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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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • ArachneS

    Even when I was a religion immersed teenager(who forwarded many many bogus emails onward because email was new and cool and “omigosh this must be true”…lol), the “student proves philosophy prof wrong and he runs out of the room” stories seemed kind of hokey.
    I mean, a piece of chalk? Really? That is all it takes? Although, to be fair, I was raised in a catholic family and went to years of catholic school that always harped on how catholics were right because we make the most sense, and theology saints and philosophy saints had our backs so no need to worry about it. All I had to do was learn about those theologians and philosophers and I’d have an air-tight view on why we were right.

    And then I actually took philosophy in college. And my views started opening up slowly. Funny how that happens.

  • http://www.skeptimusprime.com/ Dylan Walker (Skeptimus Prime)

    I was a Fundy in college, as you of course know Dan. I spent plenty of time believing I was going to go into a class and show up my teacher with the bible and my beliefs. When I was in biology class I stayed up late the night before we started the chapter on Evolution praying that I would be able to argue against effectively against evolution with the twice my age PHD in biology professor.

    I failed spectacularly of course. I got a D in that class and blamed my grade on the teacher being bigoted against Christians, and of course most of Christians I knew from back home agreed with me. The truth, of course, is that if I had spent as much time studying the class material as I spent trying to convince my teacher she was living a lie I probably would have gotten a better grade. I only had myself to blame for that D.

    I look back on that situation and think, “fuck, I was an arrogant jack ass”

    • MNb

      “an arrogant jack ass”
      And one of the most important christian values is humility, isn’t it? That’s something I never get.

    • http://www.skeptimusprime.com/ Dylan Walker (Skeptimus Prime)

      Oh, I thought I was humble. I was the most humble Christian I knew don’t you know. :)

  • John Kruger

    There ought to be a term for proactively accusing a detractor of a fault that one is personally self conscious of. This kind of fallacious projection coupled with “I called it first no tag backs!” is really rampant in more than a few people, and not just zealous fundamentalist Christians.

  • Kellie Jones

    But….no Kirk Cameron? ;)

  • pasivirta

    Hi Dan,
    I haven’t seen the trailer, it sounds like a pretty terrible thing. But since you seem to have a been in your bonnet about the reality of thoughtful, respectful and intellectually responsible Christian thinkers, have you ever heard of William Lane Craig? Or Alvin Plantinga? I am a public school music teacher, I have an MA in interdisciplinary interpretation, and I am an eastern orthodox Christian. (One more thinker to read is David Bentley Hart, either his academic work, or his populist anti-atheist rant, “Atheist Delusions”)

    There are MYRIAD Christians and Atheists alike who are equally unthinking in their worldviews. Bill Maher’s religulous seemed (haven’t seen it) like an emotional tirade filled with cheap editing tricks that would of course make Christians look stupid.

    you did seem to get a bit ranty and emotional about it all. I am wondering if you are arguing with the (seemingly silly) movie, or with Christianity in general, or both.

    It seems like you got sucked into the straw man situation, just like the movie does.

    I’d say that because there is an element of relationship within Christianity, it is hard to see as philosophically tenable, because not all of it is really within the realm of reductivist inquiry. However, there are many points to be made in favour of the truth of many things in support of the truth claims of the Christian Narrative.

    One small example. IF the story of the resurrection of Jesus was concocted by the disciples, they would have surely not fabricated the part where the first witnesses to the resurrection were women, people who in that culture had no legal status, because it would be the LEAST believable situation for anyone at the time to hear about. Literally, it is in-credible. This ‘proves’ nothing, in the reductionist sense, but it points to the truth of the situation. (one of many points)

    David Pasivirta

    • http://www.skeptimusprime.com/ Dylan Walker (Skeptimus Prime)

      Believe it or not there are a lot of atheists who have read Plantinga, and a lot of WLC’s writing. I’ve also read writings of Aquinas, who I actually have more respect for than either of these guys. See, while I’ll happily conclude that there are rational/morally thoughtful Christians out there, I don’t really think Craig is one of them.

      Craig is the guy who tried to argue that the real victims of genocides in the OT ordered by god were the soldiers who followed god’s orders and not…you know the actual victims. He basically dismisses the murdered by saying those people had it coming .

