About the Project

The journey of A Better Life began in July 2011, when I visited White Sands National Monument with my brother on a road trip through the Southwestern United States. It struck me in the natural beauty, how many people believe that without God, one’s life has no purpose or meaning — that our lives are devoid of joy and happiness because we are not religious.

“…rigorous atheism casts a wasting shadow over every human hope and endeavor.” -Ross Douthat, The New York Times, on Christopher Hitchens' death, December 2011.

I decided to travel through the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom and put together a book of photographic portraits. From the airline pilot, to the musician, I wanted to document my fellow atheists and ask them what brings meaning and joy to their lives. The goal of the book was to visually capture the diversity of non-believers and the ways they maintain a better life, not in spite of their atheism, but because of it.

To raise money for the project, I turned to the crowd-funding site, Kickstarter, where, thanks to publicity from the atheist community, it took off. At the time, A Better Life was the second-highest grossing publishing projects in the history of the site. I then spent a year and a half on the road, meeting people from many different backgrounds and experiences. It was an incredible experience. From the cliffs of Yosemite National Park, to swimming in San Francisco Bay, to the English countryside, to the shores of Lake Constance in Germany; join me on this journey.

"Life is short and there’s only one of it.  It’s very important to make the most of it while you have it.  Not to fritter it away and simply waste it.  And so life, the enjoyment of life, the experience of life ought to be a great aesthetic experience and a very fulfilling experience and a large part of that is understanding it, understanding the world in which you have been born, understanding why you’re here.  Trying to leave the world a better place than you found it.  These are all immensely important things for atheists to think about, perhaps especially for atheists to think about." -Richard Dawkins

Subjects in the book include:
  • A.C. Grayling, Philosopher
  • Adam Pascal, Musician/Actor
  • Alex Honnold, Rock climber
  • Cara Santa Maria, Television personality
  • Carol Blue & (the late) Christopher Hitchens
  • Charles Strouse, Broadway composer
  • Daniel Dennett, Philosopher and cognitive scientist
  • Derren Brown, British illusionist
  • Donald C. Johanson, Paleoanthropologist
  • James Randi, Magician
  • James Watson, Molecular biologist/co-discoverer of the structure of DNA
  • Janet Asimov, Psychiatrist/Author
  • Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of physics, author and broadcaster
  • Julia Sweeney, Actress, comedian & author
  • Lawrence M. Krauss, Physicist
  • Michael Shermer, Founder/Publisher of Skeptic magazine
  • Patricia S. Churchland, Neurophilosopher
  • Penn & Teller, magicians
  • Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Philosopher and novelist
  • Richard Dawkins, Evolutionary biologist, and author
  • Robert Llewellyn, Writer, TV presenter, actor
  • Sean Carroll, Theoretical Physicist
  • Steven Pinker, Cognitive scientist
  • Yau-Man Chan, Contestant; Survivor: Fiji
...and many, many more! 

 

Chris Johnson is a New York-based photographer and filmmaker. He received his undergraduate degree in film production (along with a minor in religious studies) from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. His photography has been seen in various outlets, including The New York Times. He is the author of the coffee table photography book, A Better Life: 100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy & Meaning in a World Without God as well as the documentary film version, A Better Life: An Exploration of Joy & Meaning in a World Without God. He has travelled the world on a screening/lecture tour about A Better Life, speaking and screening the film in over 60 cities on four continents — from Reykjavik to Shanghai.

For the book and film of A Better Life, he interviewed many prominent atheist figures such as Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Dan Dennett, Derren Brown, Pat Churchland, Julia Sweeney, Penn & Teller, and many more. He has given talks on atheism and his work at conferences, universities, non-profit organizations, and community groups. In addition, he has also been a guest on numerous podcasts and TV shows around the globe. 

Apart from his own film and photographic work, he has also collaborated with artists and directors in various roles and capacities for theatre, film, and print. Chris is the recipient of the Kodak Award for Excellence in Filmmaking as well as the B.F. Lorenzetti Scholarship for Excellence in Filmmaking.