I said I would do this, and now I’m doing it. Below is a list of ten reasons why I didn’t like God’s Not Dead. I would like to point out that when I started watching the film, I was willing to be open-minded and give this a chance. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the film, and despite the encouragement I’ve gotten to show this film to people who are not Christians, I will not be doing that. So here it goes:
1. To start off, no philosophy professor whether atheist or not, would basically force his students to write ‘God is dead’ on a paper and get graded for it. I know this from hearing the opinions of other atheist professors. The true fact is that if an atheist professor was caught doing this, the university would fire him, because his actions were a violation against the First Amendment which clearly states this: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Regardless of your opinions or your point of view about how the First Amendment is being treated today, it still stands and professors would be fired for doing something like this. Professors, atheist or not, know this, therefor would never dare to do this. It is true that atheist professors have challenged an individual’s faith in the classroom, but have not done it in any way this extreme.
2. Which actually leads to my problem with Professor Radisson himself. Not only did he do something that was against our rights as American people, but he was also portrayed as someone who was selfish, arrogant, and even verbally abusive. If having me write ‘God is dead’ in the classroom wasn’t enough to make me report him, stopping me in the hallway by putting a rough hand on my shoulder and turning me around to face him and then tell me that he is god in the classroom, I would definitely report him then. I can’t for the life of me see how he can get away with this. Also, if Professor Radisson truly hated God and disliked Christians, why does he have a Christian girlfriend?
3. A short note on Radisson’s Christian girlfriend. I can’t think of any reason why a Christian girl would choose to live with an atheist. There’s also the fact that the two of them are living together before marriage, which is something Christians believe is wrong. This is a girl who has obviously made some pretty stupid decisions. It is true that the girlfriend finally decided to abandon Radisson because he wasn’t right for her, but it’s hard to feel sympathy for her, because she made really stupid choices in the first place that, in my opinion, puts Christians in a bad light.
4. I should probably mention the subplots and other characters right now. If this film is really supposed to be about a college student challenging his professor’s stance, why do we have subplots of a Muslim girl and a girl with cancer? These subplots added absolutely nothing to the plot. If they were in the same class as Josh Wheaton, and were affected by the debates, that would’ve been something a little more worthwhile to see. But no. Neither characters cross paths with each other or Josh or the professor or the pastor or anyone. The pastor even felt shoehorned in so that he could affect some of the other storylines throughout the film. Unfortunately, I’m given no reason to care for him or his welfare. He’s there to be like a human ‘God’, which would’ve been okay if this film was all about him. I lost complete respect for him when he got angry at the car salesman and said ‘lying to an ordained minister is even worse’. That’s treating other people with love. I also hated how the cancer girl’s boyfriend brushed off her illness like it was an inconvenience by saying, and I quote “couldn’t this have waited until tomorrow?”.
5. Which would bring me now to the overall view of Christians and non-Christians in this film. This movie made it very clear that it thinks Christians are perfect, flawless, and all-knowing, while non-Christians (especially atheists) are miserable, nasty, heartless, discriminating people. I was actually offended by this portrayal of atheists even though I’m not an atheist myself. The Bible specifically says that we’re supposed to treat all people regardless of their beliefs with love and kindness. America strives to create a sense of equality between people regardless of their background, culture, religion etc. I don’t think Christians are helping that by viewing atheists in their films like this. In this movie, every atheist is a terrible person that mocks and hates Christians. I’ve met people who aren’t Christians that respect Christians even if they have different beliefs. In fact, I’ve gotten along very well with people who are different.
6. I admire the idea that Josh Wheaton wants to stand up for his own faith, especially in a place that’s hostile towards it, but it just didn’t work here. Aside from the bad start of the conflict where Radisson has his students write ‘God is dead’ for a grade, Josh has been dating the same girl for six years. If he was that committed to God and that passionate about Him, he should’ve realized that this particular girl was not the right one for him quite a long while ago. In fact, I noticed there were three breakups in this film. That’s just not creative from a storytelling standpoint. Romantic relationships are put in a negative light here, because it views your significant other as someone who is an obstacle in your path towards your goals and will abandon you at the first sign of something they don’t like about you. Josh’s girlfriend abandons him at the first sign of him standing up for his faith. I understand that by doing something that sounds outrageous or crazy, it means there will be some obstacles in the way, and some things in your life you’re going to have to get rid of, but this was a bad example to use for reasons which I just mentioned.
