A final push for A Better Life

Chris Johnson is now in the final five days of his Kickstarter campaign for A Better Life, a purty sniny kawfe-table photobook featuring a lot of atheists discussing how we all don’t really suck, thank you very much. I’ve really been plugging this hard, not just because myself and Matt and Beth and Tracie and Lynnea (as well as Dawkins, Dennett, PZed, Jessica Ahlquist and so many others) are slated to appear in it, but because, as a creative individual myself, it saddens me to think that I might live in a world where a book like this…

See how pretty that is? It has clouds. GODLESS clouds!

…might not see print for lack of funding, while this…

If Heaven is bright orange-yellow, I'll stay home, thanks. That would give me such a headache.

…is flooding Barnes and Nobles around the country and making its way onto bestseller lists.

It’s true, 95 grand isn’t chump change, but Chris isn’t making bank on all this. In addition to the expense of printing such a tome, Chris’s work in assembling all of his photos and interviews will involve extensive global travel. And he’s spelled out his personal philosophy behind his inspiration for the book on his Facebook page.

We as an atheist community need to show not just the problems with religion, but how atheists or the non-religious can lead great, rich, and full lives. I feel like we focus a lot on the former and sometimes forget about the latter. That’s why I’m doing this project. It’s not an atheist bible, or instruction manual that we all agree on how to live our lives. I’m not out to make a quick buck. There is no doctrine I’m pushing. I’m doing this because I care and I want to make a difference and show a variety of lives and experiences of people who get joy and meaning from THIS life and THIS world. We need to fight the important battles, counter injustice, and stand up for the values that we live by, but we also need to set an example and show how we live lives of peace, love, compassion, integrity, honesty, and purpose.

To be fair and honest, so far the godless community has been wildly supportive of the project, and now that Chris is in his final week, pledges have been flying in at an increased rate. Last Wednesday, he was at just over $32K in pledges, and as I’m typing this he’s shot up to $54,068 from over 520 people! Four grand of that has happened in the last 12 hours. Still, it’d be great to pick up the pace in the final stretch. According to math, before 11:37 PM Eastern time this coming Sunday, Chris needs 819 people to pledge $50. That’s the pledge tier that gets you the hardcover book. If that seems like a lot for a book, have a look next time you’re out at the kinds of photo and art books similar to what Chris is planning, and you’ll see they often retail for between $50 and $90, easily.

Here’s how Kickstarter works, for those of you unaware. As a pledger, all you need is an existing Amazon account. Make your pledge now, and your card will not be charged until the aforementioned deadline date/time, and that’s only if Chris makes his goal. This is the important part to remember: if he falls short of the total, he isn’t just given the 54 g’s he’s raised so far. He gets none of it, and the project vanishes into mist unless he can think of an alternate funding plan. As Kickstarter is the best there is, that may be hard in coming.

So really, please kick in. Because while a photo book may seem a trivial thing in a world where we’re constantly battling creationism in schools, anti-choice demagogues, in which imams strap bombs to kids and a goofball whose only agenda seems to be to ban porn and condoms is actually taken seriously as a contender for the presidency, it’s still a non-trivial fact that the public still sees those of us in the world who are fighting for reason and reality as evil people. AXP is about spreading the message of positive atheism, and a book that you can show your friends and family that puts a positive, human face on the godless could go a long way towards lessening some of ignorant, hateful bigotry poisoning the minds of the godly.

Click this. Make your pledge. Tell two friends, and so on. Thanks and over and out.

6:20 PM Tuesday update: Up to $55,288.
10:00 AM Wednesday update: Up to $56,733.
2:15 PM Wednesday update: Up to $57,618.
11:00 PM Wednesday update: Up to $62,029. You’re doing us proud, gang!
2:30 PM Thursday update: Up to $65,007.

12:00 noon Friday update: Chris is stunningly up to $78,322. And he now has a pledge from one of his backers to match any $50 pledge up to $10,000! That means that as of this moment, only 167 $50 backers will be needed to take him over the top. Please spread the word on Facebook and elsewhere…this can happen!
3:15 PM Friday update: Up to $80,333.
9:55 PM Friday update: Up to $82,465. 48 hours to go.
10:30 AM Saturday update: Up to $88,872. 36 hours to go.


  1. says

    Well, those are the very people whose bigotry needs to be reexamined. (Though you’re certainly right it’s not realistic to expect them to be the ones ponying up funding.)

  2. says

    It’s a constant battle for me to hold back from commenting when I see some of the religious stuff some of my FB friends post. But I stay silent, while lamenting the obvious double standard that seems to exist where a person can spout there religious stuff whereas the atheist has to keep quiet because they’re upsetting the apple cart.

