Understanding Humanism

The One Life

What do humanists believe is the best way to live and where do they locate happiness and meaning?

Humanists believe this is the one life we have and so we need to make the most of it. For humanists, there is no single ‘ultimate’ meaning of life. Instead, it is up to us to make our own lives meaningful. They believe we should be free to decide how we live (as long as we do not cause harm to others), seeking happiness and supporting others to do the same.

5+

Overviews
Age 5+
The one life

Presentations
Age 5+
The one life

Slides to support the information sheets and activities

Information
Age 5+
The Happy Human

A symbol of humanism

Activities
Age 5+
Happiness and freedom

Naming ceremony activities

Leaf template

Happy Human symbol

Films
Age 5+
The perfect welcome

Watch a humanist naming ceremony, hear how the parents made it meaningful to them, and use the questions to prompt discussion. (Age 5+)

7+

Overviews
Age 7+
The one life

Presentations
Age 7+
The one life

Slides to support the information sheets and activities

Information
Age 7+
The Happy Human

A symbol of humanism

Freedom and happiness

What is a humanist approach to living a happy life?

Humanist ceremonies

Activities
Age 7+
Ingredients of happiness

Are there different ways to be happy?

Recipe for happiness

River of life

Explore the humanist understanding of an afterlife and the impact and meaning of our lives

Films
Age 7+
Philip Pullman on life and death

Children’s author Philip Pullman gives a humanist perspective on how we should live.

What is a humanist ceremony?

A two-minute video animation explaining humanist naming ceremonies, weddings, and funerals.

What are the ingredients of the good life?

Humanists describe how they think human beings can lead happy, worthwhile, and meaningful lives.

Other Resources
Age 7+
Freedom, responsibility, and connections (humanism on a piece of string)

How far should our freedom stretch? What responsibilities come with freedom?  Can our connections with others limit or enhance our freedom? Find out why humanists value freedom so highly and the responsibilities they believe we have to ourselves and to others. Modelling our lives using a piece of string, students will gain an insight into the humanist perspective on human nature, our potential, our ties to others, and the conclusions humanists reach about how we should live.

Download the full lesson plan and presentation.

Assessments
Age 7+
The one life: multiple-choice questions

The one life: fill in the blanks

11+

Overviews
Age 11+
The one life

Presentations
Age 11+
The one life

Slides to support the information sheets and activities

Information
Age 11+
Making the most of life

Should death be a source of fear and sadness?

Making life meaningful

What is a humanist approach to living a happy life?

Individual humanists give their answers

Wonder: a humanist perspective

Criticisms of a humanist approach

What survives?

How might humanists believe something of us lives on after our deaths?

Humanist funerals

Humanist ceremonies

Activities
Age 11+
River of life

Explore the humanist understanding of an afterlife and the impact and meaning of our lives

Humanist funeral extracts

Films
Age 11+
What should we think about death?

Stephen Fry explains a humanist understanding of death and making the most of life in the here and now.

Philip Pullman on life and death

Children’s author Philip Pullman gives a humanist perspective on how we should live.

How can I be happy?

Stephen Fry explains where humanists think happiness and meaning can be found in life.

What is a humanist ceremony?

A two-minute video animation explaining humanist naming ceremonies, weddings, and funerals.

Funerals: Stories and sadness

Humanist celebrants talk about the role that stories can play in dealing with sadness within a humanist funeral.

Funerals: What we leave behind

Humanist celebrants talk about how the impact of our lives can survive us, and how a humanist funeral offers a point to reflect on this.

Making things better

Philosopher AC Grayling describes how a recognition of tragedy can motivate the way we live.

Are we insignificant?

Philosopher AC Grayling explains why, even in a vast and purposeless universe, human beings might still matter.

What are the ingredients of the good life?

Humanists describe how they think human beings can lead happy, worthwhile, and meaningful lives.

Humanism and music

Hear punk and folk singer-songwriter Frank Turner speak about creativity, empathy, and making life meaningful.

Other Resources
Age 11+
Freedom, responsibility, and connections (humanism on a piece of string)

How far should our freedom stretch? What responsibilities come with freedom?  Can our connections with others limit or enhance our freedom? Find out why humanists value freedom so highly and the responsibilities they believe we have to ourselves and to others. Modelling our lives using a piece of string, students will gain an insight into the humanist perspective on human nature, our potential, our ties to others, and the conclusions humanists reach about how we should live.

