"The Empire tells us we cannot worship holy Talos. How can man set aside a god? How can a true Nord of Skyrim cast aside the god that rose from our own heartland?"Religion is one of the chiefest aspects of a culture, one that is quite deeply-rooted among many. To take away that religion is viewed by many as destructive of the culture in general, and probably the biggest way that people try to do this is to outlaw the religion, banning the worship of the religion's deity or deities and the practices of the religion in general. The reasons for doing this vary:
- One culture has taken over another, and in order to facilitate assimilation into the prevailing culture and stamp out rebellion, religion is among the many cultural aspects the other culture may outlaw, usually to force the populace into following the other culture's religion. Sometimes this works in reverse, with the ban on religion being a way to try to halt the encroachment of another culture on the other's way of life.
- Another religion has taken hold in the land and sees the other religion as competition, often leading to the other religion being declared evil and to be wiped out.
- The government or ruler doing the banning has a serious hatred for the religion in question and/or sees the religion as a threat to their power. Usually said government wants the religion gone in favor of its state religion, or in more modern times, complete devotion to the state.
- Sometimes, in fantasy settings where Gods Need Prayer Badly, this may be an attempt to weaken or outright kill a god by denying him or her the worship he or she needs.
- The religion requires or encourages behavior that is unacceptable to the ruling culture. In this case, the rulers may tolerate abstract belief in the religion as long as the objectionable elements are not practiced.
open/close all folders
- In V for Vendetta, England has transformed into a fascist dictatorship. Among the many things the government has made illegal, even possessing a Qur'an, let alone following the Islamic faith, is punishable by death.
- The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye: The Decepticons renounced Primus, the Primes and the Matrix at the beginning of the war. Several million years later the Decepticon Justice Division hunt down and violently kill anyone still practicing any religion whatsoever, since Megatron proclaimed it a form of control. As opposed to violently killing people to make them all stay in line, which is just the normal workings of an empire, naturally. Adding to the hypocrisy, the D.J.D. religiously worship Megatron (or did at any rate, and one of them murmurs prayers when nearing death.
- ElfQuest: Once he starts getting delusions of grandeur, Gromul Djun bans worship of the humans' deity Threksht, and making offerings to or idols of the Hidden Ones (i.e. the elves in the forest) while also declaring himself to be a god, whom they alone must worship. After this and some other outrages, it's not long until they rebel.
- During the reign of the Galactic Empire in the Star Wars universe, the Jedi were hunted down and driven to near-extinction by Imperial forces, their religion dwindling from universally recognized to often ridiculed as old superstition. Emperor Palpatine and his right hand Darth Vader were members of the evil Sith order, the ancient enemies of the Jedi.
- In the Apocalypse film series, Christianity is considered illegal to practice, as One Nation Earth actively hunts down all who do.
- In Escape from L.A., the new extreme right wing President who takes over the United States outlaws all religions other than Christianity as well as atheism. It is punishable by death through deportation to the hellish, crime-ridden Los Angeles Penitentiary Island. Taslima, one of the inhabitants, tells Snake that she was an American Muslim before she was shipped off to L.A.
- Silence by Martin Scorsese deals with the persecutions of Japanese Christians and the Portuguese Jesuits ministering to them in the Edo Period.
- V for Vendetta: Islam has apparently been outlawed by the Norsefire regime, since Gordon is shot just for possessing a Qu'ran (even when he's not Muslim). Presumably all Muslims have been killed or imprisoned by them.
- In C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America the Christian Reform Act bans any religion not based on Christianity. It's noted that there was much debate before deciding that Catholicism was safe under the act, and that the Jews were nearly thrown out, but Jefferson Davis's dying wish (and reminder that it was a Jew who saved the Confederacy) allowed for a small settlement of Jews on Long Island.
- Averted in Joust. The Tians allow Altans in captured territory to continue to worship their own deities, to avoid the problems that would result from underground worship. (The fact that the Tian and Altan pantheons are almost identical doesn't hurt, either.)
- In David Eddings's Belgariad and Malloreon series, the Bear Cult, based on a misguided worship of the Alorn's god Belar, has to be periodically suppressed for its fanaticism.
- In turn the Bear Cults wants to do this the other Kingdoms of the West, forcing them to worship Belar as opposed to their own gods (or all of them in the case of the very ecumenical Sendars).
- While the outlawing of the Bear Cult is the banning of a specific form of an accepted religion, a straighter example is the banning of the worship of Torak in all the Alorn Kingdoms. Similarly in Mallorea traditional Karand religion is banned, mostly because it involves the worshipping and summoning of demons.
