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Klavan On The Culture

‘God’s Not Dead,’ But Some Are Trying

August 18th, 2014 - 1:13 pm

Take a look at some of these reviews for the religious indie hit God’s Not Dead:

From Britain’s Socialist newspaper The Guardian:  ”This warped evangelist item…  veers from the suspect…  to the outright hateful: by the jawdropping climax, wherein a preacher is effectively granted divine right to mow down non-believers, ‘doing God’s work’ has become indistinguishable from Grand Theft Auto. Ban this sick filth.”

Here’s one from Movie Nation:  ”It’s a movie where rare is the voice that is raised, but deep is the rage bubbling through its rabid anti-intellectualism. When a non-believer is considered to be better off dead, that’s not brimstone you’re smelling. It’s bile.”

And from my old employers The Village Voice:  ”Judging by the ignorance and contempt with which the script treats nonbelievers, the real goal here is proving that non-Christians are worthless.”

I admit those reviews are the extreme ones. I disagreed with Claudia Puig’s negative review at USA Todaybut it was fair and honest and gave credit where credit was due. She and I saw the same flaws and strengths but came out with a different overall impression. Tastes differ.

My take? God’s Not Dead is a pleasant and touching little entertainment, the core of which is an intelligent, succinct, well-reasoned and well-stated response to popular atheist arguments. There’s no Bible thumping, there are no threats of hellfire, there’s no attempt to “prove” God’s existence — the film admits it can’t be proved. But the script makes clear what I have thought for a long time: most atheist arguments, no matter how brilliant the scientist or philosopher who makes them, are just simply not very good judged on the merits.

What’s more, the movie is bracing in its vigor. It doesn’t hesitate to depict both the unkindness and the pain of a Muslim father when his daughter discovers Christ. His is a perfectly plausible reaction and we all know there are Muslim fathers who would do much worse. Nor does the movie fail to confront the fact of suffering and death that many non-believers find a dispositive argument against faith. I was happily surprised at how far the filmmakers were willing to go in making their case.

Top Rated Comments   
How can you be so angry at someone when you don’t believe he exists?

Probably the best line from the film. When I was an atheist I was so mad at God that I used to pretend he didn't exist. Somewhere in his hyper-Evangelical phase Bob Dylan wrote this lyric: "The wicked know no peace and you just can't fake it." I've always thought that hatred of God was the root of most liberal rage. They have no peace, and they can't fake it.

Sure, a lot of Christians are shallow and are part of a very narrow subculture with its own vocabulary that seems limited to the non-believer. That's because it actually is limited. But hey, most of us are rather limited as human beings. I don't see anything wrong with that, if you substitute the word "simple ("uncomplicated")" for limited. I've been a believer for 30 years and all the ethically best people I've ever known also happened to be committed Christians. So there you go.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
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"This would explain why the film gets a 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from critics, while it gets a solid 82% from humans." Oh, Andrew that is funny.

9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
No god?
Anything goes.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have long equated dedicated atheists with certain religious believers, in that their faith in their position is dogmatic and unquestioned. For myself, I'm a believer, but I've certainly examined my belief because I have questions, which I'm sure will never be answered as long as I'm alive. What keeps my faith alive is this world/universe I live in and my belief that it is too wonderful, mysterious, and vast to be some kind of random accident.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's also how I square the science of evolution, which I believe to be true, with the concept of intelligent design, which I believe by faith more than by science.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I liked the 'evangelical atheists' mentioned by one commenter. It's easy to get defensive/offensive when you're surrounded by the multitudes of contrary thinking people who don't want to hear what you're saying and think you a fool for saying it. Let's face it, there are a lot more 'theists' of one version or another than 'atheists'. So the Hitchens and Dawkins shout louder to reassure themselves and be heard over the noise of the surf. Maybe that's why they seem so angry.

Theists have been presenting their 'evidence' for a few thousand years already and we're still having the debate. I'd call that good evidence that their 'evidence' is not convincing. And yes, I agree, theists bear the burden of proof since they're the ones arguing for the existence of something for which there is no verifiable evidence. I don't have to prove the non-existence of Santa Claus, the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy either.

ID has been thoroughly debunked, and if you don't think so, you can use Google to educate yourself. If anything, the evolutionary history of life on earth is littered with the evidence of unintelligent design. 99% of all species ever to live on earth are extinct. That's a pretty poor batting average for a hypothetical intelligent designer. Just because many things about life are beautiful, wonderful and mysterious is no reason to jump to "godidit!"

