ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

God's Not Dead - An Atheist's Review

Updated on March 31, 2014

Overview

I went to see this film with another atheist friend of mine. Why? To see what it was about. To see if it was a ruse that was really created by an atheist. What we found, however, was more of the same that the Christian movie genre is known for - blatant appeals to fear and emotion, one logical fallacy after another, poor arguments, bad rationalizations and misconstruing atheists in general. It also successfully denigrated Islam, Asian cultures and other Christian stereotypes in blatant and obvious ways.

We got to the theater early for the first showing. We were the only two people in the theater. As it got closer to movie time, a few more people trickled in, but there couldn't have been more than 15-20 people in the entire theater, including us. What was more disturbing was the fact that a few mothers brought in all of their children to watch, and given the content of the movie, I found it slightly inappropriate. The low turnout could be due to the fact that we saw it on a Sunday morning, and the majority of Christians may have been dutifully in church. Whatever the reason, I hope that the low attendance is indicative of the films low success. It genuinely wasn't something worth watching - even for entertainment purposes.

This is what the worst philosophy teacher EVER wanted his students to write

Source

The Premise and Analysis

The film begins with college freshman Josh Wheaton going to his first round of classes. He is warned away from an Introduction to Philosophy class by one of the registrars due to the fact that he is wearing a cross necklace. The professor (played by Kevin Sorbo) is a blatant anti-theist. He opens his class by asking his students to write "God is Dead" on a piece of paper so that they can skip the first three sections of class debating the existence of god. First of all, no philosophy professor I know would ever behave in such a manner. I have taken philosophy classes in both Christian and secular colleges, and the professor's religious belief has never entered into the equation - at least not to the end of the term. Philosophy is all about openly discussing and debating ideas, and by broadcasting their own beliefs, professors can isolate students who feel differently, making open communication difficult. Josh refuses to write on the paper - and he is told the alternative. He has to argue the existence of god in three presentations with the professor, and if he fails to do it successfully, he will fail the class outright. This is also unrealistic.

Kevin Sorbo has got to be the worst Atheist ever - even though he is religious in his personal life, which possibly explains it. While many atheists are indeed angry at some of the things proposed and carried out by religion and the people who follow religions, we are not angry people. I enjoy a good debate, but I don't go around calling people names because of my atheism. I try to be open and receptive to conflicting ideas. Sometimes I'm more successful than others, but I'm a human being.

Josh, against the advise of his parents and his girlfriend (who dumps him because of it) decides to proceed. His arguments are predictable and overplayed, and he is harassed at every turn by the professor. All atheists in the film are portrayed as angry, irrational and immoral people, while most of the Christians (with the exception of Josh's girlfriend who dressed somewhat provocatively and left him in the dust for standing up for his beliefs) are portrayed as patient, caring and genuine people. There is the definitive projection that all of the atheists are lost, lonely and broken people, which is so far from the truth that it is blatantly funny.

Eventually, Josh "beats" the professor by getting him to admit in front of the class that he hates god, therefore agreeing that he believes he exists. Professor Radisson is not an atheist. He's an anti-theist, and any professor worth his salt would know who is/is not a philosopher. Josh converts at least one of his classmates, unsurprisingly, after a standing show of support for his dedication. Professor Radisson is struck by a car, and happens across Pastor Dave, who prompts him to convert before dying - which he does - exemplifying the "no atheists in foxholes" fallacy, which is ANOTHER blatantly untrue statement. The Newsboys perform, and everyone lives happily ever after, right? Sure, except for those of us who enjoy reality - not inaccurate caricatures, logical fallacies and falsehoods at every single turn.

The Movie Trailer

Would you be inclined to see this movie?

See results
Source

The Fallacies

My friend and I played atheist bingo with a scorecard of fallacies and fallacious appeals to be checked off when appropriate throughout the film. Needless to say, we covered the entire board by the time the movie was over, and were even able to write down extras just for additional points.

1. Strawman - the entire character of the professor was a stereotypical strawman atheist, that the upstanding Christian was able to tear down. The reason for this is simple - while I'm sure that atheists like Kevin Sorbo's character do exist, they're hardly the majority. No philosophy professor would act this way, make those demands of freshmen students or admit his hatred for a deity that he doesn't truly believe exists. It's ridiculous.