      Craig also engages in shady debate tactics, such as obviously misinterpreting his opponents arguments and then demanding they defend a position which they have said they don’t even hold, If Craig was really interested in a real intellectual debate, and not evangelism, he would surely apply the principal of charity to his opponents arguments but instead he consistently looks for the weakest possible interpretation and then attacks that while pretending stronger arguments don’t even exist.

      I’m not familiar with Hart, I might give him a read, but when he titles things with names like “atheist delusions” I’m not hopeful that I will run into a lot of intellectual rigor in such an article.

      I’ll fully acknowledge that there are atheists out there which are quite ignorant about various topics including, science and philosophy. That being said, I think your interpretation of Religious is somewhat unfair. This coming from someone who has watched it, and does have some serious misgivings about the film and about Maher’s knowledge on several subjects.

      He didn’t really have to edit his movie because many of the people he interviewed do actually have the crazy beliefs they said they had. A more reasonable criticism would be that he simply largely ignored more rational/moderate believers in favor of including more zealous fundamentalist types. Though he did have a few more moderate believers in the movie.

      The real issue I had with the film was some of the historical information he included was more fringe historical theories, similar to the ones argued for by Acharya S, yet he presented them as if they were mainstream theories. I also have misgivings about Maher’s anti-vax stance, but that is unrelated here.

      On the last bit you present here as an argument for the bible’s authenticity. I was a fundamentalist Christian for a number of years, and, in part, it was the fact that this sort of ad hoc rationale was the best apologists could come up with that made me doubt there was much going on here. There are literally dozens of reasons for this passage to be written as it was that don’t involve a supernatural event occurring.

      I can easily think of an analog to your story in another religion. In the Bhagavad Gita Vishnu takes the incarnation of Krishna, the charioteer of Arjuna, and then doles out advice to Arjuna about a war he is in. I could argue that the story must be true because it sounds so ridiculous that a prince would take advice from his lowly charioteer. (he didn’t know Krishna was Vishnu until half way through the conversation) There is no way that would happen in the natural course of things and if someone were to make up the story wouldn’t they make Arjuna’s adviser someone more believable, like say an actual adviser?

      I write fiction a bit so let me tell you a bit of a secret, in fiction sometimes a writer will choose to present a scenario that seems unlikely or seems to go against the grain of culture just to upset your expectations. Like a character you expect to be weak turning out to be strong. This isn’t a new thing, this kind of thing is done even in ancient fiction like the Odyssey. The origin of this story may involve just such thinking, because myths upset societal expectations all the time, in fact many people expected their myths to do just that.

      You are essentially arguing that it is more likely that a supernatural resurrection occurred than it is likely that a first or second century myth happened to buck certain societal expectations of the time, and that is…uh, not a very good argument.

    • Sincere Kirabo

      To even cite Craig is an embarrassment to your own intelligence. But, then again, so is putting stock in the presumptive-evidentialist stance (theism).

      If you want an actual break down of WLC and his religious hucksterism, check out:

      http://davidgmcafee.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/exposing-christians-to-secular-material-response-to-william-lane-craig/

      Dan is on point with this piece.

    • Dorfl

      I’m not Dan, but I would like to respond to what you said about thoughtful, respectful and intellectually responsible Christian thinkers.

      When I’ve read or listened to people I’ve heard described as serious Christian apologists, I’ve usually found most of what they say reasonable and fairly well thought-through, if not actually convincing. My response is usually the same as Dylan Walker’s response to your argument about the witnesses being women: Their evidence is not blatantly silly, but it’s much weaker than they seem to think it is, as can be shown by presenting evidence for a competing religion and testing how convincing they find it. I still feel that I understand why Christians talk about them with respect.

      All that stops the moment they start making arguments within my field of competence. I study physics. A number of arguments for God make use of physics, such as the Cosmological argument and the argument from fine-tuning. Those arguments seem to me to be too basically flawed to even be worth discussing.

      But they’re not stupidly flawed. Where they fail is in little assumptions that a reasonable person would be very likely to accept if they haven’t formally studied the field. Most of the time, they’re unlikely to notice that an assumption is being made. Often I have to accept that I can’t effectively explain to the believer why the argument is bad, since doing so would take too much time and involve little distinctions that might not seem meaningful to them.

      I can think of two plausible explanations of why this is:

      1. There is some sociological process which leads the kind of people who become apologists to be consistently incompetent in certain areas. It so happens that my field of competence lies within those areas.