If there was any evidence beyond wishful thinking, superstitious nonsense and philosophic word games for the existence of deity, this discussion would have ended long ago. Just like we no longer argue about phlogiston or orbital epicircles.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
ID has been thoroughly debunked, and if you don't think so, you can use Google to educate yourself. If anything, the evolutionary history of life on earth is littered with the evidence of unintelligent design. 99% of all species ever to live on earth are extinct. That's a pretty poor batting average for a hypothetical intelligent designer. Just because many things about life are beautiful, wonderful and mysterious is no reason to jump to "godidit!"

1. The first five words of your assertion are not substantiated by the one "example" you give.
2. Re: the "example" you give: Only works in your favor as evidence against intelligent design ***IF*** the "design intent" behind each and every species designed was for that species to exist until (insert end point of life on Earth).

IOW you are assuming two things: (a) that you know the design intent for every single species ever to exist on this planet, and that (b) that design intent was never-gonna-go-extinct.

Both these assumptions are fatal to your argument. For (a) to be true, you would have to be omniscient (or very, very close thereto) ... in other words, you would have to be God. For (b) to be true, you would have to prove (a).

I'm neither defending nor asserting Intelligent Design per se.

I'm saying that you are arguing from fallacy. Your "species extinction" argument as you've stated it fails as a critique of ID, and your failure to give even one valid example of evidence against ID hardly qualifies as ID being "thoroughly debunked."
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't know about other atheists, but I'll tell you why I was aggressive with believers in the past (I don't really care now): it's the feeling of being completely alone. The world of the true believer is very different from that of the atheist. I had grown up a true believer. At one point I was taking my bible to school. I would debate with others the meaning of biblical passages. Everyone I knew believed in a god or God.

After becoming an atheist I felt that my eyes were finally open, but I was still surrounded by people that were believers. Atheists don't cease needing the company of others once they become atheists. The feeling of isolation as an atheist is frightening and many of my debates and discussions were motivated by the desire to bring others over to my way of thinking so that I might connect with them. It rarely happened, of course.

I was lucky enough to find a wife that is also an atheist and now I'm much more pragmatic.

I do tend to find myself on the right hand side of the political spectrum, though, and see modern liberalism as just another religion with it's own dogma and faith and zealots. The only difference seems to be that liberals will tell you "we say" such and such is right or wrong while those that believe in God will say "God says" such and such.

Omitting the word "God" from a discussion about morality and right and wrong doesn't make the discussion any less religious though IMO. And modern liberals have their own articles of faith.



9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Question I have for you is what is "right" and "wrong"? If there is no objective standard for those or the elevation of man, then there is no such things as "right" and "wrong", just what one feels. Someone beating another over the head for their grocery bag is really no different than a lion catching a wildebeest. So who or what defines right and wrong for mankind overall?
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
A lion has to chase the wildebeest. That's old gnus. People can cooperate and compete without brute force and with honest dealing. My standard of right and wrong is based on harm; if the action harms someone, it is probably morally wrong and if it helps someone, it is probably morally right.
Protecting someone may involve harming another rightly and enabling a self-destructive behavior may involve giving someone pleasure wrongly.
That's the best I can do.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
thanks for the note back. I appreciate it. where I would still struggle on your response is "harm" as it still implies a binary: right/wrong. from the takers perspective he was not harmed so no harm was done.

Mc68... says that the "only" difference is "liberals will tell you "we say" such and such is right or wrong while those that believe in God will say "God says" such and such" Well, that is a BIG difference. If it is "we say" then the ultimate, downstream logic is that good/bad or right/wrong subjective to one's one whims and thoughts at an particular moment. I can change at any time and that is just fine. Then it is just one group of cells acting on another group of cells.

But if there is an objective good/bad, right/wrong we can begin to judge behavior, action and thought against the objective. who/what gives us the objective? It can't be man, as man can change with whim, emotions and flight of fancy. If not man, can it be God or does it have to be God?
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Interesting point of view. I find those on either side who angrily attempt convince others that they're wrong are annoying regardless of whether you agree in their belief in God or atheism. One should be willing to accept that some people either won't listen to logic or won't accept faith. We can try, but we need to be willing to accept each other's opinion either way.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Klavan admits that the whole thing is stilted and that the nonbelievers and non-Christians are cartoon characters in a story with an ending that can be seen from miles away. Yet he gets indignant when reviewers call this turkey of a movie a turkey. Perhaps Klavan should check his biases at the door next time.

