Meaning and happiness

‘Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so.’

Robert Ingersoll, ‘The Great Agnostic’ (1833 – 1899)

Does life have any meaning? Is happiness the most important thing in life? What is ‘the good life’? Find out why humanists believe we must create our own meanings in life, and why, if this is the only life we have, humanists place such importance on making ourselves and others happy.

Here you can find resources about how humanists believe we can find happiness and make our lives meaningful, and why they believe there is more than one answer to the question about how to live a worthwhile life.

How can I be happy?
Suitable for: 5-7

Lesson Plans

How can I be happy?

In this lesson students will investigate what makes human beings happy. They will be introduced to the Happy Human, a symbol of Humanism, and learn why happiness is so important to humanists. By ordering and categorising different possible ingredients of happiness, they will investigate the different ways people can find happiness and whether happiness means the same thing to everybody. They will learn how humanists believe that it is important for everyone to find their own way to be happy and that one of the best ways to be happy is to make other people so. Finally, they will decorate a Happy Human with what they think are the ingredients of happiness Download

Presentations

How can I be happy?

Download

Activities

Ingredients of happiness (5-7)

Can students order and evaluate these different potential ingredients of happiness? Download

Happy Human outline

Fill the Happy Human with the ingredients of happiness. Download

Films

How can I be happy?

(Age 11+) A short animation about how humanists believe we need to find our own ways to make our lives meaningful, and that we should make the most of the one life we know we have. Watch

Humanist Perspectives

Happiness

What is the Happy Human and what does it represent? How do humanists think we can all be happy? Download

Why is happiness important to humanists?
Suitable for: 11-14, 7-11

Lesson Plans

Why is happiness important to humanists?

In this lesson students will investigate how humanists think we can find happiness in our lives, and why, because they believe life is finite, happiness is so important to humanists. Through evaluating and categorising different possible ingredients of happiness, they will investigate the different ways people can find happiness, ask whether happiness means the same thing to everybody. They will learn how humanists believe that it is important for everyone to find their own way to be happy and learn that humanists believe one of the best ways to be happy is to make other people so. Finally, they will use what they have learned to write their own recipe for happiness. Download

Presentations

Why is happiness so important to humanists?

Download

Activities

Ingredients of happiness (7-14)

Can students order and evaluate these potential ingredients of happiness, and conclude whether everyone needs the same things to make them happy. Download

Happiness recipe

An example recipe for happiness to stimulate students to write their own. Download

Humanist responses: happiness

Can students fill in the speech bubbles with humanist responses to statements and questions about happiness? Download

The 'Why?' game

An activity to help students explore whether our own happiness is the motivation behind everything we do? Download

Films

How can I be happy?

(Age 11+) A short animation about how humanists believe we need to find our own ways to make our lives meaningful, and that we should make the most of the one life we know we have. Watch

Humanist Perspectives

Happiness

What is the Happy Human and what does it represent? How do humanists think we can all be happy? Download

Does death make life more meaningful?
Suitable for: 11-14, 14-16

Lesson Plans

Does death make life more meaningful?

In this lesson students will investigate humanist attitudes towards death, including the consequences of their absence of belief in an afterlife on the way they live their lives. They will explore whether we should be scared of death and learn how humanists believe that the absence of an afterlife makes life more meaningful, and makes it all the more important to make the most of the one life we know we have. They will also discuss the different senses in which humanists believe something of us does survive our death. Finally they will learn what happens at a humanist funeral and use what they have learned to write their own poem or eulogy. Download

Presentations

Does death make life more meaningful?

Download

Activities

Death metaphors

If death were a ......., what would it be? Download

Humanist funeral extracts

Can students find key humanist attitudes towards death in a selection of statements from humanist funerals? Download

Humanist poems

A selection of humanist poems and quotes about death to inspire students to write their own poem or eulogy for a funeral. Download

Humanist responses: death

Fill in the speech bubbles with how humanists might respond to statements and questions about death. Download

The River of Life

Using Bertrand Russell's quote comparing human lives to rivers, students explore what they might contribute to the sea of humanity Download

Films

What should we think about death?

(Age 11+) A short animation about a humanist attitude towards death. Watch

Afterlife

(Age 11+) Humanists answer the question: 'Is this the only life we have?' Watch

Humanist Perspectives

Celebrations and ceremonies

What do humanists celebrate and how do they mark important events in their lives? Download

Death

Why do humanists believe this life is the only one we know we have, and what does that mean for how they choose to live their lives? Download

Does life have any meaning?
Suitable for: 11-14, 14-16

Lesson Plans

Does life have any meaning?

In this lesson students will investigate why humanists think there is no reason to believe there is a hidden, external, ‘ultimate’ meaning to life and instead believe meaning is something we create for ourselves. They will explore and evaluate different possible ingredients of ‘the good life’, investigate how we can make our own lives meaningful, and appraise different humanists’ views. Finally they will write a letter to their future selves explaining what they think makes a meaningful life. Download

Presentations

Does life have any meaning?

Download

Activities

Ingredients of the good life

Can students and order evaluate these potential ingredients of 'the good life' and conclude whether what makes a meaningful life is the same for everyone? Download

Humanist quotes on meaning in life

A collection of humanist quotes about meaning in life for students to evaluate and compare and contrast to religious attitudes to meaning. Download

Meaning in life: criticisms and responses

How might humanists respond to these criticisms of their beliefs about meaning in life? Download

What is the good life?

Questions to help students write letters to their future selves describing how they hope they will have made their lives meaningful. Download

Humanist responses: meaning

Can students fill in the speech bubbles with humanist responses to statements and questions about meaning in life? Download

Films

How can I be happy?

(Age 11+) A short animation about how humanists believe we need to find our own ways to make our lives meaningful, and that we should make the most of the one life we know we have. Watch

Other Resources

Happy Human 50th Birthday

A website celebrating 50 years of the Happy Human symbol, featuring information about its origins, its history, and its presence around the world.

Humanist Perspectives

Happiness

What is the Happy Human and what does it represent? How do humanists think we can all be happy?

Download

External Resources

What meanings to life can be found?

What meanings to life can be found?: A short film featuring twelve perspectives on meaning in life.

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