The movie ‘God’s Not Dead’ portrays non-Christians as monsters and does a disservice to Christians.
I must admit that I missed the hype surrounding the movie ‘God’s Not Dead‘ when it had released in theaters. Today, after becoming aware that the movie released on DVD, I rented the film and took copious notes planning to — as an atheist — combat the negative stereotypes I knew were on display in this film.
Almost every identified non-Christian in the film including a businessman, a philosophy professor, a reporter, and a Muslim father is portrayed as a monster.
An atheistic businessman fails to provide directions to his significant other — following her GPS being stolen — saying ‘what is in it for me,’ calls his significant other ‘not just another pretty face,’ says — upon finding his significant other developed cancer — ‘can this wait until tomorrow’ showing a complete disregard for her well-being in addition to saying ‘you are changing our [relationship] agreement and breaking the deal.’ The businessman ridicules love saying that it is overused and implies that people who love need to ‘grow up.’ He also repeatedly ridicules an elderly woman diagnosed with dementia (both in and not in her presence) and explains that seeing her is a waste of time.
An atheistic philosophy professor takes delight in failing his Christian students, ridicules his Christian students in front of others, assigns a disproportionate amount of homework to his Christian students, tells a Christian student that he plans to prevent him from attaining a pre-law degree, has a romantic relationship with a current students, fails to acknowledge others’ feelings of grief, implies that atheists cannot have relationships with Christians, repeatedly ridicules his girlfriend in front of others, says life is “full of nothing,” and shows almost every sign of being closed-minded.
An atheistic reporter is unprofessional, asks loaded questions, ridicules people during her interviews, claims that people are offended because Christians pray, and has no answer for where she derives hope in her life.
A Muslim father abuses his daughter and kicks her out of his house — not before slapping her in the face two times — because she listens to Bible readings.
Christians too, although they are often portrayed as heroic throughout the movie, don’t receive a great shake. When a philosophy professor is stricken by a vehicle and is dying, one person suggests someone call an ambulance, but almost no attention besides this suggestion (no one on screen used a cell phone although, at various other parts in the movie, cell phones are shown) is paid to physical well-being. Instead, the mission is to convert — as if belief in the Christian god is like a lightswitch which could be turned on and off — a dying person and a scene of death is regaled as a “gift,” “God’s mercy,” “a cause for celebration” (because a conversion happened…although someone died), and “joy” (because someone was said to have entered Heaven.”
Christians advance extremely poor arguments and assertions throughout the movie: ‘no one can disprove God exists’ (swapping burden of proof, appeal to ignorance), ‘science is wrong [we can’t trust scientists because ideas were revised]’ (ignoring the fact that belief revision is a strength and a sign of progress rather than a weakness), ‘there is no credible explanation for the universe without appeals to god’ (another appeal to ignorance – just because something is unexplained does not mean we can assert God did it), ‘if the universe created you who created the universe’ (begging the question – one is assuming God created the universe while arguing for such a claim), appeals to [inappropriate] authority (rejecting claims Stephen Hawking — a non-philosopher — makes about philosophy does not undermine philosophy or arguments against theism), and so much more…
The atheistic philosophy professor — called an expert in his discipline by his peers — says he hates God (rather than saying, as the Christian later did, that he doesn’t hate God but rather doesn’t believe God exists because the reasons Christians provide are inadequate) and does not even provide an accurate definition of atheism (he says atheism is the belief that there is no god).
The movie ends, saying the film was inspired by stories of Christians being condemned because of their faith, and generally cast Christians as persecuted individuals. This movie, cast as a drama, is more accurately thought of as a fantasy – that Christians are continually persecuted for their religious beliefs in America (when this is actually not the case) and atheists are monsters.
Might the Christian viewers, failing to be critical of themes presented in the movie, walk away thinking that they may cannot and should not have loving relationships with atheists – people who, in the movie, severely mistreat their partners? The movie even references the Bible verse urging believers to not be “unequally yoked” with dark and wicked unbelievers.
Sadly, Christians possess negative stereotypes about atheists — many of them on display in this film — and these may translate to real-world situations (beliefs do impact actions after all). This film ironically vindicates atheists’ claims that religion is often harmful because it warps moral priorities and causes division.
Many atheists — contrary to the message of ‘God’s Not Dead’ — can and do live meaningful, hopeful, positive, healthy, thoughtful, motivated lives. Atheists can and do have love for others, maintain positive relationships, express empathy, help others in need, treat people with fairness regardless of their religious beliefs, and examine others’ beliefs with philosophical rigor.
If you’re interested in more worthwhile philosophical discussion than that which was on display in the movie, please consider reading David Hume’s classic “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion” (not to be confused with the non-existent piece ‘Problem of Induction’) and watching my debates and discussions with Christians who presented themselves far better than those in this movie. I can continue with my thoughts, but would rather not surpass 1000 words.
Consider also reading commentary on this film authored by Dr. David Kyle Johnson.
As always, feel free to comment below.