The movie was a cheat, and that is why it got bad reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. (Note it wasn't widely reviewed ). As you say, in the movie the protagonist can't prove god exists, but neither can the atheist prove disprove god's existence. But the burden of proof rests on the believer as he is making the positive assertion about the existence of a deity. The movie doesn't point this out. The atheist has no burden of proof as he is not making a positive claim about god but merely rejecting the positive claim of the believer, due to lack of convincing evidence. So the so-called debate in the movie ends in a stalemate, yet in the movie god is triumphant at the end. So we go from 50-50 on god's existence to 100% sure at the end of the flick as two preachers talk about the rejoicing heaven due to the conversion-at-death of the atheist professor and his soul going to heaven. That's cheating.

Sorbo's character was also a cheat. His character wasn't really an atheist at all, just a guy mad at god because his mother died when he was 12 and god didn't save her. That's a standard Christian trope about nonbelievers, they really believe in god, they are just mad at god or they just want to sin so they pretend to be nonbelievers. It seems some believers just can't accept that there are those who really don't believe their god exists.

The movie is also a cheat because the arguments used by the Christian protagonist to prove god's existence only argue for a deistic god and not the theistic Christian god. The movie just ignores that huge leap of logic at the end as the movie is clearly claiming that the theistic Christian god is proven.

And the apologetics and counter-responses were of 5th grade quality. If you think what was depicted in this movie was the best offered by atheists in real life, or from believers for that matter, you don't really have a clue. Some of the Christian bloggers over at Patheos were embarrassed by the depiction of the arguments in this movie.

The movie got an 82% on RT because it was mostly watched by believers who had their biases about god and atheists confirmed. It was heavily promoted in churches across the nation. The movie was porn for believers.

And atheists aren't mad at god as they don't believe he exists. But they are often angry at the real world institution of religion and its damaging teachings and positions. So let's drop this whole "Why are atheists mad about something they don't believe in?" trope that believers think is so clever. It's not, in truth it's intellectually dishonest. Just like God's not Dead.

Full disclosure, I was a Southern Baptist but am now an atheist after re-evaluating the evidence for god's existence.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I believe in God based on my personal experiences. This isn't something I could bring to the table as "proof" nor do I plan on it. One could argue all kinds of philosophy either way, but if either party is set on their belief then there is very little we can do to convince each other. You said that you are now an atheist after re-evaluating the evidence for God's existence. If I may ask, what evidence? Be forewarned, I suspect that any evidence you present will be arguable and my previous point about convincing will reassess itself.

I don't question you to argue or convince you, but rather show that the opposite point of view (read: Christian) is just as credible as yours.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm curious about this evidence you found for God's non-existence. Much of the recent scholarship in the area of genetics, astrosphysics, microbiology and the like seem to indicate the opposite. Would love to hear your point of view.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I see what you did there. You twisted what I said. Just to be clear, the evidence provided from believers doesn't support god's existence. That's what I re-evaluated and it comes up short in the believability/credibility department. And it's not my burden to prove god's non-existence just like it's not my burden to prove the non-existence of unicorns. Atheism is the null position and has no burden of proof. It isn't a positive assertion, it's the rejection of a positive assertion about the existence of a deity or deities.

But if you have evidence as to the existence of a deity as you have just now asserted, lay it out there. Cheers.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wasn't trying to be clever, but your snarky answer shows you have more of a chip on your shoulder than you're willing to admit.

All the scholarship on intelligent design is out there. You have a computer, use it. If science is your thing, check out reasons.org . Cheers.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I paid a visit to site you linked. I checked the "About" page and this is what is there:

We believe the Bible is 100% without error - That includes all 66 books of the Old and New Testaments - Scripture is our supreme and final authority on all matters it addresses

I also scanned the bio of Dr. Hugh Ross, the site's founder and president. Here is an excerpt:

Hugh's unshakable confidence that God's revelations in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message.

I hope you can understand why these things raise red flags in my mind. Both of these items call into question their commitment to objectivity. It's clear that the contributors to the site put their duty to protect the faith first and following the scientific method second. The Bible is assumed true without reservation. IMO, this site is really an apologetics site trying to drive the square pegs of current scientific knowledge into the round holes of Bible assertions.

Here is an excerpt from a piece by contributor Maureen Moser:

Cultural big bang – Archaeological discoveries reveal tools and pseudo-cultural practices among hominids remained static for tens of thousands of years. But when modern humans appeared, the sophistication of tools and tool manufacturing increased dramatically, and religious and artistic expression appeared for the first time. These findings line up with biblical view of humans uniquely as God’s image bearers.

From the theological side of things, rejecting an historical Adam and Eve does raise legitimate concerns. How does the evolutionary view of humanity impact the genre of Genesis? How does it influence our understanding of God’s role as Creator and Redeemer? What about the doctrine of original sin? RTB philosopher and theologian Kenneth Samples discusses some of these concerns with Dr. Vern Poythress of Westminster Theological Seminary on an episode of Straight Thinking.

