YMMV / God's Not Dead

  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Ayisha's father: Is he a sympathetic Anti-Villain because he seems to suffer a My God, What Have I Done? moment after throwing out his house, or is he suffering the My God, What Have I Done? for throwing her out but still has no qualms about disowning her for converting to Christianity? Regardless, he does not accept this or let her come back.
    • Josh: Is he the pure good Christian student fighting for good against the evil professor, or is he the exact same as the professor, just from a different viewpoint?
      • Or alternatively, is Josh just a sheltered Spoiled Brat who finds it next to impossible to follow rules he doesn't like, regardless of any legitimate moral qualms? Plus he makes his girlfriend give up two better colleges for the sake of their relationship, yet is okay with them breaking up when she asks him to do something for her.
    • Is Radisson just a stuck-up atheist professor who takes joy in stroking his own massive ego, or is he a Nay-Theist in denial suffering from the severe trauma he experienced as a boy feeling absolutely powerless to save his mother and feeling like God abandoned them, therefore he does these actions to have power in his life? Something Josh gleefully exploits to win the last debate.
    • Was Mark Shelley's dumping of Amy after finding out she had cancer just to show he was a heartless asshole, or was he just trying to cut ties before having to see someone suffer like his dementia stricken mother?
  • Angst? What Angst?:
    • Josh doesn't react to breaking up with his girlfriend (whom he was dating for the past six years) at all. She completely disappears after the break-up and is never even brought up in conversation for the rest of the movie.note  The film even suggests he and Ayisha hook up at the end of the movie, which has probably been only a few daysnote  after said break-up.
    • Even worse with Raddison's death. It is treated as a joyous occasion that someone was just killed by a hit-and-run.
    • Ayisha doesn't seem to really care about the fact that she is now homeless and most likely about to be kicked out of college because her father will most likely stop paying for tuition.
  • Anvilicious: To the point that Faith Street could review the movie with just four words: "Atheists Bad, Christians Good."
  • Bile Fascination: Atheists seem to watch this film solely because it hits all the negative stereotypes about them, and the fact some Christians believe all of this to be true. Some find it unintentionally funny as well, because it's so biased, caricatured, and over-the-top. In fact, Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu from MST3K reviewed the movie at the Atheist Convention.
  • Critical Dissonance: The film currently has a 17% rating from critics but also an 82% rating from viewers on Rotten Tomatoes. Metacritic, on the other hand, is much more uniform, with a critical score of 16 and a user score of 3.1.
  • Critic-Proof: Despite being pummeled by secular movie critics and even some discerning Christian movie critics, it grossed more than 60 million dollars in the US, which is both very rare for a propaganda film (of any kind) and actually pretty remarkable given its shoestring budget of two million dollars. Though it should be noted that it did abysmal overseas and only made a majority of its money in the US. Some Christians have even made it a point to apologize to atheists for how this film portrays them.
  • Critical Research Failure:
    • When the Chinese student calls his father, it is quite noticeable to Chinese speakers that they speak different dialects of Chinese when talking to each other (one speaks Mandarin and the other Cantonese). But they treat it as if it is the same thing despite the fact that Mandarin and Cantonese speakers cannot understand each other, nor would one expect a father and son to speak in different dialects.
    • Also with the Chinese student and his father, his father claims that Martin's desire to become a Christian could hurt his brother's chances to come to America to study. Ignoring the fact that this makes no sense, the research failure is because up until recently, China has had a strict one-child policy so it is very unlikely that Martin would have a sibling.
    • Ayisha's father is supposed to be a very conservative Muslim, as shown by him making her wear a niqab, but this is negated since he allows her to dress in a short-sleeved top that shows off her cleavage in public, something not even more moderate Muslims would permit (pretty much the only clear Quranic injunction regarding women's clothing is that their breasts should be covered).
