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Summary of Week 5

Watch Sandi Toksvig round up what we have learned about the humanist vision for a better world.

Humanists believe that a society built on the principles discussed above would improve the lives and freedoms of those who suffer from unfair discrimination and inequality, whilst also entitling those who did not share the humanist approach the freedom to live their lives as they wished, as long as they did no harm to others.

Of course, one does not have to be a humanist to support many of the goals we have explored this week. People of all persuasions are supporters of freedoms, equalities, and human rights.

Let’s summarise what we have learned:

  1. The veil of ignorance can support us when considering what would constitute a fair society; humanists believe such a society needs to incorporate individual freedoms, equality of treatment and opportunity, and human rights
  2. Humanists will generally be strong supporters of human rights; human rights provide protection against inequalities and are an attempt to guarantee the decent treatment of all human beings
  3. Humanists believe everyone should have the right to hold and manifest whichever religious or non-religious beliefs they want, so long as they do no harm to others, and that should include the right to change one’s beliefs
  4. The religion and belief landscape in modern Britain, and in many countries in the West, is more complex and diverse than ever before
  5. Secularism involves the separation of religious institutions from state institutions, the promotion of freedom of religion and belief, and the equal treatment of people regardless of their religion or belief
  6. Three arguments are commonly put forward to defend secularism: the argument for freedom, the argument for fairness, and the argument for peace
  7. Education can, and should, support mutual understanding; it should also support young people to make free and informed decisions about what they believe
  8. Dialogue can enable us to identify common ground and disagree constructively
  9. The harm principle states that the only restrictions placed on our freedom should be to prevent harm to others
  10. Humanists will generally be strong supporters of freedom of expression; censorship would either need to be overly restrictive or else arbitrary (normally working in favour of those in power), and can prevent us from making progress in our understanding
  11. Humanists believe all people, including the non-religious, should have the freedom to mark and share important moments in their lives in ways that are meaningful and personal to them
  12. Individual humanists will often be active campaigners for education, and against poverty, violence, and environmental degradation
  13. Humanist organisations will often focus campaigning on areas in which their voice holds particular weight, including cases of discrimination against the non-religious, and on ethical issues where humanist beliefs are at odds with those of organised religious groups
  14. Identifying as a humanist in many parts of the world can lead to persecution, punishment, or death
  15. Humanism, secularism, and human rights are under threat in many parts of the world today, including the West; without constant campaigning, past achievements may be washed away

Reflect on what you have learned this week and share some of your conclusions in the comments box.

Remember 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

During the course so far we have built from a humanist understanding of human beings and reality to the question of how we should live. We’ve now tackled this question from three distinct but connected perspectives: ourselves, our relationships with others, and society and the planet as a whole.

Next week, in the final week of the course, we will draw together what we have learned and see what conclusions we can draw about what it means to be a humanist.

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Introducing Humanism: Non-religious Approaches to Life, with Sandi Toksvig

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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