Chick Tract: The Movie (Review of “God’s Not Dead”)

atheist review God's Not DeadAbout six weeks ago, I wrote a summary of a particular Chick tract (a Christian cartoon handed out to evangelize) in which a gallant Christian student stands up for the Christian truth in a classroom run by a dictatorial atheist. Now that I’ve seen the new “God’s Not Dead” movie, that tract does indeed look like the first draft of the screenplay.

The first thing to get past in this movie is that plausibility is out the window. In this world, philosophy professors can bully Christians to renounce their faith without consequences, then demand that they debate him in front of the class and put a large fraction of that student’s grade on the outcome.

Show me such a situation, and I’ll show you a professor who is in trouble with the college administration. Not only is that unethical, it is crying out for a lawsuit. Every atheist I know would be allied with the Christians to say that that’s way out of bounds.

Sure, Christian students can have their beliefs challenged when they go to college. I see no problem with that. But as long as we’re not pretending that school-sanctioned humiliation of Christians is typical in the real world (despite the long list of court cases at the end, I’ve yet to see even one example), I’m fine with Christians having their David and Goliath movie.

But there’s plenty more to criticize.

Atheist journalist gets cancer

A liberal atheist journalist discovers that she has cancer, and she’s immediately dumped as a result by her rich go-getter boyfriend. Then we see her talking with the doctor about her MRI results. The doctor asks if she has anyone that she’d like to be there with her. But no, she has no one. She’s alone and afraid.

At the end, she barges in on the Christian rock group about to play at a concert (that’s her journalistic style), and we realize that God pushed her to do that. Then they have a good pray.

But there was no mention of the helpful elephant in the room: science. That is, medicine, MRIs, surgery, chemotherapy, and all that. Yes, that’s coldly clinical, and a warm and loving friend would be a comfort, but science is the only thing that will actually, y’know, do anything about the problem. Even the prayer at the end did nothing more than encourage God to support her through the treatment.

Muslim tensions

Ayisha wears a niqab so that only her eyes are showing, or at least she does until her father drives away. You see, she’s become a Christian in the last year. When her father finds out, he beats her and throws her out of the house. He’s torn apart by his misguided devotion to a ridiculous faith, and he collapses in tears.

Yes, that happens. Yes, that’s a tragic thing. But why show it happening in a Muslim family when there are so many more Christian families in America broken up over religion? If the point is that religion can make you do crazy things, a Christian example would make the point more clearly.

Apologetics

There are other subplots to critique (and if you want more of a plot summary, I recommend the Geek Goes Rogue review), but I’d rather focus on the apologetics arguments. I’ll use David to refer to our plucky student and Goliath to refer to the dictatorial professor.

No one can prove God? Well, no one can disprove God, either! True, but that’s not how we make conclusions. We don’t believe in Bigfoot or unicorns because their nonexistence hasn’t been proven; rather, we follow the evidence. The evidence points to no Bigfoot, no unicorns, and no God. Let’s be open-minded enough to consider new contradicting evidence if it comes in, but for now, we have no justification for belief.

You want an explanation for the Big Bang? Look to Genesis: “Let there be light.” (Despite being unprepared for this challenge, David has unaccountably awesome presentations.) No new science has come from the Bible. You can try to show that, now that we know how things work thanks to science, the Bible was sort of pointing in the right direction (it wasn’t), but let’s not pretend that the truth was right there in the Bible all along.

Atheists say that the universe came from nothing, and they must defend that. First, it’s scientists who do the saying (not atheists), and second, no they don’t say that the universe came from nothing. Maybe it did, but the jury is out.

There’s nothing embarrassing or unreasonable in science saying, “We don’t know.” That’s how we focus on new questions to answer. Science not knowing something gives no grounds for the Christian to jump in and say, “But I do!!” Finally, note that any cosmological argument is a deist argument. Even if we accepted it, we’re a long way from Christianity.

Atheists ask, Who created God? but God was uncreated! Backatcha, atheists! You don’t respond to a scientific question with a theological claim. “My religion says that God was uncreated” is no answer in the real world.

Both Christians and atheists must explain how the universe started. Wrong again. Science always has unanswered questions. That’s no evidence in favor of Christianity. Science has explained much in the real world; Christianity has explained nothing. Weigh the evidence and choose the best explanation.

What about the sudden arrival of animal species? The Bible nicely explains it: “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens.” More theology in place of science. No, science doesn’t come from the Bible.

Note that Goliath made none of these rebuttals. He does little besides mock, and destroying David has become a personal mission. In one brief attempt at holding up his end of the debate, he quotes Stephen Hawking: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”

This is just an Argument from Authority. Hawking is a smart guy, but just because he said it doesn’t make it true. This is a data point, nothing more. But does David point this out? Nope, since he wants to respond with his own Argument from Authority by bringing up John Lennox. (I’ve responded to Lennox’s embarrassingly shallow apologetics here.)

In the end, David hammers Goliath with, “Why do you hate God?” And then it comes out, in front of his class: it’s because God killed his mother. As a 12-year-old, little Goliath had prayed to God to cure his mother’s cancer. God didn’t, and he’s held a grudge ever since. So, it turns out that Goliath actually does believe; he’s just mad at God.

The students then stand, one by one, to render their unanimous verdict: “God’s not dead.” The professor walks out, humiliated.

Marketing God? Or marketing the movie?

Our Christians celebrate at the concert at the end. David’s noble battle is publicly acknowledged, and everyone at the concert is encouraged to text “God’s Not Dead” to all their friends. (Wait a minute—isn’t that also the name of a current movie?) And, of course, we in the real audience are next encouraged to tell all our friends that “God’s Not Dead.”

If the flabby arguments in the movie are any evidence, however, there is scant reason to think so.

The Almighty deserves better advocacy
than he gets in this typically ham-fisted
Christian campus melodrama.
Scott Foundas critique of the movie in Variety

Photo credit: Rotten Tomatoes

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Justin

    It’s kind of funny. Christians are still insisting that scientists actually believe that something literally came from nothing, when in fact most scientists that I know of do believe there was ‘something’ before the universe. They simply admit that the question of what that something might be is currently beyond science’s ability to answer.

    Does that mean ‘Goddidit!’ automatically wins? Hardly. It just throws the entire debate into the arena of philosophy, and God loses every time there when you pit it against the various theories for a multiverse. After all, what’s simpler? An omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent ‘spirit’ (A state of being we have absolutely no reason to believe to actually exist) or a physical mechanism similar to a quantum vacuum or String theory, for which we at least have mathematical models?

    • jim thomas

      Actually, Lawrence Krauss, a noted US physicist did a lecture series and book called “Something from nothing” or similar to that. Part of the answer depends on how you define “nothing.”

      • hector_jones

        Does this answer satisfy you? I found it about as satisfying as saying “part of the answer depends on how you define ‘God'”.

        • jim thomas

          hector, I in no way intended to convey Krauss’ lecture in one sentence. I didn’t expect my answer to satisfy anyone, rather I figured they could google that phrase and his name and watch it for themselves. And, yes, “God” must be defined first when talking with someone as there is no common agreement on his/their nature.

        • hector_jones

          It’s just that I see mention of Krauss’s ‘something from nothing’ point all the time in atheist discussions and I have to ask why is it that a marketing ploy by Krauss to sell his book to the masses should be taken seriously as answering the question of how something could come from nothing?

