1,712 of 2,298 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2014
I was going to keep my silence, but cannot hold it any longer. My wife and I rented this movie and decided to watch it together after both kids were shown it at church camp and said they liked it. T-shirts were given out. This thing was really promoted. But I had a feeling about this movie. I hoped my suspicions were wrong. Many Christian films are lacking a bit in production quality or have sappy acting and dialogue, but I can overlook much of this if there is a good story, a good moral. Some films are really quite excellent. My wife and I are both Christians, but after 20 minutes we had to shut this movie off. Neither of us could take it any longer. It represents much of what is terribly wrong with politically charged Christianity today. I went ahead and read what the rest of the plot is, no surprises... its not a journey I am willing to take when so much of the plot, dialogue, and characterizations amount to lies and straw-man arguments. Jesus said the truth will set you free. This movie does not uphold the truth so much as erode away at it, or heap so much bitterness and twisting of facts as to make it wholly un-palpable. It is basically a conglomeration of Facebook-style posts or email forwards you typically see from fundamentalists that tend to demonize non-believers, college professors, Muslims, etc., while picturing Christians as innocent and terribly persecuted. It does not seek understanding, It does not help those who want to follow Jesus be more like him, or follow His teachings... instead, it really violates some basic principles of the Gospel. It seeks to indoctrinate us for an imagined war that is being waged in the minds of ultra-conservatives and fear-mongers in the political arena. It seeks to divide and tells lies, in order to get Christians angry and politically motivated. No thank you.
766 of 1,037 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2015
I'll preface this review by saying when I saw some of the trailers, I found the premise of the film somewhat interesting: a student challenging a professor about the existence of God. However, the problem with this film is less about its core premise and more about its nearly insufferable rhetoric which overtakes much of the story. The first sign of trouble occurs at the very beginning. In "God is not Dead", at fictional Hadleigh University, Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo) insists in an introductory philosophy class his students sign a statement which unequivocally states God is dead, meaning that God never existed. The idea is that he can't get on with his lectures unless the idea of God's existence or non-existence doesn't need to be debated. If a professor at a public university, and probably many private accredited universities, forced his or her students to sign a statement that God did not exist, that professor's tenure position would be in jeopardy. From the start, the premise has already been tainted with a rather ludicrous plot device. (And let's not forget that at private Evangelical universities, like Bob Jones and the like, students are taught unequivocally that not only does God exist but use religious texts in many non-religious courses.) The main plot of the film is that Josh Wheaton refuses the professors' insistence of signing the statement. So Wheaton must try to prove that science can't disprove the existence of God, which at first seems an interesting challenge. However, as we'll see, the rhetoric of Wheaton's arguments shift during the course of the film.
The film actually has several story lines interacting at once. There's Wheaton versus Radisson, Wheaton and his girlfriend, Professor Radisson and his Christian girlfriend, a young woman dating a ferociously materialistic businessman, a local pastor and a Christian from an African country have bad luck getting a car to run to go to some kind of religious retreat, and a female college student who is Islamic and learning about Christianity in secret. And there's even a Chinese student in the class intrigued by the debates about God.
As the story unfolds, many of the supporting characters become stereotypical and shallow as if they were lifted from the latest daytime soap opera. Each of them intentionally hurt the "good characters" who are all trying to either be good Christians or find God. Wheaton's girlfriend disowns him because he's decided to take the professor's challenge. The professor becomes more callous and confrontational towards Wheaton as the debate moves on. We learn at one point, the professor has personal reasons why he's an atheist. Then the father of the Islamic girl finds out about her interest in Christianity, and he reacts in a way you might expect of a film trying to propagate a particular religious point of view. And the woman dating the businessman finds out she has a major health problem, and he dumps her like spoiled food at a restaurant.
However, the most disappointing moments were not in the first debate offered by Wheaton but in the second and third debates. (The most disturbing and offensive was the abusive Islamic father.) In the first debate, which I thought was the strongest scene of the film, Wheaton offers a very good case why science can't disprove the existence of God. Science may not prove the existence of God but it can't disprove it either. Fair enough. But in the second debate, I noticed a shift in Wheaton's rhetoric. Now, the debate was about proving the existence of God, which seemed at odds with the premise of the film and the point of the debate. And in the last debate, Wheaton offers the evangelical position on evil. His debate is no longer about debating the existence of God, it's about answering religious questions from a Christian perspective. And then the professor and the student are debating about why religion is a good thing. And then how the pastor who can't get his car started resolves is so ridiculously silly and contrived, I couldn't believe it. Oh brother, give me a break. The final scenes become overly preachy. Almost insufferably unbearable.
