Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Alternate Universe of "God's Not Dead 2"

"Ugh, do I have to review this film?


I just got back from watching "God's Not Dead 2", and there's quite a bit to talk about. Just as in first film, the movie's events take place in a strange parallel universe where Christians are practically a persecuted minority living in a United States that is seriously hostile to Christianity. Yet unlike the first film, the temper against atheists is slightly softened. Slightly being the key word, however. This isn't the unintentionally awesome non-Christians found in the Nic Cage remake of Left Behind. But I think it would be beneficial this time around to calmly explore this parallel, alternate universe that GND2 occupies. So buckle up and prepare to have some aspirin handy, because you'll be eye-rolling and facepalming so hard your head will hurt.

Atheists are people robbed of genuine emotion

The most soul-crushing motto I've ever heard.


Without God in your life, you have nothing to look forward to. Atheism leads to hopelessness and despair.[via atheism.about.com]

That's the thing about atheism. It doesn't take away the pain, but it takes away the hope. -Pat Boone's character in GND2

In the first half-hour of the film, we're introduced to high school student Brooke, who is the one whose innocent classroom question gets the ball rolling on the film's main plot. But before that happens, we get some backstory on her: Her brother recently died, and even though she's still grieving, her freethinker parents have already "gotten over it" and they refuse to listen to her thoughts at all. She confides this to her teacher(played by Melissa Joan Hart), who then tells Pat Boone, and he responds with the above quote(which I found particularly offensive).

What this is, is a propagation of the evangelical narrative that without Christ, you're not "whole" in some way or another. This is a running theme with many of Pure Flix's films. With Brooke's parents, they're practically Vulcans. The first film had Kevin Sorbo's strawman atheist professor having nothing but hatred and trauma without a Christian belief.

But this narrative, as with the rest of the narratives spun in this film, is debunked when compared to reality. Every human being is more or less capable of experiencing the full range of human emotion regardless of religious belief: joy, happiness, sadness, grief, anger, love, hate, confusion, hope, despair, transcendance and so on.

American Christians are a hair-width away from persecution

Another narrative in the GND2 alternate universe of Evangelica(h/t Neil Carter) is that atheists practically rule the government and Christians are always on the brink of persecution.

This is the main thrust of the film, and it's one practically built into the core of Christianity to the point of lusting after persecution as a means of faith validation. Melissa Joan Hart's teacher is suspended without pay and is at risk of losing everything if she loses her case. There's a side plot where pastors are legally forced to turn in copies of their sermons to the government, mentioning a real-life similar incident but neglecting to point out that it got shot down in a blink of an eye, followed by a post-credits scene of Pastor Dave getting arrested for refusing to turn in his sermons. Even the Newsboys eke in a song that dwells on this lust for persecution in the name of their faith.

Reality, however, paints a very different picture. Christians are still a vast majority in the United States, with a Republican dominated Congress that openly panders to and privileges Christianity. In the deep south, there are teachers who openly proselytize Christianity and aren't even told "You might want to ease off the faith stuff".

But say you're something other than a Christian... especially an atheist, and you're likely to experience some form of shunning, discrimination or judgmentalism at some point. And on that note, our next narrative is...

Freethinkers want to indoctrinate their children

Let's get back to Brooke and her Vulcan freethinker parents. Later on, after her brother's room is emptied out by Salvation Army volunteers, she discovers her brother was a Christian in secret(like the Muslim girl from the first film who converts to Christianity in secret). When she reveals this information in the courtroom, she elaborates on why the secrecy: He feared his family would shun him, and from their behavior in the film, it would seem that fear was warranted.

This is another reversal of reality. By and large, freethinking parents don't want their children to be indoctrinated at all. The goal of freethought parenting isn't raising atheists, but raising children in how to think critically, not what to think. The distinction is critical.

Atheists are violent, while Christians are all about nonviolence

In the first film, a Muslim father beats and shuns his daughter Mina for converting to Christianity. The atheist professor openly threatens the main protagonist's academic future. In this film, the father of the Chinese student from the film slaps and shuns his son for converting to Christianity and persuing a pastoral job. The atheist protesters are absolutely seething at the silent, handholding Christian protesters outside the courthouse.

