I read this article about the movie “God’s Not Dead” the other day online, and it was less a review than a callout to the filmmakers for misrepresenting atheists. Something akin to “What I learned about atheists from “God’s Not Dead.” The answer, of course, was either nothing, or falsehoods.
What stuck in my craw about it, was to wonder what they were expecting? It’s a faith-based movie about a student who defends his faith when a teacher tries to compel him to admit that God is dead, with the real statement being that he never existed at all. The student is made to try and attempt to convince the opposite, which is, of course, that God is not dead.
If the film wanted to educate people about atheism and how atheists perceive themselves, it probably would have done just that. That’s not the kind of movie it was. I believe it was meant to encourage believers in their ability to defend and represent their faiths. In that regard, I think the film succeeded.
The professor was represented in the film as kind of a snarling bulldog and all-around jerk. It was a stereotype, to be sure, but it is also true that stereotypes exist for a reason. I have had many, many encounters with atheists who were actually quite similar to Kevin Sorbo’s character in the movie. They were indeed snarling, and condescending, and insulting, and very misrepresentative of Christians and faith in general.
Today I kind of understood why, at least to my line of thought.
I think people often respond in a hostile manner to things they don’t understand. Like faith in Jesus, or atheism for that matter.
As a person of faith, it’s difficult to understand why someone would respond to people of faith with so much hostility, as so many atheists do. Where the filmmakers went wrong—as I have done myself so many times—was to assume that all atheists are the same kind of lunatic as the professor in the movie.
Clearly that isn’t true at all.
I have several good friends and family members that are also atheists—who while they might not agree with what I believe and how I practice it—are also not condemning or insulting to me. They’re still people I love and pray for, and enjoy hanging out with. I’m not going to treat them like they are rabid or infected with the zombie virus.
The filmmakers of “God’s Not Dead” might have chosen to qualify the central premise of the professor character as being representative of some atheists, rather than all of them. Clearly not all atheists are as loathsome as the professor in the movie or people like Richard Dawkins (To me, he seems a step or two away from espousing the virtues of eugenics, and should definitely stay the heck off Twitter).
Now, where atheists go wrong is to assume all Christians are hypocrites and charlatans. That is also quite obviously not true. And to treat all people professing faith as if they are deluded dolts who hate everyone not like them and deride belief in any other religion (or lack of religion) is a mistake.
Christianity is not about derision, or hate. It’s about a relationship with the creator. It’s about trying to help others find that same relationship. It’s about loving people as you love yourself. It’s about loving God.
Certainly, there are Christian jerks, too. Lord knows I have been one of them.
So atheists should qualify their platform—their statements—as being representative of some Christians. Not assuming all are the same, as all atheists are not the same.
What I’m getting at is this: don’t assume you know people and are qualified to judge them because you may have had a bad experience or sometimes heard about a bad experience. You don’t have that right.
Get to know them, whoever they are. Have a conversation. Don’t try to convert the person either way. Just talk to them. You learn more about people and who they are by enjoying a cup of coffee than by holding a sign in their face and telling them what a tool they are.
And also, that plank in your own eye can get super uncomfortable.