How “God’s Not Dead” Makes Christians Look Even Worse Than It Makes Atheists Look

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:

rsz_online_philosophy_of_religion_class_dr_daniel_fincke

When I was in college and still a Christian at a conservative evangelical Christian college, I remember talking to my friends about how hard it was to really make some of our beliefs feel real. Sure, we all completely believed things like that people were going to hell if they weren’t saved or that we would live after death, but did they really register? Did we really internalize these kinds of teachings as real facts? Did these beliefs determine our emotional reactions the way that more tangible truths of this world did?

What I was ultimately yearning for was some way to not just believe in Jesus and in all the beliefs involved in being a Christian only in some abstract way but as truly and fully as I believed more practical things. I was already living by my faith in a whole number of ways–it dictated my ethics, my (lack of) sex life, my choice of school, my course of study, my social circles, my commitment to prayer, to Christian fellowship, to spending my summers evangelizing as a camp counselor, etc., etc. Everything you could do to live Christianly and seek Jesus I was game for.

But no matter how much I truly believed and lived by faith, inevitably I could grasp that much of what we believed that was not graspable from the sensible world was still abstract and elusive. Sure, I could have intense spiritual experiences worshipping and feel God’s presence that way. Or when I would intimate experience community with my brothers and sisters in Christ, the oxytocin would be flowing through my brain and I would feel the love of Christ coursing through me, and us collectively. And I would look around and find signs of God’s hand in my life everywhere and feel spontaneous gratitude to God for all his blessings.

But, like many good Christians I was hungry for more of God. I wanted to see what the Bible taught as truer. I wanted to know it in my very bones.

And that’s a big part of what faith is about. Faith is not just about believing. It’s wanting to believe beyond just what you happen to feel to be true. It is wanting to feel like something is more true than what your senses tell you it is. It is wanting to commit to it more than your reason can assure you makes sense to commit to it. It’s wanting to be so fully immersed in your beliefs, nay, so fully immersed in the blood of Jesus that He is the realest thing your mind knows. He is the realest being of all, He’s beyond being, He’s the Word through whom the universe itself was spoken. He is the one through whom we have our being. As a Christian, faith is feeling this ultimate Truth as the ultimate truth that it is.

But for most Christians it is a lifelong struggle to keep the mind firmly in this truth. Like heroin addicts desperately seeking to recreate their first high, like people in loveless marriages desperate to recreate the euphoric infatuation of new love, many Christians struggle to really feel as blissfully in touch with the magnificence of God’s love and reality again and again.

This is why Christian faith beliefs are not like other beliefs. Sometimes Christians try to say faith is something all people have, even atheists have. But whereas everyone has a degree of belief, loyalty, trust, and hope, and these things are often loosely referred to as “faith”. What Christians are talking about in faith is something different. It’s a commitment to believe, trust, hope, and be loyal. A desire to believe, trust, hope, and be loyal. Often it is a passionate sort. It is not rationally just saying, “Well, I see there’s a 50/50 chance this may be true, so I’ll commit to it only half way.” It’s saying, I don’t care that I might be wrong, I’m going to commit to this 100% and do everything I can to make myself believe it.

This is always a struggle, in no small part, because we have to really treat the world of our senses as a pressing reality. It is impractical and downright dangerous to so fully immerse ourselves in the Bible’s teachings that we take Jesus literally and fully expect that whatever we ask of him in prayer we will receive and that the heavenly father will give us better things than earthly fathers would. Most believers, no matter how devout, do not decide that Jesus is so absolutely reliable and prayer is as absolutely reliable as he promised that they do not need to take their kids to the doctor but can simply pray over them instead. The tragic minority of believers who deeply internalize that promise of Jesus to the point of denying their kids medical treatment all too often wind up grieving their dead children. Most Christians are much more practical people.

Similarly, I have never heard of Christians arranging paramedical emergency evangelization squads to go to accident scenes and witness to people who may be at risk of dying without accepting Jesus into their hearts. No one is proposing that we pool resources and energy into having such emergency evangelists accompany EMTs to the scenes of accidents so that while EMT’s stabilize their wounds, they can be talked to about their need for salvation. And were someone to be bleeding, dying on the street and an evangelist were to declare to people, “Stand back! I know the four spiritual laws” and start administering the Gospel to that person with all the earnestness with which a medical professional should be dressing his wounds, everyone would look on agape with bewildered horror.

Most religious people are more practical than that. Even though in theory they know that one’s immortal soul is more important than one’s earthly body, when they see an earthly body dying, they treat it with grave seriousness and make caring for it their first priority.

That’s why when atheists accuse religious people of just praying instead of “doing something” I often chastise them for not getting it that “prayer is often just what people do after they’ve done all that they personally could and wish there was something more.” The people willing to pray are usually most certainly willing to go to doctors too. They have kitchen sink approaches to getting healed. Whatever will work.

So to a large extent Christians compartmentalize their beliefs. They live and feel by their beliefs where they’re relevant but also live and feel practically and in earthy ways when that’s most practical. The more devout believers earnestly want their Christian beliefs to permeate more and more of the world they see so they can live seeing reality completely structured as Christianity teaches and, in doing so, believe God more fully and know him more intimately. They are willing to stretch, and redefine, the bounds of practicality when it comes to fully believing and acting according to God’s truth, as opposed to worldly truths.

This brings me to the movie God’s Not Dead. In it, Reverend Jude (Benjamin Ochieng) is visiting America and is dying to fulfill a lifelong dream of visiting Disney World. Reverend Dave (David A.R. White) tries to put a damper on his enthusiasm, telling him that they have only the 16th tallest roller coaster. Reverend Jude tells him, no matter, when I am riding on it, “in my mind it will be the tallest”. This is Reverend Jude’s mindset. And it is epitomized repeatedly throughout the film whenever something goes wrong or right and he coaxes Reverend Dave to finish his mantra with him, “God is good all the time…and all the time God is good.” He is unflappable because no matter what happens he insists on assuring himself he’s riding the best roller coaster in the world. God’s. Every big drop is just part of God’s exciting gift.

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

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

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

Evangelical Christianity is even presented as liberating to women–it’s the pastor who convinces Mina to leave Radisson and it is Christianity that liberates Ayisha from Islam’s suffocating veiling. All the damage done to women by Christianity’s obsession with “purity”, with husbands’ headship over wives, and with opposition to divorce is absent. But the only bad Christian in the film is the protagonist Josh Wheaton’s (Shane Harper) girlfriend who tries to tempt him away from standing up for his faith. She represents Eve. You know: Women. Such temptresses. So, there is that bit of misogyny worked in.

As the antithesis of the standard Hollywood film in which romantic love and family represent salvation. All the major characters wind up alone and happy with Jesus instead. Our girl raised Muslim leaves her family behind. Josh leaves his temptress girlfriend. Mina leaves Professor Radisson. The kid straight off the plane from China converts after Josh’s arguments for the existence of God persuade him, upsetting his dad. Amy finds Jesus after Mark disillusions her with secular love by revealing to her that she was fooling herself into seeing him as something he was not. All these characters wind up together at a Newsboys concert celebrating at the film’s end.

But it’s what happens simultaneously with the Newsboys concert that is the film’s real climax. And it reveals the filmmakers’ most earnest wishes for how the world would be and how Christians would spontaneously respond to it. And it is more chilling and frightening a picture of Christianity than any of the depictions of atheists or Muslims. Ironically, the people who come off looking the worst in this film are the Christians who most fully internalize their beliefs and see everything through them. The atheists are bad, but at least Radisson and Amy have some anguish you can empathize with, and Radisson even gets in a couple sincere, passionate speeches from the heart about the problem of evil and the dangers of religion. Amy gets sympathy as devastated in the face of death. It’s the Christians who wind up frighteningly, inhumanly, indifferent, even joyful, in the face of evil.

To get what I’m saying, we need to ruin the ending.

To set the scene Professor Radisson has, by this point, predictably had his big defeat in the classroom. (I’ll write another post all about that.) His student, Josh, who refused to write down that God was dead and so had to prove God was not dead to the class or receive an F for 30% of his grade, has pulled a Tom Cruise from A Few Good Men and gotten Professor Radisson to emotionally confess he hates God and thereby betray that he actually believes in God. He’s been rendered speechless. The whole class has stood up and declared that God is not dead.