      2. Apologetics is the art of being superficially reasonable; of making arguments whose flaws are only detectable with specialised knowledge. When I have that knowledge, the spell breaks and it becomes possible for me to see that the apologist doesn’t actually know what they’re talking about.

      Edit: I should add that I don’t think most apologists are being deliberately dishonest. I think they are mostly making arguments that sound convincing in their own ears, running them by friends and colleagues to check that they too find them convincing. Where they fail is at having experts look at the argument, for example asking actual cosmologists if they find the cosmological argument compelling.

    • avalpert

      Your description of apologetics also applies to most journalism – I’ve known the good faith reporting to be completely wrong in my areas of expertise too often to not suspect they are wrong in the areas that aren’t my expertise.

    • http://www.skeptimusprime.com/ Dylan Walker (Skeptimus Prime)

      The problem is that when actual cosmologists do weigh in on the apologists argument the apologist dismiss the cosmologists problems by asserting that their problems are rooted in atheistic biases and not in genuine scientific rigor.

    • Slow Learner

      Read Chris Hallquist (also here on Patheos) on William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga and their failings.

    • Plutosdad

      Bill Maher is not a philosphy professor.

      And as he says, most of us atheists are not “ranty and emotional” about whether God exists (as if I care), we became angry long after we stopped believing, as we learned more and more history, and discovered more and more of the evil and suffering both the church and authoritarian morality systems have inflicted upon the world.

    • vulpix

      In my case, reading through William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith made me an atheist.

      Prior to reading it, I had been involved in various religion discussion groups. I considered myself a Christian, but I also had major questions that remained unresolved. My fellow Christians frequently offered up Craig’s work as the best Christian apologetics had to offer.

      But when I read through it, the dishonesty was so transparent that I finally realized that the apologists were rationalizing lies. This also caused me to realize that perhaps the atheists were right after all.

      Watch this if you want to get an idea of what my reaction was like:

    • Corey Robey

      Wow… so much like my own deconversion. I had to realize that I had more “faith” in Craig’s ability to win debate contests than I had in any of the actual dogma. That was the beginning of the end for me, I think. Soon came the realization that he would repeat arguments that had been defeated in previous debates– even having verbally conceded the point in some instances– without altering or improving them at all. It’s like he didn’t care that he was wrong, as long as the argument worked most of the time and in conjunction with a twisted mess of other arguments. It’s all about scoring points so he can say he wins debates and therefore by extension jesus exists, but the debates and his “arguments for god” are always some version of how deism in the loosest possible sense can’t be disproven. He never argues for yahweh, the talking snake, and the holy spirit, and that gets hard to bridge when you are really credulously trying to figure out what exactly it is you are supposed to believe in. Christian Apologetics (and the bible!) made me an atheist.

    • Sven2547

      thoughtful, respectful and intellectually responsible Christian thinkers… William Lane Craig

      Oh God my sides.

    • GordonHide

      David, I guess William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga are all right for Christians to read but suggesting atheists could benefit is beyond the pale. The overwhelming feeling an atheists gets when reading or listening to their stuff is embarrassment on their behalf.

  • colleend219

    looks like a really bad movie. And all the philosophy teachers I’ve had actually went out of their way to coddle the christians and jews and muslims in class so they wouldn’t be upset and it was usually one of them that would eventually tell everyone that they were going to Hell.

  • Paul So

    Yeah,
    I saw the movie trailer with amazement at how it distorts reality. I’m currently an undergraduate philosophy student and I have to say that while most of my philosophy professors are probably atheists there are a handful of believers. Furthermore, the atheistic professors I have met are either open minded (one of them openly conversed with a christian girl without attempting any deconversion) or they really don’t give a rat’s ass about their students’ beliefs.

    I think most philosophy professors have far better things to do than get obsessively fixated with their students’ theistic beliefs, most of them try to get their papers published in journals and go to conferences but these rarely have anything to do with debunking the existence of God. I think my philosophy professors are more interested in philosophical topics that they are working on such as freewill, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. I think only one of my philosophy professor wrote an article suspecting that religious people are suffering from self-deception or ignorance, but he hardly goes around telling religious students to change their beliefs (although he loves to argue with people).

