The Atheist Philosophy Professor Strikes Back! (Or, “You’re Right, God’s Not Dead, But He Will Be When I’m Done With Him!”)

UPDATED MAY 10, 2014: In response to the wide interest in my posts on this film, I am now challenging fans of the film (and offering theists and atheists of all stripes) to study with me, a real atheist philosophy professor. We will dig in to the real arguments for and against God, from real philosophers, theist and atheist. Check it out:

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Since I am both a philosophy professor and a professional atheist a lot of people have been sending me the trailer to the upcoming movie God’s Not Dead which brings to the big screen a million cringeworthy internet forwards to tell the tale of a brave young Christian intro philosophy student who stands up to a bullying atheist philosophy professor with a god complex (in more sense than one). After years of reading Christian revenge fantasies about people like me being humiliated by unbroken pieces of chalk, nonsensical linguistically equivocating young Albert Einsteins, and a United States marine who has a charming predilection for settling philosophical arguments with his fists, I figured I would give my pugilistic retort to the trailer of this film promising to give us atheist philosophers our big screen comeuppance (and so “mercifully” offer us salvation).

If I am viewing the trailer correctly, the core story can be pieced together with little work. The whole message the trailer (and I’m expecting the film) is aiming to Christians who feel intellectually embattled is abundantly clear: “All those intellectual arguments that you get from educated atheists, philosophers, and scientists are all just smokescreens for their emotional problems with God. Real science is on your side and they know it. They hate God in their hearts for some unfair reason. You have God in your heart and know about how wonderful he really is. So if you can just be brave and wave away all their excuses and confront them about why they really say they don’t believe in God, you can save them.”

It’s fascinating to see the Christian persecution complex project onto the screen a bizarro world of inverted reality. The philosophy classroom, which, outside of religious fearmongering, represents intellectual awakening, open-ended speculation, and personal liberation for so many is feared like the Roman coliseum. It represents tyranny and death to people like them. Why? Because for depressingly many Christians anyone who dares to apply the same standards of rigorous analysis to Christian beliefs that they would apply to any other truth claims about the world is trying to hurt them personally as Christians. Because it is so hard for them to separate their beliefs from their identity, anyone challenging their beliefs is challenging them as a person. They are their beliefs. There is no separation between heart and mind and person possible.

And, being bad at critical distance, they project their own personality onto others. The philosophy professor who challenges me must be doing so from his heart too. And did I say “challenges me”. Whoops. I meant challenges “God”. You know, close enough. Questioning the validity of my beliefs equals questioning me as a person. Since how one relates to ideas is inextricably an expression of a person’s heart, this professor must have his heart turned against me. Since God is basically my own inner voice and sense of self, this professor hates me and God together.

And so, how do we represent this? Explicitly we tell the tale of a professor who has personal animosity towards a student and his God. He is presented as an authoritarian bully because it would cause too much cognitive dissonance to show a student struggling with an honest, well-educated, charming opponent who simply had sincere, good reasons to challenge his faith, but was also openminded and curious in discussion. That would represent a scenario in which there were genuine choices here, one where the atheists and the doubting philosophers are thoughtful people with an alternative, plausible, earnestly developed narrative of the world and a spirit of egalitarian inquiry. That would imply that maybe they don’t need saving but are worth seeking out and that Christians might grow through dialogue with those who passionately and intelligently can disagree with them and challenge them.

No! We can’t have that! They’re wounded insecure petty people with broken hearts that cause them to bully others! As soon as they can be confronted with their hatred of God (and me!) they can be redeemed!

Of course the Christian in the story just wants people to decide for themselves! Hasn’t Christianity always been about thinking for yourself?! Just ask the Dark Ages! Or the Inquisition! Or John Calvin! Or all those universities that used to ferret out atheists and fire them! Or whoever made this movie where the philosophy classroom is presented, in Orwellian manner, as a place where people don’t really think for themselves but just lie because they hate God. And then go back to church and stop worrying their pretty little heads about “intellectual” matters once a bold Christian fearlessly gives them the Gospel.

In this story, it is the atheist philosophy professor who wants to dictate to people what to believe by fiat. Come on, everyone! No thinking, just write down that God is dead and let’s move on! (Nevermind that that’s the modus operandi of dogmatic faith—the very thing that Christianity has thrived on for centuries. Can we go back to the 18 years worth of scenes in this kid’s life where he was implored without evidence to simply believe in God? Can we go back to all the threats of what a terrible life living without God would entail? Can we show the scene where his Sunday School teacher threatened children with hell or where his parents made passing remarks about how terrible atheists were? Can we watch him swallow thousands of propositions dogmatically, by “faith”, and see how stifling he found that? In other words, can we be honest here? If we want to show a place where people are just told to believe and not ask questions, can we make it the place where that actually happens—the church–and not the place where all that training in fear and mental subservience is systematically undermined–the philosophy classroom?

But the best part of this bizarro world picture is our philosophy professor tyrant himself. He feels humiliated at any one who stands up to him, takes relish in the prospect of failing his insolent student who dares to question him, and literally calls himself a “god” and reveals that being god means being someone no one gets to stand up to (no matter how right they are!) because he can wield vindictive punishment at whim.