  3. Travis says

    You should look into http://www.indiegogo.com/ if you haven’t done so already. They have thousands of campaigns that spread all over the world, from new authors that need funding to drinking water solutions in Africa. Good luck! I would love to read the book.

  4. chrisco says

    I am a backer and really really would like to get my hands on this book. It is a little depressing that only 512 have promised to contribute so far. I still have high expectations.

  5. senad says

    as a practising Muslim (from Germany) i really like and Support the idea of this book. I especially agree to the parts about peace, love,
    compassion, integrity, honesty, and purpose and countering injustice.

    however as a little suggestion for improvement: picturing muslims or imams as the guys who blow up people is not very rational or fitting to the above values and goals. 😉

    with love. 🙂

  6. Fabricio says

    If only we had a way to publish and distribute books for free, in such a way that it could reach the whole world with just few hand gestures, like some sort of magic, eletronic book or something. But that’s just a dream…

    But, while we don’t have such an amazing tool to make ideas reach the masses, could we stop begging money for everything nowdays? It’s money to pay this or that kid’s college (while most of us have to pay ours with our own pockets, thank you very much), it’s money to fund this or that atheist show or podcast, it’s money to help this or that atheist artist, it’s money to help with a freaking photobook with random thoughs of people we hear over and over and over again in various medias . Last time I checked, the world was in economic recession or something, so money is not pouring out of pockets from the middle class.

  7. Fabricio says

    Yeah, Muslims are all about love and peace and rainbows and butterflies, right? Just like the Christians. Don’t worry about mysoginy, rampant homophobia, tendency to theocracy, and the widespread love of meddling in other people’s lives, that’s not what those religions are about. Have you ever seen a moderate Muslim or moderate Christian or moderate whatever religion say things like “this is an immoral thing according to my religion, so of course it should be illegal”? I guess not! They’re all about LOVE! and KINDNESS! and SIN! and HELL! and other amazing and caring things.

    Guess what? Moderate Muslims do not blow up people, but they still act like pious assholes who want every bit of control about other people’s lives.

  8. says

    Fabricio, I don’t know what magical alternate universe you live in where everyone is entitled to everything for free, and if it can’t be had for free, then it has no right to exist. But in this one, things cost money. In fact, yes, everything costs money. It’s just reality. Obviously everyone has limited funding and has to prioritize their spending. But just because supporting a creative project, or one that can actually benefit atheist outreach to the the public, isn’t on your list of priorities doesn’t mean you’re justified in demeaning people who do choose to support those things, let alone the people who create them.

  9. Fabricio says

    Martin, are you saying that he couldn’t just publish an e-book (with near ZERO publishing costs), if money is such a problem to finish the project? E-publishing doesn’t mean “giving for free”; you can charge for it, no problem. It just saves the costs of paying for some bullshit company to publish your crap (specially important if you’re planning put this cost on other people to complete your project).

    The pleas for money for vanity projects are becoming annoying. Sure, you can ask for money, but I can also call you on it. The right to beg also is the right to complain about it. What exactly is the problem? Shut up and accept it, that’s what should I do?

  10. says

    Do you understand that part of the project is to physically travel to where the people are, photograph and interview them, etc? That costs.

    In addition, part of the point of a traditional publishing is to reach people who aren’t current on e-Readers. That’s part of the point – the audience that we’re trying to reach, whether it’s a different demographic or the basic ability to leave something on a coffee table (I suppose we could just leave Kindles lying around).

    If people asking for money is getting annoying, then I’m afraid you’re going to have to develop some coping mechanisms, though I suppose complaining about it can be a good way to vent.

  11. says

    Flame shields up, Fabricio. Here it comes.

    What you should do is get a few facts straight before venting your spleen. This could easily have been accomplished if you’d taken a whole minute of your life to visit the Kickstarter page and read Chris’s FAQ, where he goes into detail as to what his costs are. For one thing, you’d know Chris is in fact publishing this project himself, and is not relying on some “bullshit company” to publish it for him. Hell, if he had a publisher, they would be paying for the thing, and he wouldn’t be engaging in crowd-funding at all! For another thing, you’d know that Chris is making an ebook version as well as a print version, but that the whole point of photo books is that they are books. They reach the audience e-books don’t reach, and it’s a good thing for your potential customers to be allowed their choice of format.

    If you do not want to financially support creative projects like this, then you have a simple solution. Ignore them. No one’s forcing you to be part of anything you don’t want to be part of. If you don’t want to do anything to support positive atheist creative outreach projects like this, don’t. But no, you have some self-righteous need to go on to belittle the creators of such projects, as well as those who support their efforts, because apparently things you think are frivolous should not exist, or should only exist as long as such unpleasant factors as money are not involved.

