Photo of Richard Dawkins accepting Services to Humanism award 2012 at British Humanist Association Annual ConferenceOn 12 February this year (2018), I started an online course developed by Humanists UK, in collaboration with online learning providers, Future Learn. The course is an introduction to humanism and is titled, ‘Introducing Humanism: Non-religious Approaches to Life’. Cost is no barrier as it is provided free of charge. (A course completion certificate and access to materials beyond the course close date incur a $99 fee.)

The course duration is six weeks and the course designers anticipate that you will engage with the materials for about three hours per week. While the course is not academic, it manages to cover the full gamut of humanist concerns. Here is what the course covers (sourced from the course web page):

  • The humanist understanding of human beings: our nature, capacities, and responsibilities
  • How humanists answer questions about the world (science, reason, scepticism) and the consequences for a humanist understanding of reality
  • A humanist approach to making life meaningful and the value of individual freedom
  • The origins and evolution of morality and a humanist perspective on how to be good
  • The humanist vision for society (secularism, freedoms, and human rights) and the motivations behind their goals
  • Different definitions of humanism, its history, and its diversity

In the course, participants are presented with a mix of online text, supplementary reading and short videos. The longest video is about three minutes in duration. Some of the supplementary reading is presented in PDF form. The course designers, I think, achieved a good mix of these three kinds of media.

During the course, participants are presented with a variety of questions designed to prompt reflection. The course facilitators encourage participants to discuss their answers to questions on the active online forum. I found forum participants a mix of already committed humanists and people new to humanism. Discussions were always helpful and respectful.

What I loved most about this course was its accessibility. Even though the course dealt with a range of philosophical and sociological questions, it was absent of technical language. While the course is broad in scope, it gives a good insight into all of the key areas of living ethically in the modern world. The course has certainly deepened my understanding and appreciation of humanism. I think Humanists UK have done a wonderful job of bringing humanism to a broader audience. I highly recommend it.

You can enrol in Humanists UK’s online course at Introducing Humanism: Non-religious Approaches to Life

Reproduced from Victorian Humanist, Vol. 57, No. 4, May 2018

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Copyright ©2018 Leslie Allan

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