Sunday, December 28, 2014

God's Not Dead: A Movie For People Who Don't Know How College Works

...or introductory philosophy classes, or relationships between atheists and their significant others, or their parents, or motor vehicles...

If you watched this film and your intelligence wasn't insulted, you either weren't paying attention, never met an atheist, aren't familiar with college, aren't familiar with philosophy, aren't familiar with the Bible, or any combination, if not all, of the preceding.

Ultimately, the movie attempts to reinforce the myth that atheists are former Christians who have lost their faith because they were mad at the Christian god.  I can't speak for all atheists, but having been part of several atheist groups in the flesh and also the online community for the past 23 years, I assure you that most atheists are not believers because the evidence for gods is lacking.  Yes, I said "gods".  It's not just the Christian god atheists reject; it's all gods.  All of them are myths.  All of them require faith to believe.  The "evidence" presented in the film isn't evidence at all, and dismisses all of the magic and mysticism required to accept the Bible as a whole--which the film clearly wants the viewers to do.

For my part, it started with reading the Bible and asking questions in Bible study classes.  I had long given up on Catholicism; confession killed Catholic dogma for me.  I could not get a straight answer on why I needed an intermediary for confession of my sins.  It was based on the precedent of Paul's confession in the New Testament, but the Catholic priests in the Middle Ages used absolution as an income source.  Penance could be bought.  Before this discovery about the practice, I had already asked the question this movie suggests can be turned around on me: who or what created God?  The movie's main character, Josh Wheaton, tells us that they believe in an eternal god, but that belief requires faith and has no evidence to support it.

In any case, getting back to why I lost my faith: I read the Bible twenty-seven times in the span of a few years.  I've forgotten more of the Bible than most people have actually read, and I find it absurd to believe it's a basis for morality or a practical guide for life.  The genocide in the land of Canaan alone kills it for me, but that's one problem among hundreds--perhaps more.  Do people really expect me to believe that genocide was necessary?  Even enslavement of the people who were in the "promised land" would have been more moral than genocide.  Let's discard the talking snake, the magical trees, virgin birth, human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, incantations, magic, and all of the other unprovable parts; where is the morality in genocide?  The explanation offered to me for this genocide is that it was God's mercy that spared the potential descendants of the people in that land from being damned, containing the numbers to those who lived at that time--which brings me back to the idea of slavery.

I do not condone slavery in any form, but if we look at the example of the slaves who were brought to the United States (and the colonies before it), we can find arguments some Christians made for the morality of the practice which include the idea that they saved pagans from damnation by forcing them to convert under bondage.  That's amazing reasoning to me, but it's totally biblical.  Abram (before he was Abraham) used an army of slaves to achieve military victory.  There were rules for slavery--for buying and selling and beating, for pricing based on gender, for circumcision.  How does one justify the ownership of people as moral?

I could go on, but the point is that it's not anger that led me to reject faith, but lack of evidence and the absurdity of the evidence offered.  My questions were met with "You have to have faith."  People offered me books, like Josh McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict.  People have sent me more apologetics since.  It's all easily torn apart--and that leads me back to the movie's situation.

The writers of this screenplay either do not know how college works, or they expect their audience not to know.  First, an introduction to philosophy will usually begin with Aristotle, not a discussion of atheism.  In fact, the discussion of the necessity--or lack thereof--of gods will usually be reserved for epistemology courses.  Secondly, if this was a state university--and I'm not sure if it is ever revealed that it is a state college--the kind of practice in which Kevin Sorbo's character engaged would not go unanswered.  There would be legal action.  An agent of the state cannot force a captive audience to agree to an idea or go against one's religion.  It's a violation of the Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment, as well as the Fourteenth (which applies the Constitution to states and provides equal protection to all classes of people under the law).  Finally, the notion that there is only ONE Christian who would resist the initial class exercise anywhere in the United States is insultingly absurd.

The whole premise for this movie seems based on urban legend stories about evil atheist professors who berate their students about their religion, and some Christian gives each professor his comeuppance.  There's the one where the atheist professor tells the class that if God exists, he will keep chalk from dropping on the floor.  When it catches in the cuff of his pants twice, he runs screaming from the room, and some Christian student gets up and witnesses to the class.  In a more noxious urban legend, a Marine gets up and punches the professor for some reason, saying that God was busy protecting soldiers in Afghanistan, so he was sent as the agent of God.  There are more, but the point is that there is this ignorant notion that college is a place where professors force atheism on students.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I couldn't even tell you the religion of any of my professors.  I can guess, but I don't know for certain, because they were all professionals who taught the subject matter at hand.

I dropped religion on my own, and when I did drop it, I felt totally alone.  I felt free, but I felt alone in my thinking.

Christians have always had support networks.  The persecution portrayed in this film is such a lie, it's an insult to those of us who have had the courage to come out in favor of reason, who have stood up to religious bullying to say that we don't accept the myths.  When I came out, there was no Internet widely available.  There wasn't an atheist group on my campus, and I had difficulty even finding another atheist.  I met a couple before I rejected faith, but most of the people I met after were religious to some degree.  There was a Campus Crusade for Christ.  There were other religious organizations.  There were churches available.  There was nothing for atheists.  This film wants us to believe that the Christian who stands up for faith is alone, but it would be far more believable that a Christian student would be on his own on a campus in Europe than any in the United States.

The final point I want to make is that every single atheist in this movie is an asshole.  The woman who gets cancer likes to ambush Christian celebrities with insipid interview questions and a hostile attitude.  Her boyfriend is a complete jackass who doesn't care about his mother with dementia, and who breaks up with the girlfriend after she finds out she has cancer.  The atheist professor is a dick to not only students, but to his wife?  Girlfriend?  I'd have to watch it again to find out for sure, but she's a believer, and he ridicules her faith in front of his professor buddies at a dinner party she helped prepare.  All of them seem to come to faith in the end (we're not sure about Dean Cain's character, but he's left speechless by something his mother says about the devil's deception of people), which is also a bit sickening.  A preacher telling a dying atheist that he has a second chance to accept Jesus is rude and unwelcome.  I'd tell him to go away and let me die in peace--or better yet, stop trying to get me to accept Jesus and call 911!

Can I shred the arguments the Josh Wheaton character made in the film?  Certainly, but people have already done that.  Check out the following link:

There are many videos on YouTube where atheists have picked apart the movie, as well.

Perhaps I'll give my own take on the arguments made in the film at some point, but what bothers me the most is that there really isn't a case made for the existence of God; it's mostly quote-mining of scientists and taking them out of context.  And making a case for Genesis...that's just funny.  I have a Facebook page called Skeptical Bible Reading, where I have gone through several chapters of Genesis already to point out the problems.  Check it out.  I'll be doing more writing there.

I'm also thinking about reviewing the films Pure Flix--the producers of "God's Not Dead"--makes.  I think there's a lot of comedy in them.  At least, that's how my fiancee and I treat films like this one.

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