Skip main navigation

How many humanists are there?

Watch Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy explain how many people in the UK use the word ‘humanist’ to describe themselves.
The question of how to measure how many humanists there are is actually a surprisingly complicated one. So about 5% would actively say they belong to or affiliate to humanism as a worldview, but the number of people who hold humanist beliefs is actually much higher, reflecting the fact it’s not always a particularly well understood term, and a term that sometimes people describe themselves as having discovered, as an existing label that already applies to views that they had but didn’t have a term for. In fact, just over a fifth of the population holds humanist beliefs when you ask people how they make ethical or moral decisions, and whether they look to science or religion to understand the universe around them.
When you explain this fact to people something like 17% of the total population are then willing to apply the humanist label to themselves, much higher than the 5% who are readily familiar with it and are happy to do so upfront.

Not all those who describe themselves as non-religious could be described as humanist. However, as societies become more secular, humanist groups increasingly take root. The largest humanist group in the world today is in Norway, due to state support. Humanists UK is perhaps the largest group with no such funding, and as of 2021 has 100,000 members and supporters. Humanists International has affiliated groups all over the world, from Europe to India to Nigeria and Uganda. Humanism is a rapidly growing global movement, riding the wave of secularisation.

The persecution of many humanist ideas still exists today, and is a threat to humanism throughout much of the world. However, humanist thinking is now widespread, and throughout much of the Western world one can live as a humanist without fear of punishment or persecution.

In this video Richy Thompson introduces how many people in the UK use the label humanist to describe themselves, and explains that there are many more people who share humanist beliefs and values but remain unaware of the label.

This article is from the free online

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

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