My Abiding Love for ‘God’s Not Dead’ (Spoilers)


I finally got to see God’s Not Dead on Saturday night along with Jeremy Beahan, Justin Schieber and Dave Fletcher (3/4 of the Reasonable Doubts guys). I had very high expectations for the movie to shatter the unintentional comedy scale and I was certainly not disappointed. I had a blast, though admittedly it was partly because of the company I was in. There are spoilers below, so stop reading if you don’t want to see them.

For the handful of people who don’t know what the movie is about, it’s basically one of those idiotic right wing chain emails turned into a script. It seems to exist solely to reinforce the stereotypes of atheists held by the dumbest fundamentalist Christians in existence. It’s a Jack Chick tract sprung to celluloid life. Every atheist in the movie is not just a bad person, but an astonishingly evil person. The Dean Cain character is so unrelentingly evil that Emperor Palpatine would tell him to tone it down a notch.

The Dean Cain character’s girlfriend finds out she has cancer and she tells him at dinner at a fancy restaurant. His response: “This couldn’t wait until tomorrow?” He then dumps her on the spot and when she says she thought they were in love, he tells her to grow up and that love is just something we tell people to get what we want. Because as we all know, this is how atheists act. The girlfriend herself is a ridiculous caricature, a left-wing blogger who ambushes people and asks them stupid questions to make them look bad.

The professor, played by Kevin Sorbo, is such a straw man that it wouldn’t have been any more ridiculous if they’d given him horns and a pitchfork and shown him eating a baby. He walks in on the very first day of class and tells the students that they have to sign a piece of paper saying “God is dead” and if they don’t, they’re going to fail the class. One Christian student — in a class of 80 people in the United States of America, which is about 70% Christian, there’s only a single Christian — says he can’t sign it because he believes in God. The student bears a strong resemblance to Billy Zabka, which is appropriate since the whole movie seems like a Christian remake of the Karate Kid. The professor is John Creese, attempting to intimidate the student. At one point I leaned over to Jeremy and said, “Sweep the leg, Johnny!”

No one in the movie makes a good argument, either Christian or atheist. The student relies on the same old tired arguments, including claiming that the Cambrian explosion created all the animals found on earth pretty much in their modern form in a geological microsecond. That’s a ridiculous lie. The professor offers nothing but appeals to authority (“Stephen Hawking says the universe created itself. You think you’re smarter than the greatest scientist in history, Mr. Smarty Pants?”). And when the student finally gets him to admit that he does believe in God, he does it by repeatedly yelling “Why do you hate God?” at him. Very compelling.

I think the movie should be turned around. Someone needs to make an atheist version with an atheist student and a Christian professor. And the student will break down the professor at the end in a dramatic climax in which he says, “Why do you have an imaginary friend?” loudly and repeatedly. Yes, that would be equally moronic. But I loved this movie. It was worth a million laughs precisely because it was so absurd and inane.

Comments

  1. barry21 says

    “Spoiler” implies there’s something to be spoiled, Ed. Doesn’t sound like there’s much of that in GND

  2. gshelley says

    I haven’t seen it, but have heard about it
    Does the professor give any indication he has even passed a first year philosophy course, let alone completed a PhD, which I assume he would have if he is teaching?

  3. Chiroptera says

    Ha ha ha.

    And yesterday you wrote a post about a right winger who complained that Colbert makes fun of conservatives through an unrealistic caricature.

    ‘Course, I guess the difference here is that Christianists don’t realize that the atheists in this film aren’t realistic.

  4. Trebuchet says

    The Dean Cain character’s girlfriend finds out she has cancer and she tells him at dinner at a fancy restaurant. His response: “This couldn’t wait until tomorrow?” He then dumps her on the spot…

    Like that fine Christian, New Gingrich.

    The girlfriend herself is a ridiculous caricature, a left-wing blogger who ambushes people and asks them stupid questions to make them look bad.

    Cough, cough, James O’Keefe, cough cough.

    Seriously, these people are so isolated, so far from ever having any contact with actual non-believers, that they have to base their movie on chain e-mails and idiots from their own side. Sad.

  5. Artor says

    I hope you laughed your ass off loudly, so the Xians in the theater could get in on the joke.

  6. barry21 says

    @3 chiroptera – let’s not forget that Ben Shapiro’s neologism for Colbert’s conservative caricature is “Conservativeface”.

    I never want to forget that delightful word. Never ever ever.

