Is religious persecution declining or growing?
KEVIN SMITH is on the board of directors for the Centre of Inquiry, Canada's premier venue for humanists, skeptics and freethinkers.
'Timing is everything." Giordano Bruno was a freethinker, a voracious reader of forbidden books and one who dared question Christian doctrine. His most critical issue, however, was being alive during the Roman Inquisition. Accused by church authorities as a heretic, he was burned at the stake in 1600.
If Bruno were alive today, his books would be on bestseller lists and he'd be packing them in at lectures. He would still take a lot of heat for his views, but fire wouldn't necessarily be part of the equation.
It was a bold man who took the first bite out of religion, but in recent years there have been an increasing number of us who have committed that primal sin -- to question belief.
Persecution of non-believers for challenging religion has been as vicious as religious persecution between those of faith, and the attacks against us are growing.
Apostasy is still considered a serious crime in certain Middle Eastern countries where, if I visited, I'd end up coming home in cargo. In America, home of the free, the bravest of its citizens are atheists, its most vilified minority.
There are still democracies, including Canada, where if you swear at God, instead of allegiance to Him, you can be charged with blasphemy.
Our atheist bus campaigns receive venom-packed letters, sprinkled with the occasional death threat, obviously written by spin masters of religious morality.
This month, a lecture at a Michigan Golf and Country Club was cancelled when the owner discovered that atheist Richard Dawkins was the keynote speaker.
It's deplorable that in this rational age -- and likely because of it -- we continue to be oppressed for speaking our truth. But at least it's not the 16th century, or Dawkins would have been carted out to the 13th hole and burned at the pin.
Return from Atheist Persecution to home page