Presumably, he’s on the verge of at least softening his stance on Christianity if not repenting and becoming a Christian outright. He has been left speechless by Wheaton in the classroom and gone back to his office. Night has fallen and he has reread a letter his dying mother had written to him about how she knows God is in control and hopes that he “will remain in the joy of the Lord” all his life. He calls Mina but gets her voicemail. He sees the Newsboys are in town and presumably knows she’ll be at the concert so he starts hurrying there.

On his way, it suddenly starts to rain, drenching him. Radisson sarcastically says, “that’s perfect” and we’ll find out in a moment the ironic reason that it is unexpectedly perfect indeed! The reason it is surprisingly perfect is because the rain makes it so hard to see that Radisson is struck by a car and suffers fatal injuries that do not kill him instantly! He has just minutes to live! Just enough time to get saved! Hallelujah! And by dying he will go straight to glory and be blissful for eternity! Praise Jesus! 

I’m sorry, I know this sounds like I’m mocking Christian beliefs. Because it is ludicrous to present Christians as saying such ghoulishly callous things. Sure, they believe in an afterlife and that it’s better to be saved on your deathbed than burn for eternity, and that heaven is wonderful and those who die are theoretically luckier to be there than here. But Christians are human. They emotionally appreciate the graveness of death. They don’t literally shout “Hallelujah” at people’s deaths. They don’t smile and sing songs and envy the lucky guy who died because he’s with Jesus. They are somber. With every bit of optimism they can muster they affirm that the lost is “in a better place” or “free from pain at last”. But they mourn. They compartmentalize their supernatural hopes so that they don’t crowd out all room for emotional appreciation of the seriousness of earthly loss.

But, like I said at the start, some Christians can’t handle any compartmentalization of God. They want to live and emotionally respond precisely as their beliefs logically would have it. And the filmmakers, and their representative Christian role models, Pastor Jude and Pastor Dave, are going to make them paradigmatic men of faith. Men who so live in the truth and reality of the Gospel that they don’t feel about a dying man what worldly, earthly, compartmentalizing, realistic, practical humans do.

They don’t care about saving his body. They rush to the body like those ludicrous emergency response paramedical evangelists I hypothesized earlier. They act with all the life-saving seriousness of actual life-saving EMTs. But, like something out of anti-Christian gallows humor, they treat his soul instead. To my non-believer’s eyes watching, this was a sickening game of pretend. People impotent to save what is real, his earthly life, acting with dead seriousness to preserve what is purely pretend, his eternal soul.

They are in emergency mode trying to get him to say the silly Sinner’s Prayer as though it is the magic incantation that his entire salvation hinges upon. This is the kind of God these filmmakers believe in? One who, if the pastors cannot do emergency evangelism quickly enough in your dying moments will send you to hell? But if they can use their ace Gospel spreading techniques in time you can go to heaven? God needs this verbal assent to this arbitrary modern day little formula for salvation in order to save you? He can’t project out and figure, “Well this Radisson guy was mad I killed his mom with cancer when he was 12 (which, I gotta admit was a dick move on my part, so I can’t really blame him). And he means well and he seems to have been coming along at the end, going to a Newsboys concert where he may have decided to worship me and let the whole killing his mom thing go…” No, God sees the car hit Radisson (we’re assuming of course, to be theologically correct, that God didn’t make the car hit the guy, these things just happen) and God rubs his hands together thinking, “oh boy, this oughta be good, let’s see if he accepts my salvation before he loses consciousness or if I get to send him to hell!”

The image of Christians being people who descend on the weak, the sick, the dying, to spiritually manipulate them on their deathbeds is extremely offensive to many non-Christians. The Christians who routinely spread lies about deathbed conversions because they don’t care about the consciences of non-believers. They care about whatever propaganda tool they can get. They care about claiming souls. They care about dominating you however you can. All the pretenses about concern for your free will aside, they want to capture your soul. The idea that someone in their dying moments needs to be harangued by people to change their religion is sick. It’s this sort of comprehensive Christian mindset that makes them so invasive, which makes them prowl hospitals trying to convert vulnerable people. It’s this exploitation of weakness–this exploitation of anything they can figure out to wring a conversion out of someone that is so fanatical and disgusting. I get it, they really think eternal souls are at stake. That’s why spreading the false beliefs of Christianity is harmful. Because people can act ghoulishly, manipulatively, and disrespectfully from a sincere concern for others’ souls.

And the scene is really the kind of portrayal of Christians that had atheists written it in an attack on Christians I would have complained was way over the line. When real life Christians see someone bleeding to death in the street, they are as concerned as anyone to save his actual life. They don’t act like spiritual EMTs and then literally celebrate a job well done when the man’s life is gone before the real EMTs can do anything. I’m serious, in the film, they literally celebrate when he dies. The role model Christians in this film also literally tell the man struck by a car that he just received an act of mercy because it gave him a chance to repent. You want to talk about bullying? Take a God who “lets” you (*wink* *wink*) be hit by a car and then “mercifully” doesn’t heal you but lets you lay in agony on the ground while his followers swoop in and ask you, “Now do you want to give in?” No, no, nothing bullying about that at all. It’s those mean antitheists who want people to accept only what is rationally demonstrable to believe in. Those guys are the real authoritarians…

When Radisson dies, these Christians act as though they are so certain that he is now in heaven, having accepted Jesus into his heart just before dying, that they literally treat the dead man as enviable for now being able to know more about God than they do, for getting to meet Him. While he is dying, they manipulatively exploit his expression of fear at dying by using it as an evangelistic tool in order to talk about how Jesus was scared when he died too. They trivialize the tragedy of his stolen life by rationalizing that he only had to endure a few moments of pain and now is getting to have an eternity in paradise.

These responses to death are inhumanly cold and detached from reality. They are not ideal. Fortunately real life Christians are rarely so heartlessly consistent in their baseless beliefs. Their visceral emotions are too bodily and too real to let them feel the platitudes they mouth either as euphorically or sanguinely as the monstrous true believers in this film do. Real life believers can look at the horror of death and not be in total denial about it emotionally. Their consolations about heaven are desperate hopes that they try to muster as much confidence as they can in.

This movie’s characters shows how sick it would look if everyday Christians all over the place really did internalize a belief that death is just an exciting chance to go be with Jesus. It’s macabre how dangerously shut off to appropriate feelings about evil they would become.

When you can be reconciled emotionally to any evil inflicted on humanity out of your full immersion in the pie in the sky fantasy that God redeems all evil for good, then when you learn of a Christian murdered you can say, “Oh praise Jesus! Lucky old Sam gets to be with God now!” When you learn of a genocide of Christians you can chuckle without hesitation thinking, “Oh, those lucky lucky martyrs! They must be God’s favorites, the way he accelerates their return home!” This is a kind of twisting of human feelings that only cultishness creates.

The most dangerous person in the world is the one who passionately loves you with a dangerous conception of what love or reality is, such that they eagerly subject you to evil thinking it’s good.  This death scene presents the limit point of the dangers of trying to work yourself up into truly believing what is completely contrary to all the senses and reason. It’s a warning to non-believers and reasonable believers everywhere–don’t become like these people.

But possibly the most disgusting and galling thing about all of this is is the hypocritical way this scene glosses over and betrays the very claim that Josh Wheaton made that was meant to be such a powerful counter-push to Radisson’s authoritarian antitheism. Where Radisson acted like he knew everything, Josh took the humble road. He claimed that the debate over God’s existence was really a push. Sure he couldn’t prove God’s existence, but neither could Radisson disprove it.

It’s presented as though the evidence is really, at the end of the day, a toss up (maybe favoring God’s existence–but just some). Smart people disagree. So you’re free to believe as you wish. What matters, Christians, is that, as Josh assures the worried believer, “it’s not intellectual suicide” to believe in God. Some smart people do it. Therefore you can too. Many Christians are content with that. They engage with apologetics not to make sure they’re right but to get permission from smart people to go on believing as they want. They’re not really scrupulous about this. They don’t want to personally go to the trouble to look at every atheist counter-argument and make sure it’s wrong. They don’t want to look too deeply into apologetic retorts they are taught and make sure they have no weaknesses. They want to get the impression that there’s a smart reason to believe and feel all the justification they need. And just being convinced it’s 50/50 they’re right–heck, even just a tiny chance they’re right, is enough for them. They can believe so long as there’s some chance they’re not wrong.

