Dan Fincke on God’s Not Dead


Dan Fincke went to see God’s Not Dead, the Christian movie about an atheist philosophy professor who is such a straw man that they might as well have had him played by a scarecrow. Since Dan is an atheist philosophy professor himself, he wrote approximately 48,000 words to review the movie. In the first of his reviews, he points out just how much every single non-Christian character is conveniently created to look just like the negative stereotypes they have of them:

Now the filmmakers behind this movie reveal themselves to be the kinds of Christians who want to see everything adamantly as Christianity would have it. They reveal this by their unwavering refusal to introduce moral ambiguities or any turns of events that don’t outright vindicate their faith and put it in the best light possible or its enemies in anything but the worst light.

The atheists in the film are all precisely as some Christians (and evidently these filmmakers) routinely claim they are. They are people incapable of loving, like Mark (Dean Cain) who upon learning his girlfriend Amy (Trisha LaFache) has cancer responds immediately by blaming her for ruining his dinner celebrating his promotion and then dumping her. When she says she thought he loved her he tells her to grow up and explains to her that love is just something we say when we want or need something. He views love in maximally cynical transactional terms. She no longer can be what he wanted so she’s “broken their deal”. Amy herself represents another trope of the bad atheist–she is a mean spirited, materialistic, contemptuous person only concerned with worldly success and who persecutes Christians because deep down she envies their Christians’ hope and really wants to be saved. Or atheists are authoritarian bullies like Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo) who go beyond atheism to be dreaded antitheists, where antitheism is maligned as the wish for people to be forced not to believe in God rather than give them a choice like Christians do (and like God himself does). (Professor Radisson also gets to be a verbally abusive boyfriend who is dating a former student named Mina (Cory Oliver) whom he forces to call him “Professor” whenever they are on campus together.) None of the atheist characters are given any more nuance than their deep down pain and longing for Jesus. Amy’s cruelty is a cover for her hopelessness. Professor Radisson’s vindictive bullying is an expression of his grief driven hatred of the God he actually believes in in response to his mother’s death when he was 12.

And as for the Muslims? There are only two in the film. One is an authoritarian father who smacks his daughter Ayisha (Hadeel Sittu) around and physically throws her out of the house for confessing that Jesus is her Lord and Savior. And his son, the snitch who told him she was secretly listening to Franklin Graham on her i-pod. The message is clear. Christians don’t worship a demanding God who gives you no choices. Muslims do. Christians do not want to constrict your ability to think and choose for yourself in life. Antitheists do. The actually authoritarian dimensions of Christianity that are plainly there if you look at it honestly (and which I ran down in my first review of the film, based on the highly accurate trailer alone) are all denied and perversely projected on the enemies of the faith instead (as I predicted).

He goes on to ruin the ending, so don’t read that one if you don’t want spoilers. In his second review, which focuses on the arguments for the existence of God presented in the movie (spoiler: they’re really bad), he points out again how much the film stands reality on its head:

For example, if you were like me, you were troubled by the idea of Professor Radisson’s desire to have his students sign a statement of belief that “God is Dead” with threats of failure if they do not do so. He was forcing them to agree to a conclusion without any debate. He was being closed minded and dogmatic.

In the real world it is Christian universities that alone in America require of students and faculty that they sign faith statements to attend or teach. If Professor Radisson’s actions bothered you, in reality you should be bothered by these Christian universities’ behavior. This is not a point against secular universities. If any atheist philosophy professor (or any atheist professor of any other kind) at a secular school has ever had anyone pledge that says “God is dead”, I’ve never heard of it. Even if it’s happened, it would be a rare outlier rather than the routine practice of faith statements at various Christian universities. Rare outliers prove nothing about there being an inherent prejudice or persecution of people of faith by secular universities or philosophy professors. You might say that statements of Christian faith are acceptable for Christian universities since people apply to be there voluntarily, knowing in advance about the faith statements, so no one is being pressured to agree to something that goes against their intellectual consciences.

