The Real God’s Not Dead Story is the Opposite of the Movie

Neil Carter tells the story of how he lost a job as a teacher because one of his students discovered that he was an atheist and asked him about it (he refused to answer, which is the right thing to do). He contrasts that with the movie God’s Not Dead, for obvious reasons. Here’s how these things work in the real world:

A few weeks into my previous teaching job, a seventh grader confronted me in front of the class, asking me if it was true that I am an atheist. At this point in time I wasn’t open about that, but she was digging around my Facebook profile and found evidence which I had not yet realized could be seen by the general public. I knew better than to openly admit my atheism in Mississippi, especially since I had only transferred to this school to be where my own children were. I didn’t want to jeopardize that, so I dodged her question and said that I wasn’t at liberty to discuss my religious affiliation in class.

She shot back, “Why didn’t you say no?!” See, just like with almost any other public school in the Bible Belt, at this school Christian teachers are free to be quite open about their religious beliefs. In fact, when my eldest was taking the same history class just the year before, her teacher livened up the story of Israel by marching around the room, blowing an imaginary trumpet to make the walls of Jericho come a-tumblin’ down. In case you wondered, no, that isn’t in the curriculum. But this is the Bible Belt. You can get away with stuff like that here and most people just eat it up. The parents in my county love that their children’s teachers are so demonstrative about their faith.

Well, that girl told all her friends and their parents that her teacher is an atheist. I refused to discuss the matter with anyone who asked me about it from that moment on, but it didn’t matter. The word had begun to circulate anyway. Which would explain why my principal showed up to my classroom, coincidentally enough, on the day I was slated to cover the history of Israel myself. Instead of sitting in the back and observing my instructional methods as our evaluation protocols prescribed, she interrupted my lesson and took over teaching the unit for nearly half an hour. I was a bit stunned. It was very awkward.

She grilled them about the Old Testament judges and asked them if the Israelites walked through the parted Red Sea on wet ground or dry (they all replied “dry!”) despite the fact that our text doesn’t cover miraculous claims from the Bible. She basically took over my class and turned it into a Sunday School lesson. After she left the room, one of my students turned to me and said, “What the heck was that?” They had never seen her just take over teaching a class like that before. It was out of the ordinary, and they weren’t exactly sure why it happened. It wouldn’t be the last intrusion.

After that, they suddenly moved him from teaching history to math, in the middle of a semester. At the end of the year, they did not renew his contract. This is how these things work in reality. Contrast this with the many real-world cases where a teacher was blatantly using their position to proselytize, like John Freshwater and many, many others. In each and every case, the administration, students and parents defend those teachers to the death. But an atheist teacher who did everything right, intentionally never discussion his views on religion with his students and refusing to even answer direct questions about it, is viewed as a huge threat that must be eliminated.

This is the reality of Christian cultural hegemony that we must fight against every day. Atheists are viewed as intrinsically evil and threatening, no matter how exemplary their behavior and no matter how good they are as teachers. This is especially true in rural communities, where it’s dangerous to be an atheist. That’s why Neil kept it covered up for so long. And now that he’s truly public about it after the CNN story, he is virtually unemployable as a teacher.

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  • eric

    WTF sort of history class covers the ancient history of Israel in the first place? I’m a fogey, but the only explicitly Israeli history I remember getting was in 20th century history classes, covering mostly post-WWII events. Yeah the region probably got a mention when we studied the Roman Republic and Empire, but I don’t think we had a specific day or unit on it.

  • Sastra

    Ah, but the whole point of God’s Not Dead is that it takes place in college, at a university where the warm, safe, loving Christian environment of the neighborhood school can no longer be counted on. It’s that godless “higher education” that can’t be trusted to do the right thing when it comes to atheist teachers and their influence on the young.

    One of the most common complaints about atheists is that we obviously think we’re smarter than the “stupid” religious people. But ask most theists whether a small child who loves God is more intelligent than a brilliant expert who’s an atheist and the answer is usually a very confident “oh yes indeed.” So no, THEY think they’re smarter than us.

  • zenlike

    Actually Ed, the REAL real God’s Not Dead story is ALSO the opposite of the movie, but in a different way:

    The real life story is of an ATHEIST student being converted by a CHRISTIAN teacher. And then they turned it around and it became an atheist teacher being the bad guy and trying to convert a christian student.

    Do I need to mention christians are fucking liars, even though their own holy book says it is a very bad thing? Didn’t think so.

  • Modusoperandi

    Atheists are viewed as intrinsically evil and threatening…

    To be fair…


    Sastra “One of the most common complaints about atheists is that we obviously think we’re smarter than the “stupid” religious people. But ask most theists whether a small child who loves God is more intelligent than a brilliant expert who’s an atheist and the answer is usually a very confident “oh yes indeed.” So no, THEY think they’re smarter than us.”