I love this because the philosophy professor, hilariously, is a condemnation of all the attitudes of another figure you may recognize. You know—the all powerful guy with the fragile ego who supposedly cannot tolerate anyone who disobeys him again? You know who I am talking about. He has a real god complex. He supposedly threw the first pair of humans out of paradise, cursed their children with sin and misery, and made childbearing excruciatingly painful all because they ate a fucking piece of fruit he told them not to and which would (horror of horrors!) let them know about good and evil for themselves? He will not stand to have anyone think for themselves! He demands people just assert things without any evidence, with no rational appeal to their intellect! If they don’t believe and write down what he tells them and love him for it, He relishes not just failing them but torturing them for eternity! He is a super petty, insecure, bully who stands for no insolent, humiliating disagreement or freedom of thought and thinks he can do whatever he wants because no one can check his power? Oh, wait! That’s right! It’s your God, Christians! Just seeing him brought to life in this perverted representation of a philosophy professor reminds me why I’m so relieved the bastard does not exist!

In real life–not in bizarro inverted Christian persecution complex land but in real life–throughout Western history the underdog hero of the freedom of conscience speaking up against dogmatists has routinely been the one challenging religious authoritarians and has been called a heretic, a blasphemer, a heathen, an apostate, a reprobate, and, worst of all, an atheist for it, time and time again. And among the greatest champions of freedom of thought and conscience have been philosophers, often defying the clergy and theologians of their day as much as the theocratic ages they lived in would allow. It always has been this way, all the way back to when they put Socrates to death on a charge of atheism for daring to force the powerful people of his day to give coherent, rational accounts of what they believed (and exposing they couldn’t).

Finally, the attempt to evade the intellectual issues and make this about the philosophy professor’s heart is absurd. More than 83% of philosophy faculty and philosophy PhDs are not theists. Nearly 70% either lean to or outright accept atheism. Less than 12% outright accept theism and only more 4.7% just lean towards it. This is not a grand conspiracy of people trying to suppress their true belief in the Christian God whom they hate so much for killing their parents with cancer when they were 12. A good many philosophers couldn’t care less about the God question. And none of the atheist ones I have ever met are afraid and trembling with a quivering lip, in fear of humiliation, at the prospect of a student questioning their position on God. Like, we do this for a living. You don’t scare us. And hardly any of us see it as our job to make you into atheists. Our job is to train you to be able to think about philosophical issues. It’s not to coddle you in your prejudices, nor to give you new prejudices. It’s just about thinking.

The idea that any representative sample of atheist philosophers is filled with people who got into philosophy precisely to suppress and deny what they thought to be true about basic reality is a joke. Psychologically it makes no sense. Who would go into philosophy secretly believing in God just to pretend they don’t believe in it? Presumably while knowing they would have to try to sell this lie semester after semester to intro students (or maybe even their peers if their work touches on God related concepts)? The kind of self-torture and denial you think these hurting philosophy professors must be subjecting themselves to could only be plausible if you narcissistically assume that their whole minds revolve around your faith and its concerns.

Sure, some people come to atheistic realizations for emotional reasons. And they have every right to. It is a destructive lie to tell people that a supernatural benevolent omnipotent being is on their side and they can just pray to Him for help whenever they need it and He will take care of them. If they are disillusioned and traumatized when that being doesn’t stop billions of people from starving to death, hundreds of millions from dying in genocides, or themselves from being raped, molested as children, or stripped of the people they love in their youth, they have every right to be angry—not at the non-existent God they were misled to believe in but at the people who sold them a fairy tale that didn’t prepare them for reality.

They also have every right to be morally appalled and disgusted at religious people who could trivialize the immense amount of pointless and gut wrenching waste and suffering that humans (and not to mention other animals!) endure by saying it’s all redeemed and consistent with the existence of a morally perfect being! That willful warping of one’s morality to imagine that a morally perfect being could deliberately be behind a world with so much horror for so many people and animals is disturbing. That’s not itself a refutation of the existence of God but it is strong evidence of the absence of moral seriousness on the part of people desperate to believe in Him.

“Aha!” You say, “See, atheistic philosophy professor, you really are emotionally just against God!” No, I used to be a Christian like you and I loved it. It was gut wrenching for me to just realize intellectually that the belief system was bankrupt. Then to realize how corrupt its ethical core was in so many ways. The anger came later. It is not at an imaginary being. My anger is at the institutional and intellectual sway that the rotten spirit of dogmatism and authoritarianism have over billions of people. It’s the same thing you hate in the specter of the philosophy professor that you gleefully want to see get his comeuppance in those pathetic e-mails you forward and this pathetic revenge fantasy movie based on them. I just saw, after seven years of trying to be the kid who shows the evil atheist philosophers up by using reason against them, who the real authoritarian liars were and where reason really pointed.

Finally–science supports God? Can you back that up, filmmakers with some actual scientific journal articles “supporting” God? Because the 93% of scientists in the elite National Academy of Sciences who are atheists really should be caught up to speed on those findings! The full half of rank and file scientists who happen to be atheists and the 18% who only believe in a “universal spirit” rather than “God” also need your qualified advice too! Oh yeah, and the half of all psychologists that are atheists and 11% more that are agnostics. They need your dramatic education too.

Oh that’s right, all these highly qualified intellectuals are just covering up for their wicked, God-hating hearts. Ever since that Garden of Eden people who have wanted to know things are just disobedient God-haters. They’re the ones in denial. Not you who know with your hearts.

Yeah, that makes sense of everything.