The subtext of these scenes are clear: On Planet Evangelica, Christians don't do violence to others. They do.

Reality check:  The Crusades, the Inquisitions, the Thirty Years War, the Troubles in Ireland, Christian violence against LGBT individuals and Muslims, the war on women's reproductive rights, abusing children accused of witchcraft in Africa(inspired by American evangelical missionaries), systemic child rape by clergy, etc. I've yet to see the headline "the Atheist Army scored a major victory by blowing up the Agnostic Camp while the Freethinker Brigade took heavy shelling from the Secularist Coalition".

The ACLU is virulently anti-Christian

From the school attorney who first mentions the ACLU("They've been dreaming for a case like this!") to ominous music playing when Ray Wise says "separation of church and state" and "We're going to prove once and for all that God is dead!", the film does its damnedest to portray the ACLU as an anti-Christian organization.

This narrative, is of course, utter BS. The reason for this narrative is simple: Conservative Christians hate the fact that the ACLU isn't a Christian-exclusive legal entity like ACLJ, Alliance Defending Freedom(who provided much of the source material for GND2) or Liberty Counsel. The ACLU is rather a religiously neutral(read: secular) legal entity dedicated to defending the civil liberties of ALL Americans.

The legal system moves in mysterious ways






Ok, this isn't exactly a narrative, but rather just pointing out that GND2's portrayal of the legal system is a giant joke to anybody who knows how slow, deliberate and focused the legal system is.

Instead, with blinding speed it goes from an administrative inquiry to practically a criminal case even though it's crystal clear Hart's character did nothing wrong, to veering off the rails into (surprise, surprise) attempting to prove the existence of Jesus. And Judge Winston Zeddmore is perfectly fine with that. That's Planet Evangelica for you.

Back on Planet Earth...

When I went to go see the first "God's Not Dead", the theatre I walked into was packed like it was the first midnight screening of "The Avengers". This time, however, the theatre had less than 15 people and they were mostly laughing at the film's lame jokes rather than whooping and fawning over the triumphalism of Planet Evangelica's persecuted protagonists. I didn't come out of the theatre angry or shocked at Pure Flix's demonization of non-Christians like with the last film. In fact, I felt disappointed. It seems Pure Flix is losing it's appeal. And judging from the latest box office earnings, it's clear the target audience sees it too:


God's Not Dead 2 debuted in fourth place with an estimated $8.10 million. The faith-based sequel from Pure Flix performed below expectations and opened 12 percent below the $9.22 million debut of 2014's God's Not Dead. God's Not Dead 2 opening below its predecessor was especially underwhelming given that God's Not Dead 2 opened in 2,419 locations this weekend, while God's Not Dead opened in just 780 locations.

Friday, June 26, 2015

On Bristol Palin's "Big News"

(Note: This is an extended version of a Facebook post I made last night.)

Dear Bristol Palin,

I understand that you don't want any lectures or sympathy over your announcement of your second out-of-wedlock pregnancy, but let's be serious about this fact: You set yourself up for this, big time.

You've made a practical career as an "Abstinence Ambassador", telling teenagers to absolutely not have sex(especially sex with any form of contraception) until their wedding night. And yet, you've betrayed your own preaching... twice(at least). You don't want any lectures? Okay. But don't expect anyone to take your lectures seriously anymore, because what good is the Christian principle you preach when even *you*, a very committed Christian, can't adhere to it? Even teenagers can smell the BS in that.

Don't get me wrong: Anybody who can genuinely adhere to abstinence before marriage deserves my respect. Abstinence does work, but realistically people will tend to not stick with it because it demands going against natural human behavior(as you certainly can relate firsthand). Comprehensive sex education recognizes that reality and offers contraception in various forms as an acceptable and practical alternative. There's nothing "sinful" about facing the realities about sex honestly, frankly, and responsibly like an adult.