    To be fair…

  • eric

    Atheists are viewed as intrinsically evil and threatening

    Now look, if you want me to be less intrinsically evil, make your babies less tasty.

  • zenlike

    Also, really? The subtitle of “God’s Not Dead 2” is “He’s Surely Alive”? How much time did that take them to cook up this masterful prose? Five minutes? One?

  • raven

    Once again people, xians can be dangerous. Up to and including killing you. Don’t every turn your back on them!!!


    Posting the list of who is really being beaten up, threatened, fired, attempted to be fired, and killed. Not surprisingly, it is scientists and science supporters by Death Cultists.

    If anyone has more info add it. Also feel free to borrow or steal the list.

    I thought I’d post all the firings of professors and state officials for teaching or accepting evolution.

    2 professors fired, Bitterman (SW CC Iowa) and Bolyanatz (Wheaton)

    1 persecuted unmercifully Richard Colling (Olivet) Now resigned under pressure.

    1 persecuted unmercifully for 4 years Van Till (Calvin)

    1 attempted firing Murphy (Fuller Theological by Phillip Johnson IDist)

    1 successful death threats, assaults harrasment Gwen Pearson (UT Permian)

    1 state official fired Chris Comer (Texas)

    1 assault, fired from dept. Chair Paul Mirecki (U. of Kansas)

    1 killed, Rudi Boa, Biomedical Student (Scotland)

    1 fired Brucke Waltke noted biblical scholar

    Biology Department fired, La Sierra SDA University

    1 attempted persecution Richard Dawkins by the Oklahoma state legislature

    Vandalism Florida Museum of Natural History

    Death Threats Eric Pianka UT Austin and the Texas

    Academy of Science engineered by a hostile, bizarre IDist named Bill Dembski

    Death Threats Michael Korn, fugitive from justice, towards the UC Boulder biology department and miscellaneous evolutionary biologists.

    Death Threats Judge Jones Dover trial. He was under federal marshall protection for a while

    Up to 16 with little effort. Probably there are more. I turned up a new one with a simple internet search. Haven’t even gotten to the secondary science school teachers.

    And the Liars of Expelled, the movie have the nerve to scream persecution. On body counts the creos are way ahead.

    These days, fundie xian is synonymous with liar, ignorant, stupid, and sometimes killer.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    … they suddenly moved him from teaching history to math…

    Did the principal step in to make sure he didn’t teach that notorious pi>3 heresy?

  • raven

    TL;DR version.

    Despite xian’s claims of imminent persecution, they are almost always the ones doing the persecuting. It’s historically a violent religion and we’ve managed to limit it over the centuries but it’s still there.

    The fundies are huge fans of Joseph Stalin and his purges and Gulags. In fundie colleges, if they find a reality acceptor, they usually fire them e.g. biologists who accept evolution.

    They will also vandalize whatever they can get away with.

    They assassinate MD’s. They firebomb family planning clinics and mosques by the dozens.

    Their most common tactic is death threats. I’ve long ago lost track of how many I’ve gotten. This happens a lot to scientists. PZ Myers has gotten over one hundred death threats. In one day.

    They’ve long ago learned that they can’t prove any of their claims. But they also know that this fact doesn’t matter if they can simply torture and kill anyone they want to.

  • otrame

    I don’t know what this country is coming to. I mean, sure, there were homos and atheists around in my young days, but they had the decency to keep their homoness and evilness to themselves.


    Meanwhile, here in reality, I went to public school in South Carolina from 1956 to 1966 (then moved to California). In most of that time we had the Lord’s prayer (Protestant version) and the existence of the Bible God (Protestant version) was never in question, but we did NOT get taught details of Biblical history in history class. That sort of thing would not have been considered appropriate. It was the responsibility of parents and churches, because…. wait for it…. there were lots of different kinds of Protestants and the different kinds took their differences very seriously. Hell, they even tolerated a scattering of Catholics and the occasional Jew (and felt damned proud of themselves for their tolerance). So public school was no place to teach religion to the kids.

  • raven

    No one is keeping track of how many primary and secondary school teachers have been fired for atheism or even just accepting modern science, evolution, Big Bang, old earth etc..

    It’s common though in fundie areas and some of the stories make the news.

    A teacher in East Texas was fired for…”suspected atheism”.

    Anyone can be guilty of suspected atheism. Even the Pope. Or even especially the Pope.