For more, read about how my atheism affects my philosophy class. And then take a philosophy class with me, online, In response to the wide interest in my posts on this film either for one month (June 2014) or for three months (summer 2014). Check it out.

 

UPDATE April 6, 2014: After seeing the film, I found much more to analyze about it, so I have also written these other reviews of the film:

How God’s Not Dead Makes Christians Look Even Worse Than Atheists 
What Makes Evangelicals So Intolerable
Final Thoughts Inspired by “God’s Not Dead”: What Makes Some Evangelicals So Intolerable

And here is the table of contents to my nearly exhaustive 13,000 word treatment of everything the film says or implies about philosophy for any apologists impressed with the film to grapple with. If you just want to read my much shorter criticisms of a few particular portions of the film, you can use the table of contents that I wrote for the long post to find where I address just the topic of interest to you.

1. Introduction
2. The Hypocrisy of Christian Statements of Faith
3. Why Leaving Theology Out of Philosophy Isn’t Persecuting Students
4. Philosophy Is Not Authority Based The Way Theology Is
5. The Students in the Movie Already Believed in God 
6. How I Graded Religious Students Who Disagreed With Me
7. Demanding Philosophical Reasons For Religious Beliefs Is Not Religious Persecution 
8. Arguments Over Cosmology (God vs. Naturalistic Eternalism)
9. Creating A Strawman of Philosophers is a Lazy Copout 
10. Why Do Christians Say Atheists Disbelieve for Emotional Reasons?
11. Who Really Are the Humble Ones More Likely to Say “I Don’t Know”? The Christians or the atheists?
12. Why Do Some Atheists Say They Do Know There’s No God? Are Atheists Hypocritically People of Faith Too? 
13. If Antitheists Are Bad People, Evangelicals Are Downright Awful 
14. If Professor Radisson’s A Bad Guy, The Christian God is the Worst Possible Bad Guy
15. God of the Gaps and the Origin of Life
16. How Science and Philosophy Vindicate Metaphysical Naturalism and the Existence of Religious Scientists Doesn’t Vindicate Theism
17. Why Explaining Evolution with God is Anti-Science
18. Is Philosophy Dead?
19. Why The Film Didn’t Actually Care About Proving God’s Existence
20. The Problem of Evil
21. The Appeal to Need for Absolute Morality

Your Thoughts?

(P.S. It is an honor that the filmmakers, when choosing an actor to play a philosophy professor went with the guy who was fit to play Hercules. I like to think this was typecasting. Hey–this also makes me realize, maybe when Professor Radisson says that there’s a god in the classroom and it’s him, he’s revealing he really is Hercules and the angry-mannered philosophy professor is just his real life alias! Maybe there’s more to this movie than the trailer let’s on and I’ve prejudged it unfairly…)

Your Thoughts?

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Adjel

    I thought the kid said his name was Joss Whedon (it’s Josh Wheaton). lol! Sorbo is a Christian, so I’m sure he jumped at the chance to play an “angry atheist.” Makes me ill watching this.

  • https://twitter.com/ZJSimon ZJSimon

    “Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”

  • ajbuffl

    Burst out laughing over this silly trailer and needed to read an educated review. This one was excellent. Makes me miss my college and grad school philosophy courses! Like the legends of the West, the inverted truth where the victims are the perpetrators (Native Americans) is alive and well in this movie trailer. Thanks for the amusing perspective. Sad that knowledge and intellectual exploration/growth is so threatening to many religious people.

  • AJ Brady

    I think everyone needs to be a lot more tolerant of one another. Everyone has the right to believe in what is best for themselves. Frankly any philosophy teacher that can’t open the box and see that traditions are important to people is not much of a philosopher in my book. Spirituality is quite important to peace in most societies.

  • Tammy Campbell

    This article supports my observation that most Atheists are ANGRY. It’s worth mentioning that Albert Einstein believed in God, and that didn’t make him stupid. In fact, of all the spiritual beliefs, he said that he was most fascinated with the Nazarene. See an article about Einstein and faith from Time magazine: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1607298,00.html

    • Weston Garber

      Wrong on all accounts.

    • Barristan Selmy

      “This article supports my observation that most Atheists are ANGRY. It’s worth mentioning that Albert Einstein believed in God”

      It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it-Albert Einstein

    • Anna

      Why are atheists so angry? Starting at 5:30, this pretty much sums it up: http://youtu.be/GUI_ML1qkQE?t=5m30s
      Bet it never occurred to you that we might actually have good reason to be angry.
      In case you don’t watch until the end or at all, she ends by noting that the vast majority of the reasons for atheist anger have nothing to do with anyone’s god that we don’t believe in and EVERYTHING to do with injustices committed against religious people. Yep, you heard that right.

  • Cantharellus

    “In my opinion the Christian faith has a
    lot more facts to support it then evolution or other ideas of the
    beginning of time, because the Bible has no contradictions or
    anything else to prove it wrong”

    Um, yes it does. If you consider the Bible to be proof in and of itself, then every other religious document would deserve to be considered the same way from the Quran in Islam, the Vedas in Hinduism, or the Eddas of Norse mythology. Just because you were born to a family that taught you one of them does not make any of your teachings true.

    Then you get to science, which you clearly have no understanding of. It does indeed prove again and again that many writings within the Bible are completely wrong. It is not persecuting you or judging you, it is simply showing through scientific method that much in the Bible is incorrect.