Let me offer this advice: Stop lying to yourself and your audiences about sex. You didn't have sex out of "weakness" or "sin", but out of the very human need to physically express love with the person you chose as a partner. That's not a sin at all. You don't have to apologize for it. You don't have to "ask God for forgiveness", nor do you have to have anybody's approval of it. You're an adult woman, Bristol. Own it, with honesty. Otherwise, you'll become the newest face for the argument in favor of comprehensive sex education(if you haven't already).

Nevertheless, congrats on going to become a mother again. Nothing but health and happiness to you, your family and the father of the child(whoever he turns out to be).

Sincerely,

Tony Agudo

Update 6/28/2015: It seems now I stand somewhat corrected about Bristol Palin's hypocrisy. See this Facebook status update for details.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On the Eschatology of "Left Behind"

On a typical night at work while doing my sweeping rounds about two years ago, I noticed a little book sitting next to a garbage can. It was titled "BIBLE PROPHECY HANDBOOK" by Carol Smith, one of those books you'd find in a "Choice Books" display at a bargain store. Since it seemed that nobody was looking for it, I decided to keep the book. It was a book that covered four different eschatological views in Christianity. While I don't believe any of it, of course, I can certainly appreciate that the book simply lays out the different views in good detail for the reader to objectively study.

"JohnNelsonDarby" by Contemporary photograph - http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/texts/dispensationalism.html. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:JohnNelsonDarby.jpg#mediaviewer/File:JohnNelsonDarby.jpg
This guy invented the Rapture. I kid you not!


I mention this because after my movie review of "Left Behind", I realized there was so much material to explore, starting with the eschatology that's behind the movie, known as Dispensational Premillenialism. While the book is excellent at laying out the basic details of Dispensationalism, it did not say anything about the very human origins about it. Dispensationalism was created by John Nelson Darby in the 1830s, and later popularized by Cyrus Scofield's Reference Bible. Today it's wildly popular amongst rural Christianity, Fundamentalists and the Baptists. What's interesting about Darby's creation is that in developing this eschatology, he is the one who invented the concept of the "Rapture". However, try telling this to Dispensationalists and they'll fiercely deny it.

The basic details of Dispensationalist eschatology are these: Believers will be "taken up to heaven"(aka raptured) to be with Christ, signalling the start of a seven-year "Tribulation" in which the Antichrist will appear and reign over this period of persecution and misery until Christ returns. This, just before the Antichrist appearing, is precisely what is depicted in "Left Behind".

Somebody call Daryl Dixon

But here's the part about Dispensationalism that didn't make the cut in both film iterations of "Left Behind": As part of the Rapture, dead believers will be resurrected.

A zombie attack in the Bible. Again. Why wasn't this depicted in the film? Because in this day and age, we know that zombies are nothing more than pure fiction, like "The Walking Dead". To depict zombies, despite it being canonical to Dispensationalism, would expose it as the twisted fiction that it is.

But let's be kind and suppose for a moment that they would not be zombies but fully restored to life. Doesn't that mean that despite their belief, they've come back just to suffer the misery of Tribulation? That's a decidedly evil move by the Biblical God, and it's not the only one.

Welcome to God's Slaughterhouse of the Babes

In one scene of "Left Behind", Chloe goes to the hospital in her dire search to find her little brother, who has been raptured. She wanders into the maternity ward to discover that all the newborn babies have been taken away, too. Even worse, according to Dispensationalism and many Bible churches that believe in an "age of accountability"(which answers my earlier question about belief and babies), babies will be ripped from their mothers' wombs. Cribs emptied. Kindergartens shuttered. Would-be parents' lives are shattered in an instant. God becomes the biggest abortionist and child abductor in history. And apparently, any children conceived and born after the Rapture will suffer the same as their parents.

What about those Not Left Behind?

Everywhere in Dispensationalism, the focus is on those not taken in the Rapture and their subsequent misery from it. The film is no exception.

