A Better Life: An Exploration of Joy & Meaning in a World Without God: Documentary, Book, Podcast

The Documentary

There is no God. Now what? If this is the only life we have, how does that affect how we live our lives, how we treat each other, and cope with death.

In this fascinating documentary, join filmmaker Chris Johnson as he introduces us to people from all walks of life and backgrounds who challenge the false stereotypes of atheists as immoral and evil. From Daniel Dennett and A.C. Grayling, to Julia Sweeney and Robert Llewellyn —learn the various ways many atheists have left religion to a better life filled with love, compassion, hope, and wonder.

A Better Life: An Exploration of Joy & Meaning in a World Without God

Director: Chris Johnson

Featuring: A.C. Grayling, Adam Pascal, AJ Johnson, Alex Honnold, Andrew Copson, Cara Santa Maria, Dan Barker, Daniel Dennett, Donald C. Johanson, Helena Guzik, Julia Sweeney, Matt Dillahunty, Nahla Mahmoud, Patricia S. Churchland, Robert Llewellyn, Sean Carroll, Tracie Harris.

https://www.theatheistbook.com/pages/about-us

Available Formats: Streaming rental, HD Download, DVD

 

Upcoming Screenings & Lectures through 2017

Thursday, November 2 Screening – Houston, TX (Rice University)

Thursday, November 9 Screening – Frostburg State University

Saturday, November 11 Lecture – New Haven, CT

Sunday, November 19 Screening – Jackson, MS

Friday, December 1 Screening – Ontinyent, Valencia, Spain

The book

Explore the meaning and joy of life with 100 atheists in this book of photos and commentary featuring Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Steven Pinker, Penn & Teller, Julia Sweeney, Alex Honnold, Derren Brown, and more!

The myth persists. Even in our modern world, countless people believe that without God, one’s life has no purpose or meaning — that the lives of atheists are devoid of joy and happiness because they are not religious.

Starting out as one of the highest-grossing publishing projects on Kickstarter, A Better Life highlights the various ways that those who are not religious find joy, meaning, and purpose in life. Photographer Chris Johnson spent two years traveling the world speaking with and photographing atheists from all walks of life to create this hardcover photography coffeetable book.

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

Daniel Dennett

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

Julia Sweeney

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!

 

Release Date: January 1, 2014

Author: Chris Johnson

Publisher: Cosmic Teapot/Chris Johnson; First Edition (December 2013)

A Better Life: 100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy & Meaning in a World Without God

Podcast

https://www.theatheistbook.com/pages/podcast

In this new podcast, join Chris as he revisits with some of the people from the book and the film, as well as introduces you to people he’s met since doing the project that would have been great additions.

Sample podcast guests include:

Anthony Magnabosco

Lawrence Krauss

Matt Dillahunty

Mandisa Thomas

Dan Arel

Cara Santa Maria

Chris Johnson

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.

https://www.theatheistbook.com/

Why Skepticism Is the Right Approach to the Afterlife, Immortality & Utopia: Michael Shermer via Big Think

Why Skepticism Is the Right Approach to the Afterlife, Immortality & Utopia

Michael Shermer via Big Think

HEAVENS ON EARTH: THE SCIENTIFIC SEARCH FOR THE AFTERLIFE, IMMORTALITY, AND UTOPIA is a scientific exploration into humanity’s obsession with the afterlife and quest for immortality from the bestselling author and skeptic Michael Shermer.

Pre-orders are now available.

In his most ambitious work yet, Shermer sets out to discover what drives humans’ belief in life after death, focusing on recent scientific attempts to achieve immortality by radical life extentionists, extropians, transhumanists, cryonicists, and mind-uploaders, along with utopians who have attempted to create heaven on earth. For millennia, religions have concocted numerous manifestations of heaven and the afterlife, the place where souls go after the death of the physical body. Religious leaders have toiled to make sense of this place that a surprising 74% of Americans believe exists, but from which no one has ever returned to report what it is really like.

Heavens on Earth concludes with an uplifting paean to purpose and progress and what we can do in the here-and-now, whether or not there is a hereafter.

