Sunday, October 12, 2014


A (Christian-a rarity in my company) coworker recommended the recent film God’s Not Dead to me, because, in his words, “the main character argues like you do.”

The main story line in the film involves Josh, a student in a college philosophy class who refuses to do so when instructed by the professor to sign a statement declaring “God is dead.” 

The professor gives Josh twenty minutes in each of the next three classes to make his case that God is not dead.

I watched the clip on the IMDB page and got what my coworker meant. 

I loved the scene, and in fact, have lived the scene many times (I’ll explain later).

I read reviews of the film, but few seemed to be very objective. 

The atheist reviewers generally trashed it, and to Christian reviewers it was generally the best film ever made.

Having watched the film, I will say that it was nowhere as good as I hoped, although the three scenes that involve Josh making his case for the class are quite good.

However, after watching those scenes, I disagree with my coworker.

I’d credit Josh for making far more thought out and researched arguments than I ever do.

I argue like “My Cousin Vinny.” 

Remember this scene?

My buddies and I used to have senseless arguments like this one all the time. 

Mind you, my buddies were not as cute as Marisa Tomei and the arguments never ended with us kissing (usually one would tell the other to "fuck off"), but we'd pick a point and defend it senselessly until the other one gave up. The louder the better.

Back in those days, the goal was to win the argument at all costs, logic be damned.

As an adult, I try to maintain logic (although sometimes I do revert to my younger self). 

I go with the facts I remember and rely on my wits (well, half of them, anyway). 

I am forthcoming when I do not have facts, but I engage in the debate more to pull information out of my opponent rather than trying to “win” anything or change my opponent’s mind.

In the film, Josh does his homework and finds data posited by theist and atheist scientists alike to make his case.

After the debate scenes, it falls apart a little. Some of the  director's choices were questionable (at best) in my opinion.

Kevin Sorbo plays the college professor like a villain from an old A-Team episode, at one point threatening to make it his mission to destroy Josh's academic career.

There are a few interwoven subplots, but sadly these characters are all stereotypes:

* The controlling girlfriend who breaks up with him because he did not simply drop the class

* The Chinese exchange student and his strict father are carbon copies of the two characters in the Heroes TV series, which were derivative of characters going back decades

* The bullying strict Muslim father and the beautiful young daughter who has assimilated into our culture and is secretly Christian

* The visiting foreign priest whose vacation is ruined by one mishap after another but he never gets frazzled

* The local priest who thinks his parish work is trivial

* The business executive son who has no time for his mother with Alzheimer's and who dumps the blogger is having an affair with when she is diagnosed with cancer and needs his support

* The beautiful daughter of the Alzheimer's patient who is a devout Christian and the college professor's emotionally abused girlfriend

* The Christian band who seemingly make a believer out of the cancer patient and plays a concert that makes the end of the film drag on to it's cliched ending with the college professor. (For the record, the band at Christ's Church of The Valley in Phoenix blows the band in the film away)

The other problem I have is that all the Christian characters are portrayed as saints, and all non-Christians are either idiotic or evil.

That said, the film is worth watching for the debate scenes alone, and there are few other scenes I liked, even though some were absolute cliches.

I would suggest Christians and atheists alike not to expect the film to prove or disprove their point of view.

Watch it and enjoy the debate. 

It may lead you to do some further reading. 

You remember reading, right? 

It's what you do when you receive a text.

Only books are longer.

I could not find a clip of the scene from the IMDb page, although here is a link to that page (it's the clip to the right under "videos"), or you could start watching at 13:30 in the clip I have inserted below.

For me, it was the best scene in the movie.

What I find so compelling about this scene is that I have argued religion versus science with Christians and Atheists alike and had the same experience.

My position is that religion and science are not mutually exclusive, which seems to be the position Josh takes in the film.

Many Christians would not agree and would take the Bible literally.

Atheists would throw out the Bible in its entirety.

But every atheist I have ever debated with always wants to convert the believer, which always makes me wonder why?

Are they insecure in their non-belief? That old saying that no one is an atheist in a foxhole would seem to support this.

My last discussion with an atheist started when he made the statement that there can be no intelligent political discussion in this country until religion is eliminated.


Pretty stark. 

All Christians lack intelligence? 

Every one?

I countered that there can not be intelligent discussion about anything without respect for the other party.

For those of you who are not inclined to go rent the film (although most streaming services seem to have it), here are the debate scenes (for as long as the You Tube link remains active).

