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This content is taken from the Humanists UK's online course, Introducing Humanism: Non-religious Approaches to Life, with Sandi Toksvig. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsThere are few certainties in life, other than that it will come to an end. I’m going to die. We all are. And as a humanist, I don’t think we’re coming back. That’s not necessarily such a bad thing as it may at first appear. The finite nature of my life gives it structure and shape. It provides a sense of urgency to make the most of this life, the one life I know I have, in the here and now. And given other people’s lives are as finite as my own, it helps motivate me to do what I can to support them to do the same. Plus, living forever might get a little boring.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 secondsWho’d enjoy a cake or a TV show that went on forever and ever? But do our lives have any meaning? What if we don’t believe in some ultimate external purpose to our lives, if we don’t believe that meaning is found in another life after this one, or that it can be discovered written in the stars? Must we then feel despair that our lives are devoid of point or purpose? Or can we make meaning for ourselves?

Skip to 1 minute and 16 secondsThe questions we’ll be exploring this week are: Is a belief in immortality helpful for our lives to have any meaning? Can meaning exist in a purposeless universe? Is happiness the only goal in life? What are the ingredients of a good life and is it the same for everyone? And how might humanists deal with criticisms of their approach to making life meaningful? Hopefully, by the end of the week, you’ll be able to explain and evaluate a humanist concept of a meaningful life.

Welcome to Week 3

‘Religions are of many kinds, good and bad, primitive and advanced: but they all have one thing in common – they help man to cope with the problem of his place and role in the strange universe in which he lives.’

Julian Huxley

Religions have supported many human beings to fulfil some of their deepest needs, particularly the need for a sense of value to their existence and purpose to their lives.

If humanism is to offer people a viable alternative, then it needs to show that it can do the same. It must be able to answer questions connected with how we can make our lives feel meaningful and what is the best way to live them in order to do so. However, it must do so from a position that acknowledges what we learned in Week 1 about a humanist understanding of human beings: that our nature is that of a mortal and material being, but also a conscious creature capable of reason, creativity, and collaboration, with a sense of freedom and an element of control over our own lives.

This week

Sometimes critics can accuse humanism of being a cold and overly rational worldview. An approach to life that relies on science to answer questions about human beings and the world, they might say, leaves little or no room for many of the things that human beings value in their lives. This week we’ll investigate how humanists might respond to that challenge by looking at how they believe we can lead happy, meaningful, and fulfilling lives.

This week you will explore:

  • What is the impact of the belief that this the only life we have on a humanist approach to life?
  • If there is no ‘ultimate’ meaning or purpose to life, then is it possible to create meaningful lives for ourselves?
  • What are the ingredients of a life well-lived? Is there only one answer to what makes a good life?
  • Can a non-religious approach to life have depth, or be filled with awe and wonder?
  • How can a humanist cope with cases of tragedy and failure?

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This video is from the free online course:

Introducing Humanism: Non-religious Approaches to Life, with Sandi Toksvig

Humanists UK