Saturday, November 9, 2013

Problems I Have With the "God's Not Dead" Movie

I promise that one day my posts will be edifying to those who read them, but I figured that before I start writing stuff worth reading I should first get into the habit of actually posting on a semi-regular basis.  The turn between posts is slightly faster than it last time, so I'll take that as a minor victory.

Before I launch into today's topic I'll give a little update.  Since my last post I have finished two classes and started two others.  The classes I finished were Intro to Counseling and Bioethics Clinical Pastoral Issues.  One class was great and other was meh, but either way I hope to write about what I learned soon, or relatively soon, eventually, whatever.

Problems I Have With the "God's Not Dead" Trailer

If you have not heard there is a movie coming out in the next year titled "God is Not Dead."  If you haven't seen the trailer here it is.

The gist of the movie, as gathered from the trailer, is that a young Christian man, named Josh Wheaton, goes to college where his evil philosophy teacher tries to convince him that God does not exist.  Josh then excepts a challenge to debate his teacher in order to prove who is right about the existence of God.  The movie will feature appearances by Willie and Korie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame and Newsboys.  I wasn't even aware that the Newsboys still existed until I watched this trailer.

There are all kinds of issues with a movie like this, but I won't focus on how this is the epitome of everything wrong with conservative Christian media, the fact that the guys last name is Wheaton, that this will help fuel the fear some Christians have of higher education, or that now I'm going to have to answer questions like, "You study philosophy?  Aren't all philosophers atheist?"  That used to be something only the biology and other science studies had to answer.  I also won't go into how this movie is basically a knock off an episode of a TV series called The Stranger that I once watched late at night with my brother, Jake, on JCTV.

No, as a philos...uh, someone who majored in philosophy I will focus on how this movie misrepresents a philosophy class.

One more thing.  I'll just apologize right here for phoning it in and writing this post in the most overused blog/web article format ever - a numerated list.  I promise that this will not be the start of this blog turning into Buzzfeed.  That website sucks, but the numbered list lends itself to this kind of discussion.

5. There Would Not Be That Many Students in a Philosophy Course

The film is suppose to take place at a big secular school.  The thing is more and more state schools are removing philosophy as a gen-ed and some are even firing philosophy profs left and right.  If a typical college student is given the choice to take philosophy or not most are going to choose not to take philosophy.  Due to our cultures love affair with the sciences little Josh Wheaton in real life probably would not even take philosophy in the first place.

4. Even if There Were That Many Students The Prof Wouldn't Go on an Anti-God Rant

In reality the professor would spend more time trying to get his students to read The Allegory of the Cave and to convince his students of the worth of philosophy.  Due to our society's perception of philosophy, and the humanities in general, as a worthless, money wasting degree the professor would probably be more concerned about showing how philosophy is relevant today.

3. Even if 5 and 4 are true the professor would probably be ecstatic that a student cares enough to argue back.

This movie is basically about a student volunteering for an extra research project.  Just think about it.  That professor is probably just hoping that he won't have to hear any lame excuses for why Bobby and Sally's papers are late and along comes our hero who is willing to do some extra-syllabic work.  A student who actually cares!  In a gen ed nonetheless!

2.  A student would never be failed simply for their religious beliefs.

One word: Lawsuit.  Granted this is not philosophy course specific, but it still holds.  If a student were to be failed simply for their religious beliefs then the university opens itself up to a major lawsuit or at least some bad press.

1. The Professor Keeps Shouting, "God is Dead," Without Giving the Context

Just about everyone knows it was Nietzsche who proclaimed God to be dead, but considerably fewer know what he meant by that statement.  Context is important here.
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
—Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125 (Source? I got it from Wikipedia.  Where else?)

In the popular mind Nietzsche was simply saying God does not exist.  He was saying that, but he was also saying much more.  Nietzsche was saying that the belief in God was dead and that philosopher's, the "we" in the first line, have killed him.

There lies my biggest problem with this movie.  No philosopher is going to reference that quote without giving himself the credit for helping to kill God.  This isn't a character trait of just atheist philosophers, but philosophers - we're all smug deep down inside.

Bonus: Fan Theory

Alright time for a little fan theory I came up with.  Before anyone says it it I will admit that what follows makes me guilty of shipping.

Anyway at one point in the trailer Wheaton is confronted by his girlfriend who tells him, "You have to decide who is more important in your life, me or God."

Except she doesn't.  I was expecting her to say God.  That or some Christian girl they were going to introduce as a potential love interest.  But she didn't.  Instead she said, "You have to decide who is more important in your life, me or Professor Radisson."

I'll state it clearly here: Josh Wheaton, the student, and Professor Radisson, will wind up getting over their difference and begin a relationship together.

In teen movies that kind of confrontations only happen when the hot/mean girlfriend is giving the conflicted, handsome guy an ultimatum to choose between her and his quirky/cool/smart platonicfriendwhohappenstobeagirlbutsecretlywantstobesomuchmore.  The makers of this movie are geniuses.  They took one of the most common scenes in a teen movie and subtly changed it.  They have set us up for a movie arguing against the evil, secular academy, but really they are going to give us a movie about forbidden love.

Some might think that is ridiculous but I have seen crazier A Song of Ice and Fire theories come true on less evidence.

Guess I'll have to see this movie after all...


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  2. I like the new buzzfeed format. That's actually an upgrade for you.
    Also, surprised that Gary Busey didn't make an appearance... or Kirk Cameron.

    This whole movie just kind of seems like the Scopes Trial version of what Inglorious Bastards was to the Holocaust. It's like apologetics porn - a complete waste of emotional investment because it would never happen.