Download the full lesson plan and presentation.

Assessments
Age 11+
The one life: multiple choice questions

The one life: fill in the blanks

The one life: humanist responses

How might a humanist respond?

14+

Information
Age 14+
Making the most of life

Should death be a source of fear and sadness?

Making life meaningful

What is a humanist approach to living a happy life?

Individual humanists give their answers

Wonder: a humanist perspective

Criticisms of a humanist approach

What survives?

How might humanists believe something of us lives on after our deaths?

Humanist funerals

Activities
Age 14+
Humanist funeral extracts

Films
Age 14+
What should we think about death?

Stephen Fry explains a humanist understanding of death and making the most of life in the here and now.

How can I be happy?

Stephen Fry explains where humanists think happiness and meaning can be found in life.

Funerals: Stories and sadness

Humanist celebrants talk about the role that stories can play in dealing with sadness within a humanist funeral.

Funerals: What we leave behind

Humanist celebrants talk about how the impact of our lives can survive us, and how a humanist funeral offers a point to reflect on this.

The end of life

Humanist pastoral support trainer and practitioner Carrie Thomas describes the way some humanists approach the end of their lives.

Making things better

Philosopher AC Grayling describes how a recognition of tragedy can motivate the way we live.

Should we be afraid of death?

Philosopher Peter Cave explores how a belief that death is the end might inform our attitudes towards it

Are we insignificant?

Philosopher AC Grayling explains why, even in a vast and purposeless universe, human beings might still matter.

The good life

Philosopher AC Grayling explains a humanist approach to how we should live.

What are the ingredients of the good life?

Humanists describe how they think human beings can lead happy, worthwhile, and meaningful lives.

The importance of stories

Philosopher Richard Norman explains how stories can help us to make sense of our lives.

Humanism and music

Hear punk and folk singer-songwriter Frank Turner speak about creativity, empathy, and making life meaningful.

Other Resources
Age 14+
Freedom, responsibility, and connections (humanism on a piece of string)

How far should our freedom stretch? What responsibilities come with freedom?  Can our connections with others limit or enhance our freedom? Find out why humanists value freedom so highly and the responsibilities they believe we have to ourselves and to others. Modelling our lives using a piece of string, students will gain an insight into the humanist perspective on human nature, our potential, our ties to others, and the conclusions humanists reach about how we should live.

Download the full lesson plan and presentation.

16+

Films
Age 16+
What should we think about death?

Stephen Fry explains a humanist understanding of death and making the most of life in the here and now.

How can I be happy?

Stephen Fry explains where humanists think happiness and meaning can be found in life.

Funerals: Stories and sadness

Humanist celebrants talk about the role that stories can play in dealing with sadness within a humanist funeral.

Funerals: What we leave behind

Humanist celebrants talk about how the impact of our lives can survive us, and how a humanist funeral offers a point to reflect on this.

The end of life

Humanist pastoral support trainer and practitioner Carrie Thomas describes the way some humanists approach the end of their lives.

Making things better

Philosopher AC Grayling describes how a recognition of tragedy can motivate the way we live.

Should we be afraid of death?

Philosopher Peter Cave explores how a belief that death is the end might inform our attitudes towards it

Are we insignificant?

Philosopher AC Grayling explains why, even in a vast and purposeless universe, human beings might still matter.

The good life

Philosopher AC Grayling explains a humanist approach to how we should live.

What are the ingredients of the good life?

Humanists describe how they think human beings can lead happy, worthwhile, and meaningful lives.

The importance of stories

Philosopher Richard Norman explains how stories can help us to make sense of our lives.

Humanism and music

Hear punk and folk singer-songwriter Frank Turner speak about creativity, empathy, and making life meaningful.

Other Resources
Age 16+
Life without meaning?

Humanist philosopher Richard Norman explores questions around meaning and purpose in life from a humanist perspective (from the Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Humanism)

Living Well

E-book: A guide to the humanist vision of the good life

External Resources
Age 16+
Sartre: Existence precedes essence

Sartre: Existence precedes essenceA BBC animation on Sartre’s belief that human beings are free to make create themselves through what they do and the responsibility this places upon us

Contact Us

Humanists UK
39 Moreland Street
London EC1V 8BB
education@humanists.uk
@HumanismEdu

Understanding Humanism

© Humanists UK 2022. Registered Charity No. 285987
humanists.uk | Privacy

Illustrations by Hyebin Lee

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. More information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close