2. Appeal to Authority - neither Josh or the professor seem to be able to make any point in any argument without appealing to an authority, misquoting them or misrepresenting what that authority actually said.

3. Appeal to emotion - The film's sweeping soundtrack at the moment of the professor's accident and his following roadside conversion are designed to initiate an emotional response. It's designed to trigger a fear of death and the unknown, and prompt a reaction from the audience. Even though I'm an atheist now, I was raised in a Baptist home, and I felt familiar sensations rising in me while watching the film. It accomplished it's immediate purpose, but failed to convert me (again) overall because the fallacies are too obvious to someone accustomed to identifying them and pointing them out.

4. Burden of Proof - when Josh is first tasked to defend God's existence, the first things practically out of his mouth is "well, you can't prove that god DOESN'T exist. What many Christians fail fundamentally to realize is that atheists do not HAVE to disprove the existence of God. The Theists are the ones making a positive claim in asserting that God exists. It is up to them to prove it. It is fundamentally impossible to prove the non-existence of anything. Try it. Try to disprove that invisible unicorns exist. It can't be done. Shifting the burden of proof is a key tactic in Christian debates with atheists and agnostics, and they fail to see the key flaw in this type of reasoning, yet when you corner them and try to get them to disprove the existence of a rival god (like Allah) they are eager to point out that they don't have to. You can't have it both ways.

5. Argument from Ignorance - not being able to prove that something doesn't exist doesn't mean that it's a justifiable reason to believe that it does.

6. Special Pleading- All of the way through the film, Josh gets away with just saying something is true without being required to back it up with actual, I don't know, evidence. He asserts that Genesis got it right, while science got it wrong. He asserts that God didn't need to be created. He states things as fact, and is not called out on them nearly as often as he should be - even by other Christians.

Conclusion

While I never expected a movie of this nature to portray atheists fairly (or even correctly) I was surprisingly concerned when the film couldn't even define us properly. The arguments insisted that the atheist position is that there are no gods, then called agnosticism the "weaker" position of unknowing. The truth of the matter is that most atheists have a lack of belief in god/gods because no god has been proven. Strong atheism is the assertion that there are no gods, and such an assertion cannot be definitively proven in my opinion. It successfully shifts the burden of proof onto the atheist, instead of keeping it where it belongs with the theist. Additionally, atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. I classify myself as an atheist agnostic because I do not believe in any god, but I cannot know for certain whether or not a god exists based on an abject lack of evidence. This movie is not designed to make you think. It's not intellectual. It's emotional. It's designed to make you feel for the underdog and root for him to succeed despite all of the obstacles in his path. It's designed to make you happy when the die-hard atheist converts before dying, and puts your own mortality in check. It implies that no one would want to die without god in case they've been wrong - and effectively utilizes Pascal's wager in it's closing few sequences.

Don't waste your time or your money on this film. It is not the best film in this genre that I've seen. In fact, it's one of the worst. If you want to see a film about debating between atheists and theists, I would recommend "My Week in Atheism" - at least it's honest and real. It's a documentary, not a film. If I wanted to see a film, I'd go see Noah. At least it's entertaining, and God's not Dead wasn't even that, even if you went to see it just for comedic value (ironically, it is listed as a comedy/drama). God's Not Dead is basically an 1.5 hour spot promoting the Newsboys, where everyone converts and yay god. It's really not worth the effort - and I would say that even about a film of this caliper from the atheist side. Lastly, any film that would have to have a cameo appearance of a member of Duck Dynasty with their recent controversies is not one that I should have paid money to go see. While it was a bonding experience with my friend, it was a waste of energy to get out of bed. Find a movie that is at the very least intellectually challenging - not one that suspends thinking altogether by using bad arguments, fallacies and outright deception to deliver its core message.