- In The Witcher universe, Coram Agh Tera, the Cult of the Lionhead Spider, is a forbidden religion in many of the civilized nations due to its practice of Human Sacrifice, and while the persecution is not as intense as it has been in the past, very few places will allow Coram Agh Tera cultists to preach openly. The government of Temeria is particularly keen to suppress the cult within their borders, and membership of the Lionhead Spider cult is a crime akin to murder.
- In Discworld, both Omnia in Small Gods and Borogravia in Monstrous Regiment banned any religion other than the state one (Omnianism and Nugganism, respectively). Borogravia's neighbour and arch-rival Zlobenia banned the Nugganatic religion, which was probably for the best.
- Downplayed in the Star Carrier series, where the Terran Confederation's "White Covenant" law means that, while religion isn't banned outright, many of its common practices are. In particular proselytizing, many missionary activities, and conversion by threat or force are considered violations of basic human rights. This came about after Islamic terrorists nuked several major cities and set off World War III, and understandably doesn't sit well with a lot of religious groups (the Muslims especially, since it bans a core tenet of the faith, to bring the word of Allah to the infidel).
- In The Immortals Emperor Ozorne of Carthak restricted or discouraged traditional religious practices and tried to set himself up as an object of worship, but he stopped short of actually banning religion for fear the gods would take umbrage and depose him. He ended up pushing them far enough to put Daine in place to demolish his regime (and several palaces) with an army of animate dinosaur skeletons.
- In The Stars My Destination religion has been outlawed and pictures of people practicing it in secret are treated as something akin to pornography.
- In 2230 in the novel Valhalla, all religion is banned without exception. The villains of the novel are colonialist missionaries.
- In the Left Behind series, Christianity as well as all other religions except for Carpathianism become illegal to practice during the latter half of the Tribulation when Nicolae Carpathia is "resurrected" and proclaims himself to be God. Surprisingly averted by God and Jesus Christ in the Millennial Kingdom, since they allow The Other Light members to practice their religion within certain limits.
- In Harry Turtledove's Colonization trilogy, the Race does not exactly outlaw human "superstitions" in their territories, but they do want to encourage conversion to their own reverence of the Spirits of Emperor's Past. To accomplish this they impose certain restrictions, such as charging people a fee to enter temples and forcing students in their medical school to pay respects to the shrine of the Spirits of Emperors Past. They have better success in China, where they managed to frame the practice in ways already similar to traditional Chinese ancestor reverence, and worse luck in the Middle East, where poor words from the Race ground troops make it a direct challenge to Islam.
- in Cat's Cradle, every successive ruler of San Lorenzo outlaws Bokononism (and is an ardent Bokononist). It's actually an important part of the religion: since the poverty and relatively abysmal living conditions of the tiny nation and its populace really are pretty hopeless, the founder(s) of Bokononism decided that the religion should at least provide an interesting and entertaining drama to give the people something else to focus on. So, they took on the dual roles of the Holy Prophet in the jungle and the Evil Dictator in the city, eventually both succumbing to Becoming the Mask to one degree or another.
- In the United States of Christian Nation, all religions except for Christianity are banned.
- Annals of the Western Shore: In Voices, the Alds have outlawed worship of Ansul's Fantasy Pantheon. While they don't make any effort to evangelize their religion, they come down brutally on anyone they catch saluting one of Ansul's many religious statues or shrines.
- Christianity is, of course, an Illegal Religion in Search the Seven Hills. The Praetorian Arrius explains why; "They could sacrifice their babies in the forum if only they'd give a slice of the meat to the Genius of the Emperor. But they won't."
- The Baroque Cycle: Depending on where you are in Europe either Catholicism, or some—or all—forms of Protestantism may be illegal. Some places switch back and forth multiple times over the course of the story.
- In the Final Empire of Mistborn: The Original Trilogy, all religions except for the Steel Ministry are illegal, as an extension of the fact that it's illegal to regard anyone but the Lord Ruler as a god. Even then, only the Obligators (the Ministry's priests and bureaucrats) are permitted to engage much in the ritual and spiritual side of the faith - the Lord Ruler prefers his followers to show more material forms of devotion.
- In the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Empress Laseen crushed the cult of War God Fener after she ascended the throne, and the only people seen worshipping him are either non-Malazans or Malazans who are willing to take the risk of persecution and worship him anyway.
- The Handmaid's Tale: Everything except the regime's particular fundamentalism is banned. Being a Catholic priest is a capital crime, and it's mentioned that the Church ordered clergy to stop wearing the cassock because of this. Quakers are also mentioned as being persecuted, along with Baptists (who have rebelled). Jews are allowed to convert or leave for Israel. Those who stay but practice Judaism in secret are executed.
