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


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.

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.