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26 Responses to “ Another View on the Movie God’s Not Dead

  1. Ray,

    I’m not impressed myself. The review begins, “If I am viewing the trailer correctly, …”

    How about if we just stipulate this? How about if we agree that there are people who don’t like the film? I mean, unlike every other single film that has ever portrayed a person’s beliefs regarding God, politics, the environment, or Corduroy teddy bears, for this film there are (Oh MY!!) people with different perspectives!

    And having stipulated that, how about if we decide not to throw in gratuitous little mentions that such people exist. Okay? We know it already.

  2. Tom, how did you get as far as reading the words you quoted without reading the introductory paragraph (in italics) that links to no less than two detailed critiques of the actual movie, not just the trailer? I linked to the first post Daniel Fincke did chronologically, because he’s updated it into an index to all his responses since.

    Indeed, if you scroll down a bit, you’ll see an index that covers no less than 21 points about the film.

    how about if we decide not to throw in gratuitous little mentions that such people exist.

    Okay, fine. I’ll restrict myself to links to people who post detailed critiques of the movie from the point of view of philosophy. Like the one I posted.

  3. I didn’t read the first paragraph, I admit it.

    The philosophy prof doesn’t like the movie. Surprise.

    I’ll have to post a response. Here’s a start:

    The Hypocrisy of Christian Statements of Faith
    For example, if you were like me, you were troubled by the idea of Professor Radisson’s desire to have his students sign a statement of belief that “God is Dead” with threats of failure if they do not do so. He was forcing them to agree to a conclusion without any debate. He was being closed minded and dogmatic.
    In the real world it is Christian universities that alone in America require of students and faculty that they sign faith statements to attend or teach. If Professor Radisson’s actions bothered you, in reality you should be bothered by these Christian universities’ behavior.

    Christian universities don’t spring this on you in violation of their own principles on the first day of class. Students know what they’re getting into, and do it by their own choice, or their parents’ choice.

    Hypocrisy? No. This philosophy prof doesn’t know the meaning of the word. Hypocrisy is objecting to A doing b while doing b myself in morally parallel circumstances. This prof gets that completely wrong. He seems to think that if I object to A doing b, I should never do b’. But the circumstances are not morally parallel, and b is not b’.

    A in this case is a secular university that has published no prior belief requirements. b in this case is forcing students to affirm a certain belief without discussion, and regardless of whether they actually believe that belief.

    b’ is requiring that students who attend a Christian university agree with its statement of faith.

  4. Tom, if you’re not going to read what he writes, I’d prefer you didn’t waste my time or yours either.

    Just a few sentences further on in the paragraph you quote from, Fincke writes:

    You might say that statements of Christian faith are acceptable for Christian universities since people apply to be there voluntarily, knowing in advance about the faith statements, so no one is being pressured to agree to something that goes against their intellectual consciences.

    But there is, nonetheless, something completely contradictory to the spirit of true inquiry to have college students, in advance of their higher education, commit to believing things on pain of having to leave the school if they stop believing them. How is that openminded? How is that interested in really proving and testing one’s beliefs?

  5. I took professor Fincke to task nine days ago because he wrote a negative review based only on a trailer. To his credit at least he has now seen the movie. And now he pats himself on the back for having been so prescient. Imagine that, he started out with a stereotypical view of Christianity and after seeing the movie he still has a stereotypical view. What are the odds of something like that happening? But again to his credit, at least now he is not using a film he has never seen as an opportunity to bash Christians.

    Ray have you seen the movie?

  6. Oh, I’ve read it now, Ray. In detail. The whole thing’s a farce. A yawn, if it weren’t so filled with irony. Otherwise a colossal waste of time indeed.

    Watch for my blog post to come tonight or tomorrow morning.

    As for “the spirit of true inquiry,” there is no place in America where thought is more keenly repressed than the average university campus. I found this, for example, in Greg Lukianoff’s book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. He has many, many, many, many more examples. (Of course you might not want to trust a Christian fundie like Lukianoff on topics like this one….)

  7. I wrote a long response earlier in the day but it got chewed up. Anyway, here is the truncated version from memory.

    The film might be crap and uncharitable, it might be masterful. I suppose I don’t much care. However, Ray, I must ask if you think that this is a fair and charitable post by Daniel Fincke?

    I ask because I think that there are a number of troubling parts to his post. (This isn’t an exhaustive list, just a few things that jumped out.)

    Firstly, there is the uncharitable tone (perhaps somewhat understandable if he really thinks that the film is being uncharitable to atheists like himself) which unfortunately culminates in some gross caricatures. See he analysis of Genesis.