 

 

Moral Dilemmas: How Do We Know What’s Right?

California State University Fullerton alumnus Michael Shermer will join CSUF faculty members Ryan Nichols, associate professor of philosophy, and Douglas Navarick, professor of psychology, Oct. 19, 2017 on campus to discuss science’s role in solving moral dilemmas.

Can science provide the moral answers to such issues as abortion, euthanasia and organ donation — without the guidance of religious ideology or philosophy? Cal State Fullerton alumnus Michael Shermer ’78 (M.A. psychology) returns to his alma mater to present his case.

Shermer is the author of The Moral Arc and nearly a dozen other books on the evolution of human beliefs and behavior. He is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, editor of Skeptic.com, a columnist for Scientific American and the recipient of CSUF’s 2002 Distinguished Alumnus Award.

The Moral Arc by Michael Shermer

The free, public event, titled “Solving Moral Dilemmas: How Do We Know What’s Right?” will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Titan Student Union’s Titan Theater. Joining Shermer for the discussion are Douglas Navarick, professor of psychology, and Ryan Nichols, associate professor of philosophy.

The event is hosted by CSUF’s chapter of the Psi Chi international honor society in psychology and will be moderated by Jesse Dollemore and Brittany Page, co-hosts of the “I Doubt It With Dollemore” podcast. Visit dollemore.com/events for more information and to RSVP.

This event will be recorded and availaable on the I Doubt It With Dollemore Podcast 1-2 weeks after the live event.

https://dollemore.com/

Fake News: How​ ​Can​ ​We​ ​Know​ ​What’s​ ​True?

Skeptic Magazine Marks​ ​25th​ ​Anniversary​ ​with​ ​Live​ ​Science​ ​Variety​ ​Show

When: September 27, 2017, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Where: Broadcast on The Young​ ​Turks​ ​Network​; Limited tickets available for live show: 75 Ninth Ave., New York, NY. 

Dr. Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine, will mark 25 years of combating ‘fake news’ with ‘HOW CAN WE KNOW WHAT’S TRUE?’, a live variety science show, in partnership with YouTube Space NY.

Celebrity creators and public intellectuals are slated to debate Dr. Shermer on a range of issues such as climate change, vaccinations, reemergence of the ‘Alt-Right’ movement, religion and life beyond earth. Live debate segments will include ASAPScience hosts Mitchell​ ​Moffit and​ ​Greg​ ​Brown​, world renowned philosopher Deepak​ ​Chopra​, and award-winning author Aspen​ ​Matis​.

The event will also feature Grammy-nominated recording artist Mike​ ​Posner​, host of his newly released philosophy podcast What Does It All Mean? Broadcast on The Young​ ​Turks​ ​Network​, the event will focus on the role of skepticism in today’s political climate –where evidence and facts are increasingly dismissed.

Climate change, government engagement in science legislation, the relationship between science and faith, the dangers behind radical social ideologies — the Skeptics Society has for more than two decades, explored these issues that affect us all. Pairing some of the most influential minds in science, philosophy, journalism and popular culture, the commemorative science variety show addresses these ongoing issues as they relate to the digital age, fact-checking fake journalism, and as a result, coming to know the truth.

Happy 25th Anniversary messages will be broadcast from Skeptic fans around the world, including ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ co-creator and star Rachel​ ​Bloom​, bestselling author and biologist Richard​ ​Dawkins​, and celebrity illusionist​ ​Derren​ ​Brown​. A pre-show magic act by the longest running magician in the history of New York City, Prakash​ ​Puru​, will demonstrate how easily we are fooled, and science rapper Baba​ ​Brinkman​ will debut a skeptic-themed track.

Happy Birthday video:

https://youtu.be/sDFA46NNbXU

Dr. Shermer says there is no better time than now to learn how to be a better skeptic. “Skepticism is the most important right we have, because talking and listening to others is the only way to find out if we’re wrong, if we’ve gone off the rails. I think we need to continue to move towards this method of examination in the next quarter century, particularly in crucial areas like climate change and terrorism, which pose potential threats to our existence.”