This film is not simply a story about a student debating about God in a philosophy class. The film is a sermon disguised as entertainment. I could buy some of the first act, although the abrupt break-up of the girlfriend seemed out of left field. However, by midway, I realized that this film is really Christian propaganda. In Acts 2 and 3, every scene was carefully written, scripted and acted in such a way to reinforce the Evangelical position of the filmmakers. This is a very lousy way to make a film. I was particularly disappointed in the portrayal of the Islamic father who goes crazy when he finds out his daughter is learning about Christianity. This is actually quite false as Islam has always embraced the learning about other religions, but the film propagates that traditional Islamists are against reading other religious texts. Telling me a story about Christians is one thing. Preaching to me about Christianity through a story is another, and that's not why I watch narrative films. Obviously this film was designed to convert people. Much better films with religious themes include "The Blind Side", which was a true story about real Christians, "The Nun's Story", starring Audrey Hepburn, based on the true story of a Belgian nun during the rise of Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II, and "Fiddler on the Roof", about Jews in Russia on eve of the Revolution. "God is not Dead" is not about real people or real situations, but just a forgettable contrivance that will only be applauded by those who already have a religious agenda. Huge disappointment.
700 of 958 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2015
A feel-good movie for Christian resentiment. The philosophy teacher is completely unrealistic, as is his fate. Not one unbeliever is left at the end of the movie. It is easy to win arguments when you compose both sides of the debate.
785 of 1,087 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2015
This movie is offensive on so many different levels, but the portrayal of all non-christians as evil sort of takes the cake.
If you look at each non-believer they portray, they portray them in the most negative possible light. As if not believing in god ensures you also are just an all around horrible person. When an atheist gets cancer or terminally ill, all of their atheist loved ones cut them off.
Muslims that convert to other reliigions are invariably disowned by their parents, as if this phenomenon is unique to Muslim families. Evangelical Christian parents are never upset when their daughter marries a muslim, jew, or atheist ... and converts.
My favorite though, is the assumption that everyone behaves like evangelical christians and tries to push their system of beliefs on all those around them. They portray all of the college professors as atheists ... who spend their time persecuting christians. In reality, professors generally do not bring religion into their classrooms. Most atheists likewise avoid the topic of religion. The most vocal about *religion*, are the ultra religious evangelical christians. The *only* instance where religion entered the classroom during my 8 years of college was with a professor that was evangelical. She was easily the most prejudicial, ignorant, and offensive professor I've ever encountered.
The greatest part was the list of legal cases they seemed to site as motivation for the movie's production ... which was a list of religious organizations that fought for their "right" to receive public funding. Funding that I think most Americans would rather see in the hands of non-denominational, non-religious, student organizations promoting education, tolerance, and the freedom of religion in America ... and it's separation from the state.
967 of 1,340 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2015
It makes it petty.
82 of 113 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2015
I watched this movie, trying my best to give it the benefit of the doubt as it relied more and more on loathsome false cliches and rhetoric to make its twisted point. As a Christian who grew up in India surrounded by many friends of strong faith in non-Christian traditions, and then (as an adult in the U.S.) attending a Jesuit university which had mandatory theology courses, I have had an exposure to religious discussion at its best and at its most ignorant all through my life. This seemed like it might be good when I read the premise, but the film makes several mistakes which I find unforgivable in this day and age.
One thing I found galling was the portrayal of Muslim faith. There was so much they could have done to make Ayisha's conversion meaningful with some real examination of the different beliefs between the two religions. Instead they focused on the Hijab, and pretended that "traditional" Muslim faith is violent and that any exploration of Christian beliefs will cause a parent to disown his child and throw her into the street. I grew up in an apartment complex that housed Christian, Muslim and Hindu families. My friends and I spent holidays in each others homes, learning traditions and sharing stories of our own religions. One of my friends had a Christian mother and a Hindu father, which is even stranger than a Muslim-Christian marriage. At least Islam and Christianity share the same origins and belief in one God, with Islam even considering Jesus a prophet born of the virgin Mary. If the movie had focused on how Ayisha had come to believe that Jesus was divine, and not just one of the great prophets, it would have made for a far more convincing and powerful movie. Strike one.
The movie spent some time following Josh and his girlfriend being lovey-dovey and cute as they walked through campus, and that raised a red flag in my brain. Sure enough, when the conflict arose, she was painted as a villain and the feminist in me retched. My girlfriend and I started dating in youth group when we were in high school and had she been watching this with me, I'm pretty sure she'd have kicked a hole in the T.V. In real life, I have never met a Christian couple (or even a couple with one Christian) that had such a poor dynamic. Most couples I've met are extremely supportive of each others decisions and struggles. The fact that this film chose to make the girlfriend an antagonist, and that she would end the relationship when his choice threatened her idea of what their hypothetical future should be... it was unrealistic. As with Ayisha's story, there were so many other choices in how to portray the story that would have been so much better. Strike two.