    In the USA science is under attack far more than Christians are. We have gone from a leader in reading, science and math to below average when compared to other developed countries. We have a broken education system and an economy that supports bringing in foreign engineers and scientists to fill job positions because our people are NOT up to task when it comes to math and science. I could go on, but it’s depressing to think how much Christian fundamentalism and anti-intellectualism has hurt this country in the last 30 years.

    The only persecution of Christians comes from within them and their unwillingness to listen to other information that may not fit within their fundamentalist understanding of their sacred text.

  • https://kingofchapterone.wordpress.com/ nomoredevil

    As a long time Christian and former conservative evangelical, can I just say…I’m sorry so many of my fellow Christians are such douches?

  • briancarnell

    The first philosophy class I had in college in the 1980s had two Muslims in it the first day. “This will be interesting,” I thought. Nope…they dropped the class specifically because the issue of whether or not god exists would be a topic of the class.

    • Anna

      Same here. I’m a philosophy major and I had a class in which the topic was death. On the first day the professor simply said that, for the purposes of covering the subject in a 10-week quarter, we wouldn’t be taking into consideration any form of an afterlife (since there are so many), but would simply be assuming nonexistence after death. She didn’t say we needed to believe this was the case, we just needed to assume it for the sake of argument. Two girls wearing burkas never showed up again as well as a good chunk of the rest of the class.

  • Ron Stanford

    Atheism is the bloodiest religion (and, yes, it’s a religion. Agnostics are the ones with no religion) in world history. In the 20th Century alone, Atheists slaughtered roughly 90 million innocent souls. Atheists don’t care to talk the unprecedented evil they committed in the past. Their respond to criticism of their vicious behavior today is largely limited to ridicule.

    To my mind, the strongest real life argument for the existence of God is to watch how low people who have turned their back on their Creator sink.

    • LWMT

      How do you define atheist and agnostic? One reason that it seems like atheists have so much blood on their hands is because people confuse all atheists with communists. One luxury that Christians have is that anyone who represents them poorly can be dismissed as not real Christians. During WWII the evil people were Nazis, not Christians.
      That being said, most Christians are good people. Most atheists are good people. I’m deeply discouraged by this movie which I think promotes the idea that atheists hate Christians and are mad at their God. I am interested to know what you mean by how low nonbelievers have gone.

    • Ron Stanford

      >How do you define atheist and agnostic?>

      An Atheist believes there is no God, while an Agnostic hasn’t made up his or her mind.

      > One reason that it seems like atheists have so much blood on their hands is because people confuse all atheists with communists.>

      No, the reason Atheism seem to have so much blood on their hands is because it is more violent than all the other religions … combined!

      Atheism was the official state religion of the Soviet Union. It was written in the Constitution that only Atheists could hold office.

      Until Atheism comes to terms with its past, it will never be able to grow as a mature religion.

      >One luxury that Christians have is that anyone who represents them poorly can be dismissed as not real Christians.>

      Since when? Christians continue to be chastised for the Spanish Inquisition and Galileo centuries after the date. All of Catholicism was smeared by the Pedophile priests.

      >During WWII the evil people were Nazis, not Christians.>

      1. Not to hear professional Atheists tell the tale. After all, SS members had the word “Gott” on their belt buckles.

      2. While Hilter himself mouthed support for Christianity when it was politically expedient, all of this top people were Atheists.

      >I’m deeply discouraged by this movie which I think promotes the idea that atheists hate Christians and are mad at their God.>

      I’d discouraged when people call me fat. Doesn’t make it any less true, though.

    • LWMT

      Atheism has to do with beliefs. Atheists don’t see evidence for god so they don’t believe in a god. Agnosticism has to do with knowledge. Agnostics don’t know if there is a god. I am an agnostic atheist. I don’t know but also don’t see evidence for a god. Atheism was promoted in the Soviet Union because the communists didn’t want any religion to get in the way of allegiance to the state. To say their actions were completely motivated by atheism doesn’t tell the whole story. What do you think atheism would look like as a mature religion? Do you think atheists are mad at the Christian God? Are they secret believers? In what way have nonbelievers sunk so low?

    • Ron Stanford

      >Atheism has to do with beliefs. Atheists don’t see evidence for god so they don’t believe in a god.>

      Which is their right. Mazel Tov.

      > Atheism was promoted in the Soviet Union because the communists didn’t want any religion to get in the way of allegiance to the state.>

      It wasn’t “promoted”. It was mandated. Offenders were grabbed in the middle of the night and thrown onto a cattle car, where they wound up in death camps.

      > To say their actions were completely motivated by atheism doesn’t tell the whole story.>

      I’m not particularly interested in hearing the Nazi’s reasons for the Holocaust, either.

      >What do you think atheism would look like as a mature religion?>

      Not rounding up people of faith and throwing them into death camps would be nice. Celebrating what they believe, rather than defining themselves through hatred of others would be a real start too. But, like the question “how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?”, the world may never know.

      >Do you think atheists are mad at the Christian God?>

      I can only judge how they act, not what’s in their hears.

      Trying to drive The Little Sisters of the Poor out of business comes to mind.

      >Are they secret believers? In what way have nonbelievers sunk so low?>

      The fact that you can’t bring yourself to condemn the actions of Atheists who ran Death Camps.

    • LWMT

      Every major religion has a bloody past. God helps people live a moral life, except when he doesn’t.