But this is precisely the danger of faith brought to screen. The Christian apologist tries to present himself as humble: “See, I don’t claim to know, I’m saying no one knows, unlike this dogmatic atheist over here who arrogantly thinks he knows all the answers!” But then the Christian turn right around and makes a 100% commitment to their Christian beliefs that are, on his own pretenses of admission, merely 50/50 likely to be true. Or some similar uncertain confidence. Even if the believer feels 75% sure or 90% sure, he’s not really sure.

But faith means being like I was in college and like Reverend Jude wants everyone to be. Faith is committing to believe more than the rational evidence warrants. It is being desperate to make yourself believe, trust, hope, commit, and be loyal like you’re 100% sure despite not being. It’s not humbly saying, “well here’s this belief and since I’m not sure it’s true but it might be, I’ll live by it tentatively. It might be true, so I will take precautions in case it is. But it might not, so I’ll take precautions in case it’s not. I’ll moderate my feelings and my commitment to this thing and the way I let it influence my perceptions and decisions to the extent that it is actually likely to be true and not let it run everything I think, feel, and do because it might not be true.” That’s what humbly accepting you really don’t know something looks like. The truest person of faith does not do that.

The truest faith is to attain what I wanted to be in college. The ability to so see one’s supernatural beliefs as true that you no longer see even the starkest facts of the material world as all people, even most believers in their eventual practicality, do. The truest person of faith “walks by faith, not by sight”. Truest faith is the characters in this film who talk themselves into an astonishing indifference to another human being’s untimely death, occurring before their eyes. To them, this evil means nothing. The guy was given an act of mercy since he had time to repent and he only suffered a little bit and now he’s with Jesus.

It’s not that they say, “Well, we don’t know, maybe there’s hope he’s in heaven. I really hope that.” They are not the humble people Josh claimed Christians were when he talked about not knowing. Were someone to really in their guts internalize an idea like “we don’t know, there might be a God and we might have heaven to look forward to or there might not” then they would feel anguish that they do know this guy lost the one life they knew he had while he only might have another life in heaven now. That would be a more rational and humble and humanly compassionate way to respond to someone’s death.

But rather they they experience jubilant elation as though they are certain the dead man is really alive in heaven and convinced nothing bad really happened. They selfishly choose to ignore the very real possibility this man died prematurely, senselessly, and all in vain, is incredibly callous. They are certain not because they have rational reason to be but because they want to beeven if they’re wrong. They have willfully cut themselves off from even the possibility, that the film supposedly admitted to earlier, that they are wrong and that this man has been robbed of decades of happy life senselessly.

They want to disconnect from feeling empathetic sufferings of their fellow human beings. They want to so much believe God is good all the time and all the time God is good that they refuse to acknowledge the truth of real, unredeemable, agony and feel it with others. The audience is to be encouraged to be unambivalently happy for the rest of the main characters as they party down at a rock concert in scenes intercut with those portraying Professor Radisson’s death and our pastors’ serenely joyful responses to it. Because all is well with the world. Let’s party. This is the irrationality and reality-warping character  of faith epitomized and idealized. This is the repulsive extreme of Christianity’s demand to place commitment to God over solidarity even with one’s fellow human beings if necessary. It is anti-human. It is profoundly intellectually irresponsible. It is deeply morally repulsive and evil.

And thankfully most Christians are much too human to ever have quite so much true faith.

I find their lack of faith reassuring.

I find their support of this film troubling.

Your Thoughts?

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, in a new class which you can take either in one month (June 2014) or for three months (summer 2014). Check it out.

In response to an e-mail from a Christian seminarian who asked, upon seeing my criticisms of this film, what he thought I should recommend he say to young Christians he works with so that they can evangelize better, I also wrote 10 Tips For Christian Evangelizing. There is also more to analyze in this film so I wrote the posts What Makes Some Evangelicals So Intolerable, and Why I Wrote A Bad Movie Review of God’s Not Dead.

And I also wrote a 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

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • http://www.skeptimusprime.net/ Dylan Walker (Skeptimus Prime)

    Well said. I was looking up reviews of this movie on Fandango and almost all of them are from Christians who are gushing over how amazing the film is, even though the actual content and message are awful.

    Though to be fair I think a lot of them are just impressed that there is a Christian film that didn’t go right to video and have the production values and acting talent of a high school film project.

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

      IMDB users are giving the film an awful 4.6.

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

      Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 33% from critics, but the audience review percentage is 86% which makes me suspect that Christan groups encouraged some crowd-sourced reviews from parishioners. Either that or just the only people who went to see it where already fundamentalists to begin with.

    • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

      A dear, longtime friend of mine, an agnostic ex-Christian, called me the other day to tell me he’d gone to see the movie out of curiosity; he lives in a super-fundie area and it’d gotten a lot of good press, and he was bored and it was playing right when he was near the theater. He was the only person there who wasn’t in a church group, and the theater was simply packed. So yes, I think that absolutely, church groups are responsible for talking it up. (He hated it; he pissed everybody there off by laughing at the wrong times until he figured out that it was being totally serious.)

    • John Kruger

      I will chime in as well. This is the review of the movie I was looking for.

      Your thoughts on the motives of apologists really stuck me as very insightful. Bravo.

    • Jim Jones

      To quote Plan 9 From Outer Space: “Well, you can’t prove it didn’t happen”.

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

    I have mixed feelings on this post. There is much truth in your criticisms of the film. I didn’t like the film at all. I didn’t like how it portrayed those who fell outside of a Conservative Christian culture. I didn’t like how they seem to reduce Christian faith to being merely like obtaining an after-life insurance policy. And I didn’t like the vicarious self-aggrandizing experience the movie audience seemed to enjoy as the movie’s hero defeated the professor in the debate in more ways than one.

    At the same time, as you describe a Christian’s faith, you limit it by saying that at most, Christian faith can be really classified as a kind of agnosticism. After all, isn’t that what Pascal’s wager amounts to? With his wager, there is no real relating to God. After all, I don’t talk to the wife and think afterwards, there was nothing to lose in talking to her if she didn’t exist. There are both rational and nonrational reasons to believe.

    • Craig S.

      I’m not sure what your complaint actually is regarding the review. How is saying that faith is not certain limiting? I thought that was just inherent in the definition of the word. It’s certainly inherent in the definition as Dan uses it, since he has defined his usage in depth.

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

      Cylon,
      The review of the movie was fine. It was the extra description of the Christian faith with which I disagreed. Again, at best, the way the Christian faith is defined here makes it indistinguishable from agnosticism. And regardless of how limited one’s faith is, there is a difference between a limited faith and agnosticism.

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

      The difference between faith and simple agnosticism is the volitional commitment of the faithful to believe more strongly than they know and to immersively commit themselves more than the evidence warrants. If on the knowledge question, they admit they don’t know, then yes, to that extent they’re “agnostic”. They would be agnostic believers as opposed to “gnostic” ones who claimed they really did know they were right.

      Agnostic simpliciter usually refers to someone who takes a principled stance not to make a leap of faith but to refrain from affirming what they cannot know. An agnostic non-believer is usually someone who says, “I don’t know, but in the absence of evidence for affirming there are gods, it is most rational or appropriate to lack all belief in them”. The agnostic believer is the faith-based believer, the one who says, I don’t know but I throw myself wholeheartedly into believing anyway.

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

      Dan,
      So to you the Christian is the strong-willed agnostic? Couldn’t resist adopting Dobson’s wording.

      I appreciate the time. My only point is that your point is made based on certain assumptions. One assumption being that there is no God to communicate with the believer. And perhaps sometimes one of the key differences between us are our assumptions.

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

      That’s not an assumption. It’s my inference as to the best way to account for the evidence.

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

      But wouldn’t the way you seek to prove God also provide a partial definition of God?

      In any case, I couldn’t logically conclude that faith is a form of agnosticism even if I had concluded that there is no God. Why? Because my conclusion would only be based on physical evidence and limited logic and who is to say that there is no god outside of what I can measure and think about?

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

      Curt, I think we’re talking past each other here. I’m not saying there are no dimensions to any given believer’s Christianity that the believer takes to be rationally based. I’m saying that there are some beliefs, or some aspects of beliefs, that any believer realizes are not fully supported by evidence and reason and may very well be false. The faith part is in the kicking in and committing to believe, and not only to believe, but to believe 100% and to try to work oneself up into living in the world of that belief as though it were as tangibly true as the world we all experience. Insofar as a believer is doing that, that’s the distinctively “faith” part of their religion. Other things in the overall “faith” (i.e., the religion) may be to one extent or another perceived by the believer herself as rational and proportioned to reason.

    • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

      … and now I realize anew why it is that fundagelicals tend to fall for multi-level marketing scams. The system works, as long as you correctly and conscientiously work the system.

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

      Dan,

      We share some criticisms of the movie. But where we disagree is in the degree of doubt and basis for faith. At least, that is how I see it now. So my criticisms revolve around statements like the one below:

      But then the Christian turn right around and makes a 100% commitment to their Christian beliefs that are, on his own pretenses of admission, merely 50/50 likely to be true. Or some similar uncertain confidence. Even if the believer feels 75% sure or 90% sure, he’s not really sure

      Regardless of the degree of rationality in the Christian’s faith, it still ends up like Pascal’s wager and that appears to me to be no different from agnosticism. That is why I used the analogy I did.

      Now I agree not everything that goes into faith is “rational” in terms of based on observation. But that which makes faith certain would be from an outside nonrational source rather than an irrational leap of faith taken by the believer. The latter seems to assume the absence of any interaction by a supreme being.

      I appreciate your response and let me know if I am addressing what you are saying.

    • Plutosdad

      I would have disagreed too when I was a Christian. Back then I kept repeating to people Paul’s words that faith was believing what is unseen, not believing “in spite of” evidence. And I would get angry with atheists who said otherwise.

      Of course, as I learned more and more about the universe, history, and ethics, the room for faith grew smaller and smaller. The only way I could possibly have faith now is if I were to indeed believe in spite of evidence. And of course as I learn more about cognitive dissonance it seems that is a very easy thing to do for all of us.

      So I think now that Christians like to repeat Paul’s words, and say they are not believing “in spite of” or contrary to evidence, the truth is they do, and it is only cognitive dissonance that leads them to think they don’t, because they find ways to marginalize or ignore the evidence (at least the ones who actually looked for evidence).

    • JohnH2

      Plutosdad,

      That you were unable to reconcile your particular beliefs to what you see as evidence in no way says that others are not able to easily reconcile their beliefs to the evidence, and it is wrong to suggest that everyone that does is suffering cognitive dissonance.

  • Craig S.

    Dan, we appreciate you suffering for our sakes. 😉 Great review.

  • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

    The most dangerous person in the world is the one who passionately loves
    you with a dangerous conception of what love or reality is, such that
    they eagerly subject you to evil thinking it’s good.

    Beautifully said, and far more eloquent than I was the other day when I had to defriend and block an evangelical Christian of our mutual acquaintance from my FB page over a long treatise he wrote justifying a particular Biblical atrocity as being perfectly compatible with his vision of an all-good, all-powerful, all-loving god. I was so horrified I lost all sense of coherency. I was almost in tears and quite shaken up at the idea that someone could actually say such things. I should expect monstrosity from true-blue fundagelical Christians, I know, but it always shocks me to see someone saying stuff like that, and I kinda hope it always will.

    Though this review does make me rethink the idea of ever accusing non-Christians of going over the line. Christians themselves seem to have no trouble doing precisely that.

  • MNb

    I wrote it before – you write better when you are pissed off. This is not the first review of the movie I have read (and I’m totally not going to see it, thank you) but it is the most thorough debunking I have met so far.
    Good job, especially about the sickening end.

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

      Thanks! And it only covers about HALF of what I have to say! There’s a ton I left out (or merely hinted at)! So, there will be another post. The previous review at least covers a lot else that’s in there.

  • Seek Find

    Please don’t write another review. You have less than nothing to say. Christians have their share of blithe idiots but I am not one of them, among many others like me. I am fully Christian and hold no regard for the “just in time salvation” of the character you mention. It takes a devoted life to please God, not a last minute prayer. Not all who cry “Lord, Lord!” will enter into the kingdom. And you likely will be crying the loudest at the last. Good luck.

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

      Please don’t write another review. You have less than nothing to say. Christians have their share of blithe idiots but I am not one of them, among many others like me. I am fully Christian and hold no regard for the “just in time salvation” of the character you mention. It takes a devoted life to please God, not a last minute prayer. Not all who cry “Lord, Lord!” will enter into the kingdom. And you likely will be crying the loudest at the last. Good luck.

      I have less than nothing to say? But you agreed with me that the “just in time salvation” mindset of the filmmakers and apparently of all the Christians talking about how great this movie was is offensively silly.

      I know many “saved by faith, not by works” folks will take issue with your implication that salvation is earned by a devoted life rather than by the blood of Christ alone.

      But that’s an intramural game at a school I don’t attend.

    • Jim Jones

      “Christianity: 2,000 years of everyone making it up as they go”.

    • Your Conscience

      Tell that to the thief on the cross.

  • Criamon

    “What Christians are talking about in faith is something different. It’s a commitment (and the word ‘faith’ always seems to require this)to believe, trust, hope, and be loyal. A desire to believe, trust, hope, and be loyal. Often it is a passionate sort. It is not rationally just saying, “Well, I see there’s a 50/50 chance this may be true, so I’ll commit to it only half way.” It’s saying, I don’t care that I might be wrong, I’m going to commit to this 100% and do everything I can to make myself believe it.”

    I don’t think, in general, this is supportable. I don’t think the theist usage of the English word ‘faith’, a word that’s slippery in it’s own nature, is employed anywhere close to the kind of care that would be necessary to be able to interpret that they employ a specific general use, at least with any degree of confidence. It’s only upon being forced to elaborate on the meaning they’re intending to convey with the word (and the word ‘faith’ always seems to require this) that meaning is able to be communicated and at that point my experience is that many of the usages are evident, not a trend toward a specific usage – thus casting further doubt that it can be asserted that they employ a specific meaning of the word. Maybe its just that they really mean what you think they mean but tend to be inarticulate about it (perhaps owing to the slippery nature of the word), but I don’t see evidence of that. It might be something you could establish but it would require a pretty careful and particular line of inquiry across many interviews before it could be shown.

    “The most dangerous person in the world is the one who passionately loves you with a dangerous conception of what love or reality is, such that they eagerly subject you to evil thinking it’s good.”

    When I read this, the movie Misery came to mind. :)

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

    What SeekFind said was offensive, and, yes, an equivalent of a “fuck off” to us as atheists. But, please let’s not escalate this with further exchanges of hostility. Please keep the discussions in here civil or we will waste an opportunity to make rational progress with each other.

    • indorri

      Alright, fair enough. I apologize for the hostility, but I’ll keep the post as it originally was so as not to hide my initial reaction.

    • Mama_Cordelia

      I will pray for the author of this article, because I hope he finds the real joy from knowing Christ…the one and ONLY TRUE LIVING GOD

  • Jedstu

    Haven’t seen the movie yet, but it doesn’t sound like I’d like it… I’m more of an old fashioned believer, so the Newsboys’ CCM generation holds little attraction for me. Your description of the film’s failures lines up with a lot of what I’d agree with. Although we have different worldviews, we’re both able to see the issues here. I for one am glad that Truth isn’t limited or defined by the shortcomings of a mediocre movie.

  • Jamison Brown

    Dan, I was directed here by someone else on the alternate post. Again, I appreciate your candor. You articulate your perspective very well and don’t seem to be content to spout cliches; I trust you have considered your position carefully and formed your own conclusions.

    As someone who probably falls into the demographic that this film is targeting, I can agree that this film is not perfect by any stretch. Let’s face it, there are very few perfect films out there. The acting is not great, nor are the characterizations. And like I stated in the other blog, I find it unlikely that this scenario would play out in real life (unless these circumstances and back-stories aligned perfectly in the real world).

    With all that being said, as someone potentially in the target demographic, I merely took the point of the film to be that God is with us no matter where we are in our lives. In my perception, it is a message of hope, not necessarily that we should rise up or that we are victims. I will ask a question I asked on the other blog; what is wrong with a message of hope? I don’t think that the majority of Christians who watch this movie will assume that this movie is anything other than a work of fiction, particularly with regard to the characterizations.

    I also disagree with your supposition that most Christians are well aware of, to some degree, the fact that their beliefs go against reason. I would be curious to know what brought you to that conclusion or which points of reason would move someone away from a belief in God. For me personally, like Einstein is known for having said, the more I study the universe the more I believe. Scientists like Schroeder and Lennox offer theories that show how modern scientific theories can align with creation theory and Biblical accounts. Most arguments I have encountered beyond science are related to the presence of evil/chaos in the world. Having studied theology, there are definitely responses to this point. Grudem outlines many of those in Systematic Theology (he also outlines the opposing viewpoints). Having studied some philosophy, science, and theology, I would like to think I have a well rounded perspective.

