Humanists UK is saddened to learn of the death of its longtime member and founder of the Oxford University Humanist Group, Tony Brierley, aged 88.

Anthony Brierley helped create a thriving humanism scene in Oxford University in the 1950s and 60s. He founded the Oxford University Humanist Group in 1958, which rapidly grew to become one of the University’s most flourishing societies – boasting over 1000 members. From its beginnings, it welcomed eminent speakers, organised weekly discussion meetings, promoted humanism, and challenged Christian missions to the University.

Former member David Pollock wrote of the group:

‘At a time when deference was the default attitude to authority and explicit denial of belief in God was still a daring act, the OUHG  was at the cutting edge of public debate on the basis and nature of morality and over reform of the law on abortion, homosexuality, divorce, censorship and the like.’

1960 RPA Conference St Hilda’s Oxford (6th from left in the back row)

In the creation of this Group, Tony was active in, and instrumental in the creation of, a wider young humanist movement, represented by the University Humanist Federation.

Anthony’s support for local groups never wavered throughout his life. He later went on to be involved with the Birmingham Humanist Group and often spoke warmly of the ‘flourishing’ of various groups up and down the country.

Commenting on Tony Brierley’s death, Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘Tony was a pivotal figure in the humanist movement. His founding of the Oxford University Humanist Group in the 1950s was a bold step, challenging conventions and advocating for humanist values at a time when religion dominated public life. Tony’s enthusiasm and dedication laid the groundwork for today’s vibrant humanist community, inspiring a generation to think critically and act on humanist principles.

His contributions went beyond public achievements; Tony was known for his kindness and support to all those working at Humanists UK over six decades. His loss is deeply felt by all of us, but his legacy endures. We extend our deepest condolences to Tony’s friends and family.’


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

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.