God’s Not Dead (2014)

gods-not-dead

One thing you have to admire at least about “God’s Not Dead,” is that it wears its propaganda on its sleeve. Being Christian is depicted as noble and courageous, while the more pragmatic and atheist characters are subtly referred to as snakes, and tyrants. Kevin Sorbo (intent on alienating his remaining fans, apparently) plays the evil philosophy Professor Radisson who is up to no good, mainly because he dons a goatee, and asks his class to consider the idea of the lack of an existence in a God. Which is a shocking notion considering his class is peppered with a few absolutely devout Christians.

Shane Harper out blands the entire cast with his portrayal of Josh Wheaton, a Christian student appalled by Radisson’s philosophical question. Thinking?! The horror! Why even take philosophy if you outright resist any sense of radical thinking?

Director Harold Cronk takes a simple question and tries to over complicate it to stretch it out in to a ninety minute dilemma that’s quite laughable. It’s almost like someone asks a character which color is better Red or Blue, and then padding it in to an existential dilemma that could easily be settled in a matter of minutes. Character Josh is a self entitled and petty character who simply won’t open his mind to other thought processes, though the script tries its best to depict him as noble and heroic for standing up to Radisson. Sorbo as Radisson is about the same atheist stereotype you’d expect.

He’s smug, self-assured, and cocky, and belittles his theist students. Sorbo has obviously channeled a lot of the cartoonish rogues from his “Hercules” show for this role, depicting the atheistic Radisson as this obnoxious blowhard who tells Josh to either prove the existence of God, or fail the class. He even confronts Josh after every class threatening him and snarling in his face. And of course, you can’t hate him too much; he’s an atheist only because he’s angry about a past tragedy. Obviously, there’s no other reason to be atheist other than anger and cynicism.

Josh would at least be capable of posing an empathetic viewpoint if Shane Harper could at least muster up a lifelike performance that is anything but abysmal. “God’s Not Dead” laughably tries to become a reverse “12 Angry Men,” or “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” where a little man stands up against impossible odds to convince everyone of their righteousness, but the movie is so hell bent on expressing Christians as everything to everyone, so we already know Josh is going to convince people that his God exists. Or at the very least, he’ll depict the refusal to consider alternative thinking as a justified stance, rather than simply being set in his ways.

In fact most of “God’s Not Dead” is about justifying the Christian lifestyle. It posits the idea that perhaps it’s going to open up the floor for a real look at the debates of the existence of the Christian God, and allow its characters to really ponder the idea of religious faith, and if it can exist in everyone’s life. But the position and viewpoint are set from the very beginning with no room for budging or at least opening itself up to other ideas. The Christian characters are sweet, kind, upright, and–of course–martyrs, while the atheist characters are mostly immoral, despicable, and unlikable individuals that make life difficult.

The entirety of “God’s Not Dead” lambasts reason, and celebrates Christianity unabashedly, which is a shame, because it has an opportunity to really challenge its target audience. The film doesn’t want to open the floor for various viewpoints, and chucks the same creaky (easily defeated) arguments theists have been using for decades in an effort to disprove the atheists viewpoint. Its propagandist angle is best summed up by the mind shatteringly stupid argument posed by Josh: “Atheists says that no one can prove the existence of God, but I say no one can disprove that God exists.”

  • Patrick Champion

    The movie appears to be oriented towards the high school level of student in numerous domains and the script could be better written, but then again, the author of the above article pretty much parrots the same attitude as the professor in his rant of a review and rant against God and Christianity. The movie is mostly about making Christians wake up that if they really profess their faith publicly in this very much post-modern country, they WILL face similar hostility and it provides a vicarious experience to help prepare them for the conflict.