    I also think that your view of death-bed confession could be slightly off. I definitely think there are those who would have no empathy for someone who was dying, but I don’t think the majority of Christians fall into that category, which I think you were suggesting. It sounds like you think most Christians would simply offer emotional support in that situation. I honestly think it is somewhere in between.

    My wife and I, who coincidentally happens to be a physicist, discussed the ending in depth after leaving the film. We both agreed that we wish would bring Jesus to that person, but we were not sure we would if the situation presented itself. To truly follow Christ is to care about people and to not view them as projects but to also present the gospel when we can. We should try to be a friend to all we meet. Friends are deeply involved in each others lives. It is hard to do that if you encounter someone for the first time in their death-bed.

    Ultimately, the Bible teaches that God is more concerned with our heart than that of our actions (not that He is not concerned with what we do, just that he cares more about the heart behind why we do it). If this is the case, it is certainly possible that these death-bed confessions could ultimately lead to nothing if that person is not sincere. But if what we believe is true, and I believe it is, how could we not offer that? Is it truly caring if a person knowingly allows another person to spend eternity apart from God? And to a further extent, isn’t it entirely possibly for someone to be empathetic and also offer Christ?

    This is really the test most Christians hope they would pass but none would want to take. I believe that the ideal method to offer Christ is to someone who is/has become a friend after they have begun to respect your opinion and the way you live. At this point, then you would say what Christ has done for you and allow them to reason through that themselves.

    Thanks again for your perspective. It has been really enlightening for me and has even spurred some thoughtful conversations in my circles. I hope that the dialogue between Christians and atheists can continue in such a respectful and reasonable manner. Kudos!

    • Bob Jase

      “God is with us no matter where we are in our lives”

      Yet he still persisits on remaining unheard & unseen by the majority of people on the planet so he can torment them in hell for eternity.

      Your god is a dick.

    • Jamison Brown

      Buster,
      Your perception of God being a dick is filtered through what you know and understand. You understand Him to be someone who wants to torment people and send them to hell. This shades your perception of Him. I am just speculating based on your post, but I think it is safe to say you have never encountered Him and those close to you have not either. This also shades your perception of Him. As such, my knowledge and experience of Him shades my perception. The same thing happens with our perceptions of people; I.e. you may know someone more than I amd know them to be a good person but if I encountered them once and they were rude to me, I may think they are a bad person. But the truth is my perception would be based on an incomplete picture of them as a whole.

    • Bob Jase

      Anyone who would invent a hell is a dick.

    • Jamison Brown

      Buster, I think you misunderstand God. Theologically speaking, most scholars will agree that hell is merely a place of separation from God. The interpretation of hell is something that mankind has embellished over the years. And in point of fact, people ultimately choose to be separated from God.

      I will put it to you this way, is a father a dick because he sends his child to his room for disobeying? From the child’s perspective, perhaps. But as we grow older and become parents ourselves, we understand that we set boundaries for our children to protect them from what they don’t know. We don’t ultimately want to punish our children, in fact, that was never our intention from the beginning. Their choice to disobey is what brings the separation. And often times, when we allow our children to apologize and realize they are doing it honestly, we lift the punishment.

      Since we, as humans, do this, are we all dicks?

    • http://kingscriercommissions.blogspot.com/ thekingscrier

      Can you picture yourself separated from your children for eternity over finite transgressions? If you can, then your moral compass may not be working properly.

    • Jamison Brown

      I can’t imagine that but the reality is the equivalent happens in our world every day. Someone’s child is sent to prison for breaking a law. And in some of those cases, it is for life and they are denied visitation. We live in a world of laws because we understand the need for boundaries to protect. Why then is it cruel for God to set up boundaries? Is it not the same?

    • http://kingscriercommissions.blogspot.com/ thekingscrier

      Not if the deity in question is given the trait of unconditional love. Unconditional means exactly that: no conditions, no boundaries, no parameters which must be followed or else. For an infinite being capable of producing a universe from nothing, the simple act of judging someone based on how they live instead of what fairy tale they believed in should be simple.

      Sounds more like the finite minds of humans wanting to control other humans through fear and intimidation.

    • Jamison Brown

      I think your view of love is not complete. Unconditional love does not mean we condone actions. For example, if your child says they hate you and specifically violate your rules, do you love them less? If you punish your child, do you love them less? If you did, your love would be flawed. Say a man has a son who is an alcoholic, does the father love his son less because of this? No, but the father understands that his son can be dangerous if he does not choose to get clean so he may impose boundaries on his son to protect the rest of the family. The son probably views the father as not caring. The reality is that real love wants what is best for someone, no matter the personal cost to the one who loves. The truth is, it hurts the father to see his son struggle and it probably hurts him more to impose the boundaries. Real love sometimes requires hard truth being spoken. As Rick Warren put it Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

    • Uncephalized

      You are begging the question by assuming that cases where a parent is separated from a child for life with no visitation rights are just, simply because they occur. I assert that this is in fact unjust, and that a bigger, more eternal version perpetrated by God instead of the justice system would be even more so.

    • Jamison Brown

      Uncephalized, thank you for your responses. I think the issue comes down to authority. Because we have so much freedom in the Unites States, there are many differing views on authority. Ultimately, it is the authority’s right and responsibility to care for those under its roof. Our government has the authority and thus has the obligation to look out for the peoples interest, whether or not the people themselves care about their interest. There are many colloquialisms about this, but here are a couple you are familiar with: “as long as you live under my roof you will do as I say” and “you play by house rules”. Many people in our society have a perverted view of authority. It could be that they were treated unfairly by the justice system or even their own parents. But because someone has a bad experience with authority does not mean that all authority is bad. You seem to have some very specific ideas about justice. I commend you for holding fast to your convictions. The difficulty is, you are not an authority. The only authority you likely carry is in your own home. You can make the rules there. Unless you are a government official, this is likely where your authority ends. Can someone who is not in a position of authority understand what that authority entails? Can that person effectively understand what is right and wrong without first having been in the position of authority and to see what the cost is? Our founding fathers knew they didn’t know it all and gave us a way to correct things in our constitution. They understood that they would never know fully what right and wrong was until they were in authority and faced the challenges that come with it. So my question is, how could we possibly dictate to God what is right or wrong when none of us has ever been the creator of a universe? Certainly not effectively. It would be like me going into surgery and telling my surgeon there is a better way to fix me because I have done a WebMD search. J. Vernon McGee said something along those lines: “This is God’s universe, and God does things His way. You may have a better way, but you don’t have a universe.”

    • Uncephalized

      @Jamison Brown

      “Uncephalized, thank you for your responses. I think the issue comes down to authority. Because we have so much freedom in the Unites States, there are many differing views on authority. Ultimately, it is the authority’s right and responsibility to care for those under its roof.”

      Another way of looking at it might be that authority is given by the governed, and can/should be revoked when abused. Authority that cannot be revoked or checked is usually called despotism and seems prone to devolve into tyranny.

      “Our government has the authority and thus has the obligation to look out for the peoples interest, whether or not the people themselves care about their interest. There are many colloquialisms about this, but here are a couple you are familiar with: “as long as you live under my roof you will do as I say” and “you play by house rules”.

      I neither agree with nor abide by such feudalisms in my life. To some extent, yes, I have authority in my home–but so does my wife. So does society, in the form of the law and its officers. So does anyone who chooses to break in and hold me at gunpoint. Whose authority is the most legitimate? Whose is the most real? Whose is the most fundamental?

      “Many people in our society have a perverted view of authority. It could be that they were treated unfairly by the justice system or even their own parents. But because someone has a bad experience with authority does not mean that all authority is bad. You seem to have some very specific ideas about justice. I commend you for holding fast to your convictions. The difficulty is, you are not an authority. The only authority you likely carry is in your own home. You can make the rules there.”

      I think you’re more right than you know–the mainstream view of authority as a gods-given right to power is perverted. But I doubt that’s what you meant. :-)

      I also agree that I am not an authority. But neither is anyone else, not in the way you seem to mean it–that anyone should have any kind of uninvited, unquestionable, unchecked power over my or anyone else’s life is abhorrent. In fact it’s a pretty good working definition of injustice in my view.