But there is, nonetheless, something completely contradictory to the spirit of true inquiry to have college students, in advance of their higher education, commit to believing things on pain of having to leave the school if they stop believing them. How is that openminded? How is that interested in really proving and testing one’s beliefs? That’s saying, “Come here and we will educate you and teach you to think critically. But before we educate you and teach you to think critically, please sign this statement that you will never come to conclusions different than your current beliefs and our beliefs.” To say that to eighteen year olds, who are only just becoming adults and only just having the chance to think outside their parents’ influence, is inherently stifling. It’s contrary to the entire point of education. But Christian universities do this.

And their faculty can be fired if they think the wrong things. Imagine that. These are people hired because they are highly qualified experts in their subjects. But if they think something not pre-approved, they can lose their jobs. Does that sound like what open-mindedness about truth would be? Is that a policy that is going to lead people to correct their mistakes or start challenging discussions that might lead to greater truth. Even if the faith were to be vindicated and strengthened after challenges, you will never know that if you preclude people in advance from even questioning or temporarily thinking what looks true before it can be proven false.

I’ll have my own review soon.

Comments

  1. Chiroptera says

    He goes on to ruin the ending, so don’t read that one if you don’t want spoilers.

    The only ending I’d find interesting is the way some Jack Chick tracts end: an angel literally dumping an unrepentant sinner into Hell.

  2. leskimopie says

    I’m just wondering, how entertaining it is as a bad movie. Fireproof was an incredibly shitty movie, but was so cheesy and the acting so bad and literally everything about it was wrong it was entertaining to watch.
    However I couldn’t get through the Left Behind trilogy because it wa bad in a way that wasn’t fun.

    So is it at least a so bad it’s good movie? Or is it so bad it’s unwatchable?

  3. says

    True story.

    I was contacted by the casting director for the film. They wanted me to play, “Atehosatanist pagan, #3″–I said I wanted to see the script. So they had an “angel” fly a copy over to me (well, it was FedEx’d overnight but HE works in strange ways!). I looked at it and called them back to tell them that, as much as I would like to be involved in their blessed project, it, the part about eating aborted full-term babeez, “fresh from the oven”, so to speak, was a deal breaker. I will EAT a baby–every day and twice on Sundays–but only if they’re cooked to an internal temperature of at LEAST 170 degrees. I ate some sashimi at “Bargain Sushi” about three months ago and spent the next 48 hours shittin’n’pukin’ like Vesuvius. Sorry, no can do.

  4. gshelley says

    I have read that it occasionally happens that a professor will have the students right “Jesus” on a piece of paper then tread on it.
    Of course, in these cases, this isn’t used to punish those who don’t comply but to start a discussion on the power of words and symbols. And it is pretty much always more than one person who refuses.

  5. raven says

    It sounds like basically, a hate movie.

    Fundie xianity is based on hate. No hate = No fundie xianity.

    No surprise. Their gay hate campaign has had a long run but is getting old, boring, and running down. They will have to promote another of their hate targets. Most likely it will be atheists and Moslems again.

  6. raven says

    And their faculty can be fired if they think the wrong things.

    Happens all the time.

    Fundies are huge fans of Joseph Stalin. They have witch hunts and purges every once in while.

    Their usual targets these days are supporters of science and evolutionary biology.

  7. Artor says

    Demo, I know, undercooked babies are the worst! And if they’re not prepped by o professional, you end up picking shreds of diaper from between your teeth. Eww!!!

  8. iknklast says

    As for having to sign a statement that God is Dead: I don’t even require my students to accept that evolution is true. They just have to learn it accurately. Eventually it might make sense to them. But if they come to me disturbed, I tell them to learn the theory, and answer the questions on the test. Most of them do, then add some disclaimer.

    In other classes (a public college), students might not be so lucky. Several of our students have taken the comparative religions class, taught by a true blue Catholic (without philosophy credentials). They said you could get an A as long as you professed to believe something. She doesn’t appear to care what. Some of my non-believing students were worried, because they didn’t know enough about any religion to fake belief. Without a formal student complaint, this will continue. None of the students were willing to take a stand, because our school and community is so steeped in Christian belief that they don’t want to make waves.

  9. raven says

    It’s contrary to the entire point of education. But Christian universities do this.

