The film, God’s Not Dead, is what Uncommon wanted to be. It’s higher-budget, actually has a star that was relevant in the last two decades, and doesn’t have a terrible pun about chemistry in it. These improvements aside, it’s still not a good movie. It’s simply more propaganda to show to already paranoid Christians to soothe their fears that they are losing their privilege and might become a minority and suffer being treated in the same way that they have historically treated everyone else.
The film follows several characters. Too many, in fact. The main plot is about Josh Wheaton, college freshman, who tangles with Professor Raddison over the topic of faith. It’s sad and depressing to see Kevin Sorbo, who was none other than Hercules in Hercules: The Legendary Journey, reduced to playing this shallow role. He is capable of being so much more than the one-dimensional, strawman of an atheist that he portrayed.
In the beginning of the movie, Professor Raddison greets his introductory philosophy class by telling them to write down “god is dead” on a piece of paper, sign their names on it and pass it in. Raddison explains that this doesn’t mean that god was once alive, but rather than god never existed in the first place. Out of a class of 80, only Josh refuses. Josh is shown as the loan Christian dissenter in a classroom full of heathens. As if 78% of the US doesn’t identify as some kind of Christian and as if professors are actually doing this in classrooms all the time and no one ever thinks to tell someone about it.
This is also shown as if this is what atheists want. They want everyone else to be an atheist and to believe exactly what they do and given even a modicum of power, they will use it to force others into their way of thinking. If I was in a class where a professor told me to do this, I would refuse. Not because I disagree with his stance on god, but because learning doesn’t happen when someone is strong armed into agreeing with someone else’s viewpoint.
These movies act like Christians just tear us up inside and we all want to change every single one of them into devils, like us. There are some atheists out there who want to see all religion wiped out, but the vast majority doesn’t care what someone does in their own time, provided they aren’t hurting others or infringing on their rights. But that’s not what this movie wants people to believe.
Anyway, when Josh refuses to go along with Raddison’s nefarious plan, Raddison tells him that he either has to defend the position that god is alive, drop the class or sign the paper saying god is dead. Our plucky protagonist decides to buck the odds and do what he thinks is right. He is given three 20-minute sessions to prove that god is alive and at the end of these, his classmates will decide whether or not god is alive.
While all of this is going on, we’re introduced to Amy, reporter for a left-wing blog. Her car has bumper stickers with phrases such as “American Humanist” and “I [Heart] Evolution”. She interviews Willie Robertson and his wife, from the TV show Duck Dynasty, outside of their church for an article and comes off as snobby, rude, and just irritating. Amy tries to shame Willie for making duck calls that lead ducks to their deaths. As if being a liberal means that you’re so soft-hearted the thought of a duck dying is just too much for you to bare.
We meet Amy’s boyfriend, Mark, who is a narcissistic, selfish and egocentric meglomaniac. We meet Mark’s sister, Mina, who doesn’t seem to have a job or anything. She just lives in a really nice house and looks out for her ailing mother that has dementia. Mina also happens to be currently dating Raddison, even though she’s a Christian and he’s an atheist.
We also meet Martin, a Chinese student in Josh’s class that learns about religion for the first time outside of his communist home country, or so we’re led to believe. We also meet Ayisha, a muslim girl that dares to go against her father’s wishes and learn about Jesus, her lord and savior who loves her a lot. We also meet Pastor Dave and his missionary friend.
Sound like a shit load of characters and entirely too much going on in one 2-hour movie? It was and it is. But there’s really so much bullshit crammed into those 120 minutes that I could write about 10 blogs about all of it and still not be done. But I won’t. At least, not after one viewing. I’ll just tell you how everything ends. Because that sums up just how insane this movie was and how ineffective.
As for Josh’s quest to prove that god is alive, at the end of his 3 20-minute talks, he asks his classmates if god is alive or dead and, starting with Martin, they all stand up and proudly announce that god is not dead. Keep in mind that only a few days/weeks ago, they all willingly wrote down that he was dead on a piece of paper to appease a teacher. The problem here is that the students are just mindless sheep. They write god is dead on command and then announce that god is alive when faced with a hour of poorly-reasoned arguments.
As for the actual arguments, they were all things atheists have heard ad nauseum. God exists because the universe exists and god had to create it. God exists because the bible says so. Bad things happen because god gives man free will and he’s waiting until the afterlife to get even. None of the arguments were compelling or even new.
