Starting in 2003, the scientists began teaming up in public talks in which they lay out their arguments in the form of a conversation. Filmmaker Gus Holwerda picks up this evolution as the pair take their skeptical show on the road, tangling with religious leaders, talk-show hosts and several thousand years of cultural inertia. The result is the feature-length film The Unbelievers, which had its world premiere in Toronto at the Hot Docs festival on Monday night.
Before the screening, Dr. Dawkins, a professor emeritus at Oxford University, and Dr. Krauss, who is director of the Origins Institute at Arizona State University, sat down to talk about science and religion with The Globe and Mail.
Is there a risk that by challenging religion head-on you galvanize your opposition?
LK: At some level that may be true, but what it does do is point out a key fact: that religion shouldn’t have a free ride. Somehow people get the sense that religion is sacred – if you’ll forgive the pun – and nothing should be sacred. Everything is subject to discussion and that’s what makes life worthwhile.
Aren’t there important things that we can all draw from religion, like a sense of community or consolation in difficult times?
RD: We can find fellowship and community in other settings, of course. I think it’s an odd thing to encourage people to get consolation from something for which there’s no evidence. Science, of course, provides it’s own consolation – the consolation of knowing what it’s all about. This is something uplifting.
LK: People are programmed to think that reality isn’t uplifting and that it takes away from things to understand perhaps that the universe isn’t made for us. But I think what we need to do is encourage people to recognize that that doesn’t make your life less meaningful. You make the meaning in your own life.