“Over the next 25 years, who knows what crazy ideas people will hold, so we have to equip society with a cognitive toolkit that is general enough to be applied to any and all claims, including those we can’t think of now. We don’t know what we don’t know. Science and skepticism are the best methods ever devised to understand the true nature of the world,” said Shermer.

With celebrity guests from all areas of science and entertainment, ‘HOW CAN WE KNOW WHAT’S TRUE?’ offers a unique perspective on how each of us can be our very own best skeptic.

About​ ​the​ ​Skeptics​ ​Society:

Once a fringe movement, today’s skeptical community now deals with the biggest and most important issues of our time: terrorism, religion, gun violence, climate change, alternative medicine, and science education. The Skeptics Society was the first to investigate the Holocaust deniers, the first to debunk the 9/11 Truthers, and pioneered the method of letting the proponents of a belief speak for themselves. Fighting for scientific fact in the face of fallacy has become a worldwide movement; the Skeptic Society now hosts chapters all over the globe including England, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Tweets We Love

Reasons to Believe: 2017 film by Ben Fama Jr. Now Free on YouTube

By Gretchen Mullen

UPDATE: Filmmaker Ben Fama has now made the full film available for free on YouTube. See link at the bottom of this article.

Filmmaker Ben Fama Jr. was kind enough to provide us with a private screening of his new film Reasons to Believe. Here’s our take on this exciting project available for general release on September 11, 2017.

Allegory of the Cave

The film begins with a cinematically pleasing vision of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, where humans are imprisoned in a cave and denied knowledge of the outside world. In the allegory, humans move from darkness to light, from false beliefs to truth and reason.

The Questions

Fama then poses the following questions:

  • How do beliefs shape our reality? Why do we believe?
  • How are we influenced to believe?
  • How do other people affect our thinking?
  • How do our beliefs hold us back?
  • How do we free ourselves from false beliefs?

The Experts

  • MICHAEL SHERMER, Author, The Moral Arc; The Believing Brain
  • PETER BOGHOSSIAN, Author, A Manual for Creating Atheists
  • CALEB LACK, Coauthor, Critical Thinking, Science, and Pseudoscience: Why We Can’t Trust our Brains
  • JENNIFER WHITSON, Author, “The Emotional Roots of Conspiratorial Perceptions, System Justification, and Belief in the Paranormal”
  • CHAD WOODRUFF, Author, Neuroscience of Empathy and Compassion

The Discussion

Fama’s questions are carefully considered by each expert and are addressed through carefully interwoven comments on each topic.

The film takes us through the human brain’s need to understand the world, often through a process in which beliefs come first and evidence comes second. In other words, beliefs are often not evidence-based, but make us feel better, perhaps even superior to others. These sometimes false beliefs are further influenced and reinforced by family, community, education, and the time period in which we live.  While our beliefs often make us who we are, or who we feel we are, they also have the power to divide us into ideological communities.

The discussion expands on the idea that we may be predisposed to accept certain beliefs because they are often confirmed by intense personal experiences. However, we are reminded, that experience does not equal objective truth.

The experts then explain that much of our human propensity for superstitions, magical rituals, and religious beliefs are rooted in the fact that life is random, unpredictable, and downright scary. We seek to avoid anxiety and a feeling that we like control; we seek comfort and meaning; we want to make sense out of chaos; we want to cope with uncertainty. This magical thinking is reinforced by the brain as we seek out patterns, even if these patterns are false and illogical.

So if false beliefs make us feel better, why does it matter? In the long run, false beliefs can lead to problems, the greatest of which is violence. Bad ideas lead can easily lead to bad behavior. Science teaches us that it really does matter what is right and what is wrong. Faulty beliefs lead to real world consequences and must be combatted. We must update our view of the world and weed out bad ideas. We must use data as opposed to anecdotes.