    • Ron Stanford

      >Every major religion has a bloody past. >

      NO religion has a past nearly as bloody as the Atheists. Nobody. Indeed, when it comes to murdering innocent people – Atheists in the 20th Century alone are bloodier than all the other religions throughout history – COMBINED!

    • LWMT

      Show me the evidence.

    • Ron Stanford

      >Show me the evidence.>

      Be glad to.

      http://www.amazon.com/Black-Book-Communism-Crimes-Repression/dp/0674076087/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395786303&sr=1-1&keywords=the+black+book+of+communism

      How is it possible that this is new information to you. The Atheists murdered about 8 people for every one killed in the Nazi holocaust. How is it possible that you didn’t know this?

    • Ron Stanford

      >God helps people live a moral life, except when he doesn’t.>

      When you turn your back on God, you lose the right to blame Him for the world’s problems.

    • LWMT

      Show me the evidence that atheism and not communism is responsible for that. And what does it really matter? Is Christianity really so morally superior? Christians have plenty of blood on their hands. And they believe in an even bloodier God.

    • Ron Stanford

      >Show me the evidence that atheism and not communism is responsible for that.>

      To be a member of the Communist Party, it was mandatory to officially renounce God. Atheists were solely in charge when the holocausts (note, holocaust is plural) happened. No amount of word games is going to change that fact.

      >And what does it really matter?>

      What…difference … does … the … slaughter … of … about …100,000,000 … innocent … souls … make?

      Really?

      This is what happens when people reject God and there is no soul. If a person is no more important that a piece of wood, soon they’ll be treated like a piece of wood. BTW, fun fact – turns out a British hospital is using the bodes of unborn children to heat its building.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10717566/Aborted-babies-incinerated-to-heat-UK-hospitals.html

      “And what does it really matter?

      > Is Christianity really so morally superior?>

      A million times YES! When a Christian King went out of control, at one point or another, someone would grab him by the front of his bloody shirt, point to the bodies of the dead children and scream “is this what Christ wanted?”

      What does one say to Stalin? “And you call yourself an Atheist?” “Jah. What of it?” “Just asking.”

      No matter how vicious the behavior, a rejector of God will always remain an Atheist in good standing.

      > Christians have plenty of blood on their hands.>

      Agreed. Many Christians have fallen far from the glory of God. And Christians have worked to make amends. And what you YOU guys done to repent?

      Until Atheists stop defending their history of genocides with “technically, we’re not actually a religion so we get a pass” or “whose to say when Atheism ends, and Communism begins” I’m really not all that interested in your wagging finger. Remove the plank from your own eye.

      God gives life, God takes it away. The Atheists just take away. .

  • Victoria Redman

    Well, I know you USED to be a Christian and all, so the kid didn’t write down “God is dead” because it would be denying Christ who died so yeah.

  • Jamison Brown

    Mr Fincke – Let me first say that I appreciate having intelligent conversation regarding philosophy, ideology, and theology. I admire your candor in your blog and it is commendable to stand up for your beliefs. I have no dog in the fight, so to speak, so I am merely positing a question. I have just seen the movie in question, and as a professed Christian, all I can say is that it is absolutely harmless. If anything, I would say it is superbly delicate in depicting its characters. When anger is displayed, it is subtle. The Christian characters and the atheist characters display the same subtle anger. There are no perfect characterizations in the film, to be sure, but also not perfect characters. It is a flawed piece of work, just like every film ever made (I could make a case that Ghostbusters is perfect, but that is a different discussion). I am not predisposed against your supposition, nor would I try to convert you on your own blog. The inquisition and all such forces of belief are wrong and subvert free will which is ultimately what I believe creation is about in the first place. I respect your position but when I read this article, and subsequently many of the comments, it read very angry. As someone who does not personally know anyone who posts here, I am confused about the anger, if indeed it exists. It is hard to know context and tone when reading, so I could be way off base. From the reading, it seems like you and many of the repliers (or someone that you/they know) may have had a bad experience either with a church or specific Christians, as we all have. Or it could be perceptions based on national stories about what Christians have done. If I am wrong on that, I welcome your response. If I am right, as someone who believes, I have definitely been mistreated by Christians in my life as well. And Budhists, and Muslims, and atheists, etc. The problem has never been Christ, but rather the people trying to follow him. And while this film could certainly be the child of Christians who felt persecuted for their beliefs, it is also possible that it is not. And if it is, it is the work of flawed people, just like the work any of us do. And I ask, how is your response to the film any different than that of the persecuted Christians? Either way, again, I respect your position and the manner in which you delivered it. I look forward to reading more of your blog and kudos on the dialogue.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      I am confused about the anger, if indeed it exists. It is hard to know context and tone when reading, so I could be way off base. From the reading, it seems like you and many of the repliers (or someone that you/they know) may have had a bad experience either with a church or specific Christians, as we all have.

      Is that what I said, Mr. Brown? I notice you don’t actually address the content of what I said. You changed the subject. You made up for me an imaginary reason for rejecting Christianity and being angry. Why did you do that? Is that listening? Is it starting a dialogue with me to ignore what I said and project into me the script of what people tell you atheists think or why we feel as we do?