- Underground Zealot: All religions have been banned, as religious conflict somehow started World War III.
Live Action Television
- The Man in the High Castle: Christianity has been banned in the Japanese Pacific States, and this is implied within the Reich as well, given that even a Neutral Zone book shop owner only sells Bibles under the table. The Marshal finds this out and confirms with his reaction that it's basically contraband, even though the Neutral Zone technically has no laws. Hitler actually did have plans to replace Christianity with a new religion centering on himself, according to some papers uncovered by the Allies. Judaism was banned in Nazi Germany already. In this setting, Imperial Japan has followed suit, with practicing it being punishable by death.
- The Handmaid's Tale: Being Catholic or Jewish is apparently a capital crime now. We see a priest hanged from the Wall, along with a man wearing a Star of David symbol. Catholic cathedrals are demolished. Later on, June hides out with a family of closeted Muslims, finding they hid their Quran and prayer rug while they make a point of attending church to publicly fit in. The man, Omar, is hanged with the green crescent and star symbol of Islam, indicating this is illegal as well. We can surmise all religions but the official one of the regime are banned and punishable by death.
Mythology and Folklore
- Defied by Dionysus in Greek mythology, who was known for killing rulers who made worship of him illegal.
- In the Book of Exodus, the commandment to worship only the Abrahamic God made any other types of religion illegal. Not only did this include not practicing the various pagan faiths found in the area, it also included an expectation to destroy peoples who did, and served as a way of making them seem like Asshole Victims by painting them as "godless heathens." (This didn't always happen in practice, but it was expected.)
- In the apocryphal books of the Maccabees, Judaism as practiced by the Jews that chose to remain faithful to God's Law was considered illegal by the rulers like Antiochus Epiphanes whenever they forced their Greek religion and culture upon the Jews.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- In the Theocracy of the Pale the only legal religion was worship of Pholtus. All other religions were forbidden.
- In many areas religions based on evil deities were officially forbidden because of the death and destruction their worshippers tended to cause.
- Forgotten Realms
- Several countries in Faerûn outlaw the worship of Talos (not to be confused with the Elder Scrolls deity), the god of storms, destruction and natural disasters.
- The Church of the Silver Flame rules Thrane as a theocratic state, and while religions like the Sovereign Host are allowed within its borders, their adherents find life less comfortable, and few other religions, particularly the Blood of Vol whose association with the undead is utterly abhorrent to the Church, survive for long.
- The only religion allowed within the confines of Riedra is the Path of Inspiration.
- Warhammer 40,000
- In the backstory the Emperor outlawed all religion during the formative years of the Imperium (except for the Cult Mechanicus, because the Mechanicum was necessary and their religion was probably deemed "acceptable"). He promoted state-enforced atheism, publicly because religion was a superstition and a hindrance, privately because he hoped to quash Chaos Cults an attempt to starve the Chaos Gods to death. Unfortunately, it didn't work due to a research failure on his part: the Chaos gods are fueled not by prayer, but by emotion. A galaxy at war was great for the Chaos Gods in the short term, but they knew they had to do something and banded together to break the Imperium.
- As a corollary to the above, the Emperor sent his "sons" to unite the galaxy into Imperium. One of them, Lorgar of the Word Bearers chose to evangelize the cult of the Emperor in spite of his father's decree against religion. After a time the Emperor publicly and painfully censured Lorgar, who turned to his homeworld's old religion which followed Chaos, and it was enough of a foot in the door for Chaos, but that's another story. Ironically, the illegal Imperial Cult started by Lorgar was institutionalized shortly after the Emperor's "death". Other religions are still ruthlessly suppressed.
- There are actually countless variations on the cult of the Emperor, as establishing a single version on the million worlds of the Imperium is impossible. Instead, whether or or not a particular cult is heretical or not is basically up to the local governor/Ecclesiarchy, and the Inquisition intervenes if they think they're getting too lax. This has the unfortunate side effect of allowing genestealer cults to flourish under certain circumstances, as unlike Chaos cults who are dead-set on toppling the Emperor and whose acts are rather obvious, the genestealers are allowed to keep worshiping a bastardized version of the Emperor as a father figure, which then leads to the Tyranid fleets attacking.
- Warhammer: for the most part, only the cults of Chaos are outlawed by the church of Sigmar, as most other religions have non-Always Chaotic Evil gods (for example, there's a Friendly Rivalry between followers of a War God and a bear god).
- Shadowrun: The elven nation of Tir Tairngire banned the Universal Brotherhood cult within its borders. They had good reason to: the organization in question is devoted to converting human beings into insect spirits. Aztlan revoked the Roman Catholic Church's tax-exempt status in 2027 and then outlawed it in 2041, in order to promote Aztechnology's Aztec revival religion.
