This one works as punishment.

This one works as punishment.

Did you know that Josh Wheaton is also how Mr. Repzion pronounces

Did you know that Josh Wheaton is also how Mr. Repzion pronounces “Joss Whedon”?

I dread to think, therefor I am.

I dread to think, therefore I am.

When Roger Ebert wrote his review of I Am Sam, a film in which we’re meant to feel sorry for a mentally retarded Sean Penn for losing custody of his 6-year-old daughter (Dakota Fanning), even though common sense tells us that the authorities, i.e. the film’s designated antagonists, are doing the right thing, he stated: “You can’t have heroes and villains when the wrong side is making the best sense.”

That final quote is the pitch perfect summary of God’s Not Dead, one of strangely many recent films that attempt to call atheists out on how wrong and bad they are for trusting educated scientists over people who get all their facts from an ancient Fantasy doorstopper. In this case, most of the film revolves around the debate between two people. One is a Christian; the other is an atheist. I’ll let you guess which one’s the villain.

We join college student Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper) as he enrolls in a philosophy class where his teacher is the atheistic Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo). No, not Ratigan. Radisson. Early on he demands that all of his student sign a declaration that “God is dead” lest he automatically flunk them, which seems like the sort of thing that’d get him fired but no siree. Wheaton, however, refuses to sign this, hence why Radisson tells him that he must have a debate on the subject and then have the rest of the classmates decide who’s ultimately in the right. Our hero eventually agrees.

Wheaton predictably brings up the usual stuff about how atheists can’t possibly have a moral compass if there’s no God to tell them what’s right and what’s wrong, that atheists can’t possibly have an opinion on the concept of God if they do not believe He exists, and that there’s technically no proof that there isn’t a God. Thankfully, any chance of this ever being perceived as redundant or stupid is eradicated by the filmmakers skillfully making clear that Radisson is the bad guy with the help of such tools as ominous music and “black & white mentality” writing. If this weren’t the case, this movie might have made people think (but given the caliber of arguments from the Christian side, it is doubtful).

Josh Wheaton and Professor Radisson.

Josh Wheaton and Professor Radisson.

There are multiple side-characters, including Wheaton’s girlfriend (Cassidy Glifford) who breaks up with him because of the jeopardy that Wheaton’s standing up to Radisson could put their future in. Radisson himself has a girlfriend, Mina (Cory Oliver), who doesn’t share his anti-theistic views and is thus not treated all too well by him. Mina’s also part of this minor side-story that involves her evil atheist brother Mark (Dean Cain of Lois & Clark fame) refusing to go see their mother who suffers from dementia. If all else fails, bring in the elderlies with tragic diseases.

There’s also a Muslim girl who gradually gravitates towards Christianity, in case you were worried this film was going for nuance and complexity.

Most of these actors seem like they’re trying (and also failing) but it’s small compensation for a movie that is otherwise so ripe with ridiculousness. In fact, I somewhat bizarrely find myself wishing that the performances were worse. At least then the film would have been stupid enough to be funny. Surely we can get Tommy Wiseau in on this Christian propaganda bandwagon post-haste?

The movie lacks subtletly in its message and it feels overly long, but obviously, the main fault of God’s Not Dead is its pathetic attempts to make a point by reciting arguments that have already been rebutted when it comes to atheism and keeping God out of the classroom. For instance, the question that ultimately defeats the evil professor in this film is the one that goes “How can you hate God if you don’t believe in him?”. Allow me to answer that one with another question, Mr. Wheaton. How can you hate King Joffrey from Game of Thrones even though you know perfectly well that he’s a fictional character?

God’s Not Dead is an infuriatingly moronic and amateurish movie and I realize that since I’m too much of a morally bankrupt non-believer to be included in its intended demographic, I should not be too surprised. I just hope that the consensus that this is a movie by fools for fools spreads fast enough that no one actually watches this and falls for it. Sure you’re allowed to believe things. You are, however, not allowed to pass your beliefs off as fact lest you have actual proof, and even then, they’d stop being just beliefs.

In conclusion, it is some comfort that this movie is at least not trying to make a case for Creationism. Thankfully, though, a movie about just that is allegedly on the way. I cannot wait.

1/5 whatever

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