This is a pre-event article written for the TOC to promote filmmaker’s Chris Johnson’s visit to Singapore in September 2016. We would like to thank TOC for publishing our article.
Collectively written by: Humanist Society (Singapore) Executive Committee
In multi-religious Singapore where religion is seen as a positive force setting the moral tone of society, the non-religious remains an easily misunderstood group. From time to time, freethinkers, atheists and agnostics in Singapore are often asked how they can lead good and meaningful lives in the absence of organised religion. These questions are becoming more pertinent in Singapore. According to the census in 2015, close to one in five residents (18.5%) here do not subscribe to any organised religion. This proportion have rising since 1980, when it was first recorded as 13%.
These questions are not just being asked in Singapore. Around the world, the numbers of non-religious people are rising, not just in Europe and America but also in developing countries in South America and the Middle East. In some cultures, debating these topics can be challenging and difficult. Given the emotional attachment that many people have to their faith, it can be can unsettling – even offensive – whenever a close friend or family member chooses to leave a religious community altogether.
This has not deterred one courageous New York-based photographer and filmmaker, Chris Johnson, from exploring these issues in his fascinating documentary “A Better Life: An Exploration of Joy & Meaning in a World Without God”.
Chris interviewed a star-studded list of people around the world, including philosophers such as Daniel Dennett and A.C. Grayling, and celebrities such as Julia Sweeney and Robert Llewellyn. Through these interviews, Chris aims to challenge the stereotype that people who do not subscribe to religion are immoral or have no direction in life. After completing A Better Life, Chris went on a worldwide screening and lecture tour in over 60 cities on four continents — from Reykjavik to Shanghai.
This week, Chris and his film will finally be coming to Singapore, as part of the Humanist Society (Singapore) first ever independent film screening. The NGO, also known as HumanistSG for short, has long sought to dispel misconceptions about freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and humanism in the city-state. Since its founding in 2010, it has written many letters to the press whenever the morality of non-religious Singaporeans came under question.
The screening will be held on the Projector on 17 September, 2016 (Saturday). Audience members will also have a chance to interact with Chris in a Q&A session following each screening. For those who are interested to have more face time with Chris, there is also a private after-party specially organized by committee members of HumanistSG.
A Better Life: An Exploration of Joy & Meaning in a World Without God
- Duration: 90 minutes
- Location: The Projector, 6001 Beach Road #05-00 Golden Mile Tower, Singapore 199589
- Date: Saturday, 17 Sep 2016
- First Screening: 2.00 pm – 3.30pm
- Second Screening: 4.15pm – 5.45pm
- Ticket: $15 (Student & NS), $20 (public)
- Buy tickets here: https://abetterlifefilm.eventbrite.sg
- Private after-party: Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details
A Better Life will be worth a watch for both religious and non-religious people. In the American Bible Belt city of San Antonio, Chris said the screening had touched nerves. “A woman came up to me afterwards in tears because the people interviewed in the film talked about meaning and happiness in a way that she hadn’t encountered before,” said Chris in an interview with Valerie Tarico last year. “They expressed her own feelings and ideas in a way she hadn’t been able to,” Even in Peru, one of the most religious countries in the world with 97% of the people being Catholics, people “travelled eight hours” on a bus to see the film.
Ahead of Chris’ visit, the film is already catching some attention in Singapore. Dozens of people have snapped up early-bird tickets for the Sept 17 Projector’s screening. Apart from HumanistSG’s screening at the Projector, several National University of Singapore (NUS) students are also organizing a separate screening for NUS students on Sept 16, Friday, at Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium in UTown. The NUS screening will also feature a QnA session with Chris himself.
“The society is very happy to screen this amazing documentary for Singapore viewers,” said HumanistSG’s Assistant Secretary Cheng Chee Hoew. “From this screening and interaction with Chris, we aim to encourage dialogue and discussion on humanism. Humanism is an ethos which is centered on respect for the individual as a human being; the use of reason and scientific inquiry to lead one’s life; and compassion for oneself and for others. These values are beautifully illustrated in the documentary.”