    Fincke misses the whole point of bible colleges*.

    They aren’t there to educate fundie kids. AFAICT, most of them don’t do much educating anyway. Their science departments are usually somewhere betweeen terrible and nonexistent.

    Their two purposes are:

    1. A glorified baby sitting service. They make sure young adults are kept busy and indoctrinated in a monocultural environment.

    2. Dating arenas for endogamy. This is hugely important. If your kid marries the wrong type of xian, you will have to stone them to death. Hmmm, well not anymore, it is illegal these days.

    It’s still a disaster though. What if your kid marries a Catholic (or Protestant), Mormon, progressive Protestant, Democrat, nonwhite, or gasp, horrors…an atheist.

    You need to herd them together in an isolated rural area and keep the Fake xians and Pagans away.

    *Some xian U.s, not fundie ones are OK. They don’t hate evolutionary biology, they in fact, teach it.

  10. dingojack says

    iknklast – could you (and your colleagues) raise a complaint against the comparative religions teacher?
    Dingo

  11. Sastra says

    They said you could get an A as long as you professed to believe something. She doesn’t appear to care what.

    I am assuming that by “something” you mean “something supernatural” — a Higher Power which can’t just be nature, ideals, or a philosophy without the bells and whistles which signify an intentional cosmos. Otherwise, being able to give a coherent description of what one believes for a class in beliefs would seem fair enough.

    Given context, I’m betting atheism or secular humanism isn’t going to count as “something.”

  12. matty1 says

    Not many people know, the surprise ending is The Atheist Professor turns out to be Jesus in disguise. The last words are “What part of ‘judge not’ did you fuckwits not follow?”

  13. davem says

    The man’s a glutton for punishment. Watching a Christian film, then writing 48,000 words on it? ‘struth!

  14. caseloweraz says

    Matty1:

    Jesus’ real last words are, “I find your corruption of my teachings disturbing.” After which he gestures with his hand and they all clutch their throats.

  15. caseloweraz says

    Dan Fincke: And their faculty can be fired if they think the wrong things. Imagine that. These are people hired because they are highly qualified experts in their subjects. But if they think something not pre-approved, they can lose their jobs. Does that sound like what open-mindedness about truth would be?

    No, it sounds like something Ben Stein ought to make a movie about. <cough>

  16. jasmyn says

    @leskimopie:
    I loved this movie. It was so over-the-top. That being said, I love terrible movies.
    My favorite character was definitely the Muslim father. He was so strict that he picked up and dropped off his daughter from college and made her wear a scarf over her face…..but allowed her to wear the same clothes you’d see on most college aged women. Because that’s consistent. I can’t help but feel that at the last minute, they realized that they forgot to point out how terrible Muslims are, so they just did a quick rewrite and stuffed the family in. The costuming budget was already spent, so they just had the actress wear her own clothes and put a scarf on her face. After all, who gives a shit about accurately portraying people, especially if they’re brown, right? It was soooooo bad.
    I hope this becomes a franchise.

  17. says

    You know it’s bad when even the fundie Christian reviewers are remarking on the portrayal of the non-Christians in the movie:

    Pretty much everyone who’s not a Christian in this story is villainized for being mean, abusive, grouchy or narrow-minded. Several such sinners are condemned to either death or terminal illness, as if they’re being punished for their attitudes.

    The story is sometimes melodramatic. And there are moments of implausibility that emerge as the list of non-Christians behaving badly lengthens

    But all is forgiven because the main character “always puts God first.”

  18. Ichthyic says

    Amy herself represents another trope of the bad atheist–she is a mean spirited, materialistic, contemptuous person only concerned with worldly success and who persecutes Christians because deep down she envies their Christians’ hope and really wants to be saved.

    sounds like something out of a Chick Tract FFS!

  19. Ichthyic says

    The actually authoritarian dimensions of Christianity that are plainly there if you look at it honestly (and which I ran down in my first review of the film, based on the highly accurate trailer alone) are all denied and perversely projected on the enemies of the faith instead (as I predicted).

    sorry Dan, no prize for you. my cat could have predicted that!

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