- Razmiran outlaws worship of any deity but their god-king Razmir within the nation's borders.
- After a particularly long and bloody religious Civil War, the nation of Rahadoum outlawed all religion and divine magic within its borders.
- On Mars in Rocket Age the chief religious order, the Orthodox Fellowship, considers every other Martian religion or sect heretical and illegal. Whether their influence actually spreads that far is debatable, but they enforce their bans as much as possible.
- In Ironclaw two of Calabria's four major houses have outlawed their ancestor's pre-S'allumer faiths. House Avoirdupois drove the Heliodromencer's underground some 700 years ago while House Bisclavret's "savage" cousins in the Phelan tribes still follow the Druids out beyond the reach of the Church and its' fanatics. There's no real trace left of whatever House Rinaldi worshiped before Saint Helloise came to them, while House Doloreaux never converted as a whole and still practices the old faith of Lutarism.
- In Mindjammer the New Commonality of Humankind has not only banned most religions, but also memes such as democracy, communism, fascism, and "the Transmigration Heresy". Despite the whole "collective memory" thing and the fact that the Commonality is basically a communist dictatorship.
- The main characters of Androcles and the Lion are a group of Christians about to be thrown to the lions for their religion.
- The Elder Scrolls
- In Morrowind, the Tribunal Temple is the dominant religious force among the Dunmer people. While a term in the Armistice (which joined Morrowind to the Empire as a Voluntary Vassal) forced them to allow the Imperial Nine Divines religion to practice within Morrowind, other religions are still effectively banned. Some, like Daedra worship, are even punishable by death.
- In Skyrim, as part of the White-Gold Concordat which ended the Great War between the vestigial Third Tamriellic Empire and the re-formed Aldmeri Dominion (it's third iteration, under Thalmor rule), the worship of Talos, the Ninth Divine, the God of War and Governance, and the Hero God of Mankind, was banned in the Empire. Talos is a Deity of Human Origin, and the ascended god-form of Tiber Septim (possibly among others), who established the Third Empire by conquering Tamriel and shattering the Second Aldmeri Dominion, which left many Mer (Elves) quite angry. To this day, many of them refuse to acknowledge the ascension of Talos as one of the Divines. The ban on Talos worship has driven a wedge between the Empire and Skyrim, Septim's (supposed) homeland, which is aggravated by the Empire permitting the Thalmor to travel freely throughout the Empire (especially Skyrim) to suppress Talos worship and arrest its practitioners (or worse). As it turns out, the ultimate goal of the Thalmor is to destroy Talos by depriving him of worship. The Thalmor follow the extremist Aldmeri religious belief that the creation of the mortal world was a cruel trick by a malevolent god which robbed their divine ancestors of their pre-creation divinity. By destroying Talos, they hope to undo creation, believing that it will allow them to return to that state of pre-creation divinity.
- Daedra worship in general is considered illegal and many of those who follow the most malevolent and dangerous of the Princes, like Mehrunes Dagon, Molag Bal, Namira, Vaermina, and Hircine, are branded heretics or witches and killed. Considering the deadly nature of many of the Daedric Princes and the fact that Mehrunes Dagon and Molag Bal both came very close to destroying the world, this is often justified. Very few Daedra are not considered "evil" and tolerated, most commonly Azura, Nocturnal, and Meridia.
- Anton's campaign in Might and Magic: Heroes VI begins with him being declared Duke of the Griffin Duchy and outlawing any religion except the worship of Elrath, the Dragon of Light. This upsets the orc tribes who live in the lands bordering Anton's Duchy, who prefer ancestor worship over organised religion, and Baron Djordje, who maintains temples to Elrath's brother Ylath, Dragon of the Skies, in his lands.
- In the Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series, the Brotherhood of Nod (a hybrid of a religion and a nation state) is considered illegal in all territories under GDI control or influence due to Nod actively pursuing multiple wars with GDI and its constituent nations. After the Second Tiberium War, with the world's division into Zones, the GDI controlled Blue Zones enforce their ban on Nod's teachings, while the Yellow Zones not under GDI occupation are effectively a Nod theocracy. The few places that aren't either are usually part of the mutant Forgotten.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Revanites are an illegal cult within the Empire that follows the teachings of Revan, a man who had been both Jedi and Sith almost three hundred years earlier.
- Also on Voss, the dreamwalkers practice forbidden rituals.
- In BioShock all organized religion is illegal in the city of Rapture (though citizens are allowed to worship in the privacy of their home according to Ryan in BioShock 2), which results in Bibles and other religious items being smuggled in with other contraband.
