In several ways, my life is similar to Josh Wheaton, the main character and hero of the recent movie God’s Not Dead. I grew up in a conservative evangelical home (the son of a preacher). I considered myself a devout Christian throughout high school and later when I enrolled at a very progressive state university and chose to major in philosophy. I quickly learned that all of my philosophy professors were either atheists or agnostics (to my knowledge), and that several of them are rock stars in their respective fields. One professor, Clancy Martin, is even considered an expert on Nietzsche, whose famous statement “God is dead” is where the film derived its title. So, from just about every angle, one could easily have expected that my college experience would equal or exceed the combative anti-Christian environment of Josh Wheaton’s philosophy class depicted in the film.

But it didn’t. It was the complete opposite.

All my philosophy professors knew I was a committed Christian from day one. I have the scripture “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” conspicuously tattooed across my forearms. The first day of Intro to Philosophy my freshman year, I raised my hand to comment, and the professor asked what was tattooed on my arm. I showed him (and the approximately 100 other students in the class) and spoke the verse. “Wow!” he said with a smile, “That’s intense!” I was also not shy about participating in class discussions and sharing my perspective, although I always tried to do so respectfully and only when I had a good argument.

When we uncritically accept a caricature of someone, we become less gracious people.Yet, not once did my philosophy professors attack my faith or treat me unfairly. In fact, I found all of them to be extremely kind, patient, and generous. Several of them, including the Nietzsche expert, wrote me glowing letters of recommendation for grad school that, I’m certain, included compliments I didn’t fully deserve. I felt respected, even mentored, by them. And all of this despite the fact that they passionately disagreed with my beliefs.

That’s not to say they never challenged my faith. They did. But it was for a really good reason: it was their job. Part of getting a good education means questioning some of your previously held assumptions. Getting a good philosophy education means questioning all of your assumptions. Many aspects of my faith at that time were presumptuous, ignorant, and needed to be challenged. My professors pushed me to wrestle with the arguments of the great atheist philosophers of history—people like Hume, Nietzsche, Sartre, and others—and to take them seriously. I’m so glad they did. There were some dark moments through this process, for sure. But I came through more convinced than ever that God is real and that belief in him is rational.

So, why am I sharing all of this? Because I’m concerned that the movie God’s Not Dead perpetuates a false stereotype: that of the bully atheist philosophy professor who is out to destroy every Christian student’s faith. I’m sure there are some of those professors out there. But I doubt that they are a majority. Even if they were, though, I don’t think caricatures and stereotypes are helpful. When we uncritically accept a caricature of someone, we become less gracious people. Instead, we become more dismissive, presumptuous, and defensive. We also become more likely to misinterpret an honest challenge to our faith as an “attack,” and react in a way that is less than winsome.

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Perhaps the most valuable thing I learned from my philosophy professors—besides how to think critically—is something they did not intend to teach me. Through my interactions with them, I learned first hand that the Christian doctrine of common grace is absolutely true. God has revealed some truth to every person. Therefore, we can learn something from everyone; even people who believe the opposite of what we do. Thinking we can’t learn something from unbelievers not only causes us to miss out on some deeply enriching relationships, it also ensures we won’t learn anything.

Read more about God’s Not Dead:

God’s Not Dead, But This Trope Is

Dubious Depictions of Faith in God’s Not Dead


73 Comments

  1. Thank you for this. My experience at a secular religion department has been very similar to yours. The paranoid defensiveness that the movie represents is so counterproductive to our faith.

  2. Only a philosophy major would turn a personal experience into a general rule :)

    Anyways, I was also a philosophy guy myself in undergraduate (along with a theological studies major as well). The overwhelming response to my faith, and I was pretty open about it, was a sort of vague hostility. It certainly taught me a lot about what I really thought about Christianity in general, but I can’t exactly say it was friendly, either. Mostly they were asking how I could believe something for which I had so little evidence (evidence as in a rigorous philosophical notion).

    Was it beneficial? Absolutely! But I find the problem is more in what churches teach their young folks. The movies presents a world where this argumentation will work, which clearly isn’t true. That, to me, is a bigger problem than stereotyping professors for a feel-good Christian movie.

