Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £29.99 £19.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

Hard Times: Summary

Watch Alice Roberts round up what we have learned about how humanists support people facing difficult times
Well done, you’ve completed Week 4. Over this week we met humanists who help those facing difficult times and transitions in their lives. We learned about the work being carried out by humanist pastoral carers in hospitals and the work they do with those suffering injury or illness. Perhaps coming to the end of their own lives or dealing with the death of a loved one. We also learned about pastoral support in prisons, where humanists are working with people who are coming to terms with the loss of their personal freedom. In both cases we learned about the importance that humanists place on the availability of like-minded support for those who are non-religious.
We also learned about the work done by humanists supporting those who have left high control religions or cults. The difficult journey some people have made to humanism from very different worldviews, and the value in knowing that you’re not alone. And we learned about why some humanists are motivated to serve in the armed forces. Why they might choose to put their lives in danger and what goes through their heads in moments of peril. From all these humanists we heard about the responsibility that they feel human beings have to support each other in times of need, and the importance humanists place on ensuring people have opportunities to reach out and make connections. See you next week.

This week

This week we met humanists working alongside those facing challenging moments in their lives. We’ve heard about how humanists try to support those people facing hard times and difficult transitions, about what motivates these humanists to do what they do, and about the impact of their work.

Let’s summarise what we have learned:

  1. Pastoral support is provided by people able to listen, with empathy and without judgement, to those who need somebody to talk to during times of need. Humanists believe it is important that like-minded pastoral support should be available to the non-religious.
  2. Despite early opposition, humanist pastoral carers work in an increasing number of hospitals and prisons, plugging a gap that had previously meant non-religious people rarely took advantage of such a service.
  3. At the end of life, many humanists will focus on the time they have left, sharing it with loved ones or trying to leave something behind.
  4. Many humanists believe rehabilitation should be one of the primary goals of prison. They believe that non-religious people should have access equal to that of religious people to the services that can support this.
  5. People leaving high-control religions can suffer a loss of their support network, mental health problems, and even physical violence. Services such as Faith to Faithless aim to provide a community for such people and to help them realise that they are not alone.
  6. While humanists will typically believe war should be a last resort, some work in the armed forces and believe that such work can be a force for good in parts of the world in which people are suffering.
  7. When human beings face hard times, humanists will emphasise the value of having the opportunity to make connections with other people: to be listened to, to be empathised with, and to recognise that you are not alone.

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’ll turn our attention to humanists revelling in the joys of being alive. We’ll meet humanist scientists, historians, and artists, and we’ll hear about the pleasure they find in curiosity, creativity, and connections. We’ll explore whether a worldview that sees the world as a natural place, and human beings as material and mortal creatures, leaves any room for depth or wonder, and if so, where this can be found.

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