Skip main navigation

Freedom: Summary

Watch Alice Roberts round up what we have learned about humanist campaigning and the value they place on freedom
5.7
Well done, you’ve completed Week 2. Over this week we met humanist campaigners in the UK and learned about the motivations that lie behind their work. These campaigns are not the only things that humanists believe are needed to make the world a better place and they’re not the only things individual humanists campaign for, but they are the campaigns on which humanists organisations tend to focus their time, as they are the areas in which the humanist voice can often make a unique and important difference. We learned about what drives these humanists to demand less religious influence in education and politics.
39.1
We learned about their fight to change existing laws on abortion and assisted dying in ways that they believe would reduce suffering and respect personal autonomy. And we learned how a real focus on human rights and secularism underpins these goals. Humanists believe that changes in the areas we’ve explored this week would ultimately benefit everyone, regardless of their religion or belief. They believe that human rights are the best way to ensure that all of us have opportunities to live flourishing lives and that secularism promises the best hope for freedom, equality and a better understanding of each other in a plural society.
84.7
And while many significant steps have been made towards guaranteeing human freedoms, humanists believe there’s still plenty of work to be done. See you next week.

This week

This week we met humanists in the UK campaigning for changes to the law that they believe would enhance people’s freedoms and, consequently, their capacity to lead full and flourishing lives. Many of the humanist goals we’ve explored this week are not shared by humanists alone. Large numbers of religious people also support these aims. In today’s plural society, many believe such freedoms would support us all to live better together.

Let’s summarise what we have learned:

  1. Humanists care deeply about freedom: freedom of expression, freedom of belief, freedom to choose how we live our lives. They will often argue that our freedoms should only be restricted in cases that would cause harm to others.
  2. Humanists typically believe that focusing on the fact that we are all human beings is better than drawing on distinctions of race, religion, gender, or sexuality.
  3. Humanists will support human rights as they believe they are extremely useful instruments for guaranteeing that freedom is maximised for all.
  4. Humanists support secularism (equal treatment by the state of all its citizens, regardless of religion or belief) as they believe a state run on such a principle benefits everybody.
  5. Many humanist campaigns focus on education, in particular on removing religious influence over the education system. They campaign against faith schools, for inclusive religious education, and for young people’s rights to relationships and sex education.
  6. Humanists campaign on a number of ethical issues including women’s reproductive rights and the right to an assisted death for those who are terminally ill or incurably suffering.
  7. Humanists believe there are deep connections between liberalism, democracy, and distinctively humanist values. Their aspiration is for a world in which all human beings can shape their own lives in accordance with their own beliefs and values.

This summary step is a good space to ask any questions you still have in the comments area and to take the opportunity to help out your fellow learners with their queries.

Next week

Next week, we will take a look at humanism from a more global perspective, turning our attention to humanists living in very different parts of the globe. We’ll meet humanists living in countries where their non-religious beliefs place their lives in danger, and we’ll encounter those who find themselves battling against religious and cultural traditions to create what they believe would be a more fair and equal society.

This article is from the free online

Humanist Lives, with Alice Roberts

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education