  3. It is too bad that the author’s personal experience is not the general rule. I was persecuted (held in contempt, almost intentionally failed by a professor) for simply being a Christian in a philosophy class. The professor was not open to other beliefs. All he cared about was the “truth” and reading Mother Jones.

    I also had a history professor that HATED all Republicans. Once he found out that you were something other than a Democrat, watch out! I will also never forget the English professor who hated men. Gender persecution.

    Missouri, Southern California, college professors and overall experiences differ. My early college professors taught me how not to behave and how open hostility does not belong in a college classroom.

    1. I felt that the movie was made about my personal experiences in college. From Philosophy of Logic classes to Psychology and History classes, I learned early on that trusting Christ while a student was not what my professors wanted. Extra effort was made to ensure I was exposed to ‘different views’ -most of which were just hostile rather than informative. I always felt I was totally alone and marginalized and in most cases my grades suffered. It would have been far easier for me to simply remain silent.

      So yes, I loved the movie! Rarely do any hear apologetics or rational defense so I was quite refreshed! And then there is Russell Crowe in the movie Noah…

    2. Same here. My first sociology professor in college was openly opposed to Christ, posting that she “did not want to hear about a man named Jesus Christ” in her class. I enjoyed the apologetic nature of the film and the encouragement to stand firm in the faith.

    3. What makes you sure that was the reasoning of all those people and how did you interact with them?

    4. I had the same experience my freshman year of college. Still remember his name.. Joseph VanDeMortel. Worse professor than the one in the movie.

      This author is cannot generalize his situation for everyone.

  4. I actually have done research on anti-Christian bias in academia and anti-Christian bias in general. I have a book out (Compromising Scholarship) on the former topic and am working on a book on the latter topic. I agree with the author of the blog that this is not the way anti-Christian animosity manifests itself. In fact I dealt with this topic a couple of weeks ago – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/blackwhiteandgray/2014/03/god-is-not-dead-and-this-is-not-what-anti-christian-animoisty-looks-like/ – Christians have to be smarter about how they present themselves to those who oppose them or else it looks like we are just setting up a bunch of strawmen.

  5. I think you might be missing the whole purpose of the movie. No one said that it was based on true events (at least I never saw anything that led me to believe that, but I could be wrong). The purpose of the movie wasn’t to depict how every atheist college professor taught his/her class, I feel like the purpose was to show that God is truly not dead and they did just that. I do like your comments and thoughts however.

    1. Actually it WAS based on a true story. And I’m glad this author’s experience wasn’t as critical or hostile to faith as the story depicted (I know others whose experience wasn’t like that either), but part of my graduate research involved researching Christians who were being publicly ridiculed, maligned, persecuted, hated, and criticized…and most were on public school campuses. Their stories are heart-rending and angering for somebody who loves God as well as the First Amendment, but the portrayed experience (and others like it) is very real.

      If this blog’s author had stuck around to watch the credits, he would have seen a litany (several minutes’ worth) of dozens of active & recent court cases where Christians have had to go to bat like Josh Wheaton did against very discriminatory encroachments on basic religious liberty.

  6. I’m glad that you had such good professors and I agree, there something unhelpful about the portrayal in a movie that atheists are breathing fire and insults if people from a stereotype around it.

    However, your experience is no more normative then that of the depiction in the movie. Both realities exist and there is a real presence of the angry atheist. I experienced plenty of angry atheists at University of British Columbia and of course no one look any further than Richard Dawkins to find one as well. Admittedly, he’s representative of the outlier contingent, I know and am thankful for.

    1. Alex, try being an atheist among Christians. I have experienced a vast amount of hostility throughout my entire life due to my non-beliefs. For every angry atheist, I suspect there are far more angry Christians.

  7. As an atheist, I greatly appreciate this very kind recollection of your experiences.

    Kevin Sorbos character in that movie is completely foreign to me. I would never want to dissuade a believer of his or her faith.

    When you’re the minority, divisive media like this is actually pretty scary.

    You’ve shown grace and love with your thoughtful approach… Thanks again!