    • This film seems to take place in four consecutive days.note  Most college classes don't usually work like that as they are spaced out by days (often working like Mon-Wed-Friday, Tues-Thurs, Mon-Wed, Mon-Friday or just one day a week). This is done because the classes can be quite long sometimes where a two-three hour class is the norm. There are some classes that are every day of the week but those classes are usually an hour or less. However, it is highly unlikely this applies to this class as even with how pompous Radisson is, it is doubtful that he had Josh take up half of his class every day.
    • Apparently the producers thought that the instructor for an Intro to Philosophy class holds absolute power and can ruin anyone's life at a whim. In reality, no one, repeat no one, cares about an Intro to Philosphy course and the instructor teaching it is pretty much going to be at the bottom of the academic food chain.
  • Designated Hero: Josh comes off more like a Spoiled Brat than a good, moral Christian. The sole reason he is arguing against Radisson is because he mocked something he believed in, rather than how the movie portrays him as "fighting against an evil professor." Let's face it, if Radisson told all the students to write down "Allah is Dead" (conveniently ignoring that Allah is Arabic for God, as even Arab Christians use), there is a strong chance Josh would have wrote that down without a second thought. Later, he admits that he himself isn't sure that God does exist, but since now a good chunk of his final grade rides on this, he sets out to get an entire class to believe that God does exist, which is the exact same thing Radisson wants, just in reverse. He is also upset that Radisson completely dismisses his belief, only for Josh's arguments to consist of him dismissing every other belief; claiming only Christians are right and are good people. Then his girlfriend who he has dated for six years and who turned down two better colleges just to stay with him, seeing that doing this will most likely hurt his future, tries to get him to stop and suggests they break up when that doesn't work, which he agrees to without a second thought, clearly shocking and hurting her. He then seems to hook up with Ayisha at the concert not too long after, suggesting he completely forgot about his ex. This is the opposite of what Radisson does when his girlfriend breaks up with him, where he is genuinely filled with guilt and sadness and soon tries to make amends. Then there are his "debates" where he makes snide comments just to tick off Radisson, then gets overly emotional and just starts angrily badmouthing Radisson till he breaks, things Radisson himself was doing during the debates as well. It seems like the only reason we are to see Josh as the hero is just because he is fighting for Christianity, which he is only fighting for because he believes in it, rather than a moral reason.
  • Don't Shoot the Message: Not surprisingly, this is one of the biggest critiques even a number of Christians have about this film.
  • Ear Worm: The Newsboys song for the film. There's a reason why it's also added to the trailer for the sequel.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: Invoked for Radisson, after being hit by a car and converting as he dies, it's jarring to hear one of the missionaries saying that what happened "is a cause for celebration." That's right, the fact that someone has just died is something to be happy about, and it becomes worse when it's shown that Radisson's girlfriend texted him as he laid dead on the street. How do you think she is going to react when she learns he's dead?
    • Considering the way he treated her, she probably would be somewhat sad, but not exactly traumatized that he's gone. She might even be happy since he found God before dying (especially in the film's universe).
    • From their perspective it was, as they believe that now he'll go to Heaven rather than Hell.
  • Glurge: The way this movie portrays non-Christians (including Muslims) as bad people and Christians as invariably good sends the message that other religions are worthless. Then again, this movie was always intended as an exploitation piece.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Radisson, an atheist professor who challenges his students to prove God is real, is played by the son of Zeus himself, Kevin Sorbo (and for that matter, Sorbo himself is a conservative Christian). Doubly hilarious because, in that show, "Kevin Sorbo" is actually just Hercules' modern identity. Cue Snark Bait.
    • Sorbo also had an entire television show where he fought against admirers of Nietzsche. Here, he plays a professor who admires him (or at least misinterprets his works just as heavily as the Nietzscheans).
    • Superman (Dean Cain) is once again dating a reporter.
    • Some of the practical problems with this movie may seem hilariously familiar for fans of The Room: the nonsensical time-jumps, the Critical Research Failures, the Designated Hero, and the clinched attempts at creating "drama," particularly with cancer.
