Film: God's Not Dead

What Do You Believe?

God's Not Dead is a 2014 movie about Joshua, a college student who has joined a philosophy class with the firmly atheistic Professor Radisson. Radisson demands the students to write the words "God is dead" with their signature, to get a passing grade. When Joshua refuses, he offers him the chance of having a debate about it, and is determined to humiliate him.

There are a few sub-plots too, such an Arabic girl Ayisha who is afraid of her Christian faith being discovered by her father, a pair of missionaries suffering chronic car issues, Amy Ryan an atheistic blogger suffering cancer, and the girlfriend of Radisson whose faith drives a wedge in their relationship.

Compare and contrast with The Ledge, the polar opposite ideological equivalent film.

Finally, it should be noted that, as it clearly touches upon HIGHLY sensitive issues, this film has an intense Love It or Hate It vibe about it. As such, be aware of trope descriptions spiraling into debates, below.

This movie contains examples of:

  • A God Am I: Professor Radisson claimed he is his class's god.
  • Anti-Villain: Ayisha's father, while ultimately one for Disproportionate Retribution, clearly loves his daughter and, it's implied, goes through something of a My God, What Have I Done? in the end.
  • Appeal to Authority: All Raddison does to challenge the Cosmological Argument is to namedrop Steven Hawking, and makes no attempt to dispute any part of the actual argument. Odd behavior for a professor of philosophy!
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Josh, after pushing Radisson for an explanation for his militancy, asks him, "How can you hate someone who doesn't exist?" note 
  • Author Tract: The film is a very good example of Christian propaganda, as its antagonist is basically a distilled conglomeration of the most "Love to Hate" spokesmen for militant atheism.
  • Beard of Evil: As if the viewers didn't realize the Atheist Professor Radisson was the Antagonist, he sports one of these which he regularly strokes while being smug.
  • The Cameo: Willie Roberston from Duck Dynasty fame makes a couple of appearances in the film, he was presumably included after the main filming was completed, when his father, Phil, caught the media's attention for his pro-Christian and anti-gay remarks.
    • The popular Christian band "Newsboys" shows up for the Grand Finale.
  • Contrived Coincidence: While it's possible, it's incredibly unlikely that Josh would be the only Christian, or the only person who believes in a God of any kind, in a classroom of 80.
    • Justified Trope in that Josh himself notes that it would've been easier to just keep quiet and go with the flow; it's implied that some of the students may have gone that route.
    • Somehow the Newsboys and Duck Dynasty have been following everything that has been going on in one Philosophy Class.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Amy's boyfriend. He doesn't try to hide from it, either.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The main plot line in the film turns out not to be about Joshua taking any sort of transformational journey, but rather an adaptation of the Prodigal Son parable with Raddison as the main character.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Near the end, after Radisson reads a letter from his late mother, he decides to try to reconcile with his girlfriend; but then he gets hit by a car and dies.
  • Dumb and Drummer: During the appearance by the Newboys, one of his bandmates says of drummer, Duncan Phillips "and gets only the drummer."
  • Easy Evangelism:
    • Raddison converts as he's dying, mostly to push the "There are no Atheists in Foxholes" message that, deep down, Atheists will believe in God when death is staring them in the face.
      • Actually downplayed in this case, as he'd been intending to reconcile with his Christian former girlfriend beforehand.
      • Radisson's self-contemplating after Josh pushes him to his breaking point, coupled with his feelings of loss and anger from the death of his mother with his remorse over driving his girlfriend away with his insults has caused him to look inward and in the time before his death he has begun to open back up to a relationship with God.
    • The same goes for the Atheist blogger Amy, who converts when she finds that she has cancer.
      • Her conversion is not that simple or short. Her confrontation with Willie Robertson and his wife made her realize that she could not refute everything said by a religious person and she started to see that atheism might not have all of the answers. She was then struck by her diagnosis with cancer and her boyfriend dumped her because her did not want to deal with her burden, causing her to seek comfort beyond the material after seeing to callous selfishness that can be displayed by humans. At the end, during her heated confrontation with the Newsboys, she showed that she was scared at the possibility of her death from cancer and their support and warm-heartedness convinced her to ask them to pray for her and to talk with them about God. Amy is an example of how many people have been won over by the loving embrace that can be offered by the followers of God.
  • Egocentrically Religious: Joshua's girlfriend shows shades of this when Joshua states that he wants to do God's will, and she replies that God wants him to be with her.
  • False Dichotomy: You can either be a Happy Christian or a horrible person.
    • Not true, the film shows some of the consequences of going against generations of your family's religious beliefs; Ayisha is thrown out of her home for her conversion, an example of the treatment of women in Muslim culture and how being Christian will not always be easy even in a place like America.
    • Amy's businessman boyfriend admits in his talk with his dementia-stricken mother that even though he is completely immoral he could not possibly be any happier with his life, and even though she is the kindest and nicest person he knows and has spent her entire life devoted to God she can't even remember what she had for her last meal. His mother shows a moment of enlightened clarity where she says to him that the Devil does his work in many way: to those that he cannot corrupt, he throws losses and obstacles and suffering, but to the blind he makes their life so happy that they do not realize they are trapped until it is too late and then they must accept the consequences of their actions and they will be under his power for all eternity.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: There are multiple stories all happening at the same time, most having nothing to do with the main plot.
  • Hollywood Atheist:
    • Radisson's only reason for his atheism is because he hates God because his mother died of cancer.
      • Interestingly enough, the film seems to be trying for a Reconstruction of this trope: Raddison himself tries to use the story of his mother to justify himself to Josh when the two of them are alone, by noting that "many of the greatest atheists were once Christians".
    • The left-wing blogger, Amy, who is snarky of religion until she gets cancer and at the end asks to "know God".