  8. Actually, I experienced no hostility to my faith at a secular university; I was considered interesting and was treated respectfully. Not so much at a mainline seminary where several professors were hostile to any orthodox belief and suppressed it in class discussions and writing assignments. Plus the seminary library contained almost no evangelical sources. That was a long time ago. I have heard from students in mainline seminaries that it is worse today. One seminary has two avowed atheists teaching New Testament, and they are not tolerant of quoting evangelical sources in papers.

    1. I earned my Masters at a state university and had nothing but positive support from my professors and advisor, even when I chose Christian issues and topics for my papers and projects. I started my graduate studies at another state school, however, where although I was personally respected, Christians as a whole were portrayed as illiterate buffoons who believed in fairy tales and archaic values; most of my prof’s were supportive, but one held Christians in contempt, and we were often the butt of cruel jokes and hateful comments. That was MY experience, but there are numerous significant and documented cases where what’s portrayed in this movie is fairly normative.

    2. I am currently an evangelical student at a mainline seminary. While I did have a mentor at university who was rather snarky toward Christians (he was a PK with his own faith issues), I really didn’t get a lot of flak. Until I got to seminary, that is.
      They are very dismissive of anything evangelical, considering them all as a monolithic movement of rubes who think that “Left Behind” represents biblical scholarship, vote Republican, and hate women and gays. This seminary claims to be inclusive…unless you are evangelical. Oddly enough, I’ve found most of the “progressive” students to be more like me than they’d be willing to admit, especially the LGBT students.

  9. My experience as a Christian at a state school studying philosophy was superior. My profs were some of the best people I met at university and willing to hear me out as I struggled to lay hold of the transcendant and see what that looked like philosophically. I was never marginalized and found a place at the table. I never felt an atheistic agenda.

  10. I have a degree in philosophy, but I didn’t encounter the bullying atheist either. However, there are at least a couple professors in my department who have been known to bully or try to deconvert Christian students. I’ve also witnessed the backroom discrimination against grad applicants from Christian colleges. So, your experience may have been different, but these professors are definitely out there.

    1. Well, they do have good reason to discriminate against students from Christian Schools. Many Christian colleges aren’t accredited, and many of those that are (including the one I attended) don’t hold their students to anywhere near the standard the average non-religious college does. I transferred to a community college from a Christian college and the workload difference was like night and day. I honestly didn’t see a difference in what my public high school required of its students and what the Christian college I attended (which was accredited) required. If Christians are willing to take my advice, if you aren’t studying to be a pastor or a missionary, skip the Christian college and go to a public school. Very few professors care what you believe and unless you purposely pick a fight, in most cases, you won’t have a problem.

    2. Aubrey,
      I can speak from experience of going to a Christian school (Malone College, Canton, OH) and I can tell you there was certainly a difference in workload from high school to college. Granted, there were some classes that may have been high school level, but overall, there was certainly a higher expectation. I don’t mean to sound like I am saying you are wrong about your experience, and I am sorry you had a bad experience at the school you went to, but not all Christian schools are bad.

    3. These Christian students had stellar resumees. Among the graduates from our university’s program, many of our top stars have been Christians. The only factor in the university’s hesitation to accept a few of them was snobbery.

      I’m sorry to break it to you, but I’ve been observing this up close and personal for a while now. What goes on behind closed doors is nastier than you think.

  11. I’m glad that you think stereotyping is a bad idea, but wouldn’t the most important reason for this be an aversion to dishonesty and bigotry? You seem to ignore this aspect in favor of arguing that demonizing atheists hurts you and the faithful. I agree that it does, but don’t you care that it’s just wrong or that it hurts atheists far more?

    If you’re trying to play the xtian voice of reason wrt this movie, best to focus on the actual victims. If your only audience is other xtians, you could try, “Atheists are people too and deserve every bit of respect we give each other. If you want people to stop calling christians bigots, you should start by stopping all the bigotry.” That would help, James.

    1. Ben, While James did not say in so many words: “Atheists are people too and deserve every bit of respect we give each other. If you want people to stop calling christians bigots, you should start by stopping all the bigotry.” I think that was pretty much what he was saying! He compliments his atheist professors, speaks of the common grace they share, and the beauty of relationships that can exist between atheists and Christians (again, not in so many words).