  • Hype Backlash: The fact that this movie is admittedly one of the first among other agenda-driven films released in 2014 which were made with support and endorsement from the Christian Right (including Persecuted which is about a very conservative and outspoken Christian pastor who opposes a bill that would give all religions equal treatment note  and thus becomes the target of political persecution by the U.S. government, Uncommon which is about a high school banning all forms of religious expression, and A Matter Of Faith which is about a Christian father standing up against the teaching of evolution in his daughter's college biology class), has drawn to it heavy criticism from secularists. These films, however, never made it to the same level of commercial success as God's Not Dead, so perhaps the fad has died down for a while.
  • Idiot Plot: The entire plot would've been avoided by a trip to the dean's office, who would have words with the Professor and sorted it out quite quickly. No university would allow the plot to happen, at all. Barring that, Josh easily could have dropped the class as suggested in the very first scene.
    • The bibliographical list in the end credits is clearly intended to dispute the "no university" partnote  (none of the cases they cite parallels it, however; many involved Christians discriminating against LGBT people, in fact, which is kind of the opposite).
  • Jerkass Woobie: Whether intentional or not, Professor Radisson comes across this way, given the reasons for his anger at God and especially at the end where while everyone else is having fun at a concert, he dies in the rain before he can reconcile with Josh or his ex-girlfriend.
  • Les Yay: Some random girl walks up and spouts "You're beautiful" to Ayisha completely out of the blue when she sees her out of her hijab, with her tone sounding like she is infatuated with her.
  • Misblamed: Josh's girlfriend is usually stated in reports that she just up and dumped Josh simply because he didn't do want she wanted where in fact it's more that Josh broke up with her because she wouldn't let him do something he wanted. What actually happens is that she gave Josh the option to break up after seeing what he is doing will most likely destroy his future, which he accepts without any emotion to it. She is taken aback by this answer and is clearly hurt by him as she was expecting him to at least react to that in someway.
  • Narm: Especially Amy and Ayisha's big, allegedly emotional scenes.
  • One-Scene Wonder: One of the students in Raddison's class doesn't stand up at the end.
  • Pandering to the Base: This film does nothing but pander to the Christians that already believe this to be true.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • Dave tells Josh to read from Matthew. When Josh is at home reading his Bible, he is reading from Luke.
    • When Radisson is getting rained on, you can clearly see the people at the table just behind him are not.
  • Stop Being Stereotypical: The Chinese and Muslims are acted as if the directors only heard of them.
  • Strangled by the Red String: The end of the movie implies that Josh and Ayisha are going to get together. The end of the movie is also the only time they've actually interacted on screen, save earlier where Ayisha overhears Josh's conversation with his girlfriend and they make brief eye contact.
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • Many of the Professor's comments against Josh's speech are actually quite right, like when Josh tried to explain all the horrors that go on in the world as the result of God giving us free will. In his reply, the Professor points out many natural evils, like the spread of viruses or devastating weather, that have nothing to do with it.
    • Josh's ex-girlfriend is portrayed as evil and wicked for wanting Josh to drop his debate with Radisson, stating that Radisson would destroy his future is made out like some crazy rantings. Only for this to later be 100% true as Radisson fully admits that he is going to destroy any chance of Josh having a future career, which is only averted by the ending.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • A lot of the scenes in this movie are hard to take seriously, but the scene with Mark Shelley (Dean Cain's businessman character), who has been an asshole throughout the whole movie, talking to his dementia-stricken mother stands out. He says he can't understand why God would let such a kind, devoted Christian woman like her go through what she is going through while an awful person like him has such a successful life. She quotes a Bible verse to comfort him...then asks who he is.
    • Radisson telling Josh why he became an atheist. How he reacts when he brings up the painful memory makes it quite clear he is still suffering from this to this day. Which makes Josh all the more of an absolute Jerkass when he uses this knowledge to break Radission during the last debate.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • While the subplots of the respective girlfriends of Radisson and Josh do support the central plot, the other stories could've comprised two other films all their own: one for the stories of Amy and Mark, her Corrupt Corporate Executive boyfriend with an ailing mother, the other for the Muslim family. The comedy subplot of the two ministers and the car could even have been better integrated into the "debate" movie, perhaps by having Radisson show up to banter with the pastor about it or something. As it stands, trying to cram way too many unrelated stories into one movie can easily make the film exhausting to watch.
