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Toolkit 4 Teaching Notes

How do you know it’s true?


This toolkit explores the ways in which humanists approach the question of what is true.  Humanists use reason and evidence to work out what is or may be true.  They look for evidence, weigh up the strength of evidence, look for ways to test the evidence, and look for the simplest explanations of it.  Humanists do not think that things can be ‘true for you but not for me’ or that there are special ‘religious’ kinds of truth.  They prefer to use the word ‘faith’ for beliefs which are not backed up by evidence, and ‘opinion’ for matters of personal judgement  The toolkit shows students how to use reason and evidence. Using the example of the existence of god(s), it explores some of the ways in which reason and evidence are used by humanists to make decisions about what is true and how else humanists might approach the question of whether god(s) exist. It introduces the concepts of belief, agnosticism, and atheism as responses to this.

The issue of truth is huge and complex.  This toolkit does not deal directly with questions of how far we can know if there is a world out there, or how language and sensory input mediates our experience of the world, or with metaphorical truth; however, students may raise these ideas in discussion.

Learning Objectives

Students are able to:

1. Explain how humanists use reason and evidence to decide what is true and give examples

2. Express their own views on how they decide what is true, giving reasons and examples and compare their ideas with those of humanists

3. Use religious and philosophical vocabulary.

Summary of Activities

The students have a list of statements which may or may not be true.  They discuss which they think is true and why.  The students then watch some video clips of humanists talking about using reason and evidence to decide what is true.  In groups the students research and present the ideas of one humanist thinker about whether God is true. They then give their own views on this question, referring to the ideas they have explored.  The students revisit one or more of the initial statements and give their views on whether they think it is true or not, using the religious and philosophical vocabulary they have encountered in this piece of work and explaining how far they agree or disagree with humanist viewpoints.

Curriculum Links



English, opportunities for speaking and listening, reading and writing.



Humanism for Schools

Humanism is a non-religious approach to life, which the 2013 national framework for RE in England recommends be studied in schools as an example of a 'non-religious worldview'.

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