The film ends on an encouraging and positive note. The experts make practical suggestions to embrace reason. Some of the best:

  • Be comfortable with the words, “I don’t know.”
  • Model the behavior of a skeptic.
  • Use the scientific method.
  • Don’t attack beliefs—be polite, be thoughtful, use humor, listen to others and then respond with statements that open a conversation such as “I wonder how that could be true? What do you think?”
  • Study scientifically why religion has been viewed as so beneficial and how we can address that need in other more rational ways.
  • Help others to trust reason and value correct information.
  • Introduce critical thinking in early education. Teach children to recognize that our brains can fool us.
  • Assert that a more thoughtful and examined life has value.
  • Suggest that an alignment with reality will help humans flourish, that science and reason can and will lead to justice, freedom, prosperity and peace.

Reasons to Believe is well-organized and builds nicely from a primer on the brain to the foundations of belief, ending with a lovely, positive message about the future of skepticism and science and practical solutions we can embrace as individuals and as citizens of the world. It is a film you will want to view more than one time to take it all in.

Michael Shermer ties it up nicely at the end of the film: “I think we have a new enlightenment—a science-based enlightenment.”

View the trailer

The filmmakers

BEN FAMA JR: DIRECTOR

Ben Fama Jr. is an award-winning filmmaker, podcaster, and entrepreneur noted for his work on his short film A Virus Called Fear and his documentary Reasons To Believe. He has been featured in Huffington Post and his films have been featured on PBS, Medibiz.tv, and IndieFlix. Ben’s films and talks reflect the social and psychological behavior of humans and their social constructs on society. He is a very outspoken skeptic and atheist, as well as an advocate for mental health. His goal is to challenge the way we think and see the world, as well as what we believe.

He is the owner of Fama Media Productions, LLC. and the host of the podcast Reality Trip with Ben Fama Jr.

MESA FAMA: PRODUCER

Mesa has produced three award winning films with Ben Fama Jr. including two documentaries and a narrative. She holds a degree in psychology as a graduate from Arizona State University. She continues to produce and manage Fama Media Productions and sometimes is a guest host on the podcast Reality Trip with Ben Fama Jr.

Release date: September 11, 2017

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Michael Shermer’s new book “Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia” to be released January 9, 2018

The highly anticipated Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia, is set to be released on January 9, 2018. Written by bestselling author and skeptic Michael Shermer, the book is described as a scientific exploration into humanity’s obsession with the afterlife and quest for immortality.

In his most ambitious work yet, Shermer sets out to discover what drives humans’ belief in life after death, focusing on recent scientific attempts to achieve immortality by radical life extentionists, extropians, transhumanists, cryonicists, and mind-uploaders, along with utopians who have attempted to create heaven on earth.

For millennia, religions have concocted numerous manifestations of heaven and the afterlife, the place where souls go after the death of the physical body. Religious leaders have toiled to make sense of this place that a surprising 74% of Americans believe exists, but from which no one has ever returned to report what it is really like.

Heavens on Earth concludes with an uplifting paean to purpose and progress and what we can do in the here-and-now, whether or not there is a hereafter.

Release date: January 9, 2018

PREVIOUS BOOKS BY MICHAEL SHERMER

Skeptic: Viewing the World with a Rational Eye
The Moral Arc
The Believing Brain
The Mind of the Market
Why Darwin Matters
The Science of Good and Evil
How We Believe
Why People Believe Weird Things
Science Friction
The Borderlands of Science
In Darwin’s Shadow
Denying History
Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience
The Soul of Science

Skeptics We Love: Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Danger

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University where he teaches Skepticism 101.

He is the author of New York Times bestsellers Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain, Why Darwin Matters, The Science of Good and Evil, and The Moral Arc. His next book is Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality & Utopia, due in early 2018.

Our favorite quotes:

“Humans are pattern-seeking story-telling animals, and we are quite adept at telling stories about patterns, whether they exist or not.”

“There are many sources of spirituality; religion may be the most common, but it is by no means the only. Anything that generates a sense of awe may be a source of spirituality. Science does this in spades.”

“I’m a skeptic not because I do not want to believe, but because I want to know.”

Website: http://www.michaelshermer.com