    • The film could've been an interesting character study of why certain people believe in God, and some are atheists, while leaving it open to the viewer's interpretation—or at least make it so the atheist voice in the film isn't limited to one Jerkass. The film being so Anvilicious, in fact, may even serve to equally alienate atheist and Christian viewers.
    • The end where Radisson seems to have seen the error of his ways and is heading to apologize to his ex-girlfriend. This would have made a much better conclusion to his story where he reconciles with his girlfriend, possibly admits to Josh that he was wrong to force his beliefs instead of teaching the class, and in doing so really develop his character where while he might not believe in God, he shouldn't be such a jerk to people that do. Instead, it just up and kills him and he converts to Jesus before he dies just to give a "there are no atheists in foxholes" message. This, despite the fact it was already made clear he wasn't an atheist.
    • They could have just made the teacher a Trickster Mentor or a Stealth Mentor to get the students to do real research into their religion and think about it from a different point of view. You know, what a philosophy teacher is supposed to do. Of course, philosophy teachers don't tend to make students sign statements like this before even starting (debate and defend a thesis, yes, though not generally with the professor, as that would be unfair). Or on that note, Radisson could have done that in a way to show how students would blindly agree with something just to improve their grade.
    • Or the movie acknowledges Josh's Designated Hero tendencies and has him realize that he's as prejudiced towards atheists as Radisson is towards Christians, similar to Inherit the Wind's protagonist realizing that his blanket denunciations of Christianity are unfair. Josh could learn that dismissing anyone's beliefs, be they Christian, atheist or another religion, is unfair, a more useful Aesop than "Christians good, atheists bad." Even within this storyline, he could still defeat Radisson if the latter refuses to reject his extreme anti-theism.
    • Along these lines, Radisson stating some other religion is dead and Josh, who is a Christian, still stands up for it. Not because he believes in it but because he believes that everyone should have the freedom to choose and practice whatever religion they believe in. This would have made his "fight against the Evil Professor" more believable and caused him to have to do actual research on other religions. Josh going to different sources to do his research alone could have taken out a number of the subplots.
    • Speaking of the subplots, the fact that only one of said subplots has any connection to the main plot, that being Martin becoming a Christian because of Josh's speeches. But even then that is hardly developed as all it ever does is focuses him trying to talk to his father about religion for about a minute and said father just not giving him the time of day. How hard would have been for all the subplots to be based around several of the students changing because of how Josh's speeches had affected them? Though he does inspire them all to say "God's not dead" at the end, this is so rushed it seems more like just a "screw you" to Radisson.
    • Ayisha's storyline. Her father's depicted as a somewhat sympathetic Anti-Villain, who loves his daughter but can't tolerate her abandoning Islam. Given proper time to develop both characters and their motivations (explaining why and how Ayisha became a Christian, at least), this storyline could have worked. In the movie, it's so rushed amidst the film's other dozen subplots that the emotional payoff (Ayisha's father kicking her out of the house) barely registers.
    • The fact that despite several characters being closely connected, they never meet. Josh is a student of Radisson, who is dating Mina, whose brother is Mark (The Jerk Ass business man), who is dating Amy. Radisson, Mark, and Amy are all die hard atheists who have all gone through/are going through great trauma and come into conflict with God: Radisson lost his mother despite constant prayer, Mark's mother was a devote woman who got dementia, and Amy was a driven woman who got cancer. It could have been neat to see these characters discuss their issues with each other, and to give Josh some reasoning behind their disbelief in God, but nothing is ever made of it.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Mark Shelley, the Jerk Ass Businessman. It is made clear he does not want to visit his mother because of her dementia that has gotten so bad she can't even remember she has had the same meal for every meal for a week. To some people, it is extremely painful for them to see their loved ones not even remember who they are and makes it a bit understandable as to why he doesn't want to see her (this does not seem to be the case with him, however).
