor and middle class of tyrannical nations will cause them to overthrow their nations, but history has shown this has ~never~ happened as the result of economic sanctions, so that argument is moot.

    There is literally no benefit, not for us, not for the oppressed peoples, in imposing economic sanctions (except, maybe, a benefit in feeling as though we have done something to help, even though we have done no such thing).

    Even though my solution almost boils down to “doing nothing” I’d argue that “doing nothing” is preferable, even if the cultures of foreign lands don’t naturally liberalize as I expect them too. Because economic sanctions have no benefit whatsoever, and only cause harm and death of the oppressed classes they supposedly benefit.

    With that in mind, economic sanctions are worse than doing nothing.

    It’s better to do nothing for a cut then to try to patch it up with a mixture of salt and lemon juice.

  • I have often said that I would give worlds to see tangible, irrefutable evidence of a god, any god, even the three in one Christian god.

    Hell, I’d give worlds to see such evidence about a leprechaun.

  • Reign it in, Eddie. I was trying to get some clarification on your opinion. I was not even remotely suggesting that this is the way things are. There’s no need to impugn my character for asking uncomfortable questions, unless your intent is to malign me into submission to your opinion.

    I didn’t ask about the culpability of of people who are oppressed, but the culpability of people in the mainstream who stand by while it happens, e.g. Muslims who watch as Baha’i are marginalized or theists who watch as atheists are marginalized. Can we hold the views and beliefs of those in the mainstream as contributing to the problem?

    While the broad examples you cited have a ring of truth about them, this article claims more than a dozen specific times sanctions were successfully used to achieve a specific outcome: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/worldviews/wp/2014/04/28/13-times-that-economic-sanctions-really-worked . If you are willing to agree with its conclusions, why do you think it won’t work in this situation? If you disagree with it’s conclusions, why is that?

    Just trying to understand the nuances of your position.

  • Does no one see the self-defeating philosophy here? If “freedom of thought, conscience, and religion” is what this is striving for, then why should ISIS be attacked at all? They are “free to think” that way. It is against their conscience to allow other faiths to exist because the others deviate from worshiping the “Most High God” in the truth. It is their religion to destroy others. In effect, does not this act do the very thing it condemns ISIS of doing? eliminating the freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, and freedom of religion? of others?

    Tolerance nullifies itself and indirectly (despite not wanting to) proves the truth described in the commands documented by the Abrahamic faiths: other religious beliefs must be destroyed. It is unsafe for deviant beliefs from reality to exist. But can we be honest in the language? This isn’t really a religious liberty bill, it’s “an attempt to annihilate violent persecution” bill, or else we annihilate those people with whom we don’t agree with (borrowing from the Abrahamic worldview, just kicking YHWH out to the curb). We can play word games all day, but the essence of what “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” describes is true. There’s a reason “free exercise of religion” is not supported by the Law of Moses.

  • My God!! There are actually people who believe that there was a “need” to protect atheists from people who believe in God? What believers is that “ACT” protecting atheists from? I do hope it is from the Islamic terrorists only but so far they focus on Christians not on atheists (at least in the USA). This is just another way to enter the leftists ideas into the USA constitution. Soon they will make more changes that sued their socialistic and liberal agendas. A President for Religious Liberty should be the one who sees this clearly . That is Religious Freedom Act that socialist – Obama has changed. That act was written to protect people from being persecuted for practicing their RELIGION. Atheists have nothing to fear, they only go to the fitness center to practice. Please think, just think what meaning that change has and please do not be afraid to speak up in your own voice. Liberals have been working for such a long time on imposing on us their ideas that some of us got confused but there is nothing good that Obama has done for the Americans for the last 8 years and the constitutional changes are not any different. Now, what right to practice my religious beliefs do I have? If I do not employ and atheist as my grandkids babysitter (so she will not poison their minds with the ideas) she may sue me for not respecting her “religious rights”. This is wrong and this is illegal and I do hope that our new president will disregard Obama’s changes.

  • It happens more than you know it. Other actions or discrimination are far more common. The most common act is a preference for one more religiously in line with a person in power no matter how small. Try getting hired with volunteer experience with an atheist organization on your resume.

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