    Secondly, he mentions the Dark Ages. I would have hoped that this notion had been finally put to rest. Evidently not. He should know better.

    Thirdly, he is guilty of appealing to authority whilst also missing the point. It really doesn’t matter if every philosopher in the world is a non-theist if it can be somehow shown that their unbelief is ultimately founded in a rejection of the “heart” rather than robust intellectual reasoning. Now let’s be clear that I’m not making this particular claim. What I’m stating is that he in no way counters it by quoting statistics.

    Even if we ignore the fallacious appeal to authority and grant that the number of non-theistic philosophy faculty members is somehow valid to the existence of God the really interesting statistic is found when we look at those who specialise in the philosophy of religion. There we see that theistic belief is, I believe, above 60%. Philosophy is no different to any other discipline in that it has specialists and it transpires that those who specialise in religion are more likely to be theists.

    (I can try dig up the link to this stat if people want. I read a post on it a while back and for the life of me can’t remember where.)

    Lastly, I’m confused by his statement about heart, mind and person statement. If he is a materialist (and this would need to be established) what meaningful distinction can be made between these facets of man? Surely none.

  8. Tom –

    As for “the spirit of true inquiry,” there is no place in America where thought is more keenly repressed than the average university campus.

    That strikes me as… overblown. In a review for “God’s Not Dead”, Kenneth Morefield (a Christian himself) writes, <a href="…as someone who has spent nearly two decades teaching at various universities (not to mention another twelve acquiring my bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees)–both Christian and secular–I’ve learned through hard experience that claims of persecution, like arguments over cosmology, are rarely as clear cut as those preaching to the choir would have the choir believe."

    But hey, Lukianoff’s book is available in our local library, so I’ll see if I can’t check it out this weekend. Won’t be too many years before my oldest is going off to college.

  9. Bill Squibs –

    Firstly, there is the uncharitable tone (perhaps somewhat understandable if he really thinks that the film is being uncharitable to atheists like himself)

    Well, even a fair number of Christians have felt that way about the movie, so I wouldn’t be surprised.

    What I’m stating is that he in no way counters it by quoting statistics.

    He cites the statistics to point out how implausible it is.

    If he is a materialist (and this would need to be established) what meaningful distinction can be made between these facets of man?

    Even a materialist can believe in emotions and intellect, distinctions between them, and a person as a synthesis of them.

  10. Meanwhile, the world continues to be shockedjustabsolutelyshocked! that not everyone loves everything about a movie!

    Ray, if you feel a need to continue to prove that not everyone loves it, by all means knock yourself out.

    *yawn*

  11. He cites the statistics to point out how implausible it is.

    How implausible what is?

    Even a materialist can believe in emotions and intellect, distinctions between them, and a person as a synthesis of them.

    Perhaps. But that doesn’t get me much closer to understanding him. What exactly is emotion to the materialist? Surely a product of the mind! On materialism you are your mind, no?

    As you missed my opening question I’ll repeat it. Do you think that the good Prof posted a charitable and fair review of the file (if you want to call it that)?

  12. For clarity I mean to type the following.

    Do you think that the good Prof posted a charitable and fair review (if you want to call it that) of the film?

  13. Billy Squibs –

    How implausible what is?

    The word “it” refers to the same thing that “it” refers to when you said ” he in no way counters it”. To wit, “claim” that “their unbelief is ultimately founded in a rejection of the “heart” rather than robust intellectual reasoning”.

    Do you think that the good Prof posted a charitable and fair review (if you want to call it that) of the film?

    Charitable’s iffy. Seems to me that “fair” is on more solid ground, though.

  14. The word “it” refers to the same thing that “it” refers to when you said

    And herein lies my confusion, Ray. You didn’t respond to my comment regarding the fallacious appeal to authority etc., you just rephrased Fincke’s claim.

  15. Billy Squibs – Oh, I agree that in principle it’s possible that no philosophers are convinced of atheism by argument, only by emotion. But the numbers serve to illustrate how unlikely it is – what kind of evidence would be necessary to establish such a claim. You yourself specifically don’t try to make or support the claim.

    In other words, while the claim is certainly not disproved, that doesn’t mean it needs to be taken seriously.

  16. Ray,

    Arguments about “the numbers” of people who believe X are examples of the ad populum fallacy. This is true even when atheists frame this argument in terms of probability (“unlikely”). It’s fundamentally the argument that God doesn’t exist because there are lots of atheists. This is as fallacious as a claim that God exists because there are lots of believers in God. The number of believers or non-believers in God has no impact whatsoever on God’s existence.

  17. Jenna –

    It’s fundamentally the argument that God doesn’t exist because there are lots of atheists.