Meanwhile, over the course of the movie it’s revealed that Raddison watched his religious mother die of cancer when he was 12. He’s not really an atheist at all. He’s angry at the deity that he believes took his loved one away and even says as much. When Josh corners him during the final lecture, Raddison admits that he hates god and that proves that god exists because Raddison wouldn’t hate something that isn’t real.
The idea that all atheists are just damaged people that have had some kind of trauma in their lives that turned them against their savior is nothing new. However, it makes his arguments for logic and reason completely shallow when you learn that the character’s real motivation is emotion. But just when you think the film makers are crafting a point that you shouldn’t change your religious views based on a personal tragedy, but instead base it on logic and knowledge, they go and do the same thing.
Amy, the humanist, vegan, tree hugger, is diagnosed with cancer. Mark, her boyfriend, leaves her immediately upon finding out. Because he’s an atheist and atheists have no compassion or empathy, apparently. Amy is left to deal with the diagnosis and her impending death all alone. No family, no friends, not even an acquaintance is shown to help her through things. But she’s an atheist, so she probably ate all of those special people in her life.
In the end of the movie, Amy goes to interview Christian rock group the Newsboys. Yeah, I’ve never heard of them either. She comes in very aggressive and arrogant then breaks down and admits to the men that she’s dying. They immediately comfort her and pray with her.
Ayisha, the Muslim girl, is beaten and thrown out of her house after her dad finds out that she was listening to a the bible on her iPod and says that Jesus is her savior. Because Islamic men are all oppressive, domineering, and violent, don’t you know. At least they didn’t show him performing an honor killing. I’ll give them that. She is taken in by Pastor Dave’s church.
And what happens to Raddison? At the end of the movie he is seen looking back over the student’s papers that all read “god is not dead” like a lost puppy. Then he gets out a letter that his mother wrote him before she died that tells him to walk in god’s light. He calls Mina and gets her voicemail (she’s at the Newsboys concert). He sees an newspaper article about the band and takes off to go see her.
Raddison is then hit by a car while crossing the street in a sudden rain storm. The car doesn’t stop (it was probably driven by an atheist), but thankfully Pastor Dave is there. He saves Raddison’s soul and gets the terrified man to commit his heart to Jesus just before he dies. His missionary friend then announces that this was a good day. A little sadness, but all around, a good day.
And here’s where our points of view differ. An atheist, a real one, not one that blames a god for their own personal tragedies, would be horrified that they just witnessed another human being die horribly in front of them and well before their time. But a Christian is comforted that god called them up when he wanted them to be in heaven and now that their soul is saved, they are destined for paradise. So in reality, human suffering and death is just awesome!
In the end, everyone parties at the Newsboys’ concert. Then a message from Willie Robertson comes on and he instructs everyone to take out their phones and text the phrase “god’s not dead” to everyone in their contacts. Because it’s not fucking annoying to get random texts from people you probably don’t know that well declaring their faith for their favorite deity. After the final scene, instructions come up asking for all of the theater goers to do the same.
Really. That actually happened. I texted the message above to my fiance afterward and he had no idea what I was talking about. Overall, the film just shows that Christians really don’t understand atheists, their lives, their relationships, their journeys or their arguments for their religious stance. Most of the debate in this movie centers around how the universe started and I simply hate this debate.
Science can’t say for sure how the universe started. Yet. Just wait. They’re working on it. That’s right, working. They’re not sitting around patting themselves on the back because a 2,000 year old book already mapped everything out for them. But more importantly, we don’t need to know. You don’t need to have an answer to this question to live a full, exciting, engaged life.
When it really comes down to it, Josh argues that he is trying to allow his fellow students to decide for themselves if they want to believe or not. He says that he’s fighting for their freedom to choose. But that’s not what Christians are fighting for. They are fighting to turn people to Jesus and save as many souls as possible and in the past, haven’t care who they had to murder, maim or mutilate in order to do it.
So is god dead?
Fuck, I don’t know. I have yet to see measurable, solid, documented evidence that there is a higher power of any kind that acts upon this physical world. Until there is real proof and not just feelings, postulations, or mental gymnastics to go off of, I’ll remain an agnostic atheist. I don’t know if god is dead, but I’m doing okay without having an answer to that question.