Over the past couple of weeks, early supporters of a Kickstarter project aiming to document the meaningful lives of 100 atheists have begun to receive their copies of the beautiful 254-page hardcover photo book by New York photographer Chris Johnson. The book is entitled, A Better Life: 100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy & Meaning in a World Without God. It features stunningly beautiful images of many of the prominent freethinkers within the atheist movement such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, James Randi, Penn & Teller, Steven Pinker, and many others. But it’s not a celebrity-smoochfest. Alongside these famous people are your friendly neighborhood atheists: teachers, pilots, writers, bloggers (this one included), and more. The diversity within the pages of this book illustrates to the reader the wide range of personalities reaching the same conclusion — that without religion, joyful and meaningful lives are not only possible, they’re the norm.
I caught up with the author today and asked a few questions about his work.
KD: What motivated you to create this book?
CJ: Even though I had been raised in a fairly secular environment, I studied religion in college and that’s when I had really begun to use the label of “atheist” more when identifying my own beliefs. On a trip through the Southwest, I was struck by the natural beauty of the environment and began to think about how people view the atheistic worldview. There are so many religious people in this country who think that our lives are lacking in some way without God, and I wanted to show them how, without God, our lives can be just as fulfilling or even more so, because this life is (as far as we know) all we have.
KD: What was the most rewarding aspect of this project as a whole?
CJ: I’m so grateful to have gotten to know all the people in the book and have a glimpse into their personalities and lives in creating this project. I’ve grown so much as a person while doing this. It’s been quite the journey for me, personally, and given me an amazing opportunity to learn more about the world and people around me. I enjoy traveling and meeting new people, so this project gave me so many new wonderful experiences.
KD: I’ve noticed that many of the project supporters and individuals sharing their excitement over receiving their copies are atheists. Are they the target audience, or are believers the target? If this book is intended to inform the religious about joy and meaning in the lives of atheists, how do you intend to reach that demographic?
CJ: I think both groups would enjoy this book. I’ve gotten reactions from religious friends of mine saying how this book gives them a new sense of atheism and atheists. Also, many non-religious people are finding comfort and excitement in seeing people who share their worldview and the many and diverse ways they find joy and meaning in their lives.
For more information about the book, or to order a copy, check out its website www.theatheistbook.com. Signed copies are also available there, and it’s currently the only place to pick up this stunning addition to your coffee table.
Chris has also provided video clips of interviews he held with the book’s subjects. In them, nonbelievers eloquently discuss what makes their lives fulfilling. The videos can be accessed through his Youtube channel.