          Krauss is clever and realized that ‘something from nothing’ is a much better hook for a book aimed at the mass market than ‘the quantum vacuum’. But I can’t see how anything Krauss has written is of any value in the atheist-theist debate at this point in time. Has he proved that a quantum vacuum is the lowest possible state of existence and that ‘absolute nothing’ is impossible? No.

          I urge Krauss to keep working on it, but until a scientific consensus emerges, ‘something from nothing’ is just a marketing gimmick that atheists should avoid.

        • jim thomas

          Hector, Krauss had given a lecture by that title before the lecture series with Dawkins and before his book. It was the popularity of the lecture which led to the book. That is, the title came long before the book. And even if it didn’t, do you find it distasteful that *every* book author considers the effect their chosen title will have on their book sales? Or do you just hold Krauss to a higher standard?

          Is your position is that scientists should say nothing until there is a 100% airtight explanation for the origin of the universe? Meanwhile, theists can and do spout wild and contradicting assertions about the origin of the universe.

          Krauss didn’t pretend to have a conclusive proof. He does, though, present interesting and not widely known information. The fact that the sum energy of all matter in the universe appears to be exactly opposed by the negative energy of gravity is something quite interesting I learned from his lecture.

        • hector_jones

          It’s not my distaste that is my point. It’s the uselessness of Krauss’s ‘something from nothing’ rhetoric to the atheist-theist debate that tires me.

          I never said science should say nothing until there is 100% consensus. But ‘something from nothing’ isn’t what ‘science’ is saying, it’s what Krauss is saying only in the title of a book (and lecture series) aimed at the popular market. “Something from nothing” is Kraussian hyperbole.

          If Krauss had called his book and lecture series ‘The Quantum Vacuum’ none of us would be citing Krauss every time we talk about how theists insist that something can’t come from nothing therefore God.

        • jim thomas

          Hector, it is a very common layperson reaction to say: gee, look at all those massive stars. they couldn’t have come from nothing — they are massive!

          I found the key takeaway from Krauss’ lecture is that the energy balance of the universe, as far as it is currently known, is zero. That reduces, but doesn’t eliminate the question of creation.

          Similarly, people (like my mom) would point to a flower and say, “You must be stupid if you can’t see that God created that. It couldn’t just happen by itself.” Actually, evolutionary theory does explain how that happens. But a theist could counter, “But you don’t say how life originated!” That is true, but evolution does eliminate (for people who understand it) that intuitive but incorrect reaction that a flower is defacto evidence of God’s creative power.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          ‘something from nothing’ is just a marketing gimmick that atheists should avoid.

          It’s useful, however, to poke a hole in the absolute statement, “something can’t come from nothing.”

          True, the consensus view isn’t yet that something did come from nothing. But if it’s a scientific possibility, the confidence in that vacuous philosophical platitude is poorly grounded.

    • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

      most scientists that I know of do believe there was ‘something’ before the universe. They simply admit that the question of what that something might be is currently beyond science’s ability to answer.

      And maybe Why anything should exist at all isn’t a scientific question in the first place. The Dilemma of Being is a tantalizing puzzle, but it’s a Why question. As an atheist, I don’t think God-belief answers the question, but I can’t conceive of a “scientific” answer that honestly does either.

      After all, what’s simpler?

      I’m also not sure Occam’s Razor is the right tool to use on the matter. If the simpler answer were always the right one, wouldn’t we still believe there are only four elements? Is the Periodic Table unscientific because it’s so complicated?

      • GubbaBumpkin

        I’m also not sure Occam’s Razor is the right tool to use on the matter.
        If the simpler answer were always the right one, wouldn’t we still
        believe there are only four elements? Is the Periodic Table unscientific
        because it’s so complicated?

        Occam’s razor says you should accept the simplest explanation that is consistent with the data. So if you think a more complicated explanation is the true one, the way to support that is to collect more data that differentiates between the available hypotheses. A big part of being a good scientist is being able to design experiments that will generate the data to differentiate between the possibilities.

        The Dilemma of Being is a tantalizing puzzle, but it’s a Why question.

        I contend that the distinction between “Why” questions (purportedly a legitimate sphere for religion) and “How” questions (the turf of science) is largely artificial. For example, why is God punishing us with this plague?, when you throw sufficient amount of science at it, eventually comes down to How do germs and genes explain the bulk of human illness? The only things that escape this analysis are the “Ultimate Why” questions, such as Where did the universe come from? or Why is there something rather than nothing? These turn out to be unproductive as well, for multiple reasons.
        1) Just because science doesn’t have an answer does not mean that the answer supplied by religion is reliable. We know from past experience that most of the answers supplied by religion on questions that could be checked have been wrong. And it would be too generous to say that the methods of epistemology relied upon by religion (authority, personal revelation, ancient writings) are not known to be reliable. The true case is much worse: the epistemological methods relied upon by religion are known to be unreliable.
        2) Most of the religious attempts to answer “ultimate” questions do not actually answer anything. Saying “God did it” is an evasion, not an answer. For example, answering Where did the universe come from? with God did it. does not meet the point of the original supposition, which is that everything has to come from something. It just creates an extra layer of non-explanation, and when you ask Well then, where did God come from? you are met with special pleading.
        If instead, they could tell us how God did it, we could probably check the “how” and discard the “who.” This, in a nutshell, is the entire history of science.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I contend that the distinction between “Why” questions (purportedly a legitimate sphere for religion) and “How” questions (the turf of science) is largely artificial.

          I’m not religious, so you can quit thinking your anti-religion harangue is telling me anything I don’t already know. But you’re very right, in the strictest sense there are plenty of Why questions science is equipped to answer: why we see so many different species, why the Rockies are so much bigger than the Appalachians, why stars twinkle, etc.

          But as far as the meaning of suffering and tragedy? The subject of this thread is a movie where personal trauma leads some professor to become a hateful nonbeliever. I’m certainly not of the opinion that belief in God provides a valid answer for why tragedies happen. But by the same token, it’s not like reason and logic are much solace in the face of human suffering or grief. That’s the whole existential question, the encounter with nothingness. If you’re like me, you believe man does not live by evidence alone; people need comfort in the face of tragedy.

        • Kodie

          The professor became an atheist because he was mad at god, right? As false as that definition of atheist is, let’s take it at face value – he was not comforted by religious answers.

          I know religious people like to say things that, when I hear them, I can’t believe they believe. Like, they will say atheists are mad at god, and well, wouldn’t you be??? If someone is not getting the correct feelings about god, it’s not god’s fault, ever. We’re responsible for realizing he has a plan and sorry, kid, that plan involved taking your mother with cancer. I would say the professor as a child was done a grave disservice by his religious community who disregarded his pain and kept trying to “comfort” him so that he could bounce back and not miss his mother. You can’t stop your mother from dying with prayer, what the hell good is it? The movie, I gather, is trying to point at what an idiot the professor is and he should just grow up and get over it. He was given false information in the first place. He was offered prayer as a way to cope, and his mother still died. He was told god had a plan, and that plan sucks for him. Their answers do not offer comfort.