  7. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    “Stephen Hawking says the universe created itself. You think you’re smarter than the greatest scientist in history, Mr. Smarty Pants?”).

    Small point among much else I know but as great and respect-worthy a scientist as Stephen Hawking is,does anyone really think he’s the greatest scientist in history?

    Greater than, say, :

    Albert Einstein?
    Isaac Newton?
    Charles Darwin?
    Galileo Galilei?
    Francis Bacon?
    Alhazen?

    Plus no doubt many more I or you or any of the commenters here could suggest?

    Its very hard to judge who is the (reverb) Greatest Of Ahhhlllllllll tiiiiiiime in almost anything and comparing different fields and different eras means it always going to be subjective and a matter of which factors and findings you emphasise but, yeah. Really?

    Big fan of Stephen Hawking by the way – enormous respect for him and his work and his books and life generally -I just wouldn’t go quite as far as saying “greatest of all time” for him.

  8. Chiroptera says

    One of the good things about this type of movie is how it reinforces the True Believers’ beliefs that they completely understand how atheists think, what motivates them, and what their arguments are.

    Then the look on their faces is priceless when they think they’re prepared for you arguments but you then go off script.

  9. raven says

    But I loved this movie. It was worth a million laughs precisely because it was so absurd and inane.

    Sounds like a Reefer Madness movie for the 21st century.

    Whole generations of stoned people have watched that one and laughed.

  10. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    PS.

    Its very hard to judge who is the (reverb) Greatest Of Ahhhlllllllll tiiiiiiime in almost anything

    Except cricket esp. batting where Sir Don Bradman does stand above all others by a (near) century of lightyears, metaphorically speaking!

    PPS. I’ve read a lot of Hawking’s books and seen a lot of his TV appearances in various docos. Somehow I can’t recall and doubt he ever said what the “professor” here said he said too.

  11. OverlappingMagisteria says

    StevoR @11:

    I think the movie is referring to this quote from Hawking from “The Grand Design”, though either the movie bungled the details or Ed paraphrased it.

    Hawking said: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.”
    He added: “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/7976594/Stephen-Hawking-God-was-not-needed-to-create-the-Universe.html

  12. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    OK, NOW God is dead even if it wasn’t before. It was bored to death by the movie.

  13. Sastra says

    And when the student finally gets him to admit that he does believe in God, he does it by repeatedly yelling “Why do you hate God?” at him.

    Egads — he uses sophisticated presupps too?

  14. John Pieret says

    In the closing credits does it have “And that student’s given name was … Albert Einstein“?

  15. birgerjohansson says

    Maybe the Coen brothers could make a spoof of this film.

    In the spoof, the evil atheist professor dumps bodies in a wood chipper. The guy who looks like Karate Kid IS in fact, a karate-using member of a secret Christian society (like those weird tattooed guys in the first and third Indiana Jones films). Jack Nicholson playes the president who is murdered by space aliens. The conflict between Thor and Loki plays an important role in the plot. Wossname, bald actor plays a cop.

  16. leskimopie says

    Damn, Dean Cain was in this too? I mean I liked Hercules and Xena back in the day and Sorbo was decent enough as a cameo in The Middleman, but Dean Cain was in Futuresport! He should be better than this.

  17. Alverant says

    I agree there needs to be an Atheist response to that movie except ours needs to be more accurate. We also need to do a response to “Expelled” called “Flunked” to explain why and how creationism fails as an idea and as a “scientific” theory and why it should not be taught in schools.

  18. pocketnerd says

    Thus Spake ZaraChiroptera, #9:

    One of the good things about this type of movie is how it reinforces the True Believers’ beliefs that they completely understand how atheists think, what motivates them, and what their arguments are.

    Then the look on their faces is priceless when they think they’re prepared for you arguments but you then go off script.

    Oh yeah. Been there. Fred Clark over at the Slacktivist blog (which is worth reading, even if you’re not religious) suggests the whole point of these scripted “witnessing tools” is actually not to convert outsiders, but to reinforce insularity and xenophobia — the True Believer walking away furious at the Unrepentant Sinner is a feature, not a bug.

    Still, it’s a shame that God’s Not Dead couldn’t be an entertaining movie, even if it’s built on silly caricatures. Making movies is an art, and it’s orthogonal to whether you’re right or wrong. And think of the potential for drama when the subject is no less than the existence of a Supreme Being! I’m imaginging something like the end of A Few Good Men, with the Earnest Young Christian badgering the Evil Atheist Professor: “Do you believe in God? Do you believe in God?” over and over, until the Evil Atheist Professor shouts “YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT I DO!”