      But your point is well taken. To stop bigotry we (Christians) have to admit our own bigotry and confess it and repent–and when I say confess I mean confess it not in our churches but to those we have hurt…sounds like something a first century Rabbi said in a sermon he preached on a mountain.

  12. When my PhD advisor at Ohio State University came out into the hallway to tell me that the committee had passed my dissertation and had voted to grant my degree, he said, “Before we go back in I have to tell you what the philosophy (guest) advisor/observer had to say. He said, ‘For a Christian that man thinks quite well’.” We shared a smile and a handshake. James Golden was a prince of a man. My education at OSW was excellent, a true liberal education and I never once sensed anything but acceptance of my Christian presuppositions.

  13. Excellent post, and on initial reaction I mostly agree with you. I had this gnawing in my gut when my daughter returned from a youth group trip and described the film. However, I fear that we put ourselves in danger when we insist that every single movie we watch somehow become a symbolic stand-in for the complex and nuanced world in which we really live.

    For example, I just finished watching HOMEFRONT. It’s not a very good movie, but it’s fun. Yet I don’t imagine anyone is out there writing a blog about how not all meth dealers are insane psychopaths like James Franco. I don’t imagine anyone is writing a blog about how unrealistic the depiction of his daughter, who (spoiler alert) expertly kicks a boy’s behind on the playground.

    Even Jesus’ parables weren’t necessarily intended to work this way. Not all Samaritans were saintly. Not all poor widows gave their last mite.

    So yes, it’s unfortunate if this movie encourages viewers (esp. younger viewers) that they simply cannot trust any philosophy professors, or any atheist or agnostic adults. That lesson would be a misguided and false one. But if I had to stack up all the lies I’ve learned from The Avengers, Pulp Fiction, or even Frozen… maybe we can cut “GND” a little slack is all I’m sayin’. Not much. Just a little.

    1. But aren’t those movies you mentioned obviously not accurate? Aren’t comedies and spoofs funny because we know they are over the top stereotypes? This movie is presented as a serious movie that depicts the way it is.

      This scenario is a common mythos among Christians: the antagonistic atheist professor who aggressively attacks and the humble student who sets him in his place. It is commonly assumed that it is in the secular campuses where our children lose their faith–and the answer to that is just make certain our kids are armed with all of the good rationalistic arguments that prove God’s existence.

  14. I remember signing up for a religion course taught by a bully atheist professor. I remember hearing story after story about how he failed students for standing up for their faith. As a new Christian, I decided to lay low in the class so I could just pass. Surprisingly, I saw none of this bullying from the professor. I saw bad points made by students that were patiently questioned by the professor, but none of this “God hating atheist” stuff I was led to believe would happen.

    I soon got involved in Christian organizations and found out that some of the people in this organization were in this class. What was shocking was that so many of them claimed they were persecuted and ridiculed in the class – the very one that I was in. I’m not sure why their stories were so exaggerated, but it was crazy to hear about students being ejected from class when I was in the class and it never happened.

    Now that I work at a state university, I still see the same general pattern: Christians being challenged in their thinking, claiming they were persecuted or treated poorly. Generally I see the Christians students starting off the debate in a combative manner from the beginning. Or even bringing a really bad logical point up in class. Not all of the profs are warm and encouraging to such non-sense, but they all respond better than I would – and I am a believer. I just can’t believe the way Christians act in class and then claim persecution later. I know not all Christians do that, but there are many that do. Many need to learn the difference between getting corrected for the bad logic intermixed with their faith stance and an actual attack on their faith itself.

    1. Just shows it’s completely acceptable to lie for Jesus as long as it fits the agenda and narrative.

    2. As an undergraduate back in the 70’s ( I know, sooo last century) the college I attended had a series of four required courses called “Man and…” The fourth one in senior year was Man And Philosophy and one had to submit a philosophy of life to pass. It was openly acknowledged on campus that any paper that include Judeo-Christian references or statements would get an automatic “D”. A few of our upper classmen friends had the grade to prove it. Just before my class was ready to register for it, the school got sued and removed the course from the required list.

