New Atheist Documentary By Dawkins and Krauss Won’t Make An ‘Unbeliever’ Out of Anyone

by William Lane Craig

Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss are two of the most important figures in the New Atheist movement. So one would naturally have high expectations that their new documentary, The Unbelievers, would present a vigorous, powerful attack upon the rationality of religious belief, featuring interviews with impressive scientists laying out the case against God.  Instead, the film turns out to be merely a travelogue of Dawkins and Krauss’ “magical mystery tour” of speaking engagements before their enthusiastic fans. Rather than thought provoking, the film is shallow, boring, and narcissistic.

One cannot help but wonder why there is such a paucity of argument in the film. One reason, I suspect, is that the film’s intended audience is not believers but closet unbelievers. The goal of the film is not to change minds but to encourage those who are secret unbelievers to have the courage of their convictions and declare publicly their unbelief. Krauss claims that the reason people cry at funerals is not because they miss their loved ones, but because “they don’t really believe they will see their loved one again.”  Similarly, Dawkins boldly asserts that probably 200 members of the U.S. Congress are really atheists, but “they are obviously lying.” These people need to stand up and be counted.

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Featuring sound bites from celebrities and film stars in support of their cause fits Dawkins and Krauss’ purpose more than substantive interviews with qualified but largely unknown academics. The film’s purpose is not to present a case but primarily to rally the troops.

But there is a more fundamental reason for the absence of argument against religious belief. Dawkins and Krauss proceed on the unspoken assumption that science and religion are fundamentally mutually exclusive. Therefore, all one needs to do in order to discredit religion is to extol and celebrate the greatness of science. Science and religion are like two ends of a teeter-totter:  if the one end goes up, the other automatically declines. Thus, Krauss asks Dawkins which he would rather do:  explain science or destroy religion?  It is assumed that these are two ways to the same end. Dawkins, of course, chooses to extol science. “I’m in love with science, and I want to tell the world.” His implicit assumption is that one cannot love both God and science…

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