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Lucien Febvre has referred to the "unthinkability" of atheism in its strongest sense before the sixteenth century, because of the "deep religiosity" of that era.
Karen Armstrong has concurred, writing "from birth and baptism to death and burial in the churchyard, religion dominated the life of every single man and woman.
Atheist Charles Bradlaugh was elected as a Member of the British Parliament in 1880.
He was denied the right to affirm rather than swear his oath of office, and was then denied the ability to swear the oath as other Members objected that he had himself said it would be meaningless.
In addition, freedom of expression provisions and legislation separating church from state also serve to protect the rights of atheists.
As a result, open legal discrimination against atheists is not common in most Western countries.
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".
Despite this, minority religions still are persecuted in many parts of the world.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.Lawyer and scholar Thomas More said that religious tolerance should be extended to all except those who did not believe in a deity or the immortality of the soul.During the Inquisition, several of those accused of atheism or blasphemy, or both, were tortured or executed.