      On the other hand, I had a Speech and Communications course where the teacher tended to be dismissive of any student who involve their “religious” beliefs in the classwork. My final project was a round table discussion of whether or not the Billy Graham Association should use marketing techniques for their “I Found It!” campaign. The teacher was skeptical, but the presentation went well and the ensuing discussion continue long after the class period ended and we eventually had to adjourn to the student snack bar to finish up because the room was scheduled for another class.

      So, I saw the issue cut both ways.

    3. I find it ironic that you say, “I saw none of this bullying from the professor,” yet you preface that by explaining, “I remember hearing story after story about how he failed students for standing up for their faith. As a new Christian, I decided to lay low in the class so I could just pass.” For the record, you experienced a form of bullying (deciding to “lay low” so you could pass), whether or not the perception of others was valid. When the hostility is actively perpetrated by a person in order to dissuade, it’s outright bullying; when it isn’t overt but the fear/ridicule/shame associated with potentially speaking up prevents someone from doing so, that’s what in communications studies we call a “chilling effect.”

      That said, I can totally relate to your comments on Christians with weak logic and poor reasoning or behavioral skills complaining of persecution. Having worked in a state university myself for over a decade, I saw that myself firsthand, and it’s as real as the occasional bully professor and chilling climate. I would often cringe when the self-professing Christians would speak up and hijack meetings over personal agendas or cry foul when they didn’t get their way on a decision that had nothing to do with their personal faith. I remember having to confront one guy who was not only Christian but also Pentecostal, outspoken, and of color: “You keep saying it’s ‘discrimination,’ but from what I’ve observed, you’ve got a reputation for being lazy and your ‘faith’ is all mouth and little action. I love your zeal and you’ve got a great personality, but you’re using your faith and skin color as an excuse to avoid responsibility.”

      Likewise in the classroom, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen a Christian repeat mantras and doctrinal one-liners they evidently heard from home or pastor’s sermons (but who obviously hadn’t fleshed them out or considered all their ramifications or implications) and then get offended when they weren’t taken seriously. If it’s real, we need to know what we believe and why and engage in the arguments with respect and courtesy, not merely repeat the same kind of shallow one-liner stuff we’d hear on kid’s shows.

      I firmly believe Christian faith and the Bible can stand on its own merits and is a superior and intelligent answer to most of the philosophical and atheistic/agnostic challenges, but often the biggest enemies of our faith are not the secular elites or “bully” professors but the ones who claim it and yet don’t know it or live it.

  15. I go to a private Christian college… GREAT atmosphere… but I picked it because of a program it has and not because I was afraid I would be put down for my faith anywhere else. First of all, as a Christian we should expect persecution to happen sometimes (If that’s what you want to call it. In many other countries Christians and missionaries are being killed for their faith) and not be afraid of it. We know who we are! Let God be glorified by how we carry ourselves in grace and love should it ever happen.
    Second of all, most non-Christian professors would not dare to butcher someone for their faith. It’s unprofessional and keeps the entire class from a learning experience based on that person’s worldview.
    Don’t get me wrong I still can’t wait to see the movie, I’m sure it’s great. I’m also sure that SOMEWHERE in the world this has happened to a small handfull of students. Honestly though, I wouldn’t have expected this to happen to me had I accepted enrollment at some of the other non-Christian universities.

  16. Good article and I am glad that someone has had a truly liberal education recently.

    Second, to think that a sub-two hour movie can create anything but icons of people is ridicoulous. All books and movies iconize folks to make a story. That the guy represents something you do not like is like saying you won’t read Moby Dick because whales cannot hold grudges. It’s a movie folks.

    FInally, GID may not depict the main of liberal education,—I do not know. However, there is an increasing activism represented in the all the cases mentioned in the final credits that made the folks creating this somewhat B rated movie think time to do it. To ignore the stuff scrolling up at the end of the movie is missing the point of the movie, and to bury one’s head in the sand.

  17. In undergrad and grad school, I did not experience faculty hostility to me, my faith, my politics, or my gender. The hostilities I experienced in those years, when I experienced it, came from fellow students and random angry street preachers.