I had a good friend who was a confirmed atheist, but I lost touch with him in the decade between his retiring and his passing, so I did not see him at the end.

I have always wondered what he believed as he took his last breath.

Does God exist?

I think at the end of the day it comes down to faith.

But if there is no God, that means everything beautiful in this world happened by chance, not design.

And it also means we go through all that we go through for nothing.

Does God exist?

It's kind of a depressing thought to think He doesn't.


  1. Wow. Perhaps your best post that I read. The religious wars (if I may be so facetious) are like all the other political wars- people polarizing on the basis of what they think they believe, regardless of facts or what they need to learn. God doesn't want us to parrot phrases, He wants us to believe and share. And that means reading the Bible with the same open mind that you bring to anything else. If you cannot see the Big Bang in Genesis 1, perhaps you are reading what you have heard and not what is written. Atheists have the best excuse of all for being inflexible and unable to listen. What is our excuse?

    1. Stephen T and I have discussed this one at length over the years.

      I attended a Catholic school for nine years and was taught both series. I was taught about dinosaurs, and even evolutionary theory (that may have been at the high school level which was a public school-can't remember).

      My first debate on this topic was with a friend, a Christian, who inferred that if I did not actually believe that the Bible was created in a short week (remember, God rested on the seventh day before creating Bruce Springsteen on the eighth (if you believe the bumper stickers from the 80's).

      I had always intuitively believed that the concept of a day could not have existed on the first day, so the time it actually took to happen was not relevant. The fact that God made it happened was always my takeaway.

      Stephen was the one who turned me on to the significance of numbers in the Bible, confirming what I had always assumed.

      So I agree with you, CW-there is room for both explanations, and the percentage of Christians who believe the universe is 8,000 years old is a small one.

      I know that the tone of this blog often does not support the statement in the post above-respect for the other point of view, but that is usually an attempt at humor.

      Although I have been going to a non-denominational church, I still identify myself as Roman Catholic, but would not presume to tell someone of another Christian faith they are wrong. Nor would I lecture an atheist.

      I know there are a few proverbs that cover criticism and word choice-they are worth re-reading, as I still think our best strategy is leading by example and treating others as we would like to be treated.

      I think a pretty smart young Man from Bethelehem said that first.

  2. There was one scene in the movie that I thought was GREAT. Other than that one scene, the best parts of the movie were indeed the debate scenes but even they weren't all that good or even believable.

    As a (undefeated) veteran of a number of debates with hard-core Evolution-spewing atheists, I can tell you that this was NOT how a real debate with this professor would have done down. He rolled over way too easy, and in fact, all of the arguments or "evidence" provided by both the student and the professor never got beyond just a very, very basic examination of the subject.

    My debates with "real" atheists delved far deeper into facts and theories and counter-theories than were addressed in this movie. But then again, I guess there's only so much you can get into in a 114 minute movie that's attempting to entertain as well as inform.

    In truth, that professor would have been pulling all sorts of pseudo-science-babble out of his butt to "prove" that Evolution is a fact. And ONLY if that student had spent decades studying and researching the genuine science that refutes the atheists' pseudo-science-babble (as I have done) would he have been able to make the professor look foolish in front of the class.

    In other words, in the "real world" (as opposed to this Hollywood enactment of the real world) the professor would have likely "blinded him with bullshit". I mean, if that college kid wasn't ready with an answer to that silly Stephen Hawking quote, then he was truly in over his head.

    The truth is there is no genuine science to prove or even strongly indicate that Evolution is a fact. All "real" science opposes the theory, and every piece of "science" the atheists use to defend the theory is critically flawed in one or many ways.

    Now, the one scene that I felt made the movie worth watching...
    >>... * The business executive son who has no time for his mother with Alzheimer's :

    SON (to his mother): "I don't even know what I'm doing here. I mean, it's not like you even know who I am. You prayed and believed your whole life, never done anything wrong, and here you are. You're the nicest person I know, I am the meanest. You have dementia; my life is... perfect! Explain that to me."

    MOTHER (staring straight ahead at the wall): [*Long pause...*] "Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble 'cause he doesn't want them turning to God. Your sin is like a jail cell, except it's all nice and comfy, and there doesn't seem to be any need to leave. And the door's wide open 'til one day, time runs out, and the cell door slams shut. And suddenly... it's too late."

    [*Silence, then she snaps out of her trance, turns to face her son and says...]