          Heaven is supposed to be so when you die, you don’t die, and you can see all your dead friends and relatives again, and so it’s important to you to keep them Christian. But it arrives at this simple answer to difficult times and that’s supposed to make it ok. If you really think about these platitudes, it kind of makes you sick. It’s this sense of closure and normalcy… well, maybe in the beginning, humans didn’t have the luxury of feeling self-pity too long, but this sense that we have to close up our emotions and get back to work is kind of sick. Religious answers to “why” are meant to suppress wasting time asking, come up with a sunny answer to tragedy and move on right now. Anyone, like the professor as a child, who doesn’t, grieves for the rest of his life with no comfort. He doesn’t seem to find comfort in reality and evidence, either. His religious beliefs contorted him into an angry man with no salvation – and I don’t just mean no heaven, but no life. He was psychologically damaged by his religious community, but they’ll blame it on him, his childish rebellion, or Satan.

        • hector_jones

          This is a good point that I was thinking about too. The movie doesn’t even look at the question of how reason and logic alone fail to provide comfort, because Sorbo’s character isn’t a realistic portrayal of an atheist seeking comfort through logic and reason. It’s the story of a christian who is angry with god. He begins to stop being angry with god because some kid in his class really loves god, and then finally comes to love god again himself in one final roll of Pascal’s dice because he’s about to die. This is a christian caricature of an atheist, not an actual atheist.

        • Kodie

          You know how they say “it’s not a religions, it’s a relationship”? They distinguish their beliefs and how that feels to them from just going to church and doing a bunch of rituals and following rules. I think a lot of the problem with self-identifying atheists is that some of them take the form of this or another caricature. Whether you are mad at god, don’t want to follow rules, or no longer feel his presence and think he has abandoned you, a Christian can assume this makes them an atheist now, because this is what they’ve learned an atheist is in church and from the bible. This makes their stories about atheists converting not as much bullshit as it seems on the surface. You and I know those people believe there’s a god the whole time, and only consider themselves atheists because they don’t themselves know what that means, or consider that we’re telling the truth about not believing in any god and still behaving decently (not that all atheists are decent people, but anyway…). They can’t seem to comprehend a world in which some people are not merely not acknowledging god or heeding god.

          I have read and learned of some Christians or former Christians speaking of their deconversions, who find the prospect of actually no longer believing there’s a god to be tragic and devastating. It seems like Pascal’s wager is extremely strong argument for most of them that they can’t even imagine for the sake of argument there’s no god. They’re afraid of chancing that they might find out there’s no god, and will be locked out because there is really a god, and atheists have been fooled by Satan and are bound for hell. Obviously, there are earthly penalties such as loss of friends or family, getting kicked out of the house, not meaning anything, and the swift descent into drugs, prostitution and murder. Besides which, they know how bad atheists are treated – sort of almost acknowledging their Christian privilege.

          They wouldn’t want to be an atheist, but they really don’t know what it’s like – you can be happy and kind, your life can have meaning, and you can still find things awesome; you won’t go to hell, and when you die, that doesn’t feel like anything. It isn’t this angry professor trying to force everyone to give up their religion because he gave up his.

        • MNb

          “Their answers do not offer comfort.”
          Exactly. Replace this professor with Elisabeth Fritzl and you’ll see why the Free Will Argument against the Problem of Evil sucks so much. Intellectual dishonesty is one thing; emotional dishonesty quite another. These christians claim that their belief system provides comfort in situations of extreme suffering. Daniel Fincke at Camels with Hammers painfully points out why this claim is totally false – when taken seriously the “comfort” is insulting and emotionally hurting. “Atheists hate god” doesn’t make sense; “I as an atheist think this so called comfort disgusting” is spot on.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Laying your problems at the feet of Jesus can be a great relief … until you realize that nothing’s changed for the better.

          You could live in nonchalant blissfulness, I suppose, like someone who’s drunk all the time. But that won’t make those problems go away.

        • hector_jones

          Put up with this shit now and you won’t have to put up with any shit in Heaven. If that helps make you feel better now, great. If not then you are impatient and selfish. That’s the christian message.

        • Kodie

          What if it’s not a relief? This is the real question. Many people find comfort and structure and guidance through their faith, but what if you don’t? I liken religion to a diet plan – what works for one person is not “the best and most effective” diet for everyone else. It is one among many plans. I used to be on a board with a woman and her lo-carb diet. Holy shit, it’s the only diet that works! I can sort of understand, if you were heavy like her, and you tried a lot of things, you want to share this with people who might not know, that she finally found something that worked for her. Some people found it useful. She acted like every fat person’s problem is they haven’t tried her diet, which is pretty much how religion operates. You have any problems? Try Jesus. You tried Jesus and it didn’t work for you? Try it again only this time don’t think too much or get in your own way, I promise you, Jesus will help you with everything.

          If there is any person with or without a religion who finds this just isn’t working for them, it’s their own fault. It’s guaranteed, it’s supposed to work. If prayer doesn’t work for you, you are praying for the wrong things or making too many personal expectations about god. I’ve read stories from people who used to be Christians begging god to notice them, begging to feel god’s presence. I’ve never heard a good Christian answer to that, except in the outcome, “you weren’t a true Christian then,” like there’s some new thing you can try to get there now.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Some of the unhappy people in the movie were alone–the journalist after she gets cancer and then gets dumped, the prof at the end, the Muslim girl who gets kicked out of her family.

          Yeah, I get it–friends and family can give you comfort when things are tough. But that has nothing to do with God’s existence.

        • Kodie

          I re-read the article and found you had written some very important things about the professor:

          Note that Goliath made none of these rebuttals. He does little besides mock, and destroying David has become a personal mission.

          and

          The professor walks out, humiliated.

          He should be! He’s a philosophy professor who just got skunked by the silliest and most pathetic arguments Christians have. How did he get that job? I mean, you ask god sincerely to save your mother and she dies anyway, hold a grudge against god, decide you’re an atheist, go to school for, like 8? years to study philosophy, of all subjects (and it has to be philosophy or the student would not be given a statement to oppose) smart enough to get a professorship, defending academic theses and publishing in journals. And all you can do is stammer your way through, blind with rage?

          I am imagining whoever wrote this script does not know what the atheist would say, and that’s why the professor had nothing in response. They just imagine their answers are too confounding and rock-solid but they also either don’t know what an atheist could say to that, or they know it would sound too good and had to leave it out. Making the professor that lame, but he believes in god anyway, and never used any of his academic career to research his position or learn about logical fallacies, for starters, and not caught off-guard by the student’s apologetics that he’s never heard before. This whole movie stinks of some Christian’s dream world, where they have to stack the deck so the student even has an opportunity to debate his professor. Why wasn’t the professor prepared? But dummy Christians will watch it and think that is not only an example of a typical university professor hounding his students to fall for his personal ideologies, but is so stupid in his own subject and unprepared for a debate. The reason we’re still atheists is because we’ve never heard any of these arguments before, that seems like a typical Christian attitude.

          I’m glad his girlfriend dumped him, although, given the tone of this movie, she probably did it for the wrong reasons.

        • wtfwjtd

          “He’s a philosophy professor who just got skunked by the silliest and most pathetic arguments Christians have. How did he get that job?”

          Exactly! The philosophy prof I had at my university would be embarrassed to act like the idiot in that movie, he would never presume to tell his students how to act or think, and he sure as hell wouldn’t get bested by such a silly, straw man argument.

        • wtfwjtd

          This past winter has been a tough one here in the mid-west, and there were several occasions where a neighbor of my elderly mom shoveled or otherwise helped clear her driveway so she was able to get out. It was a big help to her, and me, and mom would say something like, “thank god he sent someone to help me”. I’d simply respond, “actually mom, I thank your neighbor, he’s a great guy!” A small difference in viewpoints I guess.

