Humanists UK launches dedicated Faith to Faithless helpline for people leaving religions and cults

21 February, 2024

Humanists UK is proud to announce the launch of the only UK-based dedicated helpline for so-called ‘apostates’ – people who leave high-control religions or cults.

Reflecting a growing need in the UK, the move marks a significant expansion of Humanists UK’s long-standing ‘Faith to Faithless’ support programme. Recognising the highly specific and often harrowing issues that apostates confront, the helpline aims to provide direct assistance, tailored resources, and empathetic support to people navigating the challenges tied to leaving or questioning their faith.

People who leave high-control religious communities might face social isolation, profound loneliness, severed ties, and potential estrangement from family and community. The mental toll can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. Some apostates confront workplace discrimination or economic hardships as they are cut off from familial support. They might also grapple with stigma and ostracism, being labelled as ‘traitors’ by their former communities and family members, becoming cut off from everyone they’ve ever known.

Currently operating three days a week, this unique helpline is operated by a team of highly trained volunteers who understand the nuanced challenges faced by groups such as ex-Muslims, ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, ex-Evangelicals, and ex-Mormons, as well as the complex needs faced by people leaving high-control religious communities. They are equipped to listen to and understand the unique issues apostates face, providing a listening ear and signposting to other services where needed.

Donna Craine, Apostate Services Manager at Humanists UK, stated:

‘Our helpline is a pioneering UK-based initiative. Apostates face highly specific challenges that often go misunderstood, and this service will bridge that gap, offering understanding and assistance.’

Asked what concerns she might have for the programme, Ms Craine added:

‘We’ve got a unique difficulty here in that we know there are likely thousands of people in the UK who face these issues and feel isolated, but they can be very hard to reach as a result of their circumstances. We want to help as many people as possible. 

‘We also know the UK helpline sector is under-resourced, and more specialist helplines like ours can help the sector as a whole to meet demand. We also want to be ready in the future to increase our opening hours as demand increases.’

Terri O’Sullivan, a former Jehovah’s Witness and one of three permanent employees of Faith to Faithless, said:

‘Speaking from personal experience, leaving a religion – when you have very few or no connections outside of that community – can be isolating. This helpline offers more than signposting and reassurance to people in need. But for many, it’s reassuring just to know that you’re not alone in your journey.’

Will demand increase?

Anecdotal evidence and a small body of emerging academic research suggests ‘apostasy-related issues’ in the UK are a growing concern. 

Demographers show that across the various racial and religious backgrounds, increasing numbers of young people do not identify with the religions of their parents, and that this is a trend which is accelerating over time. 

Faith to Faithless’s service users are often non-religious young adults from minority communities. Service users have reported coercive control, physical violence, shunning, and clashes within families and religious communities triggered by disagreements over religious identity, levels of religious participation, social views, cultural interests (e.g. listening to pop music or watching TV), sexuality and sexual health, and ‘modesty’ and choice of clothing.

Since 2016, Faith to Faithless’ existing services have experienced growth in demand every year.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK, commented:

‘Apostates are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and yet many times generic services aren’t always equipped to understand the issues they face or provide adequate support.

‘If we as a society are to uphold freedom of religion or belief for all, it’s crucial that support is on hand for people who find themselves isolated, abused, or at risk for their beliefs. And Humanists UK as the national charity for the non-religious is proud to offer this support.’

Humanists UK patron Alom Shaha, who wrote about his experience leaving Islam in his memoir The Young Atheist’s Handbook, welcomed the launch, saying:

‘I’m so glad that this service is now available. I personally know many people who would have benefitted from it in the past and I’m sure the helpline will provide invaluable comfort and support to vulnerable people who would otherwise struggle to find help when they need it most.  

‘Too often the traumatic experiences faced by people leaving high-control religions are simply ignored. But in a society where we all agree that freedom of religion is a fundamental right, we must believe the same for freedom from religion and support it with equal fervour.’

helpline information
Calls are free from all mobiles and landlines and won’t appear on itemised bills.

Wednesday 10:00 – 13:00
Thursday 16:00 – 19:00
Friday 08:00 – 11:00

Freephone: 0800 448 0748 

You will also be able to email for support, and emails will be replied to during our usual opening hours. 


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Kathy Riddick at or phone 020 3675 0959.

Faith to Faithless has been a programme at Humanists UK dedicated to providing specialist support to apostates since 2016. Beyond the helpline and its year-round provision of peer support from trained volunteers, the service offers awareness training to public services, including NHS divisions and police forces. 

Faith to Faithless operates under a stringent safeguarding policy, prioritising the safety and wellbeing of all those reaching out for support. 

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 120,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.