    • Then there is Josh's girlfriend. True, she seems to be a bit controlling and a little high-strung, but all of her actions show that she really does care about Josh and did love him. She clearly didn't want him to debate against Radisson because she felt that upsetting such a highly influential teacher would cost him big time in his future all because of a personal matter. Which she was right on with, as Radisson promised to do just that. Then there was the fact that she was willing to stay with him when they got into college where she admits she turned down two better colleges she favored just to be with him, whereas Josh wouldn't even change one class because it would mess with his schedule, not to mention the fact her own mother did not approve of him but she defended him and stayed with him. And lastly there was how clearly she was hurt and shocked with how coldly Josh just agreed to break up with her when she gave him the option. Yet this movie tries to portray her as the Eve trying to corrupt Josh away from God.
    • Shockingly enough, Radisson as well. It is quite clear after The Reveal of why he hates God: he is more or less someone that is suffering from his mother's death. Having experienced such a traumatic experience as a child to lose his mother and believing that God is good practically drilled into his head since birth, to see his desperate pleas go completely unanswered must have taken a severe toll on him. He is just a man angry at his own powerlessness, so therefore he demands complete control in his classroom and his love life, both of which crumble the moment someone changes this. In the end he was just a guy who never got the help he clearly needed.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Josh has a few:
    • The breakup with his girlfriend. True, his girlfriend seems to be a bit controlling (having planned 50 years of their future as a couple). However, she also mentions that she turned down offers from two other better colleges to stay with him. Josh never once said she didn't have to do that and he could have just taken a different class, but didn't want to simply because it messed with his schedule. She also mentions that her own mother did not approve of her dating him but still defended him and chose to date him anyway, and we can see how well that turned out. Not to mention the fact Josh doesn't react to the breakup at all and doesn't even try to convince her otherwise (and from her reaction it was clear she was hoping he would and is shocked on how coldly he agrees to her suggestion). He just agrees to it and leaves her without a second thought.
    • The main reason Josh is fighting against Radisson is because Radisson dismisses his belief. However throughout his arguments Josh does nothing but dismiss every other belief aside from Christianity. He then constantly asserts that only Christianity is the correct belief and you can only be a good person if you believe in Christianity. Which the film does to makes with absolute certainty to show he is right.
    • Some of his arguments to support his claims are nothing more than mean jabs at his teacher (of course, Radisson's jabs make Josh's look mild). But since Radisson is a Straw Man villain that is expected of him, whereas from the Pure Good Student it undermines him.
    • Radisson tells Josh a very personal memory about the death of his mother and how he became an atheist when his prayers to save her went unanswered. Josh, while having an expression of sympathy at hearing this (though he can only say in reply that "sometimes the answer [to prayers] is no"), still uses this knowledge to browbeat Radisson till he breaks during their last debate. It doesn't help that the film seems to treat this horrendous action as a clever trick from Josh to defeat the Evil Atheist.
    • The two missionaries. They are comic relief for most of the film, but after Radisson is hit by a car and is dying in the street, their biggest concern rather than comfort him is to try and convert him to Christianity before he passes. The way they want to 'celebrate' after he dies is kind of unsettling.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Kevin Sorbo, the actor who played Raddison, is a devout Christian who thinks atheists are hateful and angry (which is how he described getting into character for the role in an interview) and couldn't have portrayed atheists as a whole more inaccurately. Of course, it's unsurprising the director didn't have an atheist portray Raddison in a film that was clearly a propaganda piece against atheism. An atheist actor probably wouldn't have been willing.
  • The Woobie: In a movie where everyone is either extremely Christian or extremely atheist, there is Mina, who does nothing but looks after her dementia stricken mother, and has to deal with an asshole brother who won't visit her, and a professor boyfriend who verbally abuses and humiliates her for her belief at every available opportunity. She's one of the few non-insufferable characters in the movie, if only because of her lack of screen time.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/YMMV/GodsNotDead