So I’ve finally forced myself to watch God’s Not Dead, a movie about angry atheists, written by, directed by, and starring angry Christians. How do YOU think it turned out? As an atheist who’s read and studied the bible, I had some reservations about seeing this movie. Would it just be two hours of preaching, or would it be two hours of laughably fallacious theistic arguments? It turns out it’s just a sad case of Christian propaganda, and like most propaganda films, you just feel bad for everyone involved.
College student Josh (Shane Harper) feels so alone with his Christian faith, especially when he’s forced to take a philosophy class where he’s the only believer, and the teacher, Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo), is a cold, ruthless, hate-spewing atheist, who forces his students to write “God is dead” on a piece of paper. But devout Christian Josh rebelliously sticks to his beliefs, which begins an overlong “trial” between teacher and student on whether or not Josh’s beliefs are justified. The problem with this setup is that it paints Christianity as the minority, and last I checked there were over 2 Billion followers, including 70 – 80% of the U.S. population. Now I’m confused. Why does this movie exist?
The story is somewhat kaleidoscopic, with several interweaving subplots. There’s the Muslim girl with her old-world-beliefs father, the Chinese exchange student who knows nothing about religion, and probably the worst subplot of them all: the priest whose car won’t start, and whose rental car won’t start, and whose OTHER rental car won’t start, until someone suggests that he pray and see what happens. The atheist characters are painfully easy to spot, with their cynical attitudes and their “I ♥ EVOLUTION” bumper stickers. They are the villains of this movie, making life worse for everyone they meet. Conversely, everyone who begins leaning towards Christianity sees their life improve immediately. It’s shameless propaganda, portraying Christianity as a quick-fix for all of life’s problems.
As much as I would love to give away Kevin Sorbo’s answer to the mind-boggling “Why do you hate God?” question, I won’t. I’ll just say that the student/teacher trial resolves absolutely nothing. Josh’s beliefs are neither proven nor disproved. There’s a twist about one of the atheist characters, a group shout-out that rips off the ending of Spartacus, and then a celebratory rock concert where all the happy Christian characters, both old and new, go to celebrate. And therein lies the movie’s greatest failure: the characters themselves. They’re not characters; they’re caricatures at best. You can’t feel anything for the heroes’ struggle, nor can you bring yourselves to hate the villains. All you can do is wait 113 minutes for something not-totally-predictable to happen. (It doesn’t.)
I know I’m of a biased opinion here, but that didn’t even matter in the end. This movie offended me not as an atheist but as a movie fan. Annoying stock characters, ludicrous subplots, and an all-too-easy happy ending for the hero who didn’t even save the day. This movie just expects to be a masterpiece. It expects to be thought-provoking. And worst of all, it expects you to believe in it. But without some kind of blissful reward, there’s just no reason to give it in any attention. Sound familiar?
1 out of 5