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 write out the words "God is dead" with their signature to get a passing grade. When Joshua refuses, he offers him the chance to debate it, and is determined to humiliate him.

There are a few sub-plots too, such as an Arab-American girl named Ayisha who is afraid of her Christian faith being discovered by her father, a pair of missionaries suffering chronic car issues, Amy Ryan, an atheist 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.

There is also a sequel in the works called Gods Not Dead 2 He Is Surely Alive.

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 Radisson 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, particularly since Hawking is not a philosopher (he's even said "philosophy is dead", as Josh points out) and many counterarguments exist to the Cosmological Argument that you'd think he would know about.
  • 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 the "atheist professor vs. Christian student" meme made into a film.
  • Beard of Evil: As if the viewers didn't realize already the atheist Professor Radisson was the antagonist, he sports one of these which he regularly strokes while being smug.
  • Broken Aesop: The entire film tries to drill into your skull the belief that God Is Good. However the end of the movie where Radisson realized he was being a jerk and was going to make up with his girlfriend, which could have been a great message of him redeeming himself and the "God works in mysterious ways". Instead they show that as this man is going to make amends they have God kill him in a hit-and-run. And not one where he dies painlessly, no he is still alive drowning in his own blood as his blood slowly fills his lungs. Then they have it state that God didn't outright kill him so he can be given the chance to convert to Christianity before he dies. So the message is God Is Good if you believe in him, but if you don't he will kill you in one of the most horrible ways possible to make you convert on your deathbed. The fact that the preacher seems to see a man die in such a horrible way as a positive thing just makes it all the more creepy to where it looks like they are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome rather than actually loving God.
  • The Cameo: Willie Roberston from Duck Dynasty fame makes a couple of appearances in the file. 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.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: It is hinted that Josh and Ayisha get together after the concert, despite never interacting at all up to that point.
  • 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. Yet this is kind of mitigated by shots of the students acting like this is the first time they have ever heard of God as Josh goes through his speech.
    • 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. Did we mention he is an atheist?
  • 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 Radisson as the main character (and indeed, Kevin Sorbo is listed as the film's top star). Except the Prodigal Son wasn't killed to spark his reform.
  • 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 band mates says of drummer Duncan Phillips "and gets only the drummer."
  • Easy Evangelism:
    • Radisson 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 and 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, prompted from his mother's letter.
    • The same goes for the atheist blogger Amy, who converts when she discovers that she has cancer.
  • Egocentrically Religious: Josh's girlfriend shows shades of this when Josh 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 you are a smug, angry, selfish, obnoxious, and unhappy person.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: There are multiple stories all happening at the same time, most having nothing to do with the main plot.
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: Both Radisson and Josh use very underhanded to down right illegal debate tactics. Justified though since neither is a professional debater, it's not a formal debate, and there's no moderator to reign them in.
  • 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 regarding 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.
    • The film itself. Josh says that he wants everyone to think for themselves, all while the movie is heavily one-sided Christian propaganda that flat out tells the viewers what to think.
  • Informed Ability: Radisson is claimed to be a Philosophy Professor about to be awarded Tenure, essentially the highest position in teaching. From his actions he seems to know absolutely nothing about Philosophy.
  • Informed Attribute: It is stated that Josh and his girlfriend have been dating for years. The speed with which he leaves her over one small argument makes it appear they have only been dating for a week, however.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Many of the arguments 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 faith in the US, and fundamentalist Christians have often been accused of forcing their religion on others, 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 (the same thing the film has an atheist do, though there are no known cases of that) and several states legally bar atheists from holding public office (these laws have been ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court, but nonetheless nonbeliever politicians have faced legal challenges under them, and in any case are unelectable in most areas).
    • 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 victim-hood while simultaneously uniformly 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 very similar to how a virus spreads.
    • Then there is the Businessman's dementia-stricken mother's sudden clarity of 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 being something God did by creating Eden for Adam and Eve (if the "devil's work" is centered around Ignorance Is Bliss, as in human pawns feeling elated while being kept in the dark (concerning reason and truth), the irony points double).
    • Josh's last name might be a reference to Wheaton College, a Christian institution where students and faculty are expected to affirm a statement of faith and educational purpose that includes “God created Adam and Eve, distinct from all other living creatures". All while this movie starts off with how a college shouldn't force you to go against your beliefs. Double Standard?
    • Radisson's girlfriend learns to stand up to him and his abusive controlling ways due to Christianity. Whereas the Bible flat out states that women should pretty much be servants to men.
    • Lastly, using the same, ahem, "arguments" in the debate scenes, one could just as validly validate the possible existence of other cosmic entities and deities one might believe exist. But for some reason, everyone in the movie forgot (or chose to ignore) that and instead focused their belief on the god of Christianity exclusively.
  • 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 rather than because what the teacher was doing was wrong, and he broke up with his girlfriend since she told him to do something.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: For a professor of philosophy and an atheist, he knows very little of either.
  • Magical Negro: Reverend Jude.
  • My Car Hates Me: The missionaries' car does not start, neither do all their rental cars until the end.
  • Nay-Theist: Radisson is revealed to actually be one, rather than an atheist, when he admits to hating God near the end.
  • No, Except Yes: When Professor Radisson asked Josh due to his statements 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.
  • 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.
  • Quote Mine: Josh actually does this in his first debate when he tried to show that the Bible is true by claiming the phrase from Genesis 1:3 quote "Let there be light" that coincides with scientists' theory that the Earth and the Universe was created by the Big Bang which is usually described as a flash of light. He conveniently left out Genesis 1:1-2 which is as quoted "1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." This would have completely destroyed his side of the argument as the Bible states that the Earth was formed before the light came (i.e. the Big Bang in his argument).
  • Serious Business: The movie seems to act as if this "debate", taking thirty minutes, taking place in three separate classes, in one philosophy class, somehow proves God. The fact that somehow Duck Dynasty, the Newsboys, and essentially the entire city is aware of it simply drives this home.
  • Straw Character: Radisson, 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, more precisely a Nay-Theist, 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.
  • Straw Nihilist: Considering the film dishonestly presents nihilism as synonymous with atheism, 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!" What's especially absurd is that someone as smart as Radisson should have remembered that Shakespeare obviously didn't take that statement at face value, since he put it in the mouth of a Villain Protagonist who was clearly going insane.
  • 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. And boy does Radisson love to remind us about that.
  • 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 go 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 he hasn't proven God exists. Which is correct. Everything Josh has stated over the course of the lecture has not given any actual proof. One could say he simply sought to put on a good case for God's existence-which was arguably his actual intent, but this is negated as they treat it as 100% fact that God does exist.
  • 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.