Who are Humanists?
At least 15.5% of the population is non-religious, even according to the low figures in the 2001 census, already making this the second largest “belief” group in the UK. Other surveys on religious belief in Britain have found 30-40% (and 65% of young people) declaring themselves atheists or agnostics; and a Home Office survey (2004) found almost 22% of no faith and that religion played little part even in the lives of most of those calling themselves Christians.
Many people, even if they do not call themselves humanists, have humanist beliefs and values, and many thousands use the services of the British Humanist Association every year. Organised Humanism is the tip of a very large iceberg.
Many people in the UK today have humanist beliefs and base their worldview and ethics on reason, experience and empathy rather than on religious doctrine. We sponsored an Ipsos MORI poll in November 2006 which revealed that 36% of the population share humanist beliefs on morality and the nature of the universe – see also here.
- 62% of people believe that “Scientific and other evidence provides the best way to understand the universe” as against 22% believing that ”Religious beliefs are needed for a complete understanding of the universe.”
- 62% of people believe that “Human nature by itself gives us an understanding of what is right and wrong” as against 27% believing that “People need religious teachings in order to understand what is right and wrong.”
- 65% believed that “What is right and wrong depends on the effects on people and the consequences for society and the world” as against 15% believing that “What is right and wrong is basically just a matter of personal preference” or 13% believing that “What is right and wrong is unchanging and should never be challenged.”
The late BHA Vice-President Claire Rayner said:
I was a humanist without knowing it for many years before I found the Association – when I did, it was like finding a sort of home. Here were people with a range of views that matched my own, who shared my respect for life in all its forms, and who, above all, did not try to bully other people to follow their beliefs.
There are numerous other Distinguished Supporters of Humanism from all walks of life.