Meaning and happiness (age 14-16)

‘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.

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


Does death make life more meaningful?



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


What should we think about death?

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


(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


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


Does life have any meaning?



Ingredients of the good life

Can students order and 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


What are the ingredients of the good life?

(Age 7+) Humanists describe how they think human beings can lead happy, worthwhile, and meaningful lives. Watch

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.

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

Humanist Perspectives


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


External Resources

Cultural transmission

Cultural transmissionA BBC animation on what makes us human: our capacity to share ideas, skills, and culture (for humanists this makes us special and can enable something of us to survive our deaths)

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

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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