Saturday, September 13, 2014

"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.)