‘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
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?Download
Death metaphorsIf death were a ......., what would it be? Download
Humanist funeral extractsCan students find key humanist attitudes towards death in a selection of statements from humanist funerals? Download
Humanist poemsA selection of humanist poems and quotes about death to inspire students to write their own poem or eulogy for a funeral. Download
Humanist responses: deathFill in the speech bubbles with how humanists might respond to statements and questions about death. Download
The River of LifeUsing 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
Afterlife(Age 11+) Humanists answer the question: 'Is this the only life we have?' Watch
Does life have any meaning?
Suitable for: 11-14, 14-16
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?Download
Ingredients of the good lifeCan 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 lifeA 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 responsesHow 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: meaningCan 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
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?
E-book: A guide to the humanist vision of the good life
What is the Happy Human and what does it represent? How do humanists think we can all be happy?Download
Cultural transmission: A 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 essence: A 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.