Buckle up for this one, folks.
I have yet to see a film that does a decent job capturing the college experience. This film fails in this regard, and so many others. In short, the film is insulting to just about everyone (including Christians).
I will spend the bulk of this review talking about the major argument the film tries to make, but first I think I must cover some of the other major failures. The film is sexist, racist, stereotypical, ageist, and ablest. The Muslim man must be oppressive. The Chinese student must be too serious. The immigrant must be “oh so filled with wonder” at American conveniences. Atheists can’t feel love, don’t forget that. What garbage.
I know a lot of atheists. I know a lot of theists. None of them behave the way either side does in this movie. It might shock some to realize that even professors are not a homogenous group, politically or religiously. The most annoying portion of the film (for me being in my profession and all) is how ridiculously the professors are presented. These people are complete idiots. Every single one of them is abusive, cruel, and pretentious.
Here’s a tip for Christian filmmakers. Your argument can only be as strong as what you set it up against. Meaning, if you are only competing with jackasses, well, what does that say about your stance? (Oddly, THIS is the actual type of thing taught in a first-year course.)
Our plucky young hero, Josh, confronts his philosophy professor, played by Kevin Sorbo. So, Hercules is teaching college. Think about that for a moment. I’ll wait.
Head stop hurting? Or is it getting worse? Hercules wants his student to sign a document stating the God is Dead, and Josh refuses to do so—and now the two must debate in front of the whole class. Where do I start here? First of all, any professor who even did 1/100 of the crap they have Hercules say and do (including getting physical with Josh) would be fired before the day ended. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but this does not, will not, and could not occur at a college in America. Old Hercules would be on the job market immediately.
So, let us assume that we are in some bizarre universe where this shit can actually occur. Why would anyone put up with this? Josh thinks he has a charter from God to debate this professor. As said, this set-up would never happen. Even if Josh and the professor wanted to, there are about 30 other students who are certainly not interested in this stuff. (Sorry, having a hard time accepting this as a real thing that could happen.)
The short end of it is that of course a professor would win an argument with a first-year student. I do not mean to insult any young person out there. The reason I would be able to run circles around someone when debating American literature is that I have decided to dedicate my life to studying it. So, obviously, I am better read than my students. What is my secret? Time. I have had the time needed to develop my knowledge. So, for a first year student to be reading what appears to be hundreds of books each week is simply unbelievable. Sorry folks, Josh doesn’t have time to chew through all of philosophy in six weeks. Once again, this is an insult to just about everyone.
Perhaps the biggest sin of this film and so many like it is that it ignores actual problems Christianity faces. There is real Christian oppression in this world. The United States is not one of these areas. When equality appears as oppression, we see what privilege a certain group enjoys.
However, another massive sin is the simple misrepresentation of atheism. Most atheists don’t come to their conclusions based upon some traumatic event. However, that seems to be a theme for when people find faith. The movie does some odd things in switching the considered normal events for how one finds certain beliefs. I am not sure if this is simply disingenuous or a sign that they clearly do not understand why someone can be an atheist.
Yet, we still have a couple more insane sins. This film makes an argument that we all know is widely believed, but rarely said. Apparently, anyone non-Christian is also immoral. All Muslims are violent. All atheists are abusive. If you don’t agree with us, you deserve misery—great line of thought. In this film, the Muslim is wrong to be hateful toward his Christian daughter, but hating atheists is okay?
This film is a complete failure. Pure pomp and propaganda that cares not to see the nuance in anything. The film is constructed entirely for people who already agree with the premise. There is no discussion here (despite its pathetic attempts to show argument). What really bothers me is how many people seem to think that this is an accurate representation of college. I am surprised that the film doesn’t end with the Christians burning all of the educated at the stake.
So, for closing. Atheists aren’t amoral. Christians don’t have the only answer. Professors legally cannot advocate for any faith (or lack of one). Morality is not contingent on religion. Human decency and secular morality make up a fairly sizable chunk of human literature. Sorry folks who enjoyed this film, the world can’t be cut up quite this simply. Disappointed!/10