If you think it's rough being an atheist in America, consider the situation in less open societies. In Bangladesh, for example, several atheist bloggers were recently arrested and dozens of others face possible charges. Their crime, although described in various ways (including "insulting religion"), appears to be nothing more than being openly atheist.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) via an action alert and other measures, is trying to raise public awareness of troubling anti-atheist developments in Bangladesh and elsewhere. Around the world, enforcement of blasphemy laws, sometimes described as "defamation of religion," is threatening fundamental freedoms of conscience and expression, thereby making religious dissent, especially in the form of open atheist activism, very dangerous. (Some blasphemy laws call for the death penalty.) American secular groups are working with the IHEU, and plan to take steps, including possible protests and demonstrations, to call more attention to the issue. (Follow my Twitter feed for updates on these activities.)
Interestingly, mainstream American media have given little coverage to this issue, even though it presents a plain case of indefensible repression of not just one basic freedom, but several: freedom of religion, free speech, freedom of conscience, and even free press (if we consider blogging as a form of press). Guilty of little more than standing up publicly as atheists, these criminal defendants go unnoticed in the media of the free world. Where is the outrage?
Nothing is more repugnant to freedom of conscience than the notion that some ideas - whether religious, political, or philosophical - are beyond criticism. Thus, it's not surprising that we see countries governed by religious fundamentalists claim that "defamation of religion" must be discouraged. Perhaps more concerning, however, is that the idea of defending religion is gaining traction in some unexpected places, such as Russia.
One of the many problems with the concept of protecting religion from defamation is that ideas (including religious ideas) cannot be defamed - only people can be defamed. If governments feel that any idea must be shielded from scrutiny, questioning, or even ridicule and satirical commentary, that idea must be extremely weak, or alternatively the society in question must be repressive.