Yet, isn't it worth a look to ask "What would Irene Steele think of the fact that she just got ripped from her daughter and husband, and now they're caught in a meat grinder while the all-powerful, all-knowing and all-"loving" God does nothing? How about little Raymie Steele getting taken as he's hugging his big sister?"  Wouldn't they rather be there for them at the very least, to help lessen their suffering? What would they think, let's imagine, if Rayford and Chloe couldn't bring themselves to truly believe during the Tribulation? It's fully possible that they could believe that God exists, but they cannot love Him(this would be misotheism, as atheism at that point would be proven false). Would Irene and Raymie write them off and enjoy the rest of eternity in heaven?

Or would they raise hell(no pun intended) to make God get off his Almighty ass and stop the suffering?

Dispensational Politics: Poisoning the Well of Reasonable Policies

Dispensationalism is really popular in right-wing America. And it has effectively poisoned our foreign policies. Dispensationalism also has "plans" for Israel, and politicians who subscribe to it are staunch Zionists. They have effectively forced the United States government into supporting Israel no matter how brutal they treat their neighbors, the Palestinians.  Why? Because they believe that in ensuring Israel wins, no matter what, it will hasten the coming of Darby's end-times prophecies. So they lust after controlling the Middle East solely for a religious belief, not reasoned politics.

Disposing of Dispensationalism

So how do rational folks fight this toxic ideology? For politicians, force them to admit their support for Israel is not based in reason but religious fever. Let them expose how toxic they are towards rational politics. For folks in general, point out that their "right" way of interpreting the Bible didn't even exist until mid-19th century. Let them know that their beliefs have zero basis in reality and that it's all a delirious form of wish thinking that will lead to nothing more than... a Great Disappointment.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Religious Movie Review: "Left Behind"

(Spoiler Warning: In this review I will be spoiling quite a lot of the movie. If you plan to see it without spoilers, stop reading after the first paragraph. Otherwise, enjoy the review.)

Up until this past Saturday, I have only watched two religious movies this year: "God's Not Dead" and "Noah". While GND still holds the crown in unabashed vilification and offensiveness towards atheists, "Noah" actually stepped up and delivered a film that's a treat for cultural Christians and nonbelievers alike(thanks to "card-carrying" atheist director Darren Aronofsky).

On Saturday afternoon, after reading the first review of the rebooted religious apocalyptic film "Left Behind"("Score one for Satan", says the Toronto Star) I knew I had to see this film, if only to see just how bad it truly was. And as I found out, the Toronto Star only exposed the tip of the iceberg in describing how awful it is... for Christians.
Even Nic Cage knows how bad it is.


"Left Behind" as the antidote to "God's Not Dead"

A month ago, Willie Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" and "God's Not Dead" fame announced he had signed on as Executive Producer of the film and released a video where he said that "['Left Behind' is] a warning to those, if it happened today, would be left behind, and I believe people are going to make that life-changing decision to follow Christ on the way home from the theater on Oct. 3."

In other words, he believes the film will convert atheists and other non-Christians. That's a pretty bold claim, considering that the makers of nearly every other Christian film thought the exact same thing and yet the number of nonbelievers continue to rise. This film is unsurprisingly no exception, but with one peculiarity: This film achieves the opposite effect of what the faithful audience expects. At least in the theatre I went to, the crowd was dead silent all through the film and walked out looking somber and angry, unlike the big triumphant reactions I witnessed when watching GND. It is, in fact, an antidote to GND. How? Let's take a look.

Nonbelievers are portrayed without caricature

In GND, nonbelievers are portrayed as one-dimensional, unempathetic evil people while believers are supposed paragons of virtue and righteousness. Both portrayals were incredibly unrealistic. In "Left Behind", however, we don't see nonbelievers coldly dumping girlfriends and and viciously threatening students' futures.

Instead we see a surprisingly honest conversation between two main characters(Chloe Steele and Cameron "Buck" Williams) about belief, disasters and "divine intentionality" in the beginning of the film. The conversation establishes them as skeptics, but it also establishes them as actually decent human beings.

After the Rapture, we see Buck comforting a druggie heiress, and playing negotiator when an unstable mom(played by Jordin Sparks) grabs a handgun and starts threatening people(How she managed to smuggle it, nobody knows).

Even the lone Muslim character is portrayed as a kindly guy, despite being treated with suspicion and menaced by an angry Little Person. I actually smiled when he offered to hold the elderly lady's hand during the landing sequence.