    No. Just no.

    Look, I’m not one of those atheists who claim that all theists are religious for emotional reasons. (And I’m hardly the only one.) We know, as humans, that humans can be honestly mistaken. That they can believe in an argument that they simply haven’t noticed flaws in, or that is based on premises that they accept as true based on their experience that turn out not to be true. I suspect you’ll agree with me on that.

    When you have a large group of people who accept a proposition, there are going to be a large number of reasons that individuals in that group have for accepting it. Even something as simple as “the sky is blue” – those born blind, or who live in Seattle 🙂 , have to take it on authority rather than observation.

    Arguing that everyone in a large group accepts a proposition solely for one particular reason, or even type of reason, is therefore a substantial claim. I note again that neither you nor Billy Squibs are actually willing to argue for it.

    You see, I’m not arguing that atheism is true because lots of people (or even lots of philosophers) believe it. I’m arguing that the number of atheist philosophers is so large that it’s statistically improbable, maybe impossible, that they all accept atheist philosophy for emotional reasons. There must be at least some that accept it based on reason – even if you’re right and ultimately it’s flawed reasoning. Let’s face it, there demonstrably exist atheists who wish they could believe in God.

  18. I disagree, Ray. Given the nature of the claim I don’t think that the numbers demonstrate the unlikeness or impossibility of the claim from being true.

    I actually suspect that your namesake was simply using some big numbers to impress his readership. Nothing more.

  19. Ray,

    You say this: “Arguing that everyone in a large group accepts a proposition solely for one particular reason, or even type of reason, is therefore a substantial claim.” I disagree. As you know, the ad populum argument is that something (let’s call it X) must be true because many people believe X. How is arguing that many philosophers are motivated to believe X for Y reason not simply a reframing of the ad populum argument? How do you claim to be able to discern people’s motives or reasons for either belief or non-belief in God in the first place?

    You also say this: “We know, as humans, that humans can be honestly mistaken.” Yes, we all agree that humans can be honestly mistaken. However, your opinion that believers in God are mistaken, honestly or otherwise, does not mean that we are. You are basically calling belief in God an “honest mistake.” This is much like Daniel Finckle’s calling belief in God a “cognitive error” attributable to evolution. This is all pure speculation and opinion-giving with no factual, empirical or research evidence to back it up.

    It is rather futile to try to extract motives for believing in God since there is nothing remarkable or extraordinary at all about believing the truth.
    I came to believe in God at the age of eight. Was I convinced by some philosophical or intellectual argument? No. I had never heard any arguments about God. Now I think that I have heard every argument that atheists have against God’s existence since in my many years of internet dialogue with atheists, I just see the same arguments being “recycled.” There’s not a one of these arguments that holds water.

    What is the “it” that you claim Billy and I are unwilling to argue for?

  20. What is the “it” that you claim Billy and I are unwilling to argue for?

    I think he means the notion that unbelievers are unbelievers due to matters of the “heart”.

    I don’t see either way how the claim can be confirmed or refuted.

  21. Thanks, Billy.

    Isn’t it a fundamental principle in argumentation that an interlocutor is only responsible for defending claims that s/he him or herself actually make? I don’t recall having made any claim whatsoever about why atheists are atheists. In fact, I am protesting when atheists are doing this to Christians (hypothesizing about why Christians are Christians) so why would I do it to them?

  22. Here’s the claim Billy Squibs was talking about: “[philosophy professors] unbelief is ultimately founded in a rejection of the “heart” rather than robust intellectual reasoning”. (Again: Billy specifically said he wasn’t making that claim, but that’s the claim we’re talking about.)

    Note: Neither I nor Fincke advanced the number of philosophers who are atheist as evidence against the existence of God. What Fincke said, specifically, was “It’s completely implausible that 83% of people who study philosophy professionally all [RI: emphasis added] come down against theism for emotional reasons rather than cognitive ones.”

    Note: as I said, people can be honestly convinced by a bad argument. (Either invalid logic, or based on false premises, or both.) And it doesn’t take emotional bias to be convinced by a bad argument either.

    Jenna –

    Isn’t it a fundamental principle in argumentation that an interlocutor is only responsible for defending claims that s/he him or herself actually make?

    Yes, which is why I’m not defending – and never did defend – any claim that the number of atheists (even in philosophy) is any kind of evidence against the existence of God. Just that it’s evidence about why they might believe.

  23. Ray,

    Again, allow me to state that I do not agree with your claim that statistics are evidence of people’s motivations (in this case, emotional vs: cognitive). And I’m glad you recognize that I did not make a claim but am only disagreeing with your claim.