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Heinrich Himmler, who was fascinated with Germanic paganism, was a strong promoter of the gottgläubig movement and didn't allow atheists into the SS, arguing that their "refusal to acknowledge higher powers" would be a "potential source of indiscipline".
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is designed to protect the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
These included the priest Giulio Cesare Vanini who was strangled and burned in 1619 and the Polish nobleman Kazimierz Łyszczyński who was executed in Warsaw, as well as Etienne Dolet, a Frenchman executed in 1546.
Though heralded as atheist martyrs during the nineteenth century, recent scholars hold that the beliefs espoused by Dolet and Vanini are not atheistic in modern terms.
Modern theories of constitutional democracy assume that citizens are intellectually and spiritually autonomous and that governments should leave matters of religious belief to individuals and not coerce religious beliefs using sanctions or benefits.
The constitutions, human rights conventions and the religious liberty jurisprudence of most constitutional democracies provide legal protection of atheists and agnostics.
Because atheism can be defined in various ways, those discriminated against or persecuted on the grounds of being atheists might not have been considered atheists in a different time or place.
Portugal has elected two presidents, Mário Soares, who was also elected Prime-Minister, and Jorge Sampaio, who have openly expressed their irreligion, as well as two agnostic Prime-Ministers, José Sócrates and António Costa.On the contrary, in Greece, the right-wing New Democracy government stated that "the Greek people have a right to know whether Mr.Tsipras is an atheist", citing their political opponent's irreligiosity as a reason he should not be elected, even though they granted that "it is his right".In the Elder Pastitsios case, a 27-year-old was sentenced to imprisonment for satirizing a popular apocalyptically-minded Greek Orthodox monk, while several metropolitans of the Greek Orthodox Church (which is not separated from the state) have also urged their flock "not to vote unbelievers into office", even going so far as to warn Greek Orthodox laymen that they would be "sinning if they voted atheists into public office".A 2009 survey showed that atheists were the most hated demographic group in Brazil, among several other minorities polled, being almost on par with drug addicts.