God is not good all the time, and all the time God is Not Good

Original "Left Behind" fans will be very disappointed to find that Nicolai Carpathia is nowhere to be found here. There is a villain in this film however, but it's not who you think it is, and despite the poor execution of the movie's religious propaganda message, He comes off as more evil than anybody else in the film.

It shows immediately as the Rapture occurs. In a blink of an eye, Chloe's little brother is taken while hugging her, leaving her to go crazy trying to find him. Through Chloe we see disaster, death, and misery everywhere directly caused by God taking not only adult believers, but children and newborn babies as well, leaving parents in horrific agony(which raises the questions: If genuine belief were the criteria for being raptured, then why do newborns who have zero beliefs get taken? And what about babies born post-Rapture? Are they going to suffer the tribulation merely because they were born too late?).

Misery, in fact, is the obsessive theme of the movie. Even though the main characters plod towards their "come to Jesus" moments, they are justified in placing the blame for the world's misery on omnipotent, omnisicient and supposedly omnibenevolent God. Not even the Biblical Devil could pull off something so cruel.

"A Thief In The Night" Reborn

It is this overindulgence of watching humanity's agony that is this movie's undoing as a method of converting rational adults. As I mentioned before, the theatre audience left very somber and angry. I even overheard someone saying "If they make a sequel, it'll be stupider than this". But then a revelation hit me as I recognized the first song playing in the closing credits: This isn't a movie for adults. This is a modern take of "A Thief In The Night". I've never had the displeasure of watching that film, but I did hear "The Thinking Atheist"'s Seth Andrews talk about it in detail in chapter 6 of his audiobook "Deconverted". "A Thief In The Night" is a Post-Rapture film meant to literally scare the hell out of kids into "accepting Jesus into their hearts". It was actually psychological child abuse cloaked in religion. And "Left Behind" is the same exact thing, down to even brazenly using the same closing song. Grown adults could laugh it off, but show this sort of misery porn to young, impressionable and easily frightened groups of children... It's sickening. Thankfully, this movie is a total turkey at the box office so far and other reviews(even from Christian sites!) have panned it so hard, it's possible we might be spared from something much, much worse... a sequel!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Official Atheist Response to Carrie Underwood's New Song

Earlier today, I noticed a specific story popping up on my Facebook feed. The article is titled "Carrie Underwood's Brand New Song Is Making Atheists MAD AS HELL!". I was intrigued because I've heard Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take The Wheel" song and found nothing even remotely offensive to me. Then I heard her newest song "Something In The Water" via the article, and again I found her song totally inoffensive. I'm certainly not mad or angry. Maybe I'm in a minority amongst non-believers?

So I did a little digging around to see what fellow heathens think, since the article(nor any of the other right-wing and Christian news sites that picked it up) didn't actually point to a single instance of atheist outrage. Ed Brayton of Freethought Blogs chimed on Facebook: "I so love being told what I'm outraged about. I can't imagine how I could possibly get outraged about a song I've never heard and almost certainly never will. That would require giving a shit in the first place what Carrie Underwood -- or anyone else, for that matter -- sings about."

A little dismissive, admittedly, but clearly not offended or angry over it. Unfortunately, I could not find any other article in the "atheo-sphere" that remotely resembles outrage. What I did find in the comments to Ed's post and in the articles by atheists, is mostly a reaction of "meh" and similar bewilderment over how Underwood's song could somehow be offensive to them.

So, while I cannot in all honesty claim that the following is a unanimous response from the atheist community, nor can I attempt to claim myself as a representative of it, I can say the following seems to be a loosely general consensus on Miss Underwood's song:
Really, we just don't.
Seriously, this rates even less than the internet hoax spun a couple years ago that Koran-burning preacher Terry Jones wanted to burn copies of "The God Delusion". Nobody gives a hot shit. The only thing that could remotely be construed as offensive here is Miss Underwood's publicist those douchebag conservative bloggers manufacturing such a cheap click-bait campaign to drum up interest in the song. I would expect such cheapness from the political arena, but not in the music industry.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dear Mr. Creationist,...


