Documentary film review: A Better Life

Documentary film review:  A Better Life

My dear brothers, sisters, readers of Reason Rest Stop and only friends, you all no doubt recall how often I enjoy writing glowing testimonials of the venues, enclaves, social organizations and events that make living along this the most conservative stretch of Old Route 66 tolerable for people like us.  I had another such opportunity on Saturday evening when New York native and life long atheist Chris Johnson made his first ever visit to Tulsa and to Oklahoma for a director’s screening at Circle Cinema of his film A Better Life-100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy and Meaning in a World Without God.   The film was ninety minutes of a veritable who’s who of celebrity non-believers offering their personal accounts from how they arrived at their own non-belief in deity and how they derive joy in their finite time that constitutes this life on Earth without factoring in any concept of eternal reward or damnation.  Mr. Johnson also held a brief Q&A after the screening as well as a book signing in the lobby at the end of the evening.

It was the efforts of certain board members of the Atheist Community of Tulsa that made this event possible and I am grateful to all involved and to Circle Cinema for making it happen.

ACT wristband

I deeply appreciate the uplifting quality of this film and Mr. Johnson’s project with regard to casting something so personal to so many people I know in a very positive light.  Religion has divided so many people in this country and on this planet and many have a vested economic and political interest in reinforcing those divisions.  Much of what was said by many of those interviewed in the film are things I already know to be factual.  If there is anything I envy about any of those interviewed it is the ones who figured out it out early that god is a man-made creation.  So many of us had to go to great lengths and suffer the consequences of decisions we made in the name of obedience to a deity that turned out to be not in our best interest before arriving at the realization all our efforts were entirely for the wrong reason.  I was thirty-seven years old when I departed from organized religion and made a slow but steady move away from belief in an omnipotent deity in the heavens.  I do not even consider my adulthood to have even started until I let go of that magical thinking that goes hand in hand with belief in deity and religious dogma.

A Better Life poster

Some of those interviewed in the film were people I have followed for a long time.  Former Saturday Night Live star and public radio contributor Julia Sweeney was one of them.  Ms. Sweeney was one who, like myself, had to go the long way around to figure out belief in deity was not for her.  Another who was interviewed was someone I’ve heard speak at Free Thought Oklahoma (FreeOK) on two occasions, one Matt Dillahunty.  There were also a fair number of non-believers who I had never heard of but their stories all seemed to have familiar elements.  I did relate to one in particular, a young woman journalist by the name of Cara Santa Maria who identified herself as an ex-Mormon.  Yours Truly spent twenty years as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  In fact is has been just over twenty years since I departed from that faith.  My ex-Mormon story is still online here.

Chris Johnson

 Mr. Johnson was one who I also envied in that he never bought into the concept of a supreme being and never had to work through a litany of religion rooted grief to arrive at a state of non-belief.  He did have to travel far and wide though to find the inspiration for his book and film.  Something about White Sands National Monument in New Mexico inspired him to undertake this project.  So far he seems to have been very well received as he was on Saturday evening.  One fact of life in 2016 is the segment of the population who identify themselves as having no religion or “none” is growing.  Like it or not, the purveyors of faith are going to have to accept the reality that the size of their demographic is declining.  Projects like Mr. Johnson’s are helpful in communicating that those of us who choose to opt out of belief in a supreme being are not hostile to those who chose to opt in for it.  Indeed, organizations like Atheist Community of Tulsa exist primarily to provide a social network for former religious believers to ease into the non-belief phase of their life as well as to provide them with a social outlet.  This film also provided me with a sense of validation, particularly with regard to what I have accepted life to be all about, that being relationships.  Again, my hat is off to Mr. Johnson for traveling to Tulsa for this screening and to all the locals who helped make it happen.  His program is also available on podcast.

A Better Life