‘How can I be happy?’ Narrated by Stephen Fry

'How can I be happy?' Narrated by Stephen Fry – That's Humanism

Written & produced by the British Humanist Association in conjunction with SkeptiSketch, and narrated by Stephen Fry.

Contributing artist: Roberto Gomez – EvolutionBiologia.

Some people believe that what is right and wrong never varies from situation to situation and that it can be expressed in constant and unchanging commandments.

They often look to religious texts or authorities to discover what they think a god wants them to do.

A humanist view of morality is different.

Humanists do not look to any god for rules but think carefully for themselves about what might be the best way to live.

This approach means we have always to be empathetic and think about the effects of our choices on the happiness or suffering of the people (or sometimes other animals) concerned.

We have to respect the rights and wishes of those involved, trying to find the kindest course of action or the option that will do the least harm.

We have to consider carefully the particular situation we find ourselves in and not just take any rule or commandment for granted.

We have to weigh up the evidence we have available to us about what the probable consequences of our actions will be.

This way of thinking about what we should do is explicitly based on reason, experience, and empathy and respect for others, rather than on tradition or deference to authority.

It might sound hard but luckily most of us do it most of the time without really thinking about it.

Morality is not something that comes from outside of human beings, gifted to us by an external force like a god.

When we look at our closest relatives in the animal world, we see the same basic tendencies we recognise in ourselves – affection, cooperation, all the behaviour needed to live in groups and thrive.

It is clear that our social instincts form the basis of morality and that they are a natural part of humanity.

Of course that is not the end of the story.

The long experience of tens of thousands of years of human beings living in communities has developed and refined our morality and we are all the lucky inheritors of that hard work.

But it does not mean that there are not people who do harm, or make bad choices.

But ultimately, morality comes from us, not from any god. It is to do with people, with individual goodwill and social responsibility; it is about not being completely selfish, about kindness and consideration towards others.

Ideas of freedom, justice, happiness, equality, fairness and all the other values we may live by are human inventions, and we can be proud of that, as
we strive to live up to them.