    This is what happened when the xians had power. The Dark Ages. Something like 100,000 people were killed as “suspected witches”. Anyone can be guilty of “suspected witchcraft.” As it turned out, none of them were actually witches. This still happens today in Africa, where xians kill 100’s of suspected mostly child witches every year.

    Hitchen’s Rule: Religion poisons everything!!!

  • NitricAcid

    @otrame #10. That’s probably why they are teaching the Old Testament. Those are pretty much agreed on by Catholics, Protestants and Jews. And they probably skip the parts that are disagreed on.

  • andrewbrown not the one from the grauniad

    It’s Hitchens Rule again: Xianity lost its best defense when it lost the power of the noose, stack of firewood, and gun. That said they can still make your life difficult if you fail to toe the line. Like you said Raven when the Christians were in charge Europe had the Dark Ages. Sounds like Mississippi is the modern day version. They won’t kill you they’ll just make it impossible for you to live.

  • sytec

    I teach science in Texas. Haven’t really had any issues even tho a couple of the schools I have been at have had prayers at convocation or graduations and I just sit while they go through their superstitious ritual. I have gotten to the point where I don’t really care if someone calls out my atheism. And I don’t worry about persecution because I am baddest fucker any of these people have ever crossed paths with.

  • thebookofdave

    Did the principal step in to make sure he didn’t teach that notorious pi>3 heresy?

    Not to worry, Pierce R. Butler. I’m sure even Neil Carter has read up on 1 Kings.

    Didn’t he?

    Well, at least their previous math teacher was there to escort the class safely around other subversive topics, such as Set Theory.

  • ThorGoLucky

    This situation should be made into a movie. I suppose that the title of Belief That God Is Not Dead Can Cause Righteous Persecution is too clumbsy.

  • samgardner

    So, in the first movie, the villain is the atheist who proselytizes. In the sequel, the hero is the Christian who proselytizes.

  • augustpamplona

    Sastra wrote:

    One of the most common complaints about atheists is that we obviously think we’re smarter than the “stupid” religious people. But ask most theists whether a small child who loves God is more intelligent than a brilliant expert who’s an atheist and the answer is usually a very confident “oh yes indeed.” So no, THEY think they’re smarter than us.

    I remember years back one of the religious groups at the university thought themsleves very clever by declaring on the 1st of April (April Fool’s Day) that it was Atheist Day. They justified it by quoting the first half of Psalm 14:1.

  • iknklast

    In my second year teaching college science at a new job in the midwest (I had been teaching in Texas, and never encountered this), one of my students asked me how the dinosaurs died. I told him I was no expert on dinosaurs, but that there are different hypotheses. He then asked me if I believed in evolution. I explained that I accepted the evidence for evolution as the best explanation of species diversity. He then asked if I was a Christian. At this point, I declined to discuss it with him. As long as he stuck to science, I would explain what we knew and how we knew it, but religion was not appropriate (it is a public college where I teach). He continued to push, and I continued to explain that his line of questioning was appropriate. Then he explained, in the front of the entire classroom, that he was trying to find out if I was qualified to teach the class. Apparently in his world you are not qualified to teach Ecology unless you are a Bible-believin’ Christian who knows the world is only 6000 years old and that God planted us here in our current form exactly as we are, and apes exactly as they are, and that the dinosaurs still live in the tropics. All the other students were listening in on this. Fortunately, it didn’t have any repercussions such as the teacher in the post, but it was a very scary moment.

    Last year, one of my students asked me if I was an atheist. It seems the comparative religions teacher had decided to put my picture up in her class as an example of an atheist (because I’m so famous, what? No one much has heard of me!) She told me what her teacher was teaching all sorts of nonsense about atheists; my student said there was an atheist in the class who kept correcting her. I lucked out this time; this student was curious, and while pointing out that she believed in God, she wanted more information about atheism, and some books she could read so she could understand it better. One of these days, a student seeing my picture will not be so curious, but will instead be furious. I presume she got my picture from the local Meetup group I started. Yes, I’m out (I wasn’t at the time of the first incident). But that is no excuse for using my picture that way. I don’t talk about religion to my students, and I was pretty angry and worried about the situation.

  • lofgren

    I don’t like that it is inappropriate for a public school teacher to answer a straightforward question about their religion. An atheist should be able to answer the question, “Yes, I am an atheist,” and even answer questions about their beliefs or lack thereof (as should a Christian, Hindu, Muslim, etc). That is not the same as proselytizing, and, much as some atheists like to pretend otherwise, the teacher’s belief system does influence the way they teach the class even within the bounds of the law. And not just the obvious subjects, either. I really don’t see any reason a teacher shouldn’t be allowed to be open with their students on this matter.