      I am happy to dialogue with you, Mr. Brown. Let’s begin with you writing a reply that explains why something I actually said is incorrect. Let’s begin with you reading what I actually said and using it to figure out the mystery of what makes me angry. Read the post and tell me what makes me angry in your own words based on my own words and then we can talk. And if you sincerely want to learn about my reasons for leaving Christianity you can read plenty about my story here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/dans-deconversion/

      And do not be insincere. You would love to convert me. There’s no need to lie about that here. I don’t take your desire for me to become a Christian as equivalent to the inquisition until you start persecuting me with torture or threats to my livelihood or my well being, etc. For so long as you want to just change my mind, I’m happy to engage. I am interested in deconverting you. You’re interested in converting me. Let’s be honest. Put our cards on the table and not force each other against our consciences.

      So, if you would like a dialogue. Please re-read my post and see if you can tell me why I am actually angry, what my criticisms of your faith are, and why my perceptions are incorrect on the merits or not cause for anger on the merits. If you do so, I’ll respond to your replies with a blog post soon.

    • Jamison Brown

      Thanks Mr. Fincke for taking the time out to respond. I know that this is an old post and since you are a professor, I am sure time is a valuable resource for you. I would first say that I was not trying to change the subject or deflect. I am also not wanting to convert you. I honestly and truly think that I cannot/should not ever try to do something like that with someone to whom I am not acquainted and am not in the same circle with. If we were friends, I would share my life with you, which includes my personal story of what Jesus and God did for me. I think it is not helpful or effective to do that outside of the context of a real relationship with a person.

      With all that being said, I suppose my perception of the post and subsequently some of the comments was based on the fact that it seems that the fact that this film exists may bother you and some of your readers. Correct me if I am wrong, but your thesis seems to be that the plot of the film is not only not plausible, but dangerously filled with inaccuracies. The sense I got from your post was that you were concerned that a film like this would perpetuate the concept of “religious fear-mongering” and the “Christian persecution complex”. Granted that the trailer could certainly lead a person to believe that this was the effort of the film. My point in asking the question about anger was because I wanted to understand if you indeed were upset that a film like this exists and to understand why that might be. Also, having seen the film, certainly through the Christianity lens, it did not come across as either of those two aforementioned terms. Have you watched it in its entirety?

    • http://www.geekexile.com/ Brian Fields

      Dan covered that quite succinctly WHY it’s dangerous. It provides a rather offensive stereotype of nonbelievers, and bolsters that opinion to believers who go watch this movie.

      Dan did see the movie and offered a full review here:

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2014/03/how-gods-not-dead-makes-christians-look-even-worse-than-atheists/

    • Derpington_The_Third

      “I respect your position but when I read this article, and subsequently many of the comments, it read very angry.”

      Well, people do tend to sigh and get annoyed when actual films crop up that are made on a sham premise.

      The rest of your response reads like you’re naive and just beat around the bush (I do not mean to be disrespectful, this is an observation).

    • Jamison Brown

      Derpington, thanks for taking the time to respond. I was not trying to beat around the bush at all. Mr. Fincke recently responded to my post and in my response to his response (could not think of a less circular sentence here, my apologies) I said really my only intention was to understand more clearly why he felt this film could be/is harmful. It seemed to me from the original post that he was upset that this film exists. Again, I could be totally off base. I understand the scientific concerns, but to be frank, science can neither prove nor disprove that God exists.

      Some of Hawking’s work regarding the spontaneous creation theory was refuted by Lennox. Dr. Gerald Schroeder, noted former MIT professor, also has written some things that show how scientific theory actually supports creation. So if science cannot sufficiently prove one way or the other and we remove that argument, what are the other major points to object to this film?

      Mr. Fincke mentioned characterizations and their plausibility. If this is the next major concern, I was just curious if those impressions were based solely on the trailer or upon having seen the film. Granted, its a movie so it will be embellished. It is a work of fiction, not based on actual events, but at the very end of the film, it states that it was inspired by several cases within universities. It does list those cases in the beginning of the closing credits. Most films are a work of fiction but are inspired by real life scenarios and events. What makes this film any more or less contentious than say The Shawshank Redemption?

      Again, this film is a dramatization, but based on the lives of the characters in the film and the back stories provided, I thought it was plausible that they may have ended up where they did. Has this ever really happened to the degree it is depicted; I could not say. I doubt it, but I think it is possible. It would probably take perfect circumstances (like the ones in the script) which we know may never happen. But ultimately that isn’t what I took the point of the film to be. I think it was merely to be an encouragement to Christians. A way of saying God does care about you in your life, no matter where you are. I definitely did not get the sense that we should stand up against persecution.

      I hope that clears up my perception and I did not sound condescending or anything. I really do respect and appreciate differing viewpoints. I think these kinds of conversations are really the best way for us to grow as people.

    • Derpington_The_Third

      I think science easily can disprove that a deity exists. It seems rather odd that theists believe in an entity that has never provided evidence that it is in fact supernatural.

      I’m not talking about loose connections made with sophomoric logic either.

    • Jamison Brown

      Derpington, thanks again for responding. I appreciate the dialogue. I want to address a few of your points and I will try to do it as concisely as possible.

      First, I only posted here because I assumed it would be a place where intelligent conversation could happen in a respectful manner. I appreciate that we do not have similar moralistic perspectives, but I do ask that we remain on a respectful track.