- In BioShock Infinite, the only legal religion in Columbia is that of the Founders with Zachary Comstock as its prophet, which means that worshipers of other religions (such as Buddhism, which was practiced by Chen Li and his wife in one timeline) must do so in secret. Booker DeWitt comments that Comstock isn't crazy about the idea of people worshiping idols that aren't him.
- The Chantry in Dragon Age has enough clout in most human nations to prevent any other religions from taking root. The Qunari are even less tolerant of other religions in their lands.
- In Kult: Heretic Kingdoms, the player character belongs to an Inquisition which exists to suppress all religion, although its authority isn't recognised everywhere. It's independent of governments (having actually started as a secret society during the rule of The Theocracy), and isn't always well-liked, so Alita is told to be discreet about her allegiance. She doesn't conceal her antipathy to religion completely, though, and sometimes snaps at people who express religious views even though her current mission isn't actually related to the suppression of religion.
Black Fang captain: I pray I will have a chance repay you.
Alita: You can start by not praying.
- Pagan Min in Far Cry 4 wants the citizens of Kyrat to worship him as a God-Emperor, and has outlawed the old religions and social gatherings at places or religious significance, such as temples and mani wheels.
- In Pillars of Eternity, after the Saints War and the spreading of Waidwen's Legacy the worship of Eothas has since been outlawed and the followers actively persecuted. Éder, one of your companions is one of the last remaining worshipers of Eothas due to the fact that he fought against St. Waidwen during the war (he doubted Waidwen's claim to being a prophet and the possibility of him actually being right personally haunts him).
- Para Imperium: The Federation doesn't tolerate any meme that can make its hosts willing to kill to propagate it, the infected are quarantined by removing the integral nanotechnology that makes them immortal and exiling them to low-tech "outworlds".
- The Ancient Greek and Roman world were tolerant of religion so long as it did not contravene the Gods of the State, i.e. official religion.
- One of the charges against Socrates at his trial was that he practiced private beliefs against the state religion. This led them to accuse him of impiety, corrupting the youth and subverting the state.
- The Romans faced one of the greatest struggles during the Jewish Revolts not because they saw Judaism as illegal per se, but because their occupation was violating, perhaps unwittingly, Jewish customs and traditions, namely Pompey marching into the Temple's inner sanctum, the "Holy of Holies", that their Puppet King Herod was unpopular and this sparked a major religious uprising that continued until the Fall of Masada. Judaism would continue to trouble the Romans with further rebellions until Hadrian crushed and scattered the Jews into diaspora and even renamed Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina, forbidding the re-establishment of the Temple. Jews who adjusted to Roman customs, and accepted Roman rule were not proscribed but the main tenets of their religion and its ties to Jerusalem were definitely forbidden.
- Christianity endured periods of persecution (albeit considerably exaggerated), indifference and finally active patronage on account to its growth during the "crisis of the third century". Christianity initially faced objections because they refused to acknowledge the Caesar as a God-Emperor, and the fact that its hero Jesus was crucified which to Roman sensibilities marked him as a criminal and Outlaw beyond the pale. The Roman elite such as Lucian of Samosata saw Christianity as similar to other Roman and foreign cults which had cropped up across the empire at the time and viewed it with bemused contempt. Eventually its appeal among Roman lower classes spread and finally it attained official support from the Emperor Constantine who was claimed to have been led to victory by the Abrahamic God after seeing Christian symbols in a vision. He legalized it, though it wasn't until some fifty years later under Flavius Theodosius Augustus it became the state religion.
- When Christianity started gaining ground, the old pagan religions suffered declining faithful, proscription, and dereliction of their property. Temples of Jupiter and Mars were used as roadside privies, and subject to vandalism and Monumental Damage. Christians also burnt many books and teachings from the era they now called "pagan". The Emperor Julian the Apostate, raised as a Christian but seeking and identifying with Hellenism, sought to end Christian persecution of pagans and Jews, while limiting its spread. He made efforts to halt the tide, but he died in battle after a brief reign and all his attempts at religious co-existence ended with him. Pagans were actively persecuted, temples and statues were destroyed (except for those preserved by the state and some responsible bishops and priests), and fell into disrepair.
- The Roman Catholic Church actively prohibited heresies and declared crusades against The Remnant of pagan communities. Although sometimes this policy was pursued independently, for instance Charlemagne who crushed pagans in Saxony, the Church generally condoned or refused to acknowledge this violence. This includes the Wendish Crusade and the notoriously bloody Albigensian Crusade which crushed Catharism, a revival of Manichaeanism that spread from Hungary to Southern France.
