“God’s Not Dead” Is More About Make Believe Atheists Than A God
A friend challenged me to watch the film God’s Not Dead with the hope that I would be convinced by the film that atheism is wrong. I watched the film and found it very interesting, but not at all convincing. The film is interesting because of the insight it provides into the beliefs and perceptions of the people who made the film. The film is not convincing though because it is a collection of straw man arguments.
My favorite definition of the straw man argument comes from An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi. Almossawi uses a simple illustration to show how the straw man argument consists of attacking a caricature of the opposing argument. The film God’s Not Dead relies heavily on caricatures of arguments made by atheists, but also uses obscene caricatures of atheists as people. Every atheist character in the film is a horrible person, and every Christian in the film is a kind and loving person.
I think the worst caricature character that the film portrays is that of the Muslim father who beats his daughter when he discovers that she is a Christian. The daughter is later helped and comforted by some of the extremely nice and noble white Christians. This to me is the ultimate hypocrisy of the film, because the film not only portrays atheists as smug elitists but it also portrays the practitioners of another religion as violent child beating reactionaries.
So needless to say, the film did not turn me away from atheism.
Now do I feel that watching the film was a waste of time? Yes and no.
Yes in that the film is not entertaining, convincing, or believable. My suspension of disbelief was never engaged due to the constant and obvious manipulation of the material by the film makers. The story is nothing but a hypothetical situation that is constructed with a pre-determined end result. It is not thought provoking. It avoids giving a person a reason to think at all about the question of whether or not a god exists. The film starts with the answer that it wants to conclude with.
Yet I do feel that watching the film was worth my time to better understand the people who believe that atheists are actually like the caricatures in the film. I as an atheist now know that if I meet a fan of the film God’s Not Dead that I may not be seen as I am by that person. I will be seen as a person who has no morals and who is actively seeking to punish Christians for simply being Christians. I will be seen as the caricature atheist from God’s Not Dead.
In the end I do not encourage anyone to see the film. Forget whether or not god exists. Do not see this film because it is bad. Check out Contact if you want to wrestle with the question of whether or not there is a god, or Signs if you want to be entertained with the idea of a god having a plan that we are not aware of until we see it unfolding before us.
But if you like movies where atheists are evil Christian suppressing elitists, then check out God’s Not Dead. For now I’ll just stick with The Invention of Lying.