        • Pofarmer

          Had this conversation today more or less. Lady said “I hope that Gods love flows through me and that I help people.”. I said, “why don’t you take out the extra step, it’s all you. It’s humans interacting with humans that get things done.”. I hope she understands that.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yep, it’s easy to bypass the middleman, just take the bull by the horns and get out there and get to helping. It’s not complicated, god ain’t paying attention anyway so there’s no need to wait for permission. I guarantee she’ll find plenty to do if she wants to.

        • Pofarmer

          Mark Twain makes the point in “Letters from Earth” that when we defeat some disease or erradicate some parasite, people say “Praise God, halleleuhah.”. But God GAVE us the condition. We fixed it, ouselves, manno a manno, thanks a lot.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Lance Armstrong said that he had been asked if he thanked God for his successful recovery from cancer. Armstrong said no, since if he credited God with the cure, he’d have to credit him with the cancer in the first place.

        • Kodie

          That is funny. Like, some other days, god’s love doesn’t flow through her and then she don’t give a fuck.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          there are plenty of Why questions science is
          equipped to answer

          I agree. And this is a good pushback to some Christian arguments. They’ll say that science can’t answer the ultimate questions, when in fact, science can evaluate the evidence we have to date to suggest a tentative conclusion.

          Why are there bad things in life? Because life just sucks sometimes, and there is nothing steering the world to your benefit.

          Why are my prayers not answered? Because there is no one to answer them.

          Etc.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Why are there bad things in life? Because life just sucks sometimes, and there is nothing steering the world to your benefit.

          Say that to a bored cube monkey like me, and I laugh. Would you say that to a grieving family? Would you say that to someone who just got a cancer diagnosis?

          I’m not saying that trite affirmations are any better. It’s just that humans need comfort in the face of adversity, and if we don’t have anything better to offer than man the fuck up, we shouldn’t be too surprised when people choose the empty platitudes.

        • Kodie

          and if we don’t have anything better to offer than man the fuck up, we shouldn’t be too surprised when people choose the empty platitudes.

          How about offering to help them out, cook them dinner? We understand that people grieve and fear, but being there for them isn’t making demands on them to confront reality. I don’t understand what empty platitudes are to do for comfort, because they’re just words, and actions and actual support are comforting. If you ask me, far too many people try to get out of making a commitment with a fucking “I’ll pray for you.”

          There’s a difference between what people need and what people like to hear, but I never heard of an atheist using atheist answers in a situation where comforting is called for. I’ve never heard one at a funeral for a child say man the fuck up. Straw man.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Would you say that to a grieving family? Would you say that to someone who just got a cancer diagnosis?

          This reminds me of something Greg Koukl said:

          Then Christian philosopher William Lane Craig offered this response: “What is the atheist Bertrand Russell going to say when kneeling at the bed of a dying child? ‘Too bad’? ‘Tough luck’? ‘That’s the way it goes’?” No happy ending? No silver lining? Nothing but devastating, senseless evil?

          Happy ending??? What an idiotic statement. A kid is dying. No, there’s no happy ending.

          As you suggest, volunteering the secular explanation of why things suck (from our standpoint, they just do sometimes) isn’t helpful. There are compassionate things that are, however. But I have no patience for pulling a happy claim out of one’s hat (like heaven, in the movie “The Invention of Lying”).

        • Kodie

          I know most people don’t go for it, but what is essentially different from saying “one day you’ll be dead too and all of your grief with you” and “your baby is alive again in heaven and you will be able to hold them again (when you die someday also).” People feel grief, I think they know the end is the end, and they like to believe these lies, it’s just sort of a diversion is all. Maybe diversions are good? But anyway, what an atheist says at a funeral to a couple burying their child (or you know, anyone at any funeral) may not offer anyone comfort – little does. I had this conversation at… I forget the guy’s name, on patheos. He wrote 3 posts of lists things Christians should stop saying, and it came up the stupid, insensitive things Christians say at funerals.

          You know, being Christians, you’d think they would want to be the most sensitive, caring, and helpful, but most of them defended their right to spread the word anywhere at any time, even a funeral. Even to an atheist who has lost a child, they will offer the Christian platitudes because, as Christians, god has given them the duty, and anyone who doesn’t want to hear it, including the grieving parents, needs to listen to what’s good for them. In their mission, it is important that they get the words out and let people know their child is another angel in heaven, and god has a plan, and that their definition of love is saying things people don’t want to hear, because they believe those people will grow to understand why, they will be glad that someone intruded on their grief to give them the hope of god they desperately need, especially in their worst moments, and didn’t wait until they had their guard up.

          These people are sick! What can anyone say to anyone who has lost anyone? What does any of it mean? I sympathize, I care, I am here for you, this person meant a lot to me too, it is a great loss, what can I do to help*?

          Actually, don’t ask people what you can do to help, this is a tricky one, because polite people will not tell you, they will appreciate it as another empty gesture from a kind caring person, but they will say they are ok. If you ignore this request to leave them alone as insincere and overly polite, maybe they don’t want your help (really!), or since they won’t tell you what you can do, whatever you just go ahead and do may be appreciated in intent, but not really. Visit them and look around at what might need to be done that looks out of place. Are they not eating? Feed them. Are they neglecting their lawn care or letting dishes pile up? Etcetera. You can’t really take away someone’s pain, but they may suck at life for a while and need some chores done.

        • wtfwjtd

          “You can’t really take away someone’s pain, but they may suck at life for a while and need some chores done.”

          That hit the bulls eye Kodie. As one who lost 5 family members and a close neighbor in only a few month’s time a few years back, this is the most useful thing that I’ve heard. I frankly got sick to death of the religious platitudes and nonsense that people were saying to us, even though I know they (generally) meant well for the most part. The thing that was far more helpful to me and my family, were those who actually bothered to show up for a visit now and then, and offered to help in some small way. Taken together, these were a BIG deal, and was the most valuable thing by far that helped us to cope with tragedy. When one shows up to visit a dying friend or family, they aren’t expected to be full of wit and wisdom, just showing they have a caring side by showing up to visit without saying much of anything is what’s important, and by far the most valuable.

        • hector_jones

          What do you say to a grieving family or a person just diagnosed with cancer, Shem? I’m curious.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          What do you say to a grieving family or a person just diagnosed with cancer, Shem?

          “So sorry”?

          I have no idea, that’s why I’m asking. I can see people’s point that telling a family, “You’ll see your baby again in heaven” or a cancer patient “It’s God’s will” isn’t compassionate, it’s just insincere. But is “Life just sucks sometimes,” or “It’s a pitiless, indifferent universe” really our only alternatives?

          What I was really trying to point out is that science isn’t there to help us make sense of tragedy, it’s there to explain phenomena in terms of verifiable factors. Matters of human meaning aren’t scientific questions. There are times when reason and logic seem useless to us. To my way of thinking, that would make a much better movie.

        • Kodie

          You could say that fantasies such as religion were invented for this purpose. Is it easier to deal with the aftermath of a tornado or a tsunami because god has a plan? Many people are so sure that god is punishing or warning with angry weather when it’s in New Orleans or China, for example, but in Missouri, they’re like, why god why? There’s kind of a problem for people living in the alley, which is also the bible belt, who think weather is a message from beyond and yet they live in a tornado-ey environment voluntarily, and wonder why god would strike their town. And of course, it’s all good because they lived to tell about it, so god has something special planned for them.