- Contrary to general belief, the Roman Catholic Church never pursued an official coordinated policy to proscribe and persecute Judaism. Some Popes were quite tolerant and even liberal (such as Pope Alexander VI), others were openly antisemitic and limited Jews to ghettoes. Low-level bishops and priests could be openly antisemitic and encourage pogroms during the Black Death and in other eras, while other bishops in Germany and Hungary sheltered and protected Jews during the People's Crusade (the starting point of populist antisemitism in European history). However kings and queens appealing to the sentiments of their subjects and seeking to expand the control of the local Catholic Church would promote policies of expulsion. Edward The First banned Jews from England, Philip the Fair proscribed their property and expelled them, and other nations followed similar policies.
- In the history of Spain, the Reconquista and the early years of The Spanish Inquisition featured mass persecution of Jews and Muslims across Spain, many of whom were forced to convert. Even after conversion, they were labeled New Christians and treated as second-class citizens to distinguish them from Old Christians. There were also accusations that some Jews and Muslims forced into conversion were Hiding Behind Religion and practicing their old beliefs Beneath Suspicion of Christian piety. Some of these accusations were actually true and would be recognized and celebrated today as an act of resistance on the part of oppressed people preserving their culture from tyranny, but at the time it was a serious slur and led many New Christians to backdate and fake their lineage to fit in. Those who refused to convert became refugees, and many of them, ironically enough, found a home in Rome, welcomed by Pope Alexander VI (who was Spanish), who gave them rights to live without any pressure of conversion.note
- When Protestantism arrived, the reigning Catholic Church saw it as another heresy rather than a separate religion. However Protestantism attracted the support of kings and lords in Germany, Holland, Sweden and later England. This would lead to the Reformation and later the Wars of Religion.
- Protestantism in turn persecuted other minority faiths, and other Protestant sects. Martin Luther was fiercely antisemitic and wrote many pamphlets that were revived by the Nazis, and he also allied with state authorities against Protestant sects that were more egalitarian than he was (namely Thomas Muntzer) and suppressed them.
- In England, the Anglican Church sponsored by the King Henry VIII would persecute English Catholics and shut down monasteries. Later Protestant English monarchs and Oliver Cromwell would persecute Irish Catholics and create division by encouraging settlements of Protestant nobility among a largely Catholic peasantry, leading to divisions (initially religious, later national, now ethnic) that persist to the present day. Catholicism was never declared illegal officially, but Catholics in England and Ireland were treated as second-class citizens (albeit better than Jews and other minorities) with restricted civil rights until the 19th Century.
- The Anglican Church persecuted Protestant dissenters such as Baptists, Quakers and other sects, many of whom settled in America to escape the Church of England. Because dissenting Protestants were such a big part of American society and politics, they disliked an official organized church authority (at the time that is), and this led to consensus for the First Amendment, a policy that forbids any official government position or endorsement of religion, that separates Church and State and also upholds religious liberties. Initially this applied only to the federal government (some states then still had official churches, and prosecuted preachers from minority sects at times for preaching without a licence). By the 1830s, however, these were abolished. Blasphemy laws did not last much longer in the US. Sadly though, some Native American religions and rituals would be banned later. Even now there is much dispute over the right extent of religious freedom, with Congress and courts wrangling over it regularly.
- Scotland dissolved and banned Catholicism in 1560, though bans on mass were often not enforced. Catholic holdouts still existed in the Highlands region, and provided support for Catholic monarchs later in the Jacobite Risings. Priests were subject to arrest.
- Of note is Queen Mary I's reign, in which she tried to restore Catholicism in England, and enforce it with the burning of Protestants. The sheer amount of victims (over 300 of them in a five year reign, including tradesmen, women, children, and a pregnant woman), coupled with her marrying Phillip of Spain (which brought fears of the above mentioned Inquisition coming to England), turned the people against her and against Catholicism, and when her half-sister Elizabeth took the throne, one of the first things she did was re-establish the Protestant church. The fears of a Catholic England so scarred the people that they overthrew the next Catholic monarch to come, and to this day Catholics are barred from the line of succession.
- The French Revolution resulted in the first instance of secular persecution of Christianity.
- On account of the Catholic Church being the largest landowner in France at a time of economic and political crisis, many French politicians, writers and thinkers instituted comprehensive policies to seize and distribute the land to peasants, middle-class aspirants, and liberal nobles. They also instituted the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, demanding that French priests swear loyalty to the French government and abjure their vows to the Pope. A few priests took the Constitutional Oath, like the famous anti-racist and abolitionist Henri Gregoire, but many of France's devout opposed this change and most priests refused to take the vows, playing a major role in unleashing the counter-revolution as the Revolutionary hardliners became enraged at their continued and active defiance, guillotining many of those that refused.