    • Amy's boyfriend is an atheist who admits he has no morals and gloats about his perfect life.
  • Hypocrite: At the beginning Josh admits he isn't fully sure there is a God, then spends all of his time in his debates trying to get everyone to be 100% certain there is a God.
    • Not at all: he simply is establishing what legal theorists call "reasonable doubt"—it is Radisson, with his demand for his students to acknowledge that God Is Dead, who is pushing for 100% certainty.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Many of what Josh tries to use in his debates pretty much are this as Atheists have debated all of them multiple times. But so as to not start a Flame War one example was how Josh tried to debunk a theory that "evolution doesn't jump". Josh does this by shrinking 3.8 Billion years into the span of one day to show that Evolution did jump in only a few minutes with that example. He leaves out that those few minutes are around 400 Million years and that anything would look like a jump if they were to shrink 3.8 Billion years into the span of a day.
  • Irony: This film gives the indication of Christians being a minority of sorts, with atheists pushing their viewpoint on to them. Christianity is the majority of the US, and fundamental Christians have often been accused of forcing their beliefs, with atheists being the minority. This added to the fact that most Christian Universities won't even accept a student into the school without them claiming that they believe in Jesus or God and several states won't allow an atheist to hold a public office.
    • In a broader sense, the movie's portrayal of Christians as a minority being bullied by mean atheists is undercut by the movie's very existence: God's Not Dead is, after all, a moderately successful feature film created by Christians that pulls no punches in portraying every atheist character in the most negative light possible. It takes a special kind of script to claim victimhood while simultaneously slandering those it points out as the aggressors.
    • One of the things that angers Josh is when Radisson calls Religion a virus. But the end of the movie tells everyone to send a text "God's Not Dead" to everyone they know in a way similar to how a virus spreads.
    • Then there is the Business Man's dementia stricken mother's sudden clarity speech; where she tells him the Devil would make one's life a paradise on earth so as to trap their souls, despite the Paradise on Earth was something God did with creating Eden was for Adam and Eve.
  • It's All About Me: Josh may come across as this. He didn't want to change his class despite being warned because it would have messed with his schedule, he wouldn't agree to something because it went against something he believed in,note , and he broke up with his girlfriend since she told him to do something.
  • Magical Negro: Reverend Jude.
  • My Car Hates Me: The missionaries' car does not start, neither do all their rental cars until the end.
  • No, Except Yes: When Professor Radisson asked Josh due to his statement if Josh believed that a moral Atheist is impossible. Josh says no he doesn't believe that, but his description afterwards essentially states yes a moral Atheist is impossible.
    • Technically, he says that a consistent Atheist would question the idea of morality, and that "moral" Atheists—that is, those who believe in universally objective "right and wrong"—effectively "borrow" the concept from religion. Interestingly enough, Friedrich Nietzschenote  and Voltairenote  would sort-of agree with him....
  • Offing the Offspring: Ayisha's father looks like he's going to do this after throwing out his daughter, but ultimately doesn't.
  • Politically Motivated Teacher: Radisson, as he tries to force his atheism on his students.
  • Straw Character: Raddison, the main antagonist of this film, may be this: he constantly comes across as an over-the-top atheist who's filled with hatred towards the perfectly decent Christian lead. As the movie progresses, he becomes more and more over the top, as if It's Personal. To add insult to injury, he turns out to be a Hollywood Atheist who is bitter about his mom dying. The film ends with him getting hit by a car and converting as he dies. Also a walking cliche about militant liberal professors who have nothing better to do than manipulate the minds of the young, as though college were nothing more than a liberal re-education camp.
    • To be perfectly fair to the film, the end credits make an effort to justify his portrayal, via something of a bibliographical list of Real Life incidents on college campuses. The validity of the incidents have been challenged, though—it's left to the viewer to check out the incidents.
    • To his credit, Josh himself makes a point in his last presentation to disassociate "typical" atheism from Raddison's attitude of "anti-theism", noting that most atheists would probably be content to "live and let live" with Christians.
  • Straw Nihilist: Considering the film dishonestly presents nihilism as athiesm, Radisson looks to be the greatest example in all of fiction; "Life is really a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying NOTHING!"
    • Actually not so dishonest, as Josh makes it a point in his last presentation to distinguish most atheists from militant "anti-theists".
  • Smug Snake:
    • Professor Radisson shows intellectual prowess during debates, but also shows a very large ego threatening Joshua's education and career over his religion.
    • Amy's boyfriend dumps her when he learns about her cancer, and brags to his mother that he has a good life despite being cruel and she has dementia even though she was a kind person.
  • Take That: Generally against Atheists, but also against Liberal college professors.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Radisson met his girlfriend when she was a student of his class.
  • Tears of Remorse: Ayisha's father cries these after throwing her out of the house.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailers make this film out to be a film about a serious debate between different beliefs. The film however is nothing short of Christian Propaganda.
    • Though the trailers also emphasize that Radisson is obsessed with denouncing Joshua.
  • Training Montage: An interesting play on this trope, as Josh has one when he readies himself for the debate. It has him going home and read the Bible.
  • Villain Has a Point: At the end despite Josh getting Radisson to admit he hates God, Radission tells him that this doesn't prove anything and hasn't proven God exists. Which he is right. Everything Josh has stated over the course of the lecture has not given any actual proof. But as legal scholars would say, he's established "reasonable doubt"—which was arguably his actual intent.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Radisson has one after Joshua repeatedly presses if he hates God, declaring that he always hated him since his mother died.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The story has a lot of similarities with the Chick Tract Big Daddy.