    • Viscount Pooch-Dump KG, CH

      What a load of nonsense. I happen to know plenty of Christians who are capable of intelligent debate. The are well rounded and prepared to entertain and discuss the counter arguments. This movie, in contrast, is hateful trash and does not offer any such debate. It plays straw man over the positions of so many groups it represents, from Atheist, to Muslim, to foreigner and to liberal and disrespects every one. Indeed, almost every non-Christian is portrayed as a ridiculous stereotype, some to an arguably bigoted extent. The academics are shown as snidely, arrogant individuals, carrying out actions that wouldn’t exist in real life. Atheists are generally portrayed as heartless, uncaring and downright evil. Muslims as purveyors of domestic violence. Liberals as selfish. The whole thing stinks of a small time myopic worldview that is totally out of touch with global society and promotes intolerance of anyone who is not Christian, while attempting to shroud that intolerance with a “woe is me” tale of a supposedly put upon Christian. I won’t even bother to get into the end of the film, which basically implies that it’s okay for non-Christians to be struck down.

      The question of the existence of God is one for the ages, It’s a deep concept that can be used for rich and interesting debates. This film totally misses that though. It’s vomit inducing propagandist garbage for ignorant, weak minded sheep who don’t ask questions and just accept what they are fed.

    • FlixtheCat

      It prepares them for nothing, and the idea that this movie can be used as a tool for some purpose other than lording your beliefs over people is laughable.

  • Megaben

    Do you not understand the difference, for a Christian, between opening your mind to an alternative viewpoint and signing a document that says “God is dead”? This review comes across as cartoonishly evil as the over-the-top villain. The smug professor says “renounce your faith if you want to pass my class” (at no greater argument than listing several atheist philosophers) and the reviewer lambastes the Christian protagonist’s “refusal to consider alternative thinking” for not immediately agreeing.

    That said, this was an abysmal movie with poor acting, a ridiculous premise and very poor defenses of its own views.

    • FlixtheCat

      The student, even before he meets the stereotypical professor trembles at the idea of being taught by an atheist professor. He’s a self entitled smug idiot. And no atheists do not want Christians to renounce their faith, it’s just what the movie thinks of atheists in their very narrow minded viewpoint.

      • Megaben

        I agree, the movie did not write the atheists (or even the Christians) as realistic human beings and the professor’s challenge was ridiculous and not very believable. But within the (badly-written) world of the movie, it did happen. In that context, doing the normal thing and refusing to renounce your faith for no reason on the first day of class would not be a symptom of close-mindedness or arrogance.

        • Megaben

          Anyway, arguing over bad reasons to hate a bad movie isn’t a productive use of my time or yours, so have a good one.

        • FlixtheCat

          If you’re knowingly going in to a class that will challenge your perceptions and belief structure, don’t huff when it challenges your perceptions and belief structure.

          • Megaben

            “Challenges your perceptions and belief structure” =/= “Informs you of your new perceptions and belief structure and requires you to disavow your old one, in writing, on pain of failure, before and instead of even making an attempt to convince you”

            I don’t know how else I can say this. It’s a ridiculous premise and one that paints the “villain” in a worse light than the “hero”.

          • FlixtheCat

            Well duh, it’s called “God’s Not Dead.” It’s about the noble Christian fighting against the evil Atheist.

  • Country Above Self

    Before its too late, I hope you’ll find out that faith IS reason.

    • FlixtheCat

      Poetic platitudes don’t make an opinion fact, sadly.

      • Country Above Self

        Not unless it is backed up by the realization of Biblical prophecy.

        • FlixtheCat

          I have no idea what that means.

          • Country Above Self

            You can always look it up. 🙂

          • Joe Horn

            Or you could actually say something useful.

          • Country Above Self

            Well, its useful to me.

          • Joe Horn

            And that’s supposed to mean what to anybody else?

          • Country Above Self

            It’s for the 2.2 Billion adherents to the faith to know and for the rest to find out after death.

          • Joe Horn

            So you actually have no reason to be here except to try to threaten people with your beliefs that have no evidence to back them up, got it.

          • Country Above Self

            Kindly look up what the article is about. I think you are the one who got lost. And why are you threatened by our beliefs? You don’t believe it, right? So it should not matter to you. Unless you tell yourself its not true but deep inside you feel otherwise. As for evidence to back it up, try reading the book “To Hell and Back” by heart surgeon and former atheist Maurice Rawlings, MD.

          • Joe Horn

            Does this look like a Christian site, no. And as anybody with a working brain knows this movie in nothing more than anti-atheist propaganda. My being threatened or not does not mean that just like most Christians try to threaten nonbelievers with eternal torture. He has no evidence either so try again.