- It must be noted that the Revolutionaries gave equal rights to all minority religions (Protestants, Jews) and supported the Constitutional Clergy and mainly targeted pre-Revolutionary Catholics. During the Terror, they released a policy of Dechristianization, which led to vandalism (albeit considerably exaggerated) of many churches and cemeteries. The cemeteries had graffiti proclaiming "Death is an eternal sleep", priests and nuns were guillotined, and monasteries were vandalized. The Notre Dame Cathdral saw its altar attacked and replaced with a "Statue of Liberty" (the Roman Goddess Libertynote ). Some Revolutionaries such as Robespierre opposed Dechristianization and ended it, while Henri Gregoire, the Constitutional clergyman, advocated defending Church property and opposed vandalism.
- Karl Marx famously remarked that religion is "the opium of the masses".note Communist revolutionaries invoked this remark and officially promoted atheism among their cadres, education systems and general propaganda, while also persecuting religion and believers to varying degrees.
- In Russia, as in France, the ruling Orthodox Church was a powerful presence in administration and society, owned much property and was widely regarded as a Corrupt Church. The Orthodox Church in earlier centuries promoted religious persecution of other minority religions and dissenters (Old Believers) and was condemned internationally for its antisemitism and the part its senior figures played in promoting pogroms. Vladimir Lenin initially suppressed the Orthodox Church, but moderated his stance to minority religions, promoted atheism in society and education, and forbade religious education in schools. Josef Stalin increased the persecution of all religions (even minorities) and the Orthodox Church at first before reviving it during World War II under government control to help the war effort.
- Other left-wing groups took anti-Catholic activities more seriously. Mexico saw the Cristero War during The Twenties where priests were banned and driven underground and religious iconography was often seen as a mark of treachery. Communist Albania went so far as to ban religious practice entirely. Mao Zedong suppressed traditional worship and practices and persecuted Tibetan Buddhism, but later successors driven by the fascination of tourists to Tibet have promoted lamaseries and moderated their stance while making images, texts and addresses of the Dalai Lama taboo. On a lesser note, during the Spanish Civil War left-wing fighters attacked and killed clergy, burning churches or converting them for secular uses, with much the same grievances as above.
- Nazi Germany was notoriously antisemitic and scientific racialist. It outlawed Judaism as a religion and even persecuted ethnic and cultural Jews, or Jews who had converted to Christianity (for sincere and or social careerist reasons).
- Hitler and the Nazis were not entirely friends of Christianity either. Hitler was publicly a Christian but the Nazi policy of state control by party meant that they clamped down on religious instructions and interfered in doctrines of the Church. Some Catholics and Protestants supported the Nazis but those who didn't could face jail time and execution or deportation to concentration camps. The Confessing Church, made up of dissident Protestants that refused to join, was driven underground, with members subjected to the treatment stated above. Dissident Catholics were likewise persecuted by the Nazis. Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted as a group over their refusal to swear loyalty oaths or serve in the military (both forbidden by Witness beliefs) with some being executed and many imprisoned in concentration camps. "YHVH" was even ordered erased wherever it was displayed in churches, as this was the "Jewish" name of God. In one instance, local Nazi officials ordered even crosses removed from churches, but this was a step too far as you might except. After protests, the edict was withdrawn. The Nazis also had plans to turn Jesus into an Aryan figure if they couldn't simply abolish Christianity and replace it with their own religion.
- The Nazis outlawed atheist and freethought groups as well as Freemasonry in Germany in 1933. In one instance, the headquarters of the German Freethinkers League wound up being used by the churches of Berlin as a bureau to convert people and give religious advice. In a lesser example, the SS oath denounced atheists, while banning them from joining. Freemasons were also deported and executed in concentration camps alongside Jews and Gypsies.
- In practice though regarding the SS, those terms had socialist connotations in Nazi Germany. Any non-socialist who was not Catholic or Protestant (and Muslim in certain cases), including some who might have been atheists simply identified as "God believer", (Gottgläubig) who in fact made up a disproportionately large percentage of the SS (25% by 1938) compared to the German population at large, where all but (1-6% belonged to Protestant or Catholic Churches). German SS units were not even assigned chaplains in contrast to regular German Army practices. Open atheism was associated with Bolshevism and communism generally, the ideology that was the Nazis' chief enemy. All open atheists were therefore persecuted by association with this.
- Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned Christianity in 1587, ordering all Christian missionaries to leave Japan.
