The Unbelievers Is a Study in the Frustrating Insufferableness of People You Probably Agree With

<I>The Unbelievers</I> Is a Study in the Frustrating Insufferableness of People You Probably Agree With
Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss.

Such is the Bible-based atmosphere of hostility toward legitimate scientific authority these days that Scientific American recently disabled reader comments on its online articles. In this age of disenlightenment, mass media is too willing to give scientific inquiry and irrational voodoo sorcery equal weight.

But when, at the outset of The Unbelievers, physicist Lawrence Krauss expresses anthropological condescension about some Muslim kids outside bowing toward Mecca, viewers who agree with his opinions on religion in the public space might wish he would just shut his piehole.

A study in the frustrating insufferableness of people you probably agree with, the film follows Krauss and venerable biologist Richard Dawkins on their joint books-and-smugness tour, during which they speak, often shrilly, about the intrusion of religion into politics and science.

Lawrence Krauss
Lawrence Krauss

Location Info


Quad Cinema

34 W. 13th St.
New York, NY 10011

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: Greenwich Village


The Unbelievers
Directed by Gus Holwerda
Opens December 13, Quad Cinema

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Director Gus Holwerda includes a lot of second-unit footage of the pair walking through various cities, airport terminals, and wet streets against a sonic backdrop of overplayed tracks from '90s alt-pop chosen seemingly at random by somebody's dad.

Sure, R.E.M.'s "Orange Crush" lends a degree of urgency to shots of Christian protestors the director never places into a narrative context, but the mood is diminished by the uneventful tour and Krauss's clownish Boomer ensemble of Converse high-tops with Men's Wearhouse suits.

All of which is a shame, because the two men are capable of speaking beautifully, and even poetically, about the majesty of the universe, the chain of life, and the function of science in the examination of reality. When instead they doggedly pursue a meta-conversation about how right they are, they could not lend atheism a more uncharismatic face.

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Looks like Chris Peckham should find his audience elsewhere. The trouble with hating this movie is that, religion is nonsense to the smartest individuals in our culture. The ones who make the great leaps which allow you to post such reviews in this intangible forum.


Progress is made by unreasonable people. I have no problem with great minds aggressively refuting religion.


The author obviously has apparently not seen Krauss or Dawkins in action.  Krauss and Dawkins are models of respect, intelligence, and humility.  I have never seen even a fraction of 'smugness' from either.  And, in particular, I have seen just the opposite of those who they debate.  The issue here, anyway, is not attitude but the level of intelligence and discourse in our society.  Without making any assumption or disparagement about any belief system (religious or science), our country has to elevate its ability to understand and communicate.  The issue of 'atheism' is not about proving God is dead and atheists are right, BUT that there are certain 'things' and issues in our society such as evolution or climate change that in and of themselves deserve respect and understanding.  And, in order to do that, one has to be able to understand 'facts' (yes, 'facts') and be able to synthesize them respectfully and intelligently into common discourse.  Just last night a "news" anchor on Fox claimed Santa and Jesus were black.  Well, this is not a 'religious' or a 'liberal' or a 'conservative' issue, but a factual issue.  As such, when both sides are not able to agree on something as simple as that or global warming or God wanting us to catch footballs or whatever, there will never be a common ground when that can be discussed.  When this 'standard' of communication is not obtained, then what happens is not 'smugness' but frustration because it is clear that the communication is - and will always be - just one way.  'Opponents' of  Krauss don't listen to him and try to communicate but, instead, as a rule just repeat the same old mantras about some ineffable 'purpose' or whatever, at which point the dialogue is dead in the water.  And, again, just in Texas this week, all the major candidates for Lt. Governor, and the Governor himself, asserted that Creationism must be taught in schools.  Can you imagine the damage that will be done to those kids when that happens.  So, I ask in this context, who is really 'smug?'


I haven't seen the film yet, but the hostility that runs through this review like a knife really makes me wonder what it tells me about the film.  Two other reviewers (positive and negative) were not nearly this harsh.

Whether or not the film shows it, Dawkins and Krauss are two people who speak with evidence to back themselves up, because they know they're going to be challenged, and they don't have the supernatural as a get-out-of-answering-it-free card.  When lighter-weight minds fail to find flaws in what they say, those minds switch to hurling insults like "smug" and "insufferable", and then move on to critiquing their clothing choices.  But hey, whatever pays the bills.

Having seen the damage that religion and other irrational ideas have done, and continue to do to civilizations in the 20th and 21st centuries, unclear thinking is one of humanity's greatest problems, and I certainly am interested to see and hear what Dawkins and Krauss have to say on this matter, regardless of this review.


Well said. I totally agree about this review. The author really had no substantial argument as to why they didn't like the film other than his dislike of the music and the wardrobe choices. Pretty weak.


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