There is a Christian movie coming out in a couple weeks called “God’s Not Dead”. I really don’t care if Christians make a movie which affirms their beliefs and values. What bothers me about this film is it spreads lies and stereotypes, and that many Christians, including some I know, seem to eat it up.
The premise of the film is that a Christian student goes to university and finds his atheist philosophy professor trying to force his views on everyone else. The Christian student bravely stands up for his beliefs, and accepts a debate challenge from the professor. Throughout the movie and the debate we see that the professor knows that God exists, but pride and hurt caused him to rebel against him. In the end the Christian student triumphs, what a David and Goliath story! Trailer below:
If the story seems familiar to you it’s because you’ve probably seen it before. The brave Christian student taking on the atheist professor is a popular Christian trope/meme, it’s gets copied and pasted and spread around facebook and the internet despite never having happened. Anyway, below are my main criticisms of the movie based on the trailer.
1)Christians are a persecuted Minority: The trailer alone presents three cases of athiests persecuting/bullying Christians, and if they emphasize it that much in the trailer I have to assume it’s going to be a big part of the movie. Newsflash: Christians are not a minority in the United States. Numbers may vary based on which study you look at, but around 75% of the population is Christian. Do you really think 75% of the population is being oppressed by less then 20% of the population? It seems unlikely. What’s more likely is that the Christian majority will be even more pronounced in the government, since there aren’t enough atheists to elect politicians who share our views. Hell, let’s just talk for a second about the fact that this supposedly oppressed group is able to put together and promote this movie, a very expensive undertaking. And it’s not just this movie. There are several more big budget Christian movies coming out soon, like Son of God and Noah. They can make these movies because they have the resources and because there is a huge demand for them in the population. Ask yourself how many atheist blockbusters you’ve seen.
Some Christians will point to cases where they aren’t able to do things they used to as them being persecuted. For instance, many public schools used to have teacher led Christian prayer. The reason this was removed of course is that it’s a case of the government endorsing one religion over others, and of religions being treated differently. This isn’t an attack on Christianity, it’s a reversal of unfair privilege, and wouldn’t be possible without the support of a huge number of reasonable Christians. The fact is, atheists are FAR more likely to face bullying than Christians. Why, studies have shown that we are as distrusted as rapists (Due to how we are portrayed and talked about in the Christian community, which is why I’m making a fuss about this movie). Let me ask if you have ever heard of a Christian student being denied from forming a Christian club at her school, and then being bullied for being a Christian. Because that same thing happened to an atheist just recently, and frankly happens all the time.
Let’s look at the university campus itself. Now I’ve only personally been to one university, so my experiences aren’t authoritative. I will admit that the number of atheists is higher among university students and staff than it is among the general population. However, at my university, there are more than a dozen Christian student groups and I don’t even think there is an atheist group. Professors would get fired or sued if they mocked or attacked religious beliefs. It just doesn’t happen.
2)Portrayal of the Atheist: Since atheists are a minority, and an invisible one at that (you can’t tell someone is an atheist by looking at them), people’s perception of us is largely influenced by what other people say about us. If you go to a church for years where the pastor says certain things about atheists you may tend to believe them, even if you and your pastor have never actually sat down and had a conversation with an atheist.
From the trailer I can tell this movie perpetuates several popular stereotypes about atheists. The atheist character is an atheist because he’s angry at God. The atheist character is a conceited dick. The atheist character tries to force his views on others. Not all atheists are like this.
3)Narrative: Many people will see this movie and think it’s an accurate representation of the conversation/debate on religion. They might not think about the fact that the film was created with a goal in mind, and that every character and every piece of dialogue was written to accomplish that goal. The atheist character and what he says is not indicative of our best arguments, or even our most common views. Rather the atheist character, like a puppet, says what the Christian creators of the film want him to say so that the atheist position can look foolish and be demolished by the Christian character in the film. If you want an accurate representation, watch an actual fucking debate, not a movie about a fictional one. Or even better, talk to an actual atheist! Or even several! We’re not as bad as we’re made out to be.
I’m an atheist, I don’t think there is a God. But that’s not the problem I have with this movie. The problem I have is that I think it will make it more difficult for atheists and Christians to get along and have meaningful conversations.