    "Who did you say you were?"

    Man, that was some powerful shit there! Easily the best scene in the movie, in my op.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. I liked the scene as well, but that's one of the ones I felt was a cliché, as well as two of the characters that were derivative and one-dimensional.

      Is there really a man on the planet who, after his girlfriend (who he is plying with an expensive meal and champagne to get her into bed) says "I have cancer" would have responded with "Couldn't that wait until tomorrow?"

      However, I do agree that the lines spoken by the mother were powerful.

      I'd have rather seen the script focus on the professor countering arguments rather than spouting his "I am the evil God in this classroom" crap....and the whole "pissed at God because my mom died" thread...overdone.

      I really felt the "anti-Theism" scene was the best (my op, of course) because it really nails the tone of these debates.

      But it was still well worth watching. For all my critical observations, it was still a lot better film than most of what it out there, although think of how much better it would have been if they worked the Transformers and Iron Man into the script...

    2. Almost forgot-I liked the scene early in the film where Josh meets the local priest in church-that was why I chose that graphic up above.

    3. I agree that the "Son" character was an extreme exaggeration. That's not to say there are no cold-hearted SOBs like that in the world, but in a movie that was supposed to be highlighting reasonable and rational arguments regarding Creationism Vs. Evolution, that character (and most of the others) was exaggerated beyond belief.

      The "Mother", however, was of course fairly one-dimensional, since she had Alzheimer's disease and scarcely knew who she was or where she was. But that's one aspect that actually made that one scene so powerful. The son may have been a cartoon villain but that scene was not cliche nor derivative of anything I've seen before.

      From a technical standpoint, that scene was well framed, well lighted, and well played by the actors (even if the son character was not truly believable). But what really impressed me about it - the reason it nearly gave me a chill and caused me to replay the whole scene a second time before moving forward in the movie again - was because it was the one and only time where the filmmaker introduced the Supernatural into the story...

      I trust you realized that it was NOT the old woman with Alzheimer's who answered her son's question. At the moment she began to speak she was being used as a channel for God, Christ or The Holy Spirit. It was the Voice of God that used the mother as a means for calmly, Divinely giving the mean son the answer to his question.

      And this was shown by the way she suddenly snapped out of her trance and asked "Who did you say you were?" immediately after the reply from God had been articulated through her.

      And the son realized that this response was not really coming from his mother, but that he had just heard a message from "the beyond". And THAT is why he did a 180 regarding his belief in God right after that scene with his mother.

      There was nuttin' cliche about that scene. Anyway, I certainly have never seen anything like it in a drama before.

      One other thing I meant to mention in the last comment was that somewhere in the movie we hear this quote: "ONLY A REAL RISK TESTS THE QUALITY OF A BELIEF."

      I thought that was an outstanding statement which I am sure to repeat from time to time. That one quote, plus the one scene with the Mother and her Son made the movie worth my time to watch it. Overall, not a great movie - just decent - but it did have a few good moments.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

    4. You'never catch me referring to framing and lighting ,etc-I do not notice those elements very much unless they are either very poor or very unusual..I'll notice situations, though and I can swear I have seen scenes (say that five times fast) where a patient with dementia or some similar affliction comes out if it and is lucid.

      I wish I could remember the film, but I can see (fuzzily) in my memory a scene where an angel speaks through a similar character, right down to the reversion to the dementia-I cannot remember if it was a TV show or a film, and can't really remember the actor but I had a deja vu moment when Dean Cain was sitting there and was not shocked at all when God spoke through the mother-I was waiting for it.

      That aside, even though I felt I'd seen it done before I did like that scene.

      However-I missed the son doing a 180!

      I thought I remembered a later scene with him driving and being the same old SOB.

      So either I dozed on the scene you refer to or I missed the boat on the scene with Dean Cain in the car. At the end, the band was so bad (both badly acted and badly performed) that my nausea may have made me miss the Dean Cain conversion.

      I wonder if the quote you refer to is from the scene with Josh and the priest in the church, another scene I liked quite a bit.

      I thought the Kevin Sorbo resolution was totally a cliche, and felt the film suffered from a lack of capes, nudity and cars that turn into giant robots.

      I watched the film twice, and then replayed the debate scenes a third time, so I liked it well enough. Agree with your take-not great-but still better than most Hollywood fare.

    5. They don't blatantly show you the son being converted, it's handled with subtlety. I want to say that the guy and gal who played that scene did it really well - both of them (even if the son's character was cartoonish).

