This site aims to be a clear, accessible resource where you can find out more about historical figures – and the places in the United Kingdom and Ireland associated with them – who have influenced humanist and secularist thinking or demonstrated humanist ideals in their lives.

Humanism and secularism

Humanism is meant to be understood as that view of life which rejects supernatural explanations for reality, which is atheist or agnostic, which makes sense of the world using reason and experience, puts human welfare and fulfilment at the centre of its ethics, and which believes not in an ultimate meaning to the universe but in the capacity and obligation of human beings to make their own meaning and purpose.

At different times in history, from Confucius and the pre-Socratic philosophers to the present day, this worldview has been identified by many labels – rationalism, freethought, scepticism, secularism, atheism, agnosticism, Humanism – many of which are interchangeable.

Secularism here however – and in many uses today –  refers to the belief that no religion or belief should be afforded privileges by the state – and conversely that no religion or belief should be disadvantaged by the state. While most secularists are atheists, many have religious identities and beliefs.

Celebrating a long history of non-religious thought

Western Europe has a tradition of non-religious thinking that can be traced back some 2,500 years to the philosophy of the Ancient Greeks.  Many people in the United Kingdom and Ireland have made great artistic, scientific and social contributions based on a humanist or secular perspective. This site explores the vital contribution of those people to our heritage.

The Humanists UK website contains an excellent overview of the Humanist tradition organised by period.

About us

This site is supported and administered by Humanists UK.

Read more about the Humanist Heritage project’s aims, principles and people.