        • Scott_In_OH

          But is “Life just sucks sometimes,” or “It’s a pitiless, indifferent universe” really our only alternatives?

          No, they’re not. I think in most cases, no explanation for why bad stuff is happening, whether the explanation is correct or not, is going to help very much. “Well, your son died because he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt when he hit the telephone pole” is no better than “Your son died because God decided it was time for him to come home.” The first one will make the parent beat him/herself up for not emphasizing the importance of seatbelts enough, and the second one will make the parent pissed off at God for making such a callous decision. “Why did my son die?” is a question with absolutely no good answer from the perspective of the grieving parent.

          So the best thing to do is other stuff: hug, cry, make dinner, check in *after* the funeral, and so on.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          This reminds me of an excellent example of where the Christian worldview is far worse after a death.

          I listened to a podcast where the hosts were talking about a guy whose teen son had died.

          So problem #1 is that the son has died. But problem #2 is that the son hadn’t come to Christ, and so he was broasting in the hell that they had invented for him. They were trying to figure out a spin for that one.

        • MNb

          “So sorry”?
          Essentially yes. Plus I take the time to listen to his/her story, because that’s usually the thing they need most that moment. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing. I remember visiting a funeral of a teenage girl; she had been overrun by a truck. As I knew nothing to say I hugged the mother and shook hands of the father. They understood.

          “It’s a pitiless, indifferent universe”
          The Universe is, but I’m not.

        • hector_jones

          The big why questions might be ultimately unanswerable. We need to seriously acknowledge that possibility and not pretend that it’s only a matter of time or engage in sleight of hand tricks where we redefine nothing as something a la Lawrence Krauss. I agree with Shem that scientific answers to the why questions are inconceivable. The closest we might ever get is a page of complex mathematical equations that no human being will ever be able to grasp intuitively.

        • Justin

          They might be unanswerable by science, but that’s hardly crippling for atheism or a victory for theism. As Gubba stated above, Occam’s Razor is always active with the data that we actually have, and when you compare what theists claim about God to atheistic origin theories, atheism wins every time. Why? Given what we know about the brain and the mind, consciousness is entirely dependent on a physical mechanism to exist.

          For God to exist, we have to accept the belief that minds can exist on their own and independent of any physical form, which is against every bit of science we know. Whereas accepting that there might be a physical mechanism that generated our universe according to natural laws doesn’t require the same leap of logic, as it’s perfectly consistent with what we see around us already.

        • hector_jones

          Jesus H Christ. I have to reiterate Shem’s point in another comment of his. I’m an atheist. I consider lecturing me on the non-existence of God a complete non sequitur to the points I’ve raised.

        • Justin

          And? I’m simply pointing out -why- Occam’s Razor actually works in this situation.

        • hector_jones

          And that didn’t address my comment at all. Shem brought up Occam’s razor, not me.

        • MNb

          The big why questions very well might be simply the wrong questions. Why should there always be a why?

        • hector_jones

          Agreed. ‘Why’ may be a question we feel we need to ask simply because of how our minds work, not because there must be an answer.

        • Kodie

          Theists will say that the reason we can ask these unanswerable “why” questions is because there is a god. Most memorable is getting into it with Karl Udy, who would ask in some form, “if there’s no god, how do you explain humans universally wondering why we’re here.”

        • avalpert

          Exactly, in fact it is reasonable to think that biology will one day be able to describe quite well why we feel the need to ask why (or at least ‘why’ in the evolutionary sense which is more of how it came to be that we have this trait) but the mere fact that we have an inclination to ask why doesn’t mean there is a reason why.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          1) As I already noted, even if science cannot answer a question, this is not cause to believe the religious explanations have any merit.

          2) Granting the possibility that there may be questions which science cannot ever answer, I am very reluctant to point to any particular question and identify it as one of those. Because science has advanced wondrously, and there are certainly questions which were thought unanswerable when I was young which have already been answered by science.

        • hector_jones

          I never said religious explanations have merit. And neither did Shem, who specifically said they do not. Why do you keep repeating this?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          engage in slight of hand tricks where we
          redefine nothing as something a la Lawrence Krauss

          I’m not sure why that’s sleight of hand. The “philosopher’s nothing” (really and truly nothing) may not have ever existed.

        • hector_jones

          The philosopher’s nothing might never have existed. But you don’t prove that by defining nothing as something. Thst’s the sleight of hand.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The problem, it seems to me, is that “nothing” can plausibly take on many meanings.

          Levels of Nothing: There Are Multiple Answers to the Question of Why the Universe Exists” by Kuhn gives 9 definitions.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          (And you might want to lay off the cigarettes, bro. Not good for primates of any genus. I’m just sayin’.)

        • hector_jones

          You saying my grandfather was a monkey? Why I oughta …

      • Cafeeine

        I’ve long tried to point out that “why” questions are “how” questions that presuppose intention, and intention presupposes a mind. Therefore, before any why question is even applicable, we need to discover if a mind that can have that intention exists. It follows that “Why does everything exist” cannot be answered, as it leads to a logical contradiction.

        • hector_jones

          The question ‘why’ is very teleological in conception, isn’t it?

        • Pofarmer

          Yes, first have to answer the question, does the universe have a purpose? If it doesn’t then you assume there is no intent, and therefore no mind.

  • RichardSRussell

    Bob, I thank you for your sacrifice on our behalf.

    You actually subjected yourself to this incredible piece of bilge (and probably paid good money to do it, to boot), so the rest of us don’t have to.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      It was a matinee, so it was cheaper. Praise the Lord.

      • RichardSRussell

        I had a buddy once who rated movies in dollar terms, as in “How much money would you have had to pay me to see this movie?”. Had it not been for your sense of obligation to your blogreaders, where would you have rated this one?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That’s a good metric.

          If I had no reason to see this–no reason to blog about it, and no interest in knowing about it to stay abreast of the water cooler conversation–I guess maybe $30 or so. It has a limited release, so I had to drive pretty far to get to it.

          The things I do for my readers!

        • GubbaBumpkin

          A college I attended once had a “Buck Back” special. The feature was Plan Nine From Outer Space, by some accounts the worst movie ever to come out of Hollywood. Admission price was two dollars, but if you actually sat through the entire thing, you got a buck back.

        • hector_jones

          I once tried to sit through Plan Nine. Couldn’t do it. I’ll take The Room any day.

  • Pofarmer

    I really liked Kevin Sorbo in “Andromeda” too.

    • wtfwjtd

      I didn’t see Andromeda, but I thought he was pretty impressive as “Hercules”.

      • Pofarmer

        Andromeda I thought overall was much better, but then, I’m a sci fi nut.

      • hector_jones

        Sorbo, a Christian actor, takes on the role of an atheist in order to make atheists look bad. So does that mean he took on the role of Hercules in order to make Greek gods look bad? It would explain his acting.

        For my money, Lucy Lawless was more impressive as Xena. But whatever tickles your fancy.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yeah, Xena was pretty impressive all right. I never can remember though, was it Xena Warrior Princess, or Xena Princess Warrior?

  • wtfwjtd

    Sounds like more milksop for the already convinced believer. Thanks for suffering for the sake of a report, we do appreciate it!