  18. This is a great article but the movie Gods not dead i think is right on. Now do i think that all atheists are like that no i don’t i have atheist friends that are as nice as can be. There are atheist out there that are mean and cruel and want you to fail if you want to stand up for Jesus. and even vise versa

  19. I didn’t think of this movie as stereotyping “bully atheists”. I enjoyed this movie because I felt it make you question how you would react if someone ever challenged your faith.

  20. Great article. I love the concept of common grace! I do want to say two things 1) I have not seen the film but I have seen previews. 2) my experience as a philosophy minor history major in university was something like though not identical to the movie. My professors respected me for having considered my faith and my reasoning through it. However, they were hostile to Christianity and taught false things about it in class. This helped me love and correct them. But non-the-less they taught strait up false doctrine as though it were Christian belief. There were many open debates in my classes. :)

    I would say the professor that says what was said in the movie… Probably dosent exist in real life if they do they are the exception not the rule.

  21. Great article, but as a story teller without the drama and conflict of the over the top professor there is no story to tell that will get people to sit down and watch a movie. A movie needs a character to root for that is in a conflict they must over come. The professor had to be over the top for people to even care about going and seeing this movie and in the end shares the Gospel, which should be the most important thing.

  22. There is really no scientific evidence for god. This why normally the higher educated you are the less you believe in a higher power that knows all. Hence why professors are generally aitheist or agnostic. Evolution on the other hand can and has been proven by several different fields of science

    1. I accept “scientific truth” as useful and of practical benefit in living. But scientific evidence does not give any logically certain proof that there are any absolutely certain connections between different ideas in our flow of ideas. On this, on purely logical grounds, Hume was right and has never been logically disproven. I am an Evangelical Christian, but I agree at a very deep level with Sartre. The only thing I can be sure of is my own existence. Sartre then talks about probability. In Sartrean terms, I consider my wife’s personal conscious existence to be a high probability. I also agree with Sartre in believing in my personal freedom–despite the absolute determinism of science (unless we bring in the Heisenberg principles of uncertainty).
      And, bringing in the totality of experience, I am sufficient convinced of the existence of God and forgiveness, that I accept God and God’s forgiveness. In technical philosophical terms, I accept God as a high, very high–i.e. completely convincing reality. My major professor of philosophy made the same point in different words when he said words to the following, “The just live by faith in everything, the existence of a world of science known only through sense data, the existence of other people, and the existence of God”. I can understand and respect the person who believes that only “scientific probabilities–with predictability”, but that person is simply narrow-minded when he or she makes a stark difference between so-called absolute scientific knowledge and the uncertainties of everything else. I still believe my wife is a self aware being just like myself, and the evidences of God’s impact on the world are found though neither is confirmable by prediction.

  23. The prof wasn’t stereotyped. When he signed up for the class he was encouraged by the regisrar to take any other philisophy class but that one. Viewers find out later the circumstance surrounding the prof’s extreme behavior. Relax.

    1. Yes he was stereotyped. He was every stereotype of and atheist rolled into one straw man. And the circumstance surrounding his behavior is one of the most prominent stereotypes of atheists, the stereotype that ageist are ageist because they hate god or other emotional reasons instead of rational ones when really it is the opposite.

  24. I had some devout Christians in my philosophy class once upon a time, and I recall being quite surprised at how they claimed that our professor was persecuting their beliefs and preaching atheism. This was so surprising because I can’t recall him ever taking a position on anything at all, and was very careful to phrase his questions in a way that would force us to think about our assumptions but not “lead us on.” Certainly nothing happened like in this movie, but they certainly acted as if it had, proclaiming that they were staying in the class to stand up for Jesus. Sometimes people can take challenging one’s beliefs too personally, and end up remembering those who merely question their beliefs as attacking them. Movies like God Is Not Dead probably strengthen this tendency by providing a scenario that people can link with their feelings to construct their own narrative for their own professor as a bully. It doesn’t help that the apologetics used in the movie were honestly terrible and most educated atheists would know how to respond instead of having a temper tantrum.