It’s a lot to think about. Clearly, the historical Adam and Eve is a tradition that not only warrants careful handling and thoughtful dialogue but also may be worth keeping.(emphasis mine)

It's clear that god's existence is a given to Moser. It doesn't seem to occur to her that modern humans show more creativity due to our larger brains as compared to our evolutionary ancestors that preceded us. Our minds are pattern recognition machines, and our larger brains enable us to see and understand patterns that our ancestors and other living things cannot. That is why are able to achieve things that our ancestors couldn't.

And as for the assertion that this lines up with the Bible's assertion that humans are god's image bearers, I have no doubt that the humans of that day thought so. Humans of the day saw themselves as an elevated life form as compared to other living things, and their belief that they were created in their god's image was an expression of their vanity, not a statement of factual knowledge.

In the end for her, tradition wins out.

I read a couple of other pieces too. It's good to see them pose some serious questions here and there, but that is all they do. The answers have already been pre-determined.

I've bookmarked the site and I may re-visit it, not because I think they are onto something, but in order to understand how modern believers are trying to use science in support of Christian apologetics. Cheers.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
The way you phrased your question indicated that I had the burden of proof. It's a common move among believers to say it is the atheist's obligation to disprove god's existence. I don't see my answer as particularly snarky and I did answer your question, though not in detail. It's a misunderstanding that happens all too often in internet exchanges. I'm sorry to have come off as snarky.

For a more detailed answer to your query listing the general factors that replaced my belief in god, see my response below to en Sauce. And thanks for the link. Cheers.
9 weeks ago
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Thanks! I repent of my wounded feelings! I just like to dialogue on important stuff.
9 weeks ago
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You found the evidence as not supporting the existence of God, so ddcan was simply asking what evidence you examined that lead you to believe that is the case. One could take this as a teachable moment if they chose, rather than simply saying "I don't have to prove my point, you have to prove yours."
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Since you've asked.

1. I no longer view the Bible as authoritative. The Bible only asserts existence of god and only provides evidence that people believed that god to be real. IMO it is a collection of myths, fables, legends, folklore, propaganda, some really bad ideas about what is moral and immoral, a few proclamations on morality I agree with, a lot of very unwise advice, some advice I agree with, along with some actual historical events that can be verified through independent sources.
2. The meta-physical reality purported by Christians to exist is unjust and immoral. The notion of original sin is unjust. Eternal punishment for what is essentially a thought crime (not accepting Jesus as savior) is unjust and immoral. Scape-goating via Jesus execution is unjust. Human sacrifice is immoral.
3. I've found the claims of superior moral understanding believers claim about Christianity to be demonstrably untrue. For some believers, trusting the Bible as authoritative stunts moral growth and understanding. Some don't really think for themselves and merely accept the Bible's claims as authoritative. This isn't to say that Christians are immoral as most Christians I know live within the boundaries they think god and their denomination proscribes. While Christians have been in the forefront of social and political changes, there were Christians who opposed those same changes. IOW, a belief in god didn't seem to be the deciding factor for positive social change. That's been true in the past and it is true today.
4. The god of the gaps problem. Modern understanding of the reality we inhabit and how it works disproves certain Biblical claims. It also informs us that supernatural claims shouldn't be accepted at face value. What we've learned over the passage of time is that every phenomena that was thought to have the agency of god behind it has been proven to be natural and without an agent directing it. An ever-shrinking god. To my knowledge, the reverse has yet to happen whereby we thought something had a materialistic explanation and discovered that it was supernatural after all. None of this disproves god's existence but it does show that biblical claims aren't to be trusted.
5. Sundry items. Like how creationist's abuse science and scientific terminology. The damage beliefs do to families (Jehovah's Witnessas and their shunning, Mormons who disown homosexual children and kick them out of the home). Needless death and suffering faith healing believers inflict on their own children by not seeking medical help. The priest abuse scandals in the RCC and how church leaders covered for criminal acts. The RCC's teachings on condoms that help spread STD's. The confirmation bias believers employ in service of their faith. One-sided indoctrination of children in churches that act as if there aren't any reasons to question the assertions and dogmas. Miracle potato chips with Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Special pleading and arguments from ignorance believers employ in apologetics. Conditioning people to believe the emotions they have during worship, prayer, etc. are from outside of them when they are their own emotions generated internally because they believe the meta-physical Christian world exists. Other sundry items to numerous to get into.