Your Turn

Was this review helpful

See results

See a Quality film rather than wasting money on crap

© 2014 Julie McFarland

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • dearabbysmom profile image

      dearabbysmom 3 years ago from Indiana

      I'm a Christian, and I think this movie would annoy the crap out of me. It's hard to understand how one could take seriously any of the arguments presented when they are stemming from, as you point out, a situation that would simply never exist. I also agree with your statement that a burden of proof cannot belong to Team Nonexistence. The existence of God is something that for me, I just feel in my gut. Not an intellectual conclusion by any means, but I feel comfortable and solid with it and don't feel the need to prove it to anyone else. I guess I don't understand the need to convince other people they are wrong. Why can't we just make the right choices for ourselves and respect that everyone is capable of doing the same? Voted up and interesting.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 3 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Thank you for sharing from a different perspective. I have had several Christian friends tell me essentially the same things. These evangelism focused movies could be better with a little effort. It's unfortunate.

    • aliasis profile image

      aliasis 3 years ago from United States

      Oh, a friend linked me the trailer to this and I laughed and laughed. I kind of wanted to go see it just for fun, but didn't actually want to give the movie any money. Not really surprised to find out it didn't add anything new - in fact, I probably could've predicted this exact plot before I read your review. lol Very entertaining to read, though frustrating. I guess it's the kind of movie that anti-atheist Christians are going to enjoy because it illustrates all of their usual arguments, and offers them success. But everyone else is just going to be annoyed - I imagine even Christians would be a bit embarrassed by it. I don't like preachy movies in general, even if it's for something I agree with, and this movie sounds like 100% "preach before plot".

    • Righteous Atheist profile image

      Righteous Atheist 3 years ago

      lol I believe I did actually predict this plot without seeing it.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 3 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Aliasis - I have found several of my Christian friends coming out against the poor plot and arguments found in this film. I know that if I were still a believer, aside from the Pavlovian emotional response that this film was designed to incite, I would have been frustrated with how both Christians and atheists were portrayed because it is so inaccurate on both ends.

      RA - maybe you're a prophet after all. Impressive!

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 3 years ago from United States

      I probably would have watched this movie (if it came onto netflix) but after reading your review, I think it's best that I not. One of the most frustrating things about watching any debate (even good ones) is that you can't speak up and make your own points. I find myself even disagreeing with the atheists because I don't think they're representing us right. So, I can tell that this movie would be downright infuriating. It isn't a debate at all, but an agenda to paint atheists as villains who are secretly believers that hate god. In a real life argument it's the equivalent of calling your opponent a doo doo head and turning over the table. Stuff like this is seriously counter productive to finding a peaceful co-existence for theists and atheists. Thank you for the review!

    • f_hruz profile image

      f_hruz 3 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Very good hub!

      Agnostic may also be saying, the argument pro or con the reality of gods to exist is intellectually quite irrelevant since it has not been proved in the positive, and surely can't be substantiated in the negative ... so why even bother to wast mental energy over it?

      Atheist may take this fact one step further and point out that all religions are based on fictional / mythical beliefs which contradict in large parts the objective grasp of reality as largely practiced by modern science, religiosity should be considered mainly as an inferior philosophy retarding many from advancing to more advanced concepts of the real world, including the expansion of their own emotional and psychological limits as part of their individual, personal development and in sum, that of the society we live in.

      This film you so well described here, serves as an illustration of the kind of cinematography which only gains value, when reflected on by clearly thinking people who can underline the limited intellectual quality which went into producing and distributing it!

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      I'm in agreement with DearAbbysMom. As I read your review, I was thinking about how annoying the whole idea is. I'm a Christian. Can I prove the existence of God? I'll admit I can't to anyone else's satisfaction. Most of time I'm not even going to try. Anyway ... back to the movie. I love the way you point out the errors. In a real debate, when you make a point to say something is true, you need actual facts to back it up which the character does not do. And even if I disagree with atheists, it's wrong to portray them as "angry, irrational and immoral people" as you said. It irritates me when other Christians complain when they're depicted that way in movies (or anywhere else) yet they turn around and do the same thing. I may end up watching the movie if it comes on TV, but I doubt I'll put everything else on hold in order to do so.