    Now, I can’t generalize what atheist philosophy professors are like based on those from my department, but there is a book called “Philosophers without God: Meditations on Atheism and Secular Life” which is compilation of professional philosophers who are atheists. I think about half of the book is a series of autobiographical stories on how they became atheists and usually they vary. I can’t recall a single one that became an atheist due to some traumatic experience, but maybe I just forgot.

    Honestly, deconverting impressionable young minds is the last thing philosophy professors have in mind, most of them really don’t care. What is ironic is that the trailer implicitly presents philosophy professors as tyrannical people who are out to persecute Christian intellectuals when for hundreds of years it has been the other way around. It is true that nowadays philosophers and scientists are predominantly atheistic, but honestly they have better things to do than bicker about how their students are still Christians.

    • vulpix

      Religion reverses everything.

      Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.
      Atheism isn’t a lack of a belief; it’s a religion.
      Christians don’t indoctrinate; freethinkers do that.

      And of course, Christians are always, always being persecuted.

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

      Honestly, deconverting impressionable young minds is the last thing philosophy professors have in mind, most of them really don’t care.

      Yep.

  • Plutosdad

    On a somewhat side note, we have been reading a lot of Buddhism lately (started with a great book: How to Be Sick, since my wife has been having a hard time)

    One thing we read last night (in Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg) is we react to life events (like a lecture presenting facts) in 3 ways: pleasure, pain, or neutral. And we usually react to those feelings with either attraction (to pleasure), avoidance (to pain), or delude ourselves into thinking it doesn’t matter (neutral). But no matter what our reaction, that reaction is all on us. The facts or arguments presented are not challenging us, rather, we are the ones who feel challenged or hurt because we’re holding too tightly to a belief or feeling.

  • MNb

    “In real life …”
    Be glad you weren’t born some 350 years before:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adriaan_Koerbagh

    Exactly. In the most liberal country of that century. Spinoza knew why he kept his major work for himself.

  • Jamie Robinson

    Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

  • Y. A. Warren

    It is really too bad that so much “education” is not for expansion of ideas, but about memorization of closed concepts.

  • http://www.skeptimusprime.com/ Dylan Walker (Skeptimus Prime)

    Just watched the trailer and realized that Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain are in it.

    I really liked Kevin Sorbo in Hercules and Andromeda years ago, I’ve lost a lot of respect for him being in this movie.

  • Nemo

    Regarding how many Christians (probably Muslims and some Jews, too) insist that everyone secretly agrees with them and just pretends not to: I agree that is a pretty ridiculous thing to think. But the Bible says it. There’s a verse in Romans, forget which one, that says everyone knows about Yahweh’s invisible properties and is without excuse, but they pretend not to believe it because they want to be gay. Yeah. No psychological basis to conclude that anybody thinks that way, but it’s in the Bible. For the fundamentalists, they have to believe it. To not believe something in the Bible, for them, is to choose Hell.

  • ianrey

    Looks like the movie will literally be a Chick Tract on the screen. Granted, Kevin Sorbo is a much more appealing Straw Man than the fat, bald professor in the tract, and that was a biology class, not philosophy. But if it doesn’t have “Based on a story by Jack Chick” in the credits, he should sue.

  • buffalo

    What I found most telling in this little trailer is that the “enlightened” student, when he really gets to the point, is in full tirade mode. He is screaming at the professor that he hates god. What more emotive statement could you make to arouse indignation among the faithful? I think that’s the point, to arrive at a level of fury where logic no longer matters. People somewhere along the line learn that this position is intimidating or that it is simply a state where rational discussion is over and you can coast intellectually.

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

      I noticed that too.

  • Olsnes-Lea

    The information on the weaknesses of “Atheism” has been out for a while now and how we expect it to fail moral leadership. Here is one list that can strengthen the Religious side against “Atheism”:

    The strongest points pro-Christianity are given by the “powerlist” of Philosophers, from St. Anselm and up.

    There is no need to lose hope though, by “6+1″ Defences for God (not proofs), it will be rather the Atheists who become NO more, for not being intelligent enough in objecting to Religions in general, ecumenically speaking, only “whitelist religions, under 20″ considered. That Atheists have problems, logically with fighting off the “possibility for God” under Meaning and Ethics and two more, with providing the logical proof for “impossibility for God”.

    Some of the defences include:

    * The Descartes’ Phantom Feelings.

