Critiquing unrealistic characters, situations in "God's Not Dead"

By Luke Van Der Male | 10/9/14 2:34pm

God’s Not Dead, directed by Harold Cronk, convincingly defeats an atheist professor who doesn’t exist. Nor does the atheist professor represent any nontheist position fairly. The first thing the Kevin Sorbo’s atheist professor does is force everyone in his introductory philosophy class to claim that “God is dead” on threat of failing. 

No one thinks this is a good idea, and already the secular community has responded indignantly that they’d be as outraged by this behavior as any Christian group. This is indicative of how unrealistic this movie’s atheist characters are, because it misrepresents nontheists both emotionally and intellectually. Then, in a hasty afterthought, it throws up some “legal cases where University Students and Campus Ministries (sic) were condemned for their faith.” These 36 cases improve not at all on the original caricature of atheism.

Yet is it possible that an atheist professor may want to move past traditional arguments about the existence of God? Maybe, but for one, this is a terrible way to avoid the God question, and for two, it fundamentally comprises the core of any decent upper-level educational system: free inquiry. 

By preemptively quashing student’s doubts on the subject, you tell them their doubts aren’t relevant or worthwhile in the classroom setting. This is a precise inversion of the truth. The only salient point of the matter is that accusing an atheist of doing this and implying it reflects on secularists in general is nothing but a straw man. 

The strategy of the straw man here is to present an opponent somewhat similar to the real one but different enough to be easily mocked. Afterwards, proceed to spend the money you saved on screenwriters on an end movie appearance of the Newsboys.

The intellectual paucity of Kevin Sorbo’s atheist professor is seconded only by Trisha LaFache’s blogger-reporter and her softball questions. The movie’s dramatic height comes from the professor claiming that the universe can come from nothing. I’ve never this heard in any debate, yet it’s the only question that stumps the hero-Christian. No one even mentions more common philosophy-class questions, like why do bad things happen to good people if there is an omnipotent loving God? The only intellectual use of the classroom scenes in this movie is to see how much of this plot was lifted from Christian chainmail.

The professor’s inevitable undoing comes from his being accused of merely hating God, rather than disbelieving in him. This, in itself, shows how little the movie cares about actual nontheist’s emotional states. The average atheist just doesn’t care about God, there’s likely not a tragic backstory showing such hatred. But hatred or no, it does nothing to undermine any argument. Everybody hates Joffrey from Game of Thrones, but no one claims he exists.

The cases in the credits do nothing to correct the movie’s myopia. About half of them concern Christians being denied the right to discriminate against gay people in professional settings, and in most of them the Christians win the case. But it’s important to admit this movie isn’t meant to persuade anybody in the median of the God question. 

This movie will be shown across private Christian schools countrywide in a huge academic pat on the back. So if you like this movie and that’s what you’re into, I say enjoy the unquestioned life. Otherwise, feel free to join some real nontheists for a viewing and discussion of the movie on Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. in Mackinac C1-112.

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