      Second, I am not a scientist. Mathematics and science were not my areas of expertise in school, so my attempts to explain certain concepts could certainly be sophomoric. I leave science to scientists, which is why I mentioned Lennox and Schroeder. They are both Phd level scientists/mathematicians. The work of Schroeder, particularly in his book The Science of God, is mathematically complex. He discusses anything from relativity and gravity to carbon dating and evolution. I would challenge you to read his book. That would be the only fair way to determine if his work is sophomoric.

      Third, I expressed that, after having seen the film, the plot could be plausible, but I qualified that by saying it was based on the character back stories supplied and the situations depicted. I also mentioned that I did not think that this scenario would play out in real life. It would be dependent on too many things lining up perfectly. It is a work of fiction and like any work of fiction, it is not likely it would occur in the real world in the way it is depicted. I could mention any number of films to make this point, but I dont think that is necessary. I also don’t think your assessment of the message of the film is accurate based on having seen it. As I mentioned to Mr. Fincke, my perception of the film’s message as a whole to simply be that for Christian’s, we can have hope because God is with us in every circumstance in our lives. What is wrong with a message of hope? Isn’t this the same message films like Invictus or Breaveheart offer, albeit for different people groups and different situations? Again, don’t take my word for it. I challenge you to see the film and judge for yourself.

    • Derpington_The_Third

      I have seen it, it really was not that good.

      Apologies if I sounded crass with my replies (I get them a lot, so I try to get quick to the point)

      Edit:

      “Second, I am not a scientist. Mathematics and science were not my areas of expertise in school, so my attempts to explain certain concepts could certainly be sophomoric. I leave science to scientists, which is why I mentioned Lennox and Schroeder. They are both Phd level scientists/mathematicians. The work of Schroeder, particularly in his book The Science of God, is mathematically complex. He discusses anything from relativity and gravity to carbon dating and evolution. I would challenge you to read his book. That would be the only fair way to determine if his work is sophomoric.”

      Schroeder is a Physicist, not a Mathematician. He is not a PhD in Biology, Geology, or various other scientific fields. He has not published research that has been published by scientific journals ever since he got his PhD in 1965.

      I wouldn’t consider that relevant by any discussion. His page on Evolution doesn’t even get the basic biology right. It’s quite easy to knock away things one doesn’t understand.

      If you’re not a scientist (which I doubt, because everyone’s curious about something they don’t know), then go read science books, go read research papers, and see where the evidence points.

    • Derpington_The_Third

      “Some of Hawking’s work regarding the spontaneous creation theory was refuted by Lennox.”

      I wasn’t aware that Stephen Hawking was the sole proprietor of scientific thought.

      “Dr. Gerald Schroeder, noted former MIT professor, also has written some things that show how scientific theory actually supports creation.”

      Such as, what, exactly? Also, there is no reason for “noted former MIT professor” to be in that sentence, it turns it into an argument from authority.

      “So if science cannot sufficiently prove one way or the other and we remove that argument, what are the other major points to object to this film?”

      The feigned victim complex? The obviously fake criteria to say “God is dead” to pass a philosophy class? Did you even bother to watch the movie? This movie is cringeworthy and awful, and not just for its poor god arguments that have populated philosophy books since time immemorial.

      Whether or not this movie is based on supposedly real life events, why would anyone make a video on it? It’s completely asinine. It’s just a circlejerk movie that believers made because they can’t stop circlejerking. Both sides do it, the believers are generally the worst offenders because their repertoire is a lot bigger.

  • Alabaster

    Amen and Amen! Most of the posts here seem quite hypocritical. Becoming the very thing they claim to be against.

  • Derpington_The_Third

    William Lane Craig’s contribution to philosophy is that he revived the Kalam long enough for people to get annoyed and go out and kill it again.

    Remember, old arguments were made back when we didn’t have access to the information we do now.

  • Colby Dupree

    I’m pretty sure that this guy has no idea what he is talking about as far as Christianity goes, if he used as much time trying to learn more about Christianity and stop lying to himself and others about it as much as he does trying to prove that god does not exist and convincing others of it, then maybe he would get out of denial and face the fact that God does exist. If he would watch the movie God is NOT dead. It covers every arguement that any atheist has had. And puts them in their place.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      It covers every arguement that any atheist has had. And puts them in their place.

      Hmmm. I saw the movie and I didn’t see “every argument that any atheist has ever had” presented. This makes me think you have “no idea what you are talking about as far as atheism goes”.

      And I certainly didn’t see any atheist arguments “put in their place.” But maybe I missed the compelling aspects of the arguments. Why don’t you explain them to me so we can consider if they’re valid together. What arguments did you find persuasive and why?

    • Derpington_The_Third

      Uh oh I better get the butter for my popcorn this might be good! :)

  • Colby Dupree

    I’m pretty sure that this guy has no idea what he is talking about as far as Christianity goes, if he used as much time trying to learn more about Christianity and stop lying to himself and others about it as much as he does trying to prove that god does not exist and convincing others of it, then maybe he would get out of denial and face the fact that God does exist. If he would watch the movie God is NOT dead. It covers every arguement that any atheist has had. And puts them in their place and shows them they’re invalid arguments

    • LWMT

      If you are trying to bring people to Christ you are doing it in a really abrasive way.

    • Derpington_The_Third

      I’ll stick with the professor of philosophy vs some tween who takes selfies in the mirror who probably doesn’t even know the difference between Plato or Socrates and what works they did and how they are significant.