    Publishing ebooks does not entail “near zero costs.” This is as dumb as thinking that the only cost involved in recording and releasing music goes to pressing and distributing CD’s, and that if bands just didn’t do that part, being a musician costs almost nothing at all. I know a number of professional editors who work for some of those bullshit publishing companies who could set you straight on the economics of e-publishing. For this project, Chris still has to travel to the locations of all his subjects, he has to interview and photograph them, and he has to cover his costs of living while doing all this. While you could remove the specific cost of printing a hardback edition from the overall total, there are still myriad other costs involved.

    As for fund-raising constituting “begging,” again, I wish I lived in this magical world you live in, where artists are some kind of ethereal beings who don’t need to eat or pay rent or support families while they produce their work, and where the materials and supplies they use to produce that work are things they can pluck off trees. In the real world, every creative effort from the beginning of time has required financial investment from one source or another. Do you think Michelangelo did the Sistine Chapel ceiling as a favor? Newsflash: in your entire life, there has never been a single book you’ve read, a single painting you’ve admired, a single movie you’ve watched or album you’ve listened to that did not require funding to be brought into existence. Even if it’s a child doing finger painting, someone had to pay for the goddamned paper and paints.

    Crowd-funding is a totally voluntary process. Has anyone forced you to fund this or any project against your will, separating you from money you desperately needed for rent or groceries? No, they haven’t. Artists use Kickstarter, Rockethub, and similar outlets to announce their planned projects to the world, and the public can browse what’s being offered, then support the ones they want to support and ignore the rest. No one is obligated into anything. So based on that little nugget of fact, it would seem that your basis for anything like a legitimate complaint is rather thin indeed. Why be “annoyed” by something you don’t even have to be part of? Why act all offended at being asked to “shut up and accept” a transaction in which all involved parties are exercising free choice at every step? Seriously, what is it you think you’re “calling” anybody on? What unethical act is being perpetrated here? Tell me, I’d like to know.

  12. says

    I thought of another point on my way back from the grocery store where I forgot to buy what I went out to get again.

    What’s the alternative to travelling to the people and photographing them personally? Having them take self portraits in poorly lit bathroom mirrors with their iPhones?

    Part of the point here is a high quality professional production that’s supposed to present an air of legitimacy – that we’re not just some shoddy operation.

    That requires a professional photographer with professional equipment on-site with massive creative control and direction in assessing the environment to determine what shots would be the most use in establishing an overarching theme.

    Not only would hiring local photographers probably cost more, but it’d be difficult to find reliable and honest people for the cause – not to mention loss of creative control.

    While the actual interview could possibly be done online, it’s not as lively and productive as a 1-on-1 dynamic conversation.

    The fact that none of this has occurred to you indicates that the purpose of the book has been right over your head.

  13. says

    Come to think of it, I cringe at the thought of dealing with international financial paperwork from a dozen different countries when dealing with hiring local professionals.

  14. says

    JT, the impression I’m left with is that Fabricio just thinks there is something unethical in seeking public funding for creative efforts in the first place, but he hasn’t articulated what that is, other than some general gripe that it’s hard times now.

    But really, Chris’s whole funding structure is set up so that really all you’re doing is pre-ordering a copy of the book. The cost to you is no different than if you’d bought one off Amazon after its release. And if all you want is the e-book version, the cost is half that of the print version.

    And finally, Kickstarter is set up so that if Chris does not meet his stated goal (which of course we hope he does meet), none of his donors gets charged anything. So everyone’s wallet is safe even if they’ve pledged thousands!

    There’s just no basis for a legitimate complaint here.

  15. stubby says

    I couldn’t afford the fiddy, but I gave a small amount. I will buy a copy if it does come out.

  16. Orlando says

    No one complains when christians ask for donations. But when an atheist does, well, the litany of complaints spew forth.

  17. says

    It seems more logical to me to publish it as some sort of ebook, given that those old-fashioned papery thingies are obsolete.

    I don’t think you could publish an ebook with color pictures for the regular Kindle, but you should be able to do it for the Kindle Fire. Or it could be some sort of interactive website.

    Frankly, I and alot of people don’t buy actual books, cds, dvds, etc. any more. It seems like a shame to gather all this money to print when it could probably be published electronically for practically nothing.

  18. says

    Sorry, I just noticed that someone else made almost the same response. I should have read the other posts before rather than after I made mine.

    Apparently, some of the costs would still be there.

  19. says

    I’m pledging way too much.

    I even slapped the widget on my stupid website. Kicking myself for not having thought of that like a month ago.

  20. Joshua Fisher says

    Also, consider the intended medium. This is a coffee-table book. Intended to be set out on a coffee-table for people to browse through as they sit near the coffee-table. You can’t really leave a Kindle fire sitting on your coffee-table hoping some guest might pick it up and browse through it and discover that atheists are normal people.