    - that if Descartes’ description of feelings can be proven then God “more”, that once again, the consistent pattern by the amputee’s brain proves the Atheists wrong once more and by this fantastic revelation, that God exists also by this notion.

    * The Van Lommel Studies.

    - that Van Lommel by his work has shown that the existence of the soul is a possible description for people’s (common) ability to win over death and that, therefore, God “more” yet another time Do we get it up? (Atheists to Mystics and Religions are cool after all?)

    * The ESP-God Debate.

    - now that, by telepathy, that we have God by our foreheads and Atheism seems more wrong than ever before, then why Atheism at all? Because the contention has been earlier that if telepathy is “realizable” then (necessarily/more conceivably) God, even by themselves.

    Failure from the them on these 3 scientific fundamental views leave them stranded, The Problem of Evil (the occurrence of Nazi-Germany in reality fx.) leave them in no better shape, failing every point of leadership there is to FAIL! My bet: They are soon out of universities, replaced by Humanism and “Life Philosophies”.

    Now what for Atheism after having lost its foundation for valid objections to Religions:

    They are to name themselves Non-Believers, Disbelievers, Non-Religious (privacy x3) or Humanists.

    It’s useless to try to pull up after Jean Amery as the corrupt mind has certainly been a problem outside religion if not inside it. Additionally, they need to come up with something better than humanism and religion if they are not to consider themselves humanists.

    Besides, you are cool against Authoritarianism, but so was L. Ron Hubbard and he has made a modern anti-authoritarian Religion for this if you bother to read one book, A New Slant on Life to figure it out.

    Note also on authoritarian people from history “who all about reality, life and leadership”, the names, Stalin, Mao, a number of other dictators who have long since their crown position burnt their Holy Books, like in Vietnam and Cambodia too.

    This now puts you as professor at odds with minimally two, unless speedy change to Humanism: Moral Leadership and Science! Thank you!

  • Anton

    I’m a progressive Christian, and there are violations I’d gladly undergo rather than sit through this film. As ianrey said, at least the Chick tract that this is based on was good for a laugh.

    You’re absolutely right when you point out the irony of Christianity being portrayed as some oppressed fringe belief whose adherents are just interested in freethought and mutual tolerance. You could almost hear Giordano Bruno laughing, if it weren’t for the crackle of flames and the cheering of the faithful.

    It’s a shame that the filmmakers didn’t want to make a movie about the real issue here: it seems that the angry prof abandoned belief because of personal tragedy. Isn’t there a lot to be said about how we (as believers or nonbelievers) relate to loss, the indifference of our universe, and this precious, precarious thing called life? Why does an issue of real human importance have to be reduced to a moralistic, sentimental parody? Is the matter of modern belief and nonbelief really only about God-is-God-ain’t grandstanding?

  • William Vincent

    Thanks for asking for my thoughts. First of all allow me to say that I, as a Theist, feel the movie is obviously contrived. However it is no different than the many silly Atheist memes we see posted all over social media. This movie I presume is a response to those sorts of tirades – and perhaps the one you just gave in response.

    Of course we could contend that one good turn deserves another, and I am sure it felt good to get that off of your chest. However your emotionally charged response seems to nearly vindicate the sort of situation that this movie is asserting.

    I suppose that my major contention is with your assertion, although attempting to be veiled, that no thinking person could really be a theist of any sort. (What is interesting is that I personally feel the same about Atheism, but of course there is no secret there.) My response is simply – balderdash. I do agree with you that this “God question” should be hashed out in the arena of thought and real discussion, and not a firing back and forth of barbs and jabs. However, to suggest, as you seem to, that no Theist could really hold their own with an Atheist philosophically is honestly a lot of chest pounding.

    You also seem to insinuate that all people of faith are opposed to science. That we must chose between science and a belief in God, gods or the supernatural. This is clearly a false dichotomy. This very type of response is in fact the reason that many Christians feel persecuted. You have in your response made it clear that you, as a “professor of philosophy and professional atheist” could not take a student or colleague seriously if they did not agree with your rigid Atheism. You make no room for those who disagree with you, and further you paint with too broad of a brush. Then you wonder why Christians feel persecuted? Perhaps because they are essentially minimized by people like yourself.

    Perhaps this is all in response to a “cheesey” movie that admittedly tries to make an Atheist in your profession look like a closed minded idiot. I might respond in kind if the tables were reversed. However, I do not think such grandstanding really furthers your point.


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