    • MNb

      Certainly we do.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Maybe one of these days I’ll go with some atheist friends and we can do the Mystery Science Theater 3000 thing and blurt out one-liners.

      (Kinda rude, I’ll admit. Perhaps just in my dreams.)

      • Castilliano

        Once it goes on DVD, you could provide an audio track to play alongside and post it here.
        :)
        (Not that I’d watch the movie even then, but…)

      • RichardSRussell

        OTOH, I participate in a local Skeptics Meetup group, and that sounds like fodder for a get-together, possibly with lubrication for the spontaneous commentary.

  • MNb

    I wonder if the movie will be released in Western Europe countries too – and how many spectators it will attract. After reading a couple of reviews it’s my impression that it’s a very christian American movie.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I never thought to ask myself that question. Yes, it does seem very American. I wonder if/how it would translate to other cultures. (Maybe only as a hilarious relic.)

      • Vivi

        I can already see this being a big hit in Brazil.

  • Brian Westley

    Bob, do you have a list of all the lawsuits listed during the end credits, by any chance?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Yes, I do. A PDF list is here, and the organization behind them is the Alliance Defending Freedom.

      • Castilliano

        That’s one crazy, hateful organization.
        Reading up on them made me distraught until I saw their poor track record fighting against LGBT rights.
        Yay, freedom!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That’s one crazy, hateful organization.

          With God’s providence, we can turn society back to the 12th century!

  • KarlUdy

    Unfortunately, many Christians seem to have forgotten how to make good art. Out of all the “Christian” films (and I use the term loosely) coming out this year, it seems the one that seems to be the best piece of art has come up against the most resistance in Christian circles.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Which one do you like best? Sounds like you’re referring to Noah. (I plan to comment on that one, too.)

      And do you know why there’s a flurry of Christian movies at the moment?

      • KarlUdy

        Yes, I was referring to Noah. Although, technically both Noah and Exodus are Biblical Epics, as opposed to Christian films as they are not made by Christians or for a mainly Christian audience.

        Regarding Christian films, there have been one or two a year coming out from places like Sherwood pictures (eg Fireproof, Courageous). The production values of those films are better than what most Christian films were previously, bringing up to the par of TV films. But they are dramatic sermons first, and works of art second. Films like these will not be taken on by the big Hollywood studios, so they only get released if someone is prepared to bankroll the distribution.

        Biblical Epics used to be quite popular in the 50s and 60s, and Noah is the first Biblical epic by a major studio in many years. I’m not sure exactly why there are a few coming out in such a short time but it happens quite often that similar movies come out together (think Antz and A Bug’s Life). It may be that scripts are shopped together, or that different studios want to do a certain type of movie at the same time.

        Son of God is a peculiar case in that it is a bit of a hybrid between the two. Burnett and Downey made the movie because of their faith, and the production standards are at the same level as, say, Clash of the Titans, which is better than what even good Christian films are normally capable of, and they were able to get History Channel backing for The Bible miniseries.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          technically both Noah and Exodus are Biblical Epics, as opposed to Christian films as they are not made by Christians or for a mainly Christian audience.

          Their content might be more “biblical” than “Christian,” but you say they aren’t targeted at a Christian audience?? Explain.

        • KarlUdy

          Some of the marketing may be targeted that way, but the studios are banking on more than just Christians going to see the films (hopefully on the basis that they are good films), and I don’t think either Darren Oronofsky or Ridley Scott are in the business of making films for Christians.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Perhaps you’re more tuned in to what’s going on with this movie, but all that I hear is criticism about how the story isn’t biblical enough from focus groups and the studio scrambling to re-edit it to satisfy Christian audiences.

          I don’t think “it’s a good film” will encourage many people to see a movie that’s so overtly biblical and agenda driven. I’m surprised at your opinion. Maybe I haven’t heard the big picture.

        • KarlUdy

          The studio did try out some alternative edits to appease Christian focus groups, but they were abandoned and the cut showing in cinemas is the one Darren Oronofsky wanted to make.

          There has actually been quite a bit of positive response from some Christian quarters, but my first comment was pointing out that this film has drawn more opposition from Christian quarters than others, and yet it will probably be the film that best stands the test of time.

          A lot of the criticism has come from people who haven’t seen the film or seem to have an axe to grind (see http://www.patheos.com/blogs/filmchat/2014/03/is-god-missing-from-darren-aronofskys-noah-please.html). I haven’t seen much criticism of Exodus yet, but I anticipate that Christians will have a lot more to be unhappy about with Exodus than Noah.

        • wtfwjtd

          This sounds a lot like some of the blowback that Richard Dawkins talks about getting from skeptics about some of his works, like The God Delusion. He says that when you hear the preface of “I’m an atheist, *but*…. prepare to get a earful.

          For Noah, I sure they heard lots of “I’m a Christian, but…” and then proceeded to get slammed on some detail or other in the script. You can’t be all things to all people I guess, and some folks will nit-pick no matter what’s put before them.

          That’s also a good point about where a lot of the criticism comes from–“well, I haven’t seen the movie, or read your book, *but*…. It’s armchair quarterbacking at its finest.

        • hector_jones

          Every film ever made is, necessarily, an interpretation of its source material, not an exact copy. There could be 4 different Noah stories in the bible by 4 different authors, and christians would still complain that the movie wasn’t faithful to *the* story.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Perhaps they’re complaining that it’s not faithful to their story.

        • wtfwjtd

          I think you hit it in a nutshell Bob. One might think that making a movie to appeal to a broad swath of Christians would be easy, but judging by the lack of these it’s apparently not nearly as easy as it looks. It’s been said that getting atheists to get together on issues is like herding cats, but I think the same can be said for Christians as well. Just look at the 40,000+ different varieties of Christianity and you quickly get a sense of what I mean.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Interesting. I was hoping that the Noah script wouldn’t get watered down. Have you seen it?

          I hadn’t heard about Exodus. Good thing it’s far in the future.

        • KarlUdy

          Not yet. It opens here tomorrow, but I’ll probably wait until some time next month. I won’t be seeing “God’s Not Dead” at all. Even if I wanted to, it’s not showing out here. I don’t think there’s a market for it at all outside of America.

        • Kodie

          I was hoping that the Noah script wouldn’t get watered down.

          I thought that was the plot.

        • hector_jones

          Bazinga!

        • Greg G.

          I read the book. I thought it was rather dry.

        • hector_jones

          So it didn’t float your boat?

        • Greg G.

          Look at us. We’re barging in on Bob and Kodie’s conversation, two by two, like a bunch of animals.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yeah, but you’re not male and female. Fail!

        • Greg G.

          Oops, I’m not that kind.

        • Kodie

          I was not prepared for the flood of responses.

        • Greg G.

          It’s something to Crowe about.

  • SteveK

    >> In this world, philosophy professors can bully Christians to renounce their faith without consequences, then demand that they debate him in front of the class and put a large fraction of that student’s grade on the outcome.

    You thought the movie was supposed to be telling a true-to-life story? I never got that impression from the trailers.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’ve had Christians defend that very claim. They say that this is indeed the kind of thing that a Christian student could plausibly be up against.

      Ratio Christi is a big ally in this project. Their page has a section titled, “You may say, ‘But come on — does it really happen that often at college?'”

      As far as I can tell, that section makes clear: No, it doesn’t happen at all! They give no parallel examples.

