A Better Life

Here’s a wonderful project: a photographer is creating a book portraying the happiness of atheists. Titled A Better Life, he’s looking for support through kickstarter, where donations can also get you a copy of the completed book. Maybe you should get a couple of copies, so you can give them out as presents to those annoying fundy relatives.

The beginning of this video shows exactly why the book is necessary.


  1. ironflange says

    Don’t look at me, I’ve depressed and grumpy lately, though it has nothing to do with religion or lack thereof.

  2. DonDueed says

    You know, I’m getting a little tired of this “atheists are just as happy as religious folks” chorus.

    I’m sure it’s true, but I’m also sure that we atheists are also just as unhappy as any other comparable group. I actually get the feeling I’m being hit with a burden to be happy, or I’m not holding up my end of the atheist cause.

    Sure, I know the point is to counter the faitheist claim that the non-religious are a bunch of sad, hopeless depressives. But I can’t see trying to be anything but what I am, emotionally, just to counter some fundie’s stupid misconception.

    Am I the only one who has this reaction?

  3. jasonmartin99 says

    I’m with you on this one, Dondueed. I’m usually wretched and it has nothing to do with my atheism; it’s just how I’m wired. It might also have something to do with my poverty. Most of my interactions with other human beings very quickly turn into shouting matches. C’est la vie.

  4. Johann says

    DonDueed @4 – Eh. From someone who’s been living with clinical depression for fifteen years: don’t take it personally. The stereotype is not your responsibility, your personal outward happiness would only be a tiny contribution to changing it, and pretending to be something you’re not isn’t good for you. Grumpy beats neurotic anytime.

  5. otrame says

    Re @2

    Okay, so do you know how to get partially chewed Frosted Flakes off my computer screen? I’m actually serious. Thank FMS I was eating them dry.

  6. says

    I don’t think it’s so much that every atheist is happy, but that atheists can be happy.

    Those of you who are miserable atheists…do you think religion would be the cure? That’s the point, that personal happiness is a completely independent parameter from piety.

  7. otrame says

    PZ, I don’t think it is entirely an independent variable. I think my atheism does add to my joy in life. The religious world is so small. I prefer my universe large and full of things beyond human imagination.

    On the other hand, whether at any moment I am happy or not usually has nothing to do with my lack of a belief in a god. For instance, I was planning on a day spent doing nothing in particular, maybe a little WoW and tending my tomato seedlings and checking to see if the carrots have come up in the garden, and well, okay doing laundry, but now I have to go buy things to clean frosted flakes and saliva off my computer screen. While I can claim that my pleasure at watching my plants grow and my lack of pleasure at washing clothes has nothing to do with atheism, the fact that my computer monitor has frosted flakes remnants all over it does have something to do with my atheism.

  8. says

    OK, how about this: Appeal to consequence is a fallacy.

    And seriously, since when was the point a “better life,” and WTF is that anyhow?

    It’s just as well to point out that atheism isn’t some hole of despair, rage against “god,” or vacuum of meaning, because too many claim it is, and it isn’t. But no, that it’s a “better life” isn’t a meaningful claim, an empirical fact, or a legitimate argument for non-theism. It’s not an F-ing lifestyle decision.

    To be honest, and to know the world with as much open-mindedness as possible, are much closer to the real point. Oh, besides those actually causing many of us to be unable to be theists, even were we to desire to be them.

    Glen Davidson

  9. DonDueed says

    I’m not a miserably unhappy person, and many things lift my mood. One of them is the knowledge that I’m not the only godless person around. FTB helps a lot with that.

    It was a great day a couple years back when my brother and his wife both acknowledged their atheism. As my brother and I are preacher’s kids and he was the elder, it was hard for him to come out. When he finally made it clear he was no longer religious, I said “I thought for years I was the only atheist in the family.” His wife replied, “For years you probably were.” What a moment!

    So anyway, what I’m objecting to is the subtext — that somehow if I’m not always a bundle of yucks, I’m letting down the side or something. Yes, PZ, I know that’s not what’s intended in this type of post, but that theme is lurking in the background.

  10. otrame says

    To be honest, and to know the world with as much open-mindedness as possible, are much closer to the real point.

    That is the point. I try to spend as much of my time dealing with the real world as possible (well, except when I am playing video games and reading fiction, or playing D&D of course). There is value in dealing with the real world. So doing your best to honestly examine that world and come to conclusions that at least have some correspondence with reality is a better way of life. It is certainly better than the way many religious live.

    This is not to say that religious people cannot be happy in their lives, usually for the same things that make atheists happy–family, friends, simple pleasures, more complex pleasures. And they can be unhappy for the same reasons atheists are often unhappy.

    It is true that the real issue is that atheists are not demons and are not, in fact, all that different from theists and we need to make more and more theists understand that if we want to free ourselves from the bigotry against us. But I truly believe that a life lived facing reality is a better life and there is nothing wrong with saying so.

  11. says

    Of course you and I think that being honest about the world is a better life, otrame, and one could argue for it. But that’s what we think, many people really think it’s better to believe that sky-daddy promises us meaning and reward for the accidents and difficulties we experience. It’s conceivable that religion exists because such wishful thinking works well enough, psychologically.