    • Paladin_ profile image

      Paladin_ 3 years ago from Michigan, USA

      JM, I suspect you hit the nail on the head when you referred to a "Pavlovian response." From your description, it sounds as if the film has no entertainment, educational or thought-provoking value whatsoever.

      It seems quite likely that it was intended solely to elicit ticket money from those believers who need to constantly have the certainty of their beliefs validated -- and that includes the stereotypes that go with them.

      On the other hand, it's heartening to see the responses of believers thus far to your hub. As an atheist AND an anti-theist, it's good for me to be reminded that there are actually believers who can and DO take a reasonable approach to the god/atheism debate (and to prevent me from forming my OWN stereotypes of believers!).

    • profile image

      Motown2Chitown 3 years ago

      You know, one of the most frustrating things for me as a Christian is this thought that belief in God can be "reasoned" into. I know that what led me to belief had nothing of reason about it. It defied all reason, and continues to do so. There is a certain level of comfort with the irrational, unreasonable, and illogical that must be met for belief. If a person is fundamentally incapable of achieving comfort with those things, there will forever exist a painful cognitive dissonance that cannot be overcome.

      Trying to approach God's existence as the most "reasonable" answer to anything will leave the believer frustrated and angry and blindly groping to appeal to whatever works. Frighten people, demand that THEY use reason, or simply accept them as they are and help them to understand where you come from. Mostly, learn to understand them. Sometimes just putting your own beliefs into action makes them want to understand more about God. Sometimes not. But, faith is for YOU, and it's not been given as a tool to convert anyone else.

      These movies, frankly, piss me off.

    • Righteous Atheist profile image

      Righteous Atheist 3 years ago

      I have concluded that this is the reason belief in god causes so many fights. If you look at them, most of them are believers attempting to argue that their belief is the reasonable position. And - of course - anyone who does not believe is being unreasonable. Hence all the fighting. And even - dare I say it - propaganda - such as this film.

    • profile image

      Scott4082 3 years ago

      I am a Christian and have a few great atheist friends. We completely respect personal views and discuss them with no anger. That being said, I have met more atheists that wouldn't even try to be a friend, one they found out I am a Christian. I was completely ignored and cursed as "ignorant...explicitives go here"...I can say, I have never treated non-believers any different than my Christian friends, I don't discuss my religious views (unless the topic is open for discussion), nor do I condemn those for not believing ( I pray for them ).

      I have first hand knowledge of an atheist professor that forces the students to write a paper to prove that ANY higher power exists, not just by mainstream religions views...if the student can't prove it to the professor, they get a failing first assignment. This particular professor ridiculed "believers" to the point of them filing formal complaints of discrimination and action was taken against the teacher.

      I have no issue with him asking to write a paper, however, who is he to determine if there is no God, fail students on the basis that he was not personally converted or influenced to denounce his belief and ridicule students for their beliefs?

      Is there a God? I truly believe so. I have been a paramedic for almost 25 years and seen to many "miracles" in my years. Miracles, in my opinion, may or may not be an instant occurrence but the entire event that occurred in whatever time frame it is in. I could go into detail on many calls that had a miraculous outcome that modern medicine can't explain and I'm not going to use the "near death" occurrences , even though I've had several of them stated by patients in the back of my ambulance.

      My faith in my God, unwavering since a child, and events that have occurred in my personal life is enough for me. No, every prayer has not been answered, some were answered over time and some seemed to be instant results. The view of "Why would a loving God allow all the bad things in the world to happen ( war, sickness, starving kids in Africa)?" Simple. Free will and choice that causes disagreement and conflict, sickness occurrences are in all people, however, I believe it is not God that allows it to happen and the choice to have more children than income and resources allows in all cultures and people, it's not Gods fault.

      Thanks for reading, maybe my views reflect a different aspect than some other Christians (if they be) that spew hate to atheists...I can tell ya, I'm not a hater, even if we do disagree. Have a great day?night to all!

    • Righteous Atheist profile image

      Righteous Atheist 3 years ago

      Amazing how that works . Glad you totally reject what the bible says about non believers. That sounds like my sort of Christian - the sort that rejects everything in the bible. Well done.

    Click to Rate This Article