My third criticism was Professor Radisson's reasons for antagonizing believers. It was a cliche among cliches. It was the farcical A-Few-Good-Men style showdown in the classroom between Wheaton and Radisson that made me give up on any hope of a redeeming factor that would allow me to give this movie anything but the lowest rating. I was an atheist for a while too before I learned to see God's work in people's lives. I understand why people can attribute everything to science and believe in their heart that there is no God. If Radisson's belief was simply intellectual I would have had far more respect for this movie, but the screenwriter just had to destroy it by making him sound like an angsty teenager blaming God for all his problems. I paused the movie for a day when I got to that point because I couldn't bear to watch it any longer, and I finished it only to write this review. I wish I hadn't. The two key moments of the last 27 minutes were the class's unanimous agreement that God is not dead (even in Theology class at a Jesuit university, it would be impossible to get that response, and my professors were considerably more convincing than Wheaton) and Radisson's death scene. Believe in Christ kids, or you'll get hit by a car! Blech.
In reading other reviews, I get the impression that many of this movie's critics are Christians, and most of its supporters are Christian too. I feel like that says something about the failings of this movie; something truly powerful would draw a more diverse crowd and better discussion. I turned back to Christianity only after learning more about my Grandfather's life, and I feel like any single chapter from the book he wrote would make a more convincing case for Christianity than the entirety of this movie. I wish there were movies that portrayed faith more intelligently.
291 of 405 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2014
This is a terrible movie. The whole set-up is ridiculous, the arguments weak, the message transparent propaganda. Too bad, there's probably a good movie to be made in the clash between believers and scientific materialists. This sure isn't it.
243 of 338 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2015
A transparent and lazy attempt to make Christianity appear scientifically relevant. The film makers created non-christian characters who exhibited glaring character defects while making the Christians appear to be humble and incredibly balanced. Boring. They even took a cheap shot at the muslim faith, because making aetheists look bad isn't enough.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2015
A preface, this is from the perspective of an "Evangelical" Christian, meaning I'm thoroughly conservative theologically.
First, from a purely cinematic perspective it's dismal. Aside from Dean Cain's mother in the film, the rest of lifeless acting feels like a B-rated flick--the protagonist's girlfriend being especially egregious since it sounds like she's just reading lines. The one-dimensional characters lack depth, and you can predict how they'll act from the moment the scene is set up. Atheists and agnostics? Self-centered, overtly ambitious and self-serving. Christians? Either whole-heartedly devoted (protagonist, African minister) or struggling (American pastor). Moreover the side plots, aside from failing to add to the main plot, portray such simplistic stereotypes that the movie feels like a fantasized world. It's the Tyler Perry of Christian flicks.
More troublingly is not its theology, but the heart of the movie--it's a movie that encourages the Christian bubble, and teaches that God-hating secular people are out to get the victimized believers of Christ. The whole timbre of the debate is that of trying to one-up the evil atheist professor, as opposed to lovingly engaging, especially in the latter sequences where the protagonist practically berates him. It's also shockingly cynical--while not spoiling the movie completely, it implies terrible things need to happen to non-believers in order for them convert. In the key moments of the movie, the non-believers are the ones that have to initiate to come to God, and that's sad; it teaches that Christians should have to keep non-believers at an arm's distance, throwing apologetic salvos across the bow in hopes one will score a direct hit, and that they'll come to church, instead of you bringing church to them. Jesus came to the sinners, the tax collectors and prostitutes, dining with them--and not with the attitude of engaging in an apologetic brawl. Instead, we only see a tinge of indignation that perpetuates a toxic "us versus them" ethos.
Moreover, the film is clearly intended for Christians and preaches to the choir. It uses jargon like "unequally yoked," a reference to 2 Corinthians 6:14. While I agree with the passage and concept, non-Christian audiences will have no clue what that means. The Duck-Dynasty cameo assumes you know the character, and that he character goes to church (also because the camera contrivingly pans to a sign that says "worship")... but if you're Christian and agree with his stance, what's the point with the scene? But then on the flip side, it also crams in gospel verses seemingly to evangelize to the viewer. There's nothing wrong with sharing the gospel, but when it's blatantly not for the sake of the movie but for the audience, it practically breaks the fourth wall, making the lines feel hokey.
The only reason why I gave it two stars instead of one was because it was spiritually encouraging in certain scenes, in spite of the overwhelmingly disappointing execution of the movie. Themes like taking courage and standing up for what your believe faith even when other Christians don't, to follow God even if everything isn't going well (aforementioned mom) were powerful. Pity that's overshadowed by a painfully schlocky film that seems to think of atheists, not sin, as the greatest enemy.
299 of 421 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2015
Waste of time