    A belief in God could lead to a more contented life, research suggests.

    I have no real opinion on that research, I’ve just seen it on the web, and it drives home the point that if “a more contented life” is what someone thinks is a “better life,” then so what? My point is not that they adequately controlled or accounted for all of the variables, since they may very well not have, it’s just that were it a fact that belief in God generally leads to a more contented life it would not be an argument for belief in God. It simply couldn’t convince me, because I don’t think that stupidly.

    What is more, I would suspect that many who gave up on religion did end up with worse lives, at least in the short run. Suggesting that atheism is a “better life” doesn’t give anyone suffering from disapproval from their relatives anything to hang onto, because that looks wrong at the time, and the real point (at least in their minds) is to be honest, not to have a “better life.” Yes, in a deeper sense being honest may still be the “better life” even if other things are worse for a time, however it doesn’t feel like a “better life,” just one with less dissonance and more personal and intellectual integrity.

    “Better life” doesn’t adequately convey what it’s really about, is what I’m saying. Probably all decisions we make are aimed at a “better life” (short- vs. long-term often being the bigger question), in fact, including atheism, but it’s such an amorphous term that religious people can quite arguably claim that belief in the sky-daddy provides for a “better life,” at least for themselves.

    Glen Davidson

  12. ohioobserver says

    Eh…I’m happy sometimes, I’m unhappy sometimes, sometimes I just tuck my head down and barrel through because I’ve got to get something done. I’m (reasonably) normal. My atheism has nothing to do with that (except I maybe have one less source of depressive input).

    The real canard, the one that stings and damages, is that atheists have no moral judgement. I’m not sure how to counter that other than by living a life in which my moral judgement is continually exercised — don’t harm other people.

  13. Randomfactor says

    Those of you who are miserable atheists…do you think religion would be the cure?

    God, no.

  14. says

    I happen to be a fairly cheerful, happy person. That’s just who I am, but I am one example who can disprove the statement “atheists are all miserable.”

    I can see where you’re coming from though, Don, and I actually see it in a number of other arguments. When someone says “X is Y, and that’s a bad thing,” it is often easiest to prove that X is not Y. Often, the second part of it gets left out, and we forget to also argue that if X were Y, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. (Example: the tabloid item “Jennifer Love Hewitt is fat!” People got caught up in arguing that she’s not fat (since she’s not), but forgetting to also argue that even if she were, that’s her own business.)

    So it’s not true that all atheists are depressed, and it’s legitimate to point that out. But it’s also worth making the argument that even if a correlation between atheism and depression were shown, that wouldn’t make atheism wrong or mean that atheists are bad people or anything.

    So those of us who would describe ourselves as happy can and should point that out, but we should also be aware that for atheists who aren’t happy, no one is letting down the team. No one has to be happy for anyone else’s sake.

  15. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Variation in atheist well-being can probably be explained in part by the frequency of like-minded unbelievers in one’s community. More to the point, then, rather than atheism creating happiness, theism may be responsible for unhappiness. Especially for atheists surrounded by godbots.

  16. movablebooklady says

    Wouldn’t it more interesting if the book was a “Find the Atheist” sort of theme?

    There could be similar pictures side-by-side of two people doing the same (happy, pleasant, joyous, etc) things, each with a vague quote (I love my family and enjoy spending time with them), and the reader has to guess which one is the atheist.

  17. grumpy1942 says

    I know there is a Lake of Fire in Hell, and that I’m doomed to go there because I can’t keep my hands off my weewee, and sometimes when I see a beautiful woman I lust after her in my heart.

    My daughter came out as a filthy lesbian and I have disowned her. She is dead to me. My wife disagrees, and is bitter about losing her daughter and we fight about it.

    A homosexual couple has moved in next door and at night while trying to sleep I can’t help thinking about the nasty things they are doing over there. It disgusts me.

    I am not well off, and as I give 10% of my gross income to the church I go to, I can’t afford some of the things I want.

    But I’m sure a lot happier than one of those atheist critters.

  18. says

    I’ve always found that when my life is turning to shit, believing that the creator of the universe has decreed it to be so doesn’t really make me feel any better.

  19. gregblack says

    I was all set to contribute until I read the list of subjects and saw that the disgraceful D.J. Grothe was one of the listed stars. No way will I support a project that gives him a soap box. I’m hoping that there will be protests from atheists with decency and that he’ll be dropped.

  20. throwsomelight says

    Invariably Atheism seems kind of another religion,submitting to a stated concept of No God.Which means just that Atheism and Theism are so polarized, But the encouraging aspect is both can be transcended to reveal the ultimate truth the Absolute Truth which is beyond all Gods and No God.Check for instance a true Vedantin’s word “It is good to be born in a church, but it is bad to die there. It is good to be born a child, but bad to remain a child. Churches, ceremonies, and symbols are good for children, but when the child grows up, he must burst the church or himself. We must not remain children forever.-By Swami Vivekananda” In a nutshell- Being happy or otherwise is not an issue-What matters is Realizing that the Self is Absolute Truth itself-I cannot be different from Absolute Truth in any way- I am the Absolute truth