Cheers.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
1. Whether the Bible stands or withers depends on the amount of time and effort you are willing to put into researching it. Many, many thoughtful Christians have come to just the opposite conclusion as you--that the Bible is accurate and trustworthy.

2. I hear this one a lot. Why would a loving God condemn people to hell? You're thinking about this as if God is the actor here. What is heaven, what is hell? Both are extra-physical dimensions accessible by the soul, not by the body. Heaven is where God is, Hell is where he is not. You have the choice to "be" where God is, or where he is not. YOU make the choice.
Original sin is not the punishment, it's the consequence. When sin entered the world it contaminated everything spiritually just as germs contaminate the physical world. We have the nature. Anyone looking at the state of human affairs must agree that Man is flawed, yes? And flawed beyond what could be accomplished by a mere animal. Why? How is it that people are evil, but animals are not? And is not Man capable of true good also in a way that cannot be ascribed to animals?


3. It is true that many Christians don't think very deeply. Many atheists don't either. That doesn't make Christianity's claims false. It is also true that your sense of right and wrong has been passed down to you by your Christian heritage. Human sacrifice is wrong? Why do you think so? Many cultures have not found it to be wrong. Christian ideas, God's ideas are so deeply imbedded in you that you can't even see it. You breathe the Christian worldview like the air you breathe.


4. You must list the Biblical claims that you are referring to before I can comment. I see you have listed some peripheral beliefs by some denominations but have not quoted any Biblical claims. Is is possible to you that people could be in error and not the Bible?


5. Yes, there is silliness all around. I've heard Atheists claim that the universe popped into existence from nothing! I've heard from them that Aliens seeded life on earth. Yes, untested theories and wild claims abound. That's why we have brains and are exhorted by the bible to test every claim to see if it be true.


When all is said and done none of your arguments are evidence of God's nonexistence. On the contrary, they are objections to a God who DOES exist. It comes down to your choice. Whom will you serve? Are you an adequate God for yourself? When I look at the evil Man is capable of I am quite sure that Man makes a very wretched god and is definitely not to be trusted.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Believer" is not synonymous with "Christian" and "God" is not synonymous with Judeo-Christian tradition. I know that a thinking person can believe in God, can study religious writings and ideas from many sources, and still have doubts about Judeo-Christian (or Muslim or Shinto or...) teachings.
A thinking person might well look at the harm that people have done, claiming God's will as their motivation and despair that there is no God. A thinking person might well look at how wretched a God some people believe in and despair that there is no God.
Such a thinker might have what I would call an error and blame God for what is really human cussedness. Of course blaming God forfeits your Atheist status and makes you actively anti-Theist.
Wemedge is right insofar that committed Christians are going to be honest, fair-dealing, generous, and kindly. This is also true of nearly anyone who has embraced a Divine figure and the ways of life than nearly all religions call for. And agnostics and atheists can be just as kind, honest, and generous.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
From the trailers I saw it looks like the atheist philosophy prof is a strawman. I will watch this movie but expect that it would have been far more interesting if the prof was an atheist more along the lines of the late Christopher Hitchens.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
The character Sorbo plays maybe but his arguments are not.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
new MarcH,
Having read some “New Atheist” literature recently (Dawkins), I was surprised at the venom of the writing, and the poor quality of the arguments. Dawkins was more about making accusations rather than arguments (God is angry, God is immoral, therefore He cannot exist).

The professor in the movie actually made more use of philosophical arguments than Dawkins does. (I have not read Hitchens, but I have read some Smith). Some may think that the movie Professor is a caricature but he is actually nice compared to Dawkins, who dangerously asserts that parents who take their kids to church are _literally_ guilty of child abuse.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't believe there are aliens creatures living in Roswell NM. But I don't feel I have to challenge or argue with those that do.
That is the issue with many atheists, they don't want to believe in God but they also want to browbeat others into the same 'non-belief'.
If He does not exist why do some feel compelled to convince me He does not?
Answer: because the are not concerned whether He actually exists, but are convinced that I and other believers are the cause of unrest and war in this World. "Religions start wars". "Belief in myths retard the advance of science." Just listen to Bill Maher sometime.
Then they blame God for the ignorance and hardheartedness of some of His believers. Or assign the Sin of non-believers masquerading as His to all believers (radical Islam).
So they aren't atheists after all. They believe in an Evil God and hate him.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Proof positive that atheists should be more properly named antitheists. I understand atheists in the true sense. They have never experienced the touch of the living God, the consuming fire that brings us face to face with our deepest selves and still offers hope and peace. How can I fault them for that? And I agree with "the other Andrew B" Much of the rage is focused at earthly fathers.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
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