      But after she's done delivering the message and then snaps out of it and asks him who he is, there's a close-up on his face and you can read the shock all over it. It's subtle, but it's clear.

      Later he receives one of the text messages on his phone, "God's not dead", he reads it and then tosses the phone on the seat behind him and drives on. You probably took that to be an act of denial, but I didn't. There was a kind of soft expression on his face, and tossing the phone back I took to be sort of an exclamation point as if to say, "Yep! I get it now."

      My interpretation could be wrong, but the combination of the shock on his face as he's mentally digesting what just came from the lips of that zoned-out old woman and the softer look on his face when receiving the text leads me to believe he had been converted by the Supernatural act involving his mother.

      Also, by the way, you're right that the band members couldn't act worth beans, but I liked their music, particularly that last song (which I assume is titled 'Roaring Like A Lion') because that was some ass-kickin' Rock that was roaring like a lion.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

    6. That was the scene (cell phone in car) and that's how I interpreted it-but I didn't get the sense in the earlier scene that he'd had a change of heart, so I would have been predisposed to interpret it that way.

      I may have run out of patience for the band after the horrible acting, but the band at Christ's Church of the Valley blows those guys away...

  3. Funny, the reason I hadn't seen this film was because I'd heard much as you said - that there's too many eye-rolling cliches. I may check it out, though, just for curiosity's sake, to see these debates.

    Agreed with Mr. Martin. Top notch post, L.C. Enjoyed it from start to finish. I know you said you've felt a blogging slump lately, perhaps just on your other blog, but the most recent posts you've been putting out for this particular blog are just being knocked out of the park, and I'm not just saying that. Well done, man.

    But every atheist I have ever debated with always wants to convert the believer, which always makes me wonder why?

    Are they insecure in their non-belief? That old saying that no one is an atheist in a foxhole would seem to support this.

    I prefer the joke:
    Q: How do you know someone's an atheist?

    I remember Neil DeGrasse Tyson (of all people) having a pretty great quote on this. He said contrary to popular belief he's NOT an atheist, because it's a movement. An agenda. With it comes the firm stance that there is no God, and the spreading of this message, which he says he won't say or do. He then goes on to say, "Why do atheists need a name, and a label, and a movement anyway? I don't play golf. I don't like golf. But you don't see me assembling a group to tell everyone how much I don't like golf and how you should not like golf too."

    Only once in my life have I truly met someone that quietly said I don't believe in God, but it's not a big deal, I don't argue about it and I don't take any offense if you do, nor do I have any interest in debating or converting you. In fact, his two roommates were actually both very devote Christians, and that didn't bother him one bit. They got along like the best of friends.

    But if there is no God, that means everything beautiful in this world happened by chance, not design.

    And it also means we go through all that we go through for nothing.

    The South Park guys (another pair who are not atheists, contrary to popular belief) have a pretty great quote on this too, as they admit to believing in God.

    "Basically... out of all the wonderfully ridiculous religion stories - and many of them are ridiculous - the silliest one I've ever heard is, 'Yeah... there's this big giant universe and it's expanding, it's all gonna collapse on itself and we're all just here just cuz... just cuz. That, to me, is the most ridiculous explanation of them all." - Trey Parker

    Yes, there are some things in religion that sound silly. But to me, there's nothing sillier than saying the universe exploded for no reason, a bunch of cells randomly grew into bananas and dogs and rutabagas and people, and now we're just kinda all here for no reason whatsoever. There's no right, no wrong, and whatever we do or say or what happens to us doesn't matter since it's all for nothing.

    If that isn't ridiculous, I don't know what is.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. For this blog, it's a little easier-all I need is something to rub me the wrong way which you can count on in our society.

      I think where Christians miss the mark is worrying whose denomination is right-let that go.

      I, too, had an atheist friend who kept it to himself and did not begrudge people of faith.

      He died a few years ago, and I'd lost touch with him (he'd retired) but I wondered whether he still held to his non-belief to the end.

      There are a lot of people that are in our blogging circle who speak of relationships with God, conversations with God-I've never felt that, and in fact most days wonder is my faith going to be found lacking on that day I get put in front of the bench.

      But I can't understand people who believe nothing with conviction, and question that conviction when they try to pull you into their club.

      If they are right, I don't get why they object to Christianity.

      It's win-win for atheists.

      They get the benefit of the after-Christmas sales without having to go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve!