Humanists UK president Alice Roberts launches free, new online humanism course

Scientist, writer, and broadcaster Alice Roberts has today launched a new, massive open online course (MOOC) on humanism introducing participants to humanists from around the world to hear their stories and explore their beliefs and values.

The new course, launched in partnership with social learning platform FutureLearn, called ‘Humanist Lives’, has been developed by Humanists UK. It has been designed to meet growing demand from those who are not religious but who are nonetheless hungry to learn more about how and why people adopt a humanist approach to life, and who want to feel part of a community of like-minded individuals.

The course features contributions from well-known scientists, artists, and politicians, as well as humanist campaigners, celebrants, and pastoral carers, including journalist Polly Toynbee, scientist and broadcaster Jim Al-Khalili, rock musician Frank Turner, novelist Natalie Haynes, and writer and academic Steven Pinker.

The course will cover topics including humanist campaigning: freedom, human rights, and secularism; the humanist approach to difficult transitions and suffering; and how humanists find sources of wonder and meaning based on their shared humanity without having religion in their life.

‘Humanist Lives’ is Humanists UK’s second MOOC, and is now open for enrolment. MOOCs are free online courses that can be taken by anyone. Many universities around the world are now offering some of their courses through MOOCs, and businesses, museums, and charities are starting to do so as well. Established by The Open University in 2012, FutureLearn now boasts over 9 million learners worldwide.

To register for the course, go to

Announcing the new course, Humanists UK President Alice Roberts said:

‘I’m a biological anthropologist – I’ve always been fascinated by what it means to be human – from a biological and evolutionary perspective. But I’m also interested in the whole breadth of the human experience. For me, the combination of rational enquiry, empathy, and compassion that forms the basis of humanism seems a very natural, fulfilling philosophy for life. But I also think the best way to find out more about humanism is to encounter a whole range of people – who express their humanism in many different ways – and that’s what this course provides. I hope you enjoy it, and emerge with a deeper understanding of what it means to adopt a humanist approach to life.’

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘Millions of people in the UK today are non-religious and live their lives by humanist values – thinking for themselves and acting for everyone. Our new course will provide an invaluable resource for anyone looking to better understand how an approach to life rooted in compassion, reason, and kindness is inspiring a diverse and growing population of people around the world – from young couples making choices about how they get married through to entertainers and activists having a profound impact on the world today.’

FutureLearn Chief Executive Simon Nelson said:

‘At FutureLearn, we’re passionate about transforming access to education. That access isn’t just about geographies or types of people who might traditionally struggle to access education, it’s also about the subject matter. Our learners have a huge range of interests and reasons for learning and we’re proud of the variety of courses we offer from leading universities and institutions.

‘This new course from Humanists UK is a great example of a course that lends itself exceptionally well to our social learning design where our learners from all over the world discuss and debate the teachings of the course and share their personal views and experiences which adds to the content of the course and to the learning outcomes.’

What is humanism?

52% of British adults are non-religious (British Social Attitudes Survey, 2017)

Roughly one in four Britons (15 million people) meet the definition of a humanist (YouGov, 2017)

Humanism is the word used to describe a non-religious, ethical worldview shared by millions of people across the world. Humanists believe that this life is the only life we have, that the universe is a natural phenomenon with no supernatural side, and that we can live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293.

A promotional video with Professor Alice Roberts is available to watch here:

Images for use are available from:

About Humanists UK

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all. Our education site, Understanding Humanism, provides free resources to educators all around the world.

About FutureLearn

FutureLearn is a leading social learning platform formed in December 2012 by The Open University and is now jointly owned by The Open University and The SEEK Group. FutureLearn has over nine million people signed up worldwide. FutureLearn uses design, technology and partnerships to create enjoyable, credible and flexible online courses as well as undergraduate and postgraduate degrees that improve working lives. It partners with over a quarter of the world’s top universities, as well as organisations such as Accenture, the British Council, CIPD, Raspberry Pi and Health Education England (HEE). It’s also involved in government-backed initiatives to address skills gaps such as The Institute of Coding and the National Centre for Computing Education.