    Or maybe just Richard B. Riddick’s answer: “You got it all wrong, holy man. I absolutely believe in God… and I absolutely hate the fucker.”

  19. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    Ed, what was the crowd like? Were people taking it seriously? Sounds like a fun time (aside from donating $ to the people who made the film.)

  20. says

    The girlfriend herself is a ridiculous caricature, a left-wing blogger who ambushes people and asks them stupid questions to make them look bad.

    Cough, cough, James O’Keefe, cough cough.

    yup. this is pure projection.

  21. caseloweraz says

    @Frankniddy (#21, 22):

    Uh, that link is “Untouchable.” (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    A workable version is here.

  22. Nemo says

    The sad thing is that they had Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain in the same movie, and they didn’t make Hercules vs. Superman.

  23. caseloweraz says

    I’m puzzled by two character names in God’s Not Dead. We have Professor Radisson — associations with the Radisson Hotel chain are hard to avoid. Then there is the “hero”, Josh Wheaton. That suggests Joss Whedon, whom I doubt very much is a Christian.[1]

    [1] As someone once said, “Got it in one, Mr. Garibaldi.” Wikipedia” “Whedon has identified himself as an atheist, absurdist and humanist.”

  24. anne mariehovgaard says

    birgerjohansson, #17:

    The conflict between Thor and Loki plays an important role in the plot

    as an excuse for half-naked wrestling.

  25. Sastra says

    I like this article on a possible franchise of God not being Dead movies, including one where the Freemasons inspire a potential suicide who is saved by Jesus, a little girl persecuted for praying in school who is discovered hiding behind a couch when her atheist parents kill each other and who says she was saved by Jesus, and a movie about the making of “God’s Not Dead” which was saved by, yes, Jesus.

  26. Chiroptera says

    frankniddy, #21 & #22,
    caseloweraz, #26:

    Ha ha ha ha. Last sentence of the AV Club review:

    Instead, the film finds its stakes in the suggestion that the greatest persecution of all isn’t dying for your beliefs, but being forced to accept that other people might believe something different.

    Ha ha ha ha. So true. In other “controversies” manufactured by the Religious Right as well.

  27. says

    Small point among much else I know but as great and respect-worthy a scientist as Stephen Hawking is,does anyone really think he’s the greatest scientist in history?

    People in the astrophysics community do not even think he is the greatest scientist alive right now in their own narrow field.

  28. freehand says

    7
    birgerjohansson: In the spoof, the evil atheist professor dumps bodies in a wood chipper. The guy who looks like Karate Kid IS in fact, a karate-using member of a secret Christian society (like those weird tattooed guys in the first and third Indiana Jones films). Jack Nicholson playes the president who is murdered by space aliens. The conflict between Thor and Loki plays an important role in the plot. Wossname, bald actor plays a cop.
    .
    Hey! I saw that movie!

  29. psanity says

    Small point among much else I know but as great and respect-worthy a scientist as Stephen Hawking is,does anyone really think he’s the greatest scientist in history?

    Greater than, say, :

    Albert Einstein?
    Isaac Newton?
    Charles Darwin?
    Galileo Galilei?
    Francis Bacon?
    Alhazen?

    Well, he did play himself on Star Trek. None of those other guys have accomplished that. So… uhmm … ha!

  30. says

    “GOD’s Not Dead.”

    “He is dead. He’s deceased. He’s passed on. He is no more.”

    “Oh, no sir, he’s just pinin’ for the fjords.”

  31. birgerjohansson says

    “Wossname, bald actor plays a cop”

    Bruce Willis. My memory is as bad as that of the low-information voters.

    And Dean Cain joins the GOP as a libertarian. Later in the film there is a shootout between different factions of religious people over the interpretation of transsubstitution. Walker,Texas ranger says “shoot them all, let God sort them out” and goes berserk with his shotgun.

  32. leonardschneider says

    Oh, God’s not dead? I thought they said Punk’s Not Dead.

    So, did they name the professor “Goldberg” or “Epstein?”

    Eighty students, huh? Okay, one Christian© kid doesn’t sign the paper.
    Also, three Hindu students stand up and say, “God is dead? Which one?” and two Buddhists simply ask, “What god?” A couple of Unitarians point out that God is not a singular entity but a vague benevolent force, and is thus incapable of dying…. Or, for that matter, being truly “alive.” And a Zoroastrian in the back asks, “What half?”