7. During the debates between Josh and Professor Radisson, while there were some interesting and even valid comparisons between philosophers and what the Bible says, I think the most significant problem about this debate was how one-sided it was. Josh tried to push the idea that God’s not dead because the Bible says so, and the Professor tried to push the idea that God is dead and philosophy is true because of what certain philosophers said. In this case, I’m especially embarrassed for Josh because he says that everything about God is true because the Bible says so. No one will accept that idea. To people who aren’t Christians, the Bible is just a well-written book that is centered around a religious belief. If you’re going to say that something is true because the Bible says so, you have to look deeper and explain how what is said in the Bible is true, and there are many valid sources that can help you. Josh didn’t really look into any of these kinds of things.
8. Professor Radisson decides he’s an atheist because of a tragic thing that happened in his past. So technically it’s not that he doesn’t believe in God, it’s because he’s angry at God, so he chooses not to believe in Him. This is not the norm for atheists. Atheists are people who decides that God doesn’t exist and never has, period. End of story. Instead, this is just a man who witnessed a death in the family, gets angry at God and hates Him, and decides to claim that God is not real. In the movie Camp, which is admittedly a much more enjoyable film about spiritual redemption than this, the main character decided he didn’t want to talk to God anymore because of a death in the family when he was young. He wasn’t a proclaimed atheist though. If everyone who experienced a death in the family or another tragic event got angry at God for allowing it to happen, there would be way more atheists today. I do however have to give the writers credit when Radisson confesses he’s angry at God and Josh says ‘how could you hate something that doesn’t exist?’ That was a powerful line, and one of the best comebacks I’ve heard with great delivery too. However, it also exposes how off of a portrayal Radisson’s character is if he’s supposed to be an atheist.
9. Unfortunately, after that great comeback, the movie just crumbles apart. I felt like the movie turned into a propaganda piece for Newsboys and Duck Dynasty, and a final middle finger to atheists. I’m really telling the truth when I say that my heart was just torn to pieces by this ending. When Radisson decides to go to the Newsboys concert to find his ex (because somehow he knew she’d be there) and apologize to her for everything, he’s hit by a car and lies on the street dying. When the pastor just happens to be passing by (I know this was probably God’s timing), instead of calling 911 or trying to do everything he can to save the professor, he makes Radisson say the Lord’s Prayer, because apparently that’s the only way to have salvation, and allows him to die a painful, miserable death. This tore me apart so much. The pastor did nothing to try and save the professor’s physical life, but was instead for some reason more concerned for his spiritual fate. Getting the professor to believe in God felt forced since he was in a very vulnerable, desperate position. If I was in the pastor’s position, I would’ve called 911 and made sure he was lifted out of the street. It pained me so much that the professor never did get to find his ex and apologize. I understand that not all movies have to have a happy ending like that, but this was a terrible way to go.
10. Finally, right after the Professor’s death, the film pulls us into a Newsboys concert as if that death doesn’t matter at all, and the last ten minutes feels like a music video advertising Newsboys. Josh Wheaton and the other students are completely oblivious to the fact that their philosophy professor just died. During the end credits, I was thinking about how bad the students will probably feel once they find out.
Again, I was feeling heartbroken by it all, and I didn’t feel enthusiastic like the film apparently wanted me to be. I hate how they portrayed non-Christians and atheists in this film. It’s as if the writers have never actually met any atheists. All the portrayals are bad stereotypes, and makes us think that everyone is out to get us. We should be treating everyone regardless of their backgrounds with love and acceptance, and this film really doesn’t show that. It treats Christianity like its a fan club where everyone is right and everyone else is wrong. I think this movie would drive non-Christians even further away from the possibility of believing in God. The movie Camp starring Michael Mattera was much more inspiring, subtle, and moving as a story of a man finding spiritual redemption. The Way starring Martin Sheen, though it wasn’t technically a Christian film, had better spiritual undertones than this movie. I’m sorry I can’t say a lot of good things about this movie. When I saw the previews for this movie, I was dreading it, but when I went to see it at youth group, I was driven to be open-minded and give it a chance. I was shocked by this film in a bad way. At the end of the day, I do not recommend this movie.