      “Unless you are a government official, this is likely where your authority ends. Can someone who is not in a position of authority understand what that authority entails? Can that person effectively understand what is right and wrong without first having been in the position of authority and to see what the cost is? Our founding fathers knew they didn’t know it all and gave us a way to correct things in our constitution. They understood that they would never know fully what right and wrong was until they were in authority and faced the challenges that come with it.”

      I believe I understand authority, yes. To have responsibility for the well-being of others; to feel required to make decisions in their names; to be burdened with resolving conflicts with no clear best outcome, or making choices that might be unpopular or even painful, in the long-term best interest of all involved. I think many/most people have encountered some degree of this experience by the time they reach adult-human status.

      I also understand that some people view authority as the desirable outcome of a life spent in the pursuit of power and dominion over others. I strongly reject such philosophy and such people, wherever I encounter them. Your God (formerly “mine” as well, I might add) strikes me as the archetype of the form.

      “So my question is, how could we possibly dictate to God what is right or wrong when none of us has ever been the creator of a universe? Certainly not effectively. It would be like me going into surgery and telling my surgeon there is a better way to fix me because I have done a WebMD search. J. Vernon McGee said something along those lines: “This is God’s universe, and God does things His way. You may have a better way, but you don’t have a universe.”

      I am not allowed to object to my own presumed eternal torture, because authority?

      This veiled “might makes right” argument fills me with contempt. Not for you, but for the kind of being who would rely on such an argument to justify murdering nearly the entire human race, or dashing infants to death on rocks, or enslaving enemy tribes, or murdering your own young son, or …

      The God of the Bible has committed, celebrated and/or commanded all these crimes and many more, according the dogma of what I can guess is your religion. I can only thank the uncaring stars that such a vile, all-powerful tyrant only exists in the minds of its followers, and not in any universe you and I are fortunate enough to inhabit.

    • Jamison Brown

      Uncephalized, thanks again for your response. I really appreciate your candor. I also appreciate that you have remained civil in this dialogue. I think I understand your philosophy, but I could be off base. Please feel free to correct me. It seems like your philosophy is very much informed by your view of the God of the Bible, i.e. you do not want to believe in a God who can/would destroy.

      You may have asked a similar question to yourself or others in the past: how could a God who claims to be good do/allow (fill in the blank). The way I would respond, first and foremost, is to challenge you to find any theological evidence that God enjoyed/enjoys killing humans in any form. Second, I would challenge your determination of who God is based on one aspect of his character.

      Like every human, I am sure you have made a few decisions in your life that had negative consequences for others (I do not think you have had to kill many, so I know this not a perfect analogy). If I were to judge the entirety of your character based on those decisions, I would of course have a flawed view of you as a person.
      Much the same way, I think your view of God is flawed.

      If He was, in fact, a domineering dictator or sky bully waiting for us to screw up so He could squash us under His feet, the gospel would never have needed to exist. He clearly did not like what was happening to man and made a better way by sacrificing something really important to Him. He essentially suffered the torture Himself so we would not have to. I fail to see how this could fit into the view of God as some kind of dictator. What dictator would suffer himself for the sake of peons? Kim Jong Il, Hitler, Kim Jong Un, Alexander, etc?

      Now, you could still respond by saying “how could a God who claims to be good kill?” How could a president who claims to be a good man drop the atomic bomb? Many thousands were killed as a result of that, but it was a turning point in the war. This act was horrific, to be sure, but it prevented the further destruction of man kind as a whole. We could certainly debate that, but it is hard to argue with the fact that the allies had some measure of victory.

      In order to prevent the spread of evil, death occurred. Death is painful and ugly. No one wants to kill (save for those who are mentally unstable). Most soldiers don’t go to war because they want to destroy, but because they want to protect. Justice is about protection, not destruction. Some in authority abuse their authority, but those who understand it know it is ultimately about protection (which it seems like you understand).

      Lastly, you said you are glad that God does not exist. I would challenge to provide proof to back this up. I think a more appropriate response would be “I choose not to believe in a God who…”. This is ultimately your opinion and I would argue it is based on your image of God. You view the idea of God to be that sky bully and therefore do not want to believe in Him. I would not want to believe in that god either.

      The fact of the matter is, there are ample amounts of scientific evidence that point either way. We could both provide citations of respected masters of their field to support our position. I have not seen anything definitive, but merely educated guesses by phds. If you have seen something definitive, please point me in the direction. Unlike some in the Christian world, I like to read things that challenge my perspective. I think it is the only real way growth can occur.

      Again, I appreciate the dialogue and your candor.

    • Bob Jase

      “Theologically speaking, most scholars will agree that hell is merely a place of separation from God. ”

      Most scholars? Not most Christian scholars unless you are not including the likes of William Craig, Pat Robertson,the various Popes, etc.

      Oh, god is also supposedly everywhere so how does one become separate from that?

      “I will put it to you this way, is a father a dick because he sends his child to his room for disobeying?”

      I used to send my kids to their room too – but I didn’t make them sttay there with the lights out for eternity. There’s a difference.

    • Jamison Brown

      RC Sproul is perhaps the most prominent but if you read Systematic Theology, it is pointed out that this is a widely held belief.

      My analogy to a father disciplining his children was not perfect. Your children most likely have not done anything severe in the sight of their authority, I.e. you. But lets say they did something severe in the sight of the authority that trumps your own, I.e. the government. Lets say it was murder. As a father, you wouldn’t love them less but you would most likely feel that justice needed to occur as a moral obligation as well as a law of the land obligation. If that crime was found to be premeditated and heinous, would there not be significant and potentially permanent boundaries put in place?

      Again, it is not a perfect analogy by it is the closest in human terms we can come to.

    • Uncephalized

      No. No no no no no no no.

      Life imprisonment is not permanent. Eventually the prisoner will die, ending the prison term. There is a reason the legal term is “life sentence”, not “eternal sentence”. Nothing done by a human being is eternal or immutable.

      By contrast, a habit of punishing people for eternity is, literally, incalculably monstrous. There is absolutely no crime that could justify an eternal sentence, with no chance of parole. The very idea is incoherently unjust.

  • http://www.project315.net/ James Johnson

    We all believe in an eternal something–either eternal energy or an eternal Mind.

    As Dr. John Lennox puts it:

    “There are not many options – essentially just two. Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter; or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second.”

    Atheists seem to be on the “eternal energy” side (violating the First and Second Law of Thermodynamics, as well as not being able to explain the nature of our existence (consciousness, reason, information, love, humor, beauty, laws of logic and morality coherently with mindless “energy”.

    On the other hand, Christians believe in an “eternal Mind (God)” that can coherently explain consciousness, reason, information, love, humor, beauty, laws of logic and morality coherently and consistently because these are activities of a MIND!

    P1: Naturalism claims everything arises from natural properties and causes; therefore, nothing exists beyond the natural (material) world.
    P2: The natural world cannot explain what numbers or rules of logic are; it merely takes them for granted as a priori truths essential to its function.
    P3: Naturalists use the laws of logic (absolutely) to deny the absolute existence of the laws of logic (this violates the law of non-contradiction).
    Conclusion: Since Naturalism violates the law of non-contradiction regarding the laws of logic, it fails the truth test of LOGICAL CONSISTENCY

    This is why the major difference between the Christian worldview and the naturalist worldviews is found in the logical outworking of the worldview applied to reality. Any discrepancies in the Christian worldview are merely superficial; the deeper one digs, the more logical consistency and coherence is found. On the other hand, any logic and coherence in the naturalist worldview is merely superficial; the deeper one digs, the more contradictions and incoherence is found.

  • Jo Jerome

    So, this internet-troll revenge fantasy film actually ends with the violent death of the big, bad atheist where the Christians get to justify their glee at his passing with, “Ooh, he gets to sit in Jesus’ lap now!”

    That is scary-sick.

  • Jo Jerome

    I will also say Dan that I do love your perspective, but I also wish your articles had a “trailer to the movie version.” I don’t see anyone but the choir, and then only the most patient members of the choir, reading articles this lengthy.

  • Mike Lee

    Dan, for the most part I thought your review of the movie was good and fair-minded. As a Christian, I thought your words were thoughtful and kind….and no, that’s not my attempt to convert you with kindness.

    I was disappointed with 2 main aspects of the movie: (1)the atheists were all cruel-hearted devils, and (2)everyone gets saved and live happily ever after. I was disappointed the creators didn’t show the reality that there are kind-hearted non-believers in our world, or that sometimes God doesn’t answer prayer, or that sometimes (often times) bad things still happen no matter how hard we pray.