    Blogs imitate life, or something like that. I’ve heard a few people talking about it over the last couple weeks, and every time I’ve been treated to a description, I’ve been responding back with, “Shit, sounds like a Chick tract on film.” And there goes Ed saying the same thing. I’d say Great Minds Think Alike, but ain’t no fuckin’ way I’d pretend I could outsmart Brayton face-to-face. Least I know my limits.

    Yeah, this movie is stuck on stupid. It sounds like character creation was done in the same manner as rolling up a character in Dungeons & Dragons (“Atheist? Chaotic Evil. Now roll a twenty-side to get his hit points”), and the basic premise is so paranoid and psychotic it taxes my willing suspension of disbelief to shreds. Seriously, a professor is gonna start off a semester with a stunt like that? (And call me nosy, but um, what is he a professor of? Oh, I forgot: in FundamentaLand, all them eggheads are completely interchangeable. You know, one semester a prof is teaching American Literature, the next he’s in the Geology lab.)

    I’ve gotta wonder what car wash the professor is now working at, because his career wouldn’t survive that prank, tenure or not. And the topic he had chosen would almost be an afterthought: almost immediately loud and violent arguments would break out over the nature of god; the overarching theme would be “Your church is full of shit!” The Catholics and Southern Baptists would come to blows, while the Evangelicals would be yelling “faggots!” at the Congregationalists, who would yell “fucking bigots!” back.

    Meanwhile, the Atheists, Agnostics, and Deists would be telling those fighting to shut the fuck up, don’t sign the goddamn paper — the Deists didn’t, all right? — and let the class (“Faking Comprehension of Nietzsche 101,” I guess) begin.

    Simply, in the real world, that class would be chaos, with no way of getting things calmed down. Nothing, not a damn thing, would get accomplished. It would be a real-life flame war. Just about every student would be going to their student counselors and saying, “Get me out of that class. Put me anywhere else, that classroom is a zoo. I will take the zero rather than attend one more day, much less through the semester.” After about 75 or so visits like this, the prof gets called in front of some kind of review board so they can ask him, “What the fucking fuck, man?” and “Why are you so dumb?” Professor, you purposely created a situation — he went with “God is dead;” other good ones would have been “The earth is 6,000 years old” or “Eugenics deserves another chance” — that was pretty much guaranteed to wreak havoc, tension, and discord in your classroom. All your students want to get away from you, as quickly as possible. You have provided no instruction because your classroom is like a passive-aggressive prison riot.

    So, we’ll be replacing you with a gibbon named “Bibsey.” Don’t worry, though, we’ve thought about your future: here’s a job application for the Scrub ‘n’ Suds out on Highway 14.

  33. pocketnerd says

    I’d still like to see a list of those 40-odd eeevil, Christian-persecuting court battles, just to see how much they’re willing to lie spin hyperbolize.

    And hey, if this will become a running franchise, maybe the sequel should be based on P.Z. the Dread Desecrator:

    The earnest young Real True Christian™ attends a small college in the midwest. On the first day of class, his biology professor (a malignant bearded man named Z.P. Meiers) desecrates a consecrated wafer. The entire class is horrified as gouts of human blood spray from the cracker — I’m talking Evil Dead levels of blood here — and a human voice screams in terrible pain. The professor’s assignment for the next day: Each student must bring the professor another wafer to desecrate. DUN DUN DUNNN.

    God’s Not Dead II: It’s Not Just A Freakin’ Cracker! Coming soon to a church basement near you.

  34. jnorris says

    I like the idea that somewhere an evangelical kid will see this movie with the church youth group. Later, s/he will go to a public university and take a philosophy class and freaks-out when the instructor actually teaches philosophy.

  35. Michael Heath says

    jnorris writes:

    I like the idea that somewhere an evangelical kid will see this movie with the church youth group. Later, s/he will go to a public university and take a philosophy class and freaks-out when the instructor actually teaches philosophy.

    That was me in a human anthropology class. I had no frickin’ clue on the amount of evidence and the stringency of the scientific process and degree of critical thinking being practiced; I’m still in a daze on that 30 years later.

    Except I knew I was being lied to in fundie-land and left at 18. I just didn’t know the incredible degree to which the lies and thinking had sunk. Of course it’s at least appears worse now given the rise of right wing media and the increased politicization of conservative Christianity.

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