    • Dorfl

      I’m pretty sure that this guy has no idea what he is talking about as far as Christianity goes […]

      Dan used to be a Christian. You can read about his deconversion here:

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/dans-deconversion/

  • Matthew Stobber

    Such an amazing article. It conveys so much of what I have experience recently in my life. The combination of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens has really opened my eyes to a lot of things coming from a Christian upbringing. I used to study Christian apologetic because I have always been an intellectual(I am a software engineer by trade), and the arguments seemed really good at the time. Then I started studying more of the atheistic arguments, and really observing reality, and things started to fall apart. And then being told by MANY Christians that evolution and Christianity are not compatible, what can one say? If the bible made a claim about the earth being flat, how dogmatic would one have to be in this day and age to believe the bible over, I dunno, the international space station orbiting the round earth.

    We know that a global flood never happened(Goodbye Noah?), and that there were no “first humans”, but a gradual evolution (Goodbye Adam?). So all of the books where Christians are using them to “show” the character of God are based off of things that didn’t happen. And if those events didn’t happen, then what are the chances God actually said what he said in those books?

    Sorry for the mini rant. Awesome article Dan. You phrased a lot of things very beautifully and succinctly. Thank you!

  • Matthew Stobber

    “2. Apologetics is the art of being superficially reasonable; of making arguments whose flaws are only detectable with specialised knowledge. ”

    That is beautifully put, and it took me a long time to see through those apologetic arguments.

  • http://flamingfundamentalist.blogspot.com/ Curt Day

    I have been a Christian Fundamentalist for most of my life. But I am also an anti-Capitalist Leftist and I felt that the movie targeted Leftists more than philosophy professors and that’s one of the things that bothered me.

    But in business terms, the movie plays to a certain audience, to most of my fellow believers, and thus should be financially successful. The movie allows for the Christian audience to vicariously engage in self-aggrandizement and this is done both in the portrayal of persecution and in defeating the professor at his own game. As a Christian, that bothered me as well but most of the audience applauded in approval.

    BTW, God’s Not Dead is not a movie I would recommend to anyone. But I am looking forward to seeing the upcoming movie on Cesar Chavez.

  • Patrick Williams

    I have only one negative thing to say about this post. And I’m actually a theological Christian (in a sense) so though the typical person would expect me to have a lot more than one issue with these ideas, I don’t.

    And that one thing, Flicke, is the inability to remain impartial. I completely respect atheists and their ideas, simply because I love philosophy, ideology, etc. So I actually do have a rather open-mind about this subject. I saw the movie, and I agree that there are some generalizations that are untrue, and definitely are common misconceptions about atheist. And that some atheist stereotypes are unfair. It seemed like Flicke disliked the generalizations made about atheists (all hating god, etc). However, Flicke did have some statements that were quite generalizing all Christians as being close-minded, reluctant to not believe, or desiring to banish atheists from places.

    I, myself, am probably open-minded to the point of it being a flaw. And as a believer in God, I can say I was on the fence for a long time. Just because philosophy and apologetics is teeming with sophisticated arguments and opinions. So I can respect any idea. And def don’t want to banish atheism. And I know several others out there like me. So it’s hard to take Flicke seriously about generalizations when the post itself is generalizing.

    One other thing…. It’s a small thing but nonetheless…. Why is it EVERY time, from theists to atheists, always post their beliefs as 100% fact. And basically incriminating and condescending if you don’t agree. I imagine some people believe that helps heir argument if they bully you into siding with them. But it’s nothing but bothersome and annoying from both sides.

    Oh and ps… I would love to debate any atheist out there… Haven’t met anyone who can counter my ideas. Not saying it’s impossible though. :)

    • Dorfl

      (Psst. Dan’s last name is Fincke, not Flicke)

      What is it you’d like to debate atheists about?

  • Patrick Williams

    I have only one negative thing to say about this post. And I’m actually a theological Christian (in a sense) so though the typical person would expect me to have a lot more than one issue with these ideas, I don’t.

    And that one thing, Flicke, is the inability to remain impartial. I completely respect atheists and their ideas, simply because I love philosophy, ideology, etc. So I actually do have a rather open-mind about this subject. I saw the movie, and I agree that there are some generalizations that are untrue, and definitely are common misconceptions about atheist. And that some atheist stereotypes are unfair. It seemed like Flicke disliked the generalizations made about atheists (all hating god, etc). However, Flicke did have some statements that were quite generalizing all Christians as being close-minded, reluctant to not believe, or desiring to banish atheists from places.

    I, myself, am probably open-minded to the point of it being a flaw. And as a believer in God, I can say I was on the fence for a long time. Just because philosophy and apologetics is teeming with sophisticated arguments and opinions. So I can respect any idea. And def don’t want to banish atheism. And I know several others out there like me. So it’s hard to take Flicke seriously about generalizations when the post itself is generalizing.

    One other thing…. It’s a small thing but nonetheless…. Why is it EVERY time, from theists to atheists, always post their beliefs as 100% fact. And basically incriminating and condescending if you don’t agree. I imagine some people believe that helps heir argument if they bully you into siding with them. But it’s nothing but bothersome and annoying from both sides.

    Oh and ps… I would love to debate any atheist out there… Haven’t met anyone who can counter my ideas. Not saying it’s impossible though. :)

  • Pluto Animus

    It’s hilarious — read the comments below that are written by Christians.

    Every post is written in fifth-grade style, and virtually every sentence begins with the word “I”.

    Such pathetic narcissists!