- He saw the religion as a threat to his dream of unifying Japan, and politically, this was done to reduce the influence of the Christian daimyo of Kyushu. A decade later in 1597, Hideyoshi had twenty-six Christians, known today as the Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan, crucified as an example to native Japanese seeking to convert to the religion. The banning of Christianity went even further after the Shimabara Rebellion, and (even after Christianity was again made legal in 1871 with the reopening of the country) there are still some "hidden Christians" (kakure Kirishitan) who descend from the survivors of the persecution.
- This is in contrast to his predecessor Oda Nobunaga, who kept the Christians around (mainly because he wanted their guns) but had all but declared war on certain Buddhist sects (who unlike the Christians were a political threat to him). This ended up being his undoing.
- Later historians note that the Japanese policy was a result of the advice given to them by Protestant Dutch traders. They pointed out that the Catholic Church had promoted colonialist oppression in South America among native peoples and destroyed the Mayan and Aztec ruling class. The Japanese shogunate, fearful of Christian expansion and persecution, felt he had to take a preemptive strike and force Christians to apostasize. Notably while Catholic Christianity was banned from Japan during its period of isolation, Dutch traders and Protestant merchantmen were welcome at the port of Nagasaki (originally a Catholic majority port and seat), so long as they toed the fumienote and stayed within limits. This continued until the end of isolation.
- Hideyoshi also had problems with certain Buddhists. The Ikko-Ikki (militant Buddhist) monks were mortal enemies (and a major thorn in the side) of his ally Nobunaga (who went so far as to destroy their Nagashima fortress, killing everyone inside and burning Ishiyama Hongan-ji to the ground but sparing many of the defenders' lives) and therefore certainly a major stumbling block on the road to a unified Japan. Ironic that Hideyoshi and Tokugawa would clamp down on Christianity when Nobunaga's own brother Nagamasu was Catholic. In another irony the Ikko-Ikki then joined with Hideyoshi in 1580.
- Missouri Executive Order 44 of 1838 stated that all Mormons in Missouri "must be exterminated or driven from the state," essentially outlawing Mormonism within. Several massacres of Mormons took place, with the rest fleeing. It wasn't officially rescinded until 1976. The federal government later also came into conflict with the LDS Church, mostly over polygamy, from open combat in the Utah War to later legal prosecutions. It culminated with the church itself being dissolved and its property seized. At last prompted by this Mormon doctrine was revised to forbid polygamy (although unofficially the practice continued for some time, and splinter sects rejected the change entirely).
- In the Tanakh (Old Testament to Christian readers), worship of anything other than the one and only God was illegal and punishable by death according to many laws and decrees by the prophets and is listed as the First Commandment ("Thou shalt have no other gods before me."). But for much of Israel's history many rulers not only allowed worship of other things but actively facilitated it. They were okay with magi (Persian Zoroastrian priests) even in periods where they otherwise had officially banned all other forms of worship too, since Cyrus The Great was viewed as God's servant foretold by Isaiah. Today Israel officially allows any religion to be practiced, but accounts from self-identified "pagans" claim they would be cut to pieces if they publicly admitted to worshiping someone like Anat or Thor.
- In around the 5th century CE the Sassanid Persian Empire was intolerant of any religion other than Zoroastrianism, enforcing a ban on them and attempting to force its Christian Armenian subjects to convert. The ensuing rebellion, led by Vartan Mamikonian, ended in a Pyrrhic Victory for the Persians and eventually led to Persia becoming more lenient due to their needing Armenia's cooperation in dealing with the invading Huns. Modern Armenians credit Vartan's revolt with saving Armenia's religious identity.
- Zoroastrianism and paganism itself were banned in the Armenian Kingdom in the 4th century, until the kingdom got taken over and partitioned by Persia and Rome. Conversion to Christianity still didn't happen overnight, but the temples to the various Armenian gods were destroyed soon after the king converted. This was the common path conversion to Christianity took in many kingdoms.
- While Singapore is a secular society and tolerates other religions, the Jehovah's Witnesses are banned within the city state (mainly because Singapore has a mandatory military draft, and Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to serve in any military or swear loyalty to any person or thing other than God). Similarly, the Unification Church is banned in Singapore because the government sees the church as a cult.
- Many countries with a Muslim majority forbid conversion to another religion from Islam, or blasphemy. Prosecution of atheists, Christians and minority religious adherents for alleged violations of these laws occurs in many parts of the Muslim world, along with extra-legal attacks. The most extreme is Saudi Arabia, which forbids anything but Wahhabist Sunni Islam in the kingdom. Christians are persecuted in the country, with churches, missionaries and Bibles all illegal. Atheism too is forbidden and declared a form of terrorism.