    On the other hand, I was pleased with 2 main aspects as well: (1)the acting wasn’t on par with a 3rd grade talent show, and (2)the pro-God arguments proposed were solid and encouraging to believers who haven’t been involved in that conversation. That said, however, I would have liked to see more rebuttal arguments from the atheistic side because I know many naive Christians will think it’s “just that easy” like it was in the movie.

    Good reading, thanks for the thoughts!
    Mike

    • God’s Girl

      Hi Mike,

      1. Regarding your comments about everyone getting saved and a happily ever after:
      Not everyone in the film was saved. Mark (Dean Cain) is shown at the end of the film driving off in his car with rage after he received the text from his sister that read, “God’s Not Dead.”

      2. Cruel atheists in the film:
      The atheists in the film may have been made to seem that they were cruel and evil, but I truly believe it was only to prove a point. Also, I don’t know if you’ve been on a college campus recently, but when a Christian is in a class where a professor is an atheist, they are targeted in a similar fashion to what was depicted in the film. Most (but not all) atheist students and professors try to put Christians down when they voice there opinion instead of discussing the topic peacefully.

      Respectfully,

      The Daughter of a King

    • Dorfl

      Also, I don’t know if you’ve been on a college campus recently, but when a Christian is in a class where a professor is an atheist, they are targeted in a similar fashion to what was depicted in the film.

      Since I doubt you would take my – an atheist’s – word for how atheist professors react to a student being Christian, I direct you to this post by a fellow Christian about what animosity towards Christians does and does not look like:

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/blackwhiteandgray/2014/03/god-is-not-dead-and-this-is-not-what-anti-christian-animoisty-looks-like/

      Please take the time to read it.

    • MNb

      “I truly believe”
      That’s the core of your problem: lack of healthy skepticism.

    • David Miller

      God’s Girl,

      You sound as if you think Christians are a small persecuted minority in the USA (“when a Christian is in a class where a professor is an atheist, they are
      targeted in a similar fashion to what was depicted in the film”)!

      Might I remind you that well over two -thirds of Americans still self-identify as Christians?

      Yes, I know that some atheists can be bigoted jerks, just as there are some Buddhists, vegetarians, dog owners, liberals, and members of any other group you can imagine who are bigoted jerks. Human beings of all stripes are sometimes jerks.

      But, this bizarre view of American Christians as a persecuted minority is just too much. I grew up in a major Midwestern metropolitan area where I was afraid to mention that I was an atheist because of the general antipathy towards non-Christians. If you scan around the ‘Net, you will find this is still true of some areas in the US.

      On the other hand, I have not heard of any state of the US in which Christians are afraid to “come out” as Christians. Quite the contrary: every state in the Union seems to have remarkably loud and public manifestations of Christianity.

      Yes, of course, some atheists can be jerks. But, considering how many Christians have been jerks over the last two thousand years (often, indeed, mass murderers), well, let’s just say that I doubt you can honestly say you have always treated non-believers as being just as good as Christians. So, why do you expect non-believers to be any more tolerant towards you?

      Dave Miller in Sacramento

    • http://kingscriercommissions.blogspot.com/ thekingscrier

      If a college professor acted the way Kevin Sorbo’s character does in the film, he’d be brought up on academic misconduct right quick. No professor can stand there and bully students indefinitely. Sooner or later someone will report them to the dean of their college.

      As for persecution of Christians, I’m an atheist who went through a few classes regarding religion. In group activities, I was the only atheist at the table (typical group size was 10 to 12). Does that sound like being the majority?

    • Giauz Ragnarock

      If any of them wanted a real life version of the movie to show them just how gray the debate on faith is, tell them to scour YouTube for all the Christian vs. ” ” debates. They may find that they don’t even agree with the person arguing for “their” side.

  • wesvvv

    You make me wonder if one facet of religion’s success isn’t that it makes it easier to kill people and go to war, because it doesn’t really matter, God will take care of the truly holy and the others get what they deserve.

    • http://kingscriercommissions.blogspot.com/ thekingscrier

      It’s more along the lines of social identity. Religion codifies and reinforces a culture’s prohibitions and virtues simultaneously. This sets religion in the department of both creating and enforcing the status quo. Religions that adapt to cultural changes tend to stay the course and remain viable entities.

  • ctcss

    What Christians are talking about in faith is something different. It’s a commitment to believe, trust, hope, and be loyal. A desire to believe, trust, hope, and be loyal. Often it is a passionate sort. It is not rationally just saying, “Well, I see there’s a 50/50 chance this may be true, so I’ll commit to it only half way.” It’s saying, I don’t care that I might be wrong, I’m going to commit to this 100% and do everything I can to make myself believe it.

    OK, I have a problem with this kind of statement that seems to slam Christian faith as somehow being irrational. Look at the same statement with some minor alterations in brackets to illustrate the fact that this kind of approach is not necessarily an irrational position for a person to take.

    What [people who believe in marriage] are talking about in faith is something different. It’s a commitment to believe, trust, hope, and be loyal. A desire to believe, trust, hope, and be loyal. Often it is a passionate sort. It is not rationally just saying, “Well, I see there’s a 50/50 chance this [marriage] may [work out], so I’ll commit to it only half way.” It’s saying, I don’t care that I might be wrong [about this marriage being guaranteed to work out], I’m going to commit to this 100% and do everything I can to make myself believe it.

    I hope I am being clear here. There are any number of things that require an absolute (or near absolute) commitment on a person’s part, even though there is no guarantee of success. Entering into marriage is one such thing. Deciding to have a child is another. Being an astronaut on a mission to Mars is another. Trying to be the first to reach the South Pole via dogsled is another.

    No matter how much one would like a guarantee, life doesn’t issue such certificates. I don’t think any marriage proposal is going to go over well where the proposer only is willing to offer a half-hearted commitment. Likewise, deciding that one desires to commit themselves to following God requires at least the same level of commitment that a human marriage might. IMO, merely dabbling in marriage or religion is no way to get anywhere on either path.

    The point is, no one has to marry. No one has to be religious, either. However, both are serious steps to take and each should be investigated enough that one can feel assured that proceeding forward makes a lot of sense and is therefore a good idea. But cherishing the idea that one can always bail out when things get tough is not a good recipe for establishing anything worthwhile, at least IMO. If a person decides that something is very worthwhile, they should be willing to put their all into it. Anything less and they are actually saying they don’t really value that thing very much.

    • David Miller

      The difference, of course, is that deciding to get married, have a child, be an astronaut, etc. does not require one to believe in a Virgin Birth, a bodily Resurrection, Original Sin, and all the rest.

      Indeed, the point of all those beliefs is precisely that they distinguish the Believer from the non-believer. Belief in the “Virgin Birth” is a “badge of group identity”: the fact that it is obviously false is not a bug, but a feature. Just as pledges to a fraternity endure the barbarity of hazing to prove their loyalty to the frat, so also the Believers claim to believe in the absurd in order to prove their loyalty.

      So, how many really believe and how many are just playing along?

      Dave Miller in Sacramento

    • Uncephalized

      There is a rather obvious difference you’re (intentionally?) glossing over between all those commitment-requiring tasks and religion–getting married or gong to space involve doing real things with real other people.

      No one is arguing IMO that 100% commitment in the face of uncertainty is categorically bad. But when the subject of such devotion is clearly imaginary to those who don’t share the delusion–that’s when things start to get scary for the rest of us. Especially when the True Believers use their beliefs to justify atrocities.

      If your spouse started advocating genocide and brutal executions by stoning for trivial social infractions, you wouldn’t apologize for it (I hope!). You’d probably leave, right? So why is it OK (or even righteous) when God does it?

  • Will Barron

    I’m an Episcopalian, and it sickens me to see how certain “Christians” go about preaching love and kindness while also condemning people of other religions to eternal pain and suffering for not accepting Jesus. They are the first to quote from the Bible when concerning who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell but rarely seem to understand what God’s love really is. They almost hold themselves as a better people for accepting Jesus almost as if they’re saying, “Your beliefs are wrong so now your going to Hell for it while I prosper in Heaven.” But what loving God could condemn anyone to Hell? If he is absolute love then wouldn’t he be able to forgive us despite the crime. My priest often phrases it by asking me if my mother would still love me if I was a serial killer. Because she’s my mother I know that she will love me no matter what I do. So if God loves us more than anything how could he not accept all into Heaven despite their crimes or religion.