In the past few months, a certain loud-mouthed Christian evangelist named Joshua Feuerstein has become quite popular in Christian circles and infamous in atheist circles for his phone camera videos attempting to disprove atheism and the scientific theory of evolution, mostly by repeating long refuted creationist tropes with the delivery of a used car salesman.

His latest video is no exception. But before you click on that link and watch Joshua's video, please take a few moments to read this transcript of the video along with my response afterwards. It may save you from facedesking too hard:

"Josh Feuerstein here. I've been issued a challenge to publicly prove that God exists, and that atheism and evolution are illogical and just don't plain make sense. And, without using the Bible, so here we go:

You know, it's funny because a lot of times people that don't want me to use a Bible, say things like "Oh my gawd,I mean, that's just so illogical. I mean, evolution is the only logical explanation!" But let's really look at how logical evolution really is.

I mean, imagine that you've never read a history book and all of a sudden you're driving through South Dakota and you see a mountain with four big faces on it. Well, we know it's Mt. Rushmore, but say you didn't. Then all of a sudden you see it, would you just assume that that was a product of evolution? That the mountain had just evolved that way? Or would you think that maybe there had been an artist or a designer that had somehow carved those faces into that mountain? I mean, I want you to really think about it, think about the house that I live in or that even you live in. Think about the car that you drive. Those are complex beings, and yet each one of them has a blueprint. I mean, do you really think that the human body was built without a blueprint? Especially looking at DNA, the fact that inside of you there's a three billion letter code? That specifically tells exactly how you're made up? Doesn't that prove intelligent design? The fact that your body has a blueprint? How can it have a blueprint if it doesn't have a designer?

I mean, think about the Earth that we live in. Think about the fact that it's 8,000 miles in diameter. Think about the fact that it's 93 million miles from the Sun. If it was any larger, well the air would be far too dense and turn into water and cover the Earth. If it were farther or closer to the Sun, we would either freeze or burn to death. Think about the fact that it's tilted 23.5 degrees, which allows the seasons. Think about the fact that it's the right distance from the Moon, that when it spins, that it's able to control the tides. Think about the fact that the atmosphere is 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. I mean, even Stephen Hawking, the great physicist, had to admit that the universe and its laws of physics seem to be specifically designed for us.

Now think about this: When it comes to evolution, the one reason that evolution can never match up with science, is that an organism has never been shown to gain genetic information. So how can something evolve from an atom, well, to a human being? How could it become molecule to man? You know, I realize that there's a lot of people out there who draw pictures of apes, and "there's evolution into humans", but I can do the same thing with a flower and a windmill. But it doesn't mean that it's true. It's a good artist, and a good story, but the fact is, is that there's not one organism that has ever shown us that it has added genetic information. In fact, science has proven that organisms lose genetic information over time. So how can something evolve when it's actually in the process of "devolving"?

Another nail in the coffin of evolution? Well, this is just plain and simple: "It has never been proven that life can come from non-life!" End of story!"

The rest of the video is just preaching drivel and self-promotion, so I won't include that here. To Josh's credit, he does attempt to make his argument without a single quote from the Bible. But that's the only credit he's going to get.

Josh's first mistake is equivocating complex, man-made structures and machines with biological evolution. Evolution applies to biological lifeforms, not sculpted mountains, houses, and cars.

His second mistake is his misrepresentation of DNA. DNA doesn't live in a vacuum. It is susceptible to modification via mutations, radiation, epigenetic factors, and selection pressures. Also, DNA contains large swaths of "junk DNA" and genes for traits that aren't beneficial to the organism anymore. Genes for molar teeth and sickle cell anemia are such examples. That's not design, that's biological history. And evolution is about changes in DNA, in both gaining and losing genetic information.

His third mistake is an intentional distraction by spouting off irrelevant facts and half-truths about the Earth that have zero bearing on evolution, capped with a quote mine from Stephen Hawking.