  25. I’m sure the reverse could be said about Christian teachers, as well; that is, theology teachers where, if the students are not believers, heckle and harass people for not being “enlightened”. Do I think this is a majority? Of course not. But, in my experience, I had a religion professor at Ottawa thoroughly encourage non-Christians to take his classes, without fear of judgment or anything of the sort, and to ask questions, even if it meant trying to “prove him wrong”. The true humility and patience Dr. Menninger models is the reason why I want to teach in the future.

    Great post.

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    1. Most definitely there are, and these are not isolated cases. Having worked in higher education and networked in its related IT circles for the last 12 years, I have met many.

      In all fairness, most professors truly care about their students and want them to understand and succeed. Most value free exchange of ideas and welcome dialogue with opposing views that helps everyone fully understand and consider all the issues, and most will only resist when someone refuses to argue fairly or sees the dialogue as a chance to proselytize. Most professors are very secure in their intellectual position, have come to their viewpoints through much personal wrestling, reasoning, and academic discourse, and are very comfortable discussing and debating…and though some Christians take a relevant question or challenge as an “attack,” this mode of evidentiary discourse is vital in academia and philosophy (and should note as well that both Jesus and the apostle Paul embraced it).

      However, there is certainly a radical leftist agenda whose advocates view anything that comes from a Judeo-Christian heritage as a threat to everything they value, and who seek to overthrow the very foundations of Western imperialism and any of religion’s daughters, circumventing even the most basic of civil discourse. Their idea of “tolerance” is one where only their purportedly more “enlightened” position has value and all others are presumed subversive. The professor in this movie portrays this group well and it is not mere fiction (and I’ve personally witnessed this type of professorial behavior and been a recipient of it, too). The UCSB professor you mention in this link and her criminal tirade is a good example, and here’s another: http://christiannews.net/2014/04/10/court-orders-university-to-promote-professor-after-being-discriminated-against-for-christian-views/ (ironically, discrimination against a prof who’s a former atheist by those who SHOULD be the most tolerant). These folks are a minority, but but they are very vocal and hate-filled in their rhetoric, and the harm it does to academic discourse and minds which are still exploring the issues is staggering.

  27. I think the article makes some good points and I thought the film was weak. All our experiences are different, however. I had a philosophy professor 30+ years ago who was an apostate Christian, and attacked the faith at every turn. I spoke up. It was never “ugly” until I received a “D” on a major paper, because it defended the faith. It was 50% of the class grade. Could it have been poorly written? Of course. But the ton of red ink that covered it was not about reasoning or logic…just an assault on Christ. When I refused to do another paper to “pull up my grade” I somehow got a “B” in the class anyway. The other students knew I had been targeted, and it made for some good conversations…but nothing like the whole class standing up to support me like in the film. (That was very unrealistic, and it would have been better if an unbelieving, or doubting student had stood up for the Christian character just for fairness sake.)

  28. At state school (Wright State University) just about all my professors fit this stereotype. They were extremely combative, beginning classes regularly with sodomy jokes involving baptist ministers. It was hard. I left after 3 quarters in 2002.

  29. I’m certain that your experience is true. At the same time, for every enlightened professor you say you encountered there are others who are as aggressive, some being more subtle than others. While the prof in the movie may be a little over the top there are some that are worse.

  30. I was a Christian for much of my college experience, though I gave up a belief in the supernatural toward the end. I attended both secular and Christian schools. I never witnessed a professor berate someone for being religious. And, students were free to express their opinions and to argue them, with one exception.

    When I was in bible college for two years you were ONLY allowed to state opinions in keeping with the doctrines of the school. Any student who expressed doubts of any kind would be thrown out of the school. Passing or failing was almost entirely based on mouthing back to the professor what they had told you. You were told what to think, not taught how to think.

    Thankfully I got out of that atmosphere. I went to a more secular school that was still run by a church, and it was much more tolerant except for the one minister who taught an ethics class who literally yelled at me for ending the semester and still disagreeing with him. I took classes in two additional state universities and the atmosphere was one of respect for student’s opinions. It was only the Christian school that I found to be totally intolerant.