    This film suggests the exact opposite of God’s unconditional love. It makes Muslims look like heartless and abusive people. Guess what, guys, Jesus is mentioned in the Quran more than Mohammed is. Just because a small percentage exploit Islam for a recruiting technique in there mission towards terror does not mean they are all bad people. 99.5 percent are probably more religious and better people than most Christians. Now that I look back, I’m surprised there weren’t any stereotypical Jews in the movie.

    This film was a complete abomination to what Christianity really is. It’s nothing more than the product of hypocritical Christians who would rather wallow in their own self-righteousness and flaunt it in other people’s faces than simply accept people for the way they are.

    And yes, everyone, I believe Hitler is in Heaven too. What he did during his life was horrible but for us to believe it’s unfair for him to go to Heaven is ignoring true love and forgiveness which is what God really is.

    Regards,

    The Son of Please Get Off Your High Horse!

    • jonathan

      Matthew 10:32-33 those that confess me before men I will also confess before my father, but those who deny me before men I will deny before my father.
      this verse states in itself that if you deny Jesus christ as your lord and savior then he will deny you passage into heaven. Therefore not everyone goes to heaven but only the people who accept Jesus

  • David Miller

    Deleted by author because of accidental double posting

  • john johnson

    Thousands and thousands of words, yet you said nothing at the same time. Where is your argument? Im sorry that non-christians are offended by people getting saved on their death bed, but it happens. Jesus saved the man on the cross next to him as he died as well, remember?
    Christians obviously like this movie, non believers hate it, and people who are lost may find the way. Thats the point of the movie.

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

      My argument here is that if Christianity destroys your empathy and your ability to engage with reality, it’s a bad thing. My argument is that it is irrational and at least potentially dangerous to try to work yourself up into believing and committing 110% to prima facie preposterous things that fly in the face of reality and which even you admit you can’t know are true.

      For many more arguments, see this post’s companion: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2014/03/a-philosophy-professor-analyzes-gods-not-deads-case-for-god/

    • commonsense987

      Your statement seems to lack empathy and ability to engage with reality.

  • Frederick Green

    I confess I have not the time to go very deep into this discussion. I am a Christian and, by trade, a condensed-matter theorist. In science – at least the kind I’ve been doing for 40 years – there is NEVER proof beyond any and all doubt. Scientific praxis got used to that and moved on to a less ideologically prescriptive, frankly more fruitful, post-classical mindset.
    Similarly, with (dis)belief in God, part of the Christian confession for some while has freely admitted there are no incontrovertible, self-contained proofs of God. They would be superfluous anyway; Jesus didn’t appear greatly concerned with debates in the atheneum. (In the synagogue, though, there was a different agenda: critiquing entrenched bigotry.)
    My own practice is eucharistic. Is that because of some cognitive fetish about “transubstantiation”? Not at all. The so-called “Real Presence” isn’t about materiality but about temporality. Its aim is to unite into One the integrity of our distinct lives (or, if deficient, to heal them) AND for that consciousness to go out and do real work transforming the world. Is there anything anti-scientific in that? No. Is there anything “proving” there is one and only one way to reach for a just and compassionate society? No. Christ to my mind never intimated a wish to establish a theocracy (so, call me a heretic). This seems a peculiarly American throwback to the Puritans. But “The Kingdom of God is within”, and its authority “not of this world”. So why all the fuss?

  • Wookie Monster

    I have to say that my biggest disappointment is that Kevin Sorbo, aka, Hercules, participated in this piece of drivel. Does he actually buy into this crap (Like Dean Cain apparently does) or was he just that hard up for roles?

    • Don

      He’s made a few of these type of films already.

  • Uncephalized

    @jonathan

    “All I can say is I feel sorry for all the people who has read this and are believing what you say about Christians, Jesus and God. Its funny how people can believe what one stranger says when they talk down upon Christians, but cannot believe what is written over and over in the bible with numerous witnesses and details on Jesus Christ.”

    Sorry, but testimony from a millennia-old book doesn’t trump the observed laws of nature. It is many orders of magnitude more likely that a bunch of folks living long before scientific understanding wrote down some fairy tales they believed were true, but weren’t, than that they are true despite all physical and logical evidence to the contrary.

    “I’m sure everyone in hear believes that we all started from a big bang in the universe and that we evolved over millions of years. Question I have for you is what created the first thing in evolution.”

    Abiogenesis. We don’t know exactly what that involves yet. A lot of smart people are working on it. We just discovered DNA less approximately one lifetime ago! Give the scientists some time to work.

    Recent science seems to show that any chemical bath (i.e. the ancient sea) put in the path of a large external source of energy (i.e. the Sun) will spontaneously configure itself to dissipate that energy as heat, just by following the laws of thermodynamics. Over time, these energy-shedding reactions may become the type that we categorize as life. Or it might happen some other way. Regardless, we know it happened at least once, because we exist.

    Also, there probably was no clear beginning to life. It likely developed more or less continuously from very simple chemical beginnings. There would not be any particular point where you could definitively label the “first organism”. This kind of fuzziness is still present with scientists arguing over whether viruses, for example, should be considered “alive” or not (as an inclusivist myself, I think they should).

    A question I have for you in turn comes in two parts:

    1) What created or caused “God”?

    2) If “God” was not created or caused, why are you allowed to make a special exception for “God” that I am not allowed to make for the universe?

    In other words, why do you think it’s OK to claim (with no evidence) that “God” is a special exception to the rule that everything needs a cause, but it’s not OK for me to claim that the universe itself is the un-caused first cause? And why is either of these alternatives more appealing than simply saying “it appears to be an infinite regress; we have no idea if there even is a ‘beginning’ anyway”?

    “Its also funny that you can believe in something that is so far fetched as the big bang theory, if there was nothing before the bang, what created the 2 objects that collided to start everything.”

    Big Bang Theory does NOT posit that anything collided with anything. You should spend 5 minutes on Wikipedia before you make such an aggressive claim, because it makes you look very ignorant. Big Bang Theory states that all the matter and energy in the universe was condensed into one tiny point, which subsequently exploded, creating space-time as it expanded. How the matter and energy come to exist is not strictly a part of the theory, but ideas include vacuum fluctuations or a Big Crunch from a previous, collapsed universe.

    “You can believe in a book that only theorizes how everything started but deny the book that describes it in detail. The bible isn’t only about how we came to be, but also a way of life and how we should live. If everyone read and lived by the bible there would be less murders, and crime[…]”

    What book is it that I “believe in” exactly? Are you under the erroneous impression that we atheists follow some un-holy text like On the Origin of Species for our moral guidance? Because, uh, we don’t.

    Your claim that a more Christian and Bible-dominated society would be more peaceful is strongly contradicted by:

    1) Medieval Europe, which was almost exclusively Christian and also abhorrently brutal, just like everywhere else at the time.

    2) Modern Nigeria, where frenzy over the very-Biblical Exodus 22:18 and Leviticus 18:22 are currently costing the lives and freedom of many innocent citizens at the hands of their so-Christian-they’ll-kill-for-it neighbors.

    3) Modern Scandinavia and Japan, whose nations have some of the lowest rates of violent crime in the world (their per-capita murder rates are about a quarter of those in the so-Christian-everybody-needs-a-gun United States), to go along with the highest rates of atheism, highest acceptance of evolution, and the lowest prevalence of strong religious belief.

    “[…]as it says to love thy neighbor, honor thy father and mother.”

    It also says “O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one, how blessed will be the one who repays you with the recompense with which you have repaid us. How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.”

    Yeah, apparently “God” is peachy fine with smashing the skulls of helpless children because they were born into an enemy tribe.

    It also says:

    “When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive,

    21:11 And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife;

    21:12 Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;

    21:13 And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.

    21:14 And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.”

    So “God” is also OK with making slaves of the wives and daughters of conquered (read: brutally murdered and/or tortured) men, and raping them repeatedly (sorry, “marrying” them) to force them to bear good Hebrew children. I’m really feeling the infinite love. Oh yeah, and if she’s not as good in the sack as you thought, you can toss her out in the street with nothing, because she’s not a person anyway. (A woman and a foreigner? Double Jeopardy!)

    Should I go on?

  • Don

    Sounds like a live action Chick Tract.

  • Giauz Ragnarock

    There WOULD probably be less murders, indeed. I find that Jesus defines a lot of things as NOT murder.