      All they make clear is that a secular college can be a challenge to a Christian student’s faith (and I wouldn’t have it any other way).

      • Pofarmer

        In my experience on a State Campus, granted 20 years ago, you are much more likely to come upon a loud corner preacher than a loud Atheist professor. As others have commented, most of my professors I couldn’t tell you what they believed one way or the other.

        • Greg G.

          Brother Jed?

        • wtfwjtd

          I remember Brother Jed, when he came to MSU he usually had Sister Cindy with him.

        • Greg G.

          Cool! One degree of separation, then. I remember Sister Cindy, too.

          Did you ever hear him mention that he was doing acid naked on a beach in Morocco when he found God?

        • wtfwjtd

          Beach acid trip eh? No, that’s a new one on me. I just remember him and sister Cindy in the spring, they had a little crowd around them, and he was telling everyone who would listen how they were going to burn in hell. What a charming fellow, I thought….

          What’d he do, find God in a bottle or something?

        • Greg G.

          I heard him tell that once. But then many other people’s “personal experiences” that sound just like waking dreams are no better.

        • Nemo

          I had one professor who did attack Christianity (World Civilizations). I was Christian at the time, and I frequently told him he was being inappropriate. I got an A in the class.

      • wtfwjtd

        According to that RC article:

        “The movie should be a wake-up call to the church to be aware of the challenges students face on campus and to be courageous about defending the faith — it’s not necessarily to drag all our atheist friends to the movie. . . Step out of your comfort zone and deal with this issue that all Christians, and often students away at University, are facing today.”

        This is nuts, at least in my experience. I guess things may have changed drastically since I went to college, but let’s say I’m a little skeptical.

        Students who are going to a state university certainly will face challenges to their Christian faith, but in a far different way. The justification of their faith won’t be to other people though, it will be to themselves.

        • hector_jones

          This is nuts, but I think it explains very well the purpose for which this film was made. The film isn’t intended to convert atheists to christianity, but thousands of little christian soldiers on campus openly defending and proclaiming their faith just might. At the very least that will help christianity to remain the powerful political force that it is.

      • http://alanatchison.com/ Alan Atchison

        Indeed, Bob, it’s such a stupid claim. I’ll go one further. My wife is the director of campus ministry at a major university in Philadelphia and she has NEVER come across a student facing something like the kid in the movie did. Also, really enjoyed your piece. Thanks for the link back to mine!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          :-)

  • Buster Fixxitt

    Fundamentalist Christians are raised to believe that knowledge comes ONLY from Authority, therefore, in order to make sense of young Christians going to college and coming away questioning or disbelieving in God, the only possible answer is that they’ve come under the false authority of someone at the college. The idea that you can understand the universe, that you can think and reason *for yourself* NEVER occurs to them.

    This is the central problem. “Trust in God (or His authority on earth) and lean not on your own understanding.” Think of how much effort fundamentalists go through to instill obedience as the highest virtue, to the unquestioning submission to authority and their worldview and actions begin to make a perverse sort of sense.

    • Pofarmer

      I bumped up against this on an AG forum I frequent. Folks were grousing that so many kids came back Atheist or with watered down beliefs. I tried to explain to them, that college doesn’t focus on telling you what to think, if done properly t teaches you HOW to think. Most didn’t really like that answer or it’s implications.

      • hector_jones

        I never encountered a single openly atheist professor in college but I did encounter a few christian ones, albeit they didn’t proselytize. I came out of college an atheist, though I went in as an agnostic.

        • MNb

          I think I had one (he called Thomas of Aquino a genius who completely wasted his time) but am not 100% sure. Well, when studying physics or mathematics you don’t have much opportunity to reflect on god anyway.
          Like you I went in as an agnostic and came out an atheist; I can even exactly remember at which occasion. It changed exactly zilch in my life.

        • Pofarmer

          I think that is the best description of Thomas Aquinas I ever heard.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        The Stand to Reason podcast has a tagline, “We don’t just tell you what to think; we tell you how to think.”

        I was amazed that they would actually admit that they want to tell people what to think.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Trust in God (or His authority on earth) and
      lean not on your own understanding.

      The irony, though, is that to “trust God” requires one’s own interpretation. Fred Phelps concludes that God hates fags, Mother Teresa concludes that pain is a crucible that purifies souls, and many Christians conclude that they honor God by digging deep to help strangers.

      • Kodie

        I think this is a loophole where the authority is still god. These interpretations are revealed to them through their feeling positive about them. You’re not actually deciding to follow something because you like it, you’re following it because the positive feelings indicate that this course is what god wants you to do and is leading you to and revealing for you.

  • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

    Unless a few friends decide to get together with a case of beer to watch this on DVD and goof on it MST3K-style, it’s unlikely I’m ever going to see it. By the looks of the trailer, it’s just an After School Special with a fundie slant. As old-fashioned as it seems, though, it’s really made for the new millennium’s message-board world: beliefs are nothing if you don’t have debate skills!

    The shame of it is that human suffering, loss, and grief deserve a more mature analysis. In the case of mad-prof (according to your description), there’s a lot to be said about being in a situation where science and God have both failed you; where do people get solace when life seems meaningless? I wish we thought these matters were worth more than trite affirmations or a button-pushing B movie.

    • MNb

      Read Daniel Fincke’s review (over at Camels with Hammers) and you will be certain to never going to see it. You’ll understand its about the most perverse reliporn you can imagine.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Daniel’s review is here.

      • hector_jones

        The review starts 12 paragraphs in.

      • wtfwjtd

        That’s a great review! And, it’s by, you know, an *actual* philosopher, one who is the real deal, not some caricature on screen.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Not only does the journalist get dumped by her significant other, but the student and the professor both get dumped as well. Lots of heartache to go around.

      (Though, in the case of the student’s girlfriend, he truly was better off without her … !)

  • GubbaBumpkin

    There’s nothing embarrassing or unreasonable in science saying, “We don’t know.”

    Thanks be to Neil deGrasse Tyson for making this point in the new version of Cosmos. In the most recent (third) episode, he made the point that saying “God did it” does not lead to new questions, it closes the door on inquiry.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      For a guy who tries to avoid labels like “atheist,” Tyson is fighting the good fight.

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/112743459266731535020/posts Steve Greene

    You can most see the attitude/mindset of Christian believers themselves in the portrayals of their critics which they use, straw men which are, by and large, actually self-projections of their own fallacious argumentation.

    • wtfwjtd

      Yes, to the Christian’s mind, there are *only* straw man arguments against the faith. In their worldview, there can’t possibly be a rational argument against it that’s actually valid and well thought through. This would also require a thoughtful rebuttal, which I find few Christians even willing to bother to attempt.

      • Castilliano

        Part of this is they can only take one step away from where they are.
        God is a given, and they love him.
        Therefore, since God is a given, atheists must just be those that don’t love him. Hence, hate. Or serve Satan.
        Also, since God is a given, we must be ignoring the evidence because he’s a GIVEN! It’s so easy. How could you ignore that?
        This is also why other gods & religions get swallowed so easily into their “universal god” (different paths/faces) or are a work of Satan so rather than a separate belief, they’re just a facet of Christianity too.
        And it’s why deist argument prove Jesus to them.

        Not just reasoning, but empathy can also lead one out of faith.
        Cheers.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, I love the “atheists are serving Satan” bit, as if we would trade worshiping one imaginary being for another.

