The freedom not to believe

for humanists, atheists and freethinkers in the Netherlands

You have sought refuge in the Netherlands. We welcome you, and hope that here you will find the freedom and safety you seek. In the Netherlands you are free to believe, think and say what you want. We feel that is extremely important in the Netherlands. Some people believe, others don’t. The Netherlands has Christians, Moslems, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and people of other religions. There are also humanists, atheists and freethinkers. They believe not in a god, but in people. More than half of the Dutch citizens do not believe in a god, and have no religion. 

Equal rights for all

Dutch law stipulates that people must be free to believe, think and say what they want. For many centuries people who have been persecuted for what they do or don’t believe, have fled to our country. Freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief is a universal human right. That includes the right to leave a religion and express your conviction. This has been established by the United Nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the Netherlands we believe these rights to be so important that we have incorporated them into our constitution.

The law

According to Dutch law, you may therefore express your faith, but also your lack of faith. This law also applies in the refugee centre. In many countries only one religion is accepted and it is considered to be a problem to leave the faith or to have no faith. Not in the Netherlands. People may believe, may leave their faith, may change religion or their beliefs, may have no religion at all and may say and write that they don’t believe in god. The law prohibits disrespecting, discriminating against or threatening people with a different belief than one’s own. If someone abuses or threatens you because you don’t believe, or you criticise religion, then the person who is harassing you can be punished.

“I had to flee my country because as an atheist blogger, I was on a Moslem extremists’ death-list. They had already killed a number of fellow bloggers. There are many Moslems in the refugee centre, perhaps extremist ones as well. So I’m afraid and I don’t dare to say what I think.”


Growing numbers of non-believers feel compelled to flee from their countries, because the authorities or fellow citizens don’t accept that they have left their faith, they no longer adhere to a religion and/or they criticise religion. Discrimination, persecution or violence often follows. In the Netherlands your safety must be protected. Do you feel unsafe in the refugee centre? Are you being harassed or threatened by fellow residents because you’re a humanist, atheist or freethinker? Then discuss that immediately with a COA member of staff or the Refugee Council (‘Vluchtelingenwerk’). For serious threats you can also file a charge with the police. The COA staff-member will help you with this.

“I was married off as a girl and abused. I resisted the faith which justified this. Then I was threatened by my family, those around me and the state, and I had to flee. Moslems in the refugee centre often harass me because I don’t wear a headscarf.“

Meet each other

Many people value contact with those who think the same way they do. The Dutch Humanist Association is the organization that unites humanists in the Netherlands, including freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and secular. It is a society committed to self-determination, a humane society and freedom of expression, that is inspired by science, old and new thinkers. The Humanist Association regularly organises (closed) meetings where displaced ex-Moslems, humanists, atheists and other freethinkers can meet each other.


Would you like to tell your story or meet other non-believers? Then please get in touch with the Dutch Humanist Association.
E-mail and we will get in touch with you. You can contact us anonymously if you want; of course we treat your data confidentially.

Check the website

Dutch Humanist Association
Post Box 75490
1070 AL Amsterdam
The Netherlands

telephone +31(0)20 521 90 00