Josh then misrepresents those who accept evolution by claiming their evidence is "drawings of apes into man". Go to a museum, Josh, and ask to see evidence of human evolution. You'll see fossils of early hominids such as Australopithecus afarensis("Lucy") up to Homo sapiens(modern man). There is even genetic evidence for evolution when comparing the human genome against any other species on the planet.

Josh's final mistake is the oft-repeated creationist mantra that "life cannot come from non-life". That's true, if we're talking about expecting a human to come directly from mud. But, the origin of life isn't the question that evolution answers. Evolution answers the question of why life on Earth is so diverse. The event that began life on Earth, generally called "abiogenesis", is still a mystery to scientists, but it's clear that it likely had to do with gradually forming the first replicating organic molecule under the right conditions, and then evolution began directly afterwards. That is "life coming from non-life", because if abiogenesis didn't happen, then the Earth would still be just like all the other planets in the Solar System: barren and dead.

So Josh, drop the act and take a real challenge: Stop reading hack articles from Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research, and read a few articles on evolution from genuine, reputable science sites such as the National Center for Science Education, The National Academies and Encyclopedia Brittanica. It'll take only about five to ten minutes of your time, and it will make you do the one thing you keep telling your audience to do but not do for yourself: THINK!

Update February 3, 2015: It appears that Mr. Feuerstein has learned absolutely nothing in the time since this blog post was published in September 2014. His latest video is a complete rehash of the arguments debunked above. I think this is evidence that Mr. Feuerstein doesn't care about facts whatsoever, and is more concerned about pushing his false beliefs and social media rankings.

"God's Not Dead" Review Part 2: Racism and Poor Apologetics

(Note: Sorry for taking so long to release this part of the review. Real life problems got in the way of blogging for a bit.)

Racism's Not Dead

"God's Not Dead" also suffers from some bits of racism, of both the ethnic and religious kinds.

The racism is apparent when you notice the attitudes of the parents of the non-white students: The Chinese father is so busy and paranoid, it seems like he practically lives in his limo. The Arabic Muslim father is an outright bigot, telling his daughter that everyone else at the college is evil. And then we have an actual trope: the pastor's missionary friend as the token black person.
Next, there's the conversation between Wheaton and the pastor when he asks how many students go to church. Wheaton answers "Probably none". Based on... what, that all of them wrote three words on a piece of paper for any easy grade? In reality, the religious makeup would be the majority of students would be Christian.

Speaking of religious diversity, why aren't any Jewish people represented in the film? Or Buddhist? Mormon? Apparently in this alternate universe, they are treated like the Loch Ness Monster: heard of but never seen.

Worst Philosophy Class... Ever!

Right from the first class session, it struck me just how little philosophy is actually taught in the movie. The audience is first primed with a list of atheistic philosophers provided by Radisson, though the list is incorrect in including Richard Dawkins, as he is a biologist, not a philosopher. However this is later explained by the writers giving Radisson an almost religious obsession with Dawkins. Then Radisson tells his class to skip all debates and discussions and write down "God Is Dead" for a passing grade. That is not philosophy. The discussions and debates, however meaningless it may seem to Radisson, are the lifeblood of philosophy. Then when Wheaton refuses to do what Radisson wants, and suggests that the class judge his lectures at the end, Radisson asks "Why would I want to empower them?". If this were reality, that would certainly have been the point where at least some students would have reported Radisson to the Dean. A college professors' job is to empower students, and anybody who wants to deny empowerment to students does not belong behind a teacher's desk.

After the class, Radisson further displays why he's not fit to be a teacher by threatening not just Wheaton's class grade but also his future aspirations. This, more than anything else, should have compelled Wheaton to report Radisson. But, this is the bizarro world of Christian persecution and propaganda, so Wheaton lets it slide despite being very rattled.

The three debates that happen afterwards have very little philosophical content and literally the only question that is asked by a student during the debates is "What's a theist?". And Radisson proves to be a piss-poor debater in the final debate as he's easily goaded into revealing his misotheism. So what does the audience learn about philosophy? Nothing, except really bad arguments and barbed quips to use on atheists to avoid engaging legitimate criticism of their religious beliefs.

(Tune in for part 3, where I explore who comes out worse in this movie, atheists or Christians.)