          Also, since God is a given, you don’t need any stinkin’ evidence for him, as everybody knows he exists! And not just any ol’ god, but the CHRISTIAN God. All those others are just variants of serving the devil, like you said.

          I’ve read that something like 70-80 percent of kids that attend college will dump Christianity , and 2/3 of these stay away permanently. No wonder they see this scenario as a big problem, for them it is.Yes, kids are leaving the faith in droves, but it’s NOT because all the profs at state universities are filthy atheists that are bullying these kids to leave Christianity. This is the straw man that Christians comfort themselves with, but the truth is far more frightening–a higher education teaches kids to question things. And when young adults start asking the hard questions about Christianity, it falls apart. THIS is the hard reality, and no amount of silly movies can change that.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If Christians thought about this much, this would be a much worse thing than simply the fact that young people lose their faith at college.

          College helps you think and gives you knowledge. So that should just let you more clearly see the truth of Christianity. That the opposite is true–that more education and new ideas reduces faith rather than reinforces it–is damning to their truth claims.

        • wtfwjtd

          Right on Bob! And none other than Martin Luther emphasizes the point:”Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things…”

        • Pofarmer

          I wish I’d stayed away permanently. Damned hormones. I was nearly out, and let myself get drug back n.

        • MNb

          My son didn’t wait that long – he figured it out without my help (he only knew that I was an atheist; I never told him much about it) via internet when he was 13.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yep, my daughter went down a similar path, she figured out where she came down on her own also, and religion lost the argument with her.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          This is the straw man that Christians comfort themselves with, but the truth is far more frightening–a higher education teaches kids to question things. And when young adults start asking the hard questions about Christianity, it falls apart.

          And maybe the athe-riffic power of higher education is a straw man that we heathens comfort ourselves with. The boring old truth could be that when kids go away to college, no one’s there to ram The Lord down their throats 24-7 and they just lose interest.

        • avalpert

          Well that’s testable and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone has studied it – compare changes in religion between students who live at home versus those that live on campus. I believe the UCLA Spirituality in Higher Education Study collected that information in their survey data.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I think that to test Shem’s hypothesis, we’d compare Christian young people who leave home and (1) go to college or (2) go out into the wide world on their own. Each has independence, but only the college student is in the (supposedly) caustic bath of atheism.

          That’d be an interesting study. I agree–I suspect it’s been done.

        • wtfwjtd

          I’d say that’s a factor too Shem, it does take time and effort to maintain the “on fire for Jesus” bit, and there’s plenty of other things to occupy your time with at college.

        • SparklingMoon

          Not just reasoning…… can also lead one out of faith.
          ———————————————————–
          E.J. Scotus in the ninth century AD had set the noble example of bringing about a measure of truce between faith and reason. He maintained that truth cannot be reached through reason alone, but reason and faith had a part to play together. He suggested that in the beginning religious beliefs were founded on rational grounds. Convictions cannot be born out of mere conjectures. There has to be some logical basis for the building of convictions. Whether it is done advertently or inadvertently, for every conviction, as it is born, there has to be some rational basis. In short, Scotus believed that true faith should not be equated with myth. It should be understood to have been founded on some solid, rational platform. In the beginning when faith took root in the human mind, it could not have happened without some reason and logic to support it, he assumed. Yet with the passage of time, that link must have faded out and was no longer observable. From then on faith appeared to be suspended in mid-air without the pillars of reason to support it. Yet its firmness and tenacity which have stood the test of time are indicative that it could not have reached this high level of conviction altogether without reason or logic.

          In conclusion, Scotus advises that the validity of one’s faith should be examined from time to time according to the dictates of rationality. If the two appear to be conflicting then one must follow reason. Thus reason will always hold an edge over faith.

        • MNb

          What I think really funny is that the satan option leads our dear monotheistic christian back to polytheism.

          “empathy can also lead one out of faith”
          That happened to me when I was 13 or 14. Proselytizing at schools is not forbidded in the Netherlands and two teens (about 17) from Youth for Christ visited a class. A girl asked if Pinochet (it was late 70’s) would go to heaven if he repented on his deathbed. The answer was yes. I thought this so unfair given the suffering of his victims that I was cured for life.

        • wtfwjtd

          But if Pinochet had blasphemed the Holy Spirit, he wouldn’t have been forgiven! In God’s book blasphemy is a far, far worse sin than mass murder. Yeah, no wonder I’m an atheist….

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And yet Christianity is the religion of hope and true justice. Weird.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          MNb: On a completely different topic, I know you don’t think much of the Jesus Myth hypothesis. John Loftus has a review of Bart Ehrman’s new book, which gives one explanation for how Christianity evolved to become the high Christianity accepted in Nicea in 325. He makes the point that this route won’t work for a mythicist and ponders (in passing) how they’d tackle this.

          It’s a tiny data point, but FYI.

  • avalon

    I haven’t seen the movie, but I did read Geek’s review. The most troubling aspect for me isn’t the stereotypes, it’s the fact that Christians feel free to ignore their own stated beliefs whenever they become problematic.
    Christians are fond of saying that we have free will, yet in this movie it seems the characters are mere rats in a maze. “Two pastors set out to take a road trip together, but are thwarted when every car they attempt to start fails to do so.” So the pastors are free to come and go as they please UNLESS God decides to thwart their free-will choice? It seems there are no random events in the movie. Everything from cars not starting to people getting cancer to being run down in the street is controlled by God. Where’s the free will in a world like that?

    • wtfwjtd

      I love what Hitchens had to say that’s related to this–“the man who prays is the man who thinks God got it wrong…” Why bother praying at all, since God’s got the perfect plan all figured out for each one of us? And if he “answers” a prayer and changes things, does that mean his plan wasn’t perfect to begin with?
      Rats in a maze indeed…

  • Georgina

    I haven’t watched the film either, but a preview showed that all the prof asked was for the students to write out the sentence “god is dead” on a piece of paper. Like dictation. Not to believe it, or act on it – just to write it down.
    Obviously the poor christian student refused either because he couldn’t spell, or he did not understand the concept. So the prof said, ok we can debate the concept instead. Kind of him. Then the whole thing deteriates into stupid.
    Really, apart from Kevin Sorbo, why bother?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Actually, it’s a bit more than that. The professor’s goal is to quickly get through the boring part of philosophy to reach the conclusion that God is dead. With that out of the way, the class can move on to the good stuff. So, yes, the prof is asking for their assent to the claim.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Hey, was someone looking into resources for raising kids without God?

    Hemant Mehta has a discussion about the book Growing Up Godless. FYI.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/04/02/how-to-discipline-your-children-without-god/

    • MNb

      I have always wondered why that is necessary. I raised my kid on good old Dr. Spock plus some common Dutch sense.

  • Brandon Roberts

    i will probaly watch the movie but it’s just a movie and it’s geared towards christians so if you think it portrays atheists in a negative light just don’t watch it i’m sorry to seem so calloused but you should not watch what you know is offensive kay

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I don’t think that view is calloused at all. And it didn’t offend me. I’m simply saying that this kind of bullying doesn’t happen in practice and the apologetic arguments in this movie are laughable.

      This is 6th-grade apologetics, not what we should find in the college classroom.

      • Brandon Roberts

        thank you for not being offended. and i did not say it happens in real life i’m pretty sure no atheist professer would be allowed to do this. and iv’e not seen the movie yet so i can’t really judge

  • MNb