  31. My perspective is, perhaps, unique. I was the conservative, Christian kid majoring in the humanities at an ostensibly liberal state university. Although I had been warned to be vigilant and guard my faith, my experience lacked persecution. While I knew students – fellow Christian classmates – who decried a secular/atheistic bias, I never saw it
    Now, I teach in the humanities – previously at a private, liberal arts university and currently at a larger state university. While I have been accused a couple of times of being a liberal prof. of Religious Studies, whose raison d’être is squashing the faith of vulnerable, young Christians, the fact is that neither I nor any colleague with whom I’ve worked has any such intention. Every time I’ve been accused of such, or witnessed a student accuse another prof of such, it’s been a question of the student’s performance. Namely, the students in question – again, only a few in twelve yrs of teaching – had resisted open, honest inquiry and had preemptively assumed a combative posture against which the professor had been, unwittingly, placed.
    Again, this is my experience and my observation, not to be taken as a totalizing commentary.

  32. Hi James and all, I think the Prof in the movie represents anyone who is oppsed to faith in God-because they are angry with God. Not all Profs are. And not all who are angry, are Profs.
    I think the movie was tops!

  33. I have two advanced degrees. One being from a state university. My law degree is from a private school.

    In my experience the philosophy profs were non-believers every one, but were rather open minded when it came to matters of faith. It was the Biology I prof that was like the movie. Those profs are out there.

    I think the movie is accurate to a degree even if it presents the arguments and answers in a simplistic and general manner. A straw man was knocked over a couple of times.

    The movie is a good general introduction to the arguments against God for those unfamiliar with them

  34. I’m a science student, so not quite the same, but what I’ve seen is similar. In my first lecture of my first bio class, one student put up her hand and asked “what about creationism?” The prof responded “you are free to believe in it if you want to, but for purposes of this class, we are going to be treating evolution as true.” I have had exactly one prof (teaching anthropology) who clearly had a chip on his shoulder about religion. He bent over backwards to keep it out of the classroom and refrain from attacking students or their faith. He slipped up a few times, but he apologised and went right back to the subject matter. I have literally never had, or met anyone who has had, a prof that actively tried to dismantle their faith. I’m not saying they don’t exist: it’s entirely possible that they do, but I’ve never met them, and neither has anyone I know.

  35. That’s not to say they never challenged my faith. They did. But it was for a really good reason: it was their job. ~James Hoskins

    I thought, silly me, that a professor’s job is to teach the material he/she knows well.

    By the way, Bart Ehrman, at UNC Chapel Hill, is one of those rabid professors who tries his darndest to persuade his young, impressionable, Christian students – those unlucky enough to get him – to put their faith in Jesus in their rearviews. Misery loves company ya know.

  36. A general observation (based on 10 years of post-secondary schooling, including many a philosophy class):

    Philosophy professors like students who are good thinkers–regardless of their religious convictions. Philosophy professors don’t like students who are poor or lazy thinkers (and/or don’t want to learn).

    I know it may be hard to hear, but I suspect a lot of the people commenting on this blog fall into the latter category.

    (I say this because it is very, very hard to be a good thinker. Indeed, I didn’t have a philosophy PHD in me.)

  37. A teenage Christian girl from Wisconsin:

    There was a time that, to stay morally clean, all you had to do was fight off your own crowd. All you faced was the pressure of your own peer group. Nowadays, you have to fight off our teachers, too. My teacher is a former rebel, who used to demonstrate on the streets of Chicago. He burned his draft card. He has now moved into the establishment, and he stands before our class, making fun of the moral standards of our parents. He ridicules those of us who still respect our parents for being faithful to each other. He tells the class they should blow a little pot – drink – have sex indiscriminately anytime they want – and adopt the morals of a new hip generation. He spends most of his time trying to bend our minds to his thinking. One of our football games ended in a drunken riot. A group of students got drunk during the game and became violent, tearing up school property. Twenty-one kids had to go to court Monday morning for arraignment. I was one of the few who attended class. My teacher looked at me and said, “Janet, why aren’t you in court with the rest of the kids?” I told him I wasn’t at the ballgame. He sneered at me and said, “Where were you, in church?” I told him no, I was home in bed. He said, “With whom?” I was mortified, because I’m not that kind of girl. It hurts when parents and teachers mock you for trying to stay clean. ~a letter from exemplary David Wilkerson’s book entitled SIPPING SAINTS.

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