Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £35.99 £24.99. New subscribers only T&Cs apply

Find out more


Watch Alice Roberts introduce the online course Humanist Lives
Hello, welcome to Humanist Lives. I’m Alice Roberts and I’ll be leading you through the course. Why me? Well I’m a biologist and an anthropologist, and I’ve always been fascinated by human beings. Where did we come from? How did we get here? What does it mean to be human? But I’m also a humanist and I’m president of Humanists UK. So what does it mean to be a humanist? For me, being a humanist means always asking questions about the world around me and trying to use reason and evidence as a guide to what I believe.
It means trying to make the most of the one life I know I have, and it also means trying to support other people to do the same. But perhaps that doesn’t tell you a lot, after all, I’m just one person. This course is your opportunity to meet many other people who describe themselves as humanists. You’ll learn about the questions, choices, challenges and joys found in a humanist approach to life. We’ll share our experiences and our stories and you’ll find out what it is that makes us tick. You’ll meet artists scientists and politicians, as well as humanist campaigners, celebrants and pastoral carers.
You’ll also meet humanists from across the globe learning what it means to be one of the millions of humanists living around the world today. By investigating how different humanists live out their humanism, you’ll be able to find out about the diverse ways in which humanism can be expressed and about the beliefs and values that unite us all. Along the way you’ll get a chance to reflect on and evaluate the humanist approach to life for yourself. Whether you agree or disagree with the humanists you meet, you will develop a better understanding of what it means to live life as a humanist today. I hope you enjoy the course.

Welcome to Humanist Lives.

The course is broken up into six weeks:

Week 1: Life stories
Week 2: Freedom
Week 3: Global goals
Week 4: Hard times
Week 5: More to life
Week 6: Making things better

Throughout the course, you’ll meet many different humanists and, through their stories and experiences, you’ll learn what it means to be a humanist today.

This week, we’ll begin by meeting humanist celebrants who conduct humanist naming ceremonies, weddings, and funerals. The way humanists approach these important moments in our lives will help you to develop an understanding of the humanist approach to life more generally.

In Week 2, we’ll meet humanist campaigners in the UK working to defend individual freedoms and battling against what they see as the injustices present in modern society.

In Week 3, we’ll take a more global perspective, hearing from humanists around the world, including some whose beliefs put their liberty and lives in danger.

In Week 4, we’ll meet humanists who work with people facing challenging circumstances, such as the loss of their health, freedom, or support network.

In Week 5, we’ll hear from humanists describing how they believe curiosity, creativity, and connections can provide a source of joy, wonder, and meaning in our lives.

Finally, in Week 6, we’ll meet humanists who believe their work will help to make the world a better place.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, you’ll be able to…

  • Investigate and explore different humanist approaches to life
  • Identify where there is diversity between humanists and where there are shared beliefs, values, and goals
  • Evaluate the choices and actions of different individual humanists in discussion with other learners
  • Summarise what it means to live a humanist life
  • Reflect upon one’s own approach to life

About Humanists UK

At Humanists UK, we want a tolerant world where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We work to support lasting change for a better society, championing ideas for the one life we have. We do this because we’re humanists, people who shape our own lives in the here and now, because we believe it’s the only life we get.

​​We’re committed to putting humanism into practice. Through our ceremonies, pastoral support, education services, and campaigning work, we advance free thinking and freedom of choice so everyone can live in a fair and equal society.

Our education work helps raise awareness and understanding of humanism as an ethical and fulfilling non-religious approach to life. It is informed with the support of over 150 of the UK’s most prominent philosophers, scientists, and other thinkers and experts, it seeks to promote mutual understanding between people of different beliefs, and it supports people to make their own free choices about what they believe.

For more information, please visit

This article is from the free online

Humanist Lives, with Alice Roberts

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now