Unsurprisingly, this film is pure Christian propaganda, full of emotional manipulation, stereotypes, bad writing, and quite short on substantial arguments (sadly, but also unsurprisingly).
I was actually fairly intrigued by the premise, a young christian student debating his fervently atheist philosophy professor (played by kevin sorbo, aka hercules) about the existence of god. I was looking forward to at least a moderate level debate. However, the film had only the most elementary philosophical arguments, if we could even call them that, and a lot pseudo-science, straw-men, and caricatures.
Let’s start with…
Josh - The protagonist. Simple kid trying to stand up for his christian beliefs. As someone else pointed out online, I’d actually respect that this kid is arguing for his beliefs against a blind authority - except that the arguments are so terrible, but wtvr.
Professor Atheist Philosopher - Played by Kevin Sorbo. This guy is a real jackass. He acts smug, threatening, vindictive, egotistical, (actually, sounds like yhwh so far! lol), total asshole to his wife (who he apparently started dating when he was her professor. no, not creepy at all), etc. Perhaps worst of all, he shows none of the training of an actual philosopher, even a student of philosophy!
Anyways, his character is meant to paint a negative image of atheists as immoral, selfish assholes who think they know everything and are intolerant of different opinions. (Oh, and all of the professor’s peers, other philosophy professors, are also total assholes. of course.)
Amy - Angry atheist. She goes off about animal rights and attacking those who promote jesus, and even takes jabs at stay-at-home moms, and she’s too busy to be respectful to even her doctor, till she finds out she has cancer and now suddenly decides to believe in Jesus. The point of her character is to paint atheists as angry liberals - but ones just one tragedy away from belief, hallelujah.
Superman - aka Dean Kane. His character is almost unrelated to the entire story except that he’s a huge “atheist asshole”, who doesn’t believe in love, only greed, and dumps his gf, Amy, when he finds out she has cancer. Again, the point of him is to hammer home just how terrible atheists are.
Aiyisha - A muslim girl who somehow comes to love jesus but her father - a swarthy arab man with a shitty car - beats the crap out of her and kicks her out of the house when he finds out. Great portrayal of muslims here. pfft. But good news is that they can be converted, just like Aiyisha, hallelujah.
Martin - An asian kid who apparently and amazingly never heard of the notion of “god” or “jesus”, whose father tries to dissuade him from being interested, but who is finally convinced to become a christian by the end of the film, hallelujah
These characters themselves are one of the problems with the film: Aside from being token members of the human race from all over the world (Arab, Asian, African, etc) meant to show that Jesus is for everybody, they’re all too one-dimensional, and most are outright unbelievable. For instance, professor atheist, who in his philosophy class would rather skip the god arguments as long as everyone just agrees with him. What kind of philosophy professor would want to skip the arguments? The whole point of philosophy is the arguments, not consensus. (Instead, it sounds a lot more like a theology professor, if you ask me.)The philosophy professor also makes his main point from arguments from authority, which is also antithetical to philosophy, and anathema to most atheists. But, of course, the film is a thin plot meant mainly to malign atheists and promote jesus, so what can you expect.
Surely, though, the actual substance of the arguments will have to be good. Right? Afterall, it’s a debate in a philosophy class! And the film-makers could choose any arguments they like and craft the debate to go as they like. So, surely some good stuff there, right? Guess again.
Big Bang = Bible
In the first of the three debates, Josh makes the argument that the big bang is essentially what the bible says.
Sorry dude, but no, it is not. For one, the bible claims that the earth is a few thousand years old. Aside from that, it claims that before the creation of light - which Josh argues is the big bang - there was already stuff! “Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters”. So we’re already dealing with a watery universe before ywhw even created light or the universe. Which not coincidentally fits in with what they actually used to believe: namely, that the earth was flat, the water flowed out forever, and the heavens were just above some magical curtain called the “firmament” that acts as a dome above the sky. Speaking of which, Genesis 1 verse 6: “And God said: ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’”
So, no, the bible doesn’t fit with the big bang upon even a curosry examination.
But honestly, aside from all that, even if those problems didn’t exist, how on earth can one say, “When the bible said ‘let there be light’ it *really* meant the big bang and all that entails.” - Yeah, that’s just super convenient and not obvious at all. We’re gonna need some real evidence to convince us that hill shepherds thousands of years ago meant all that big bang cosmology entails when they simply wrote, “let there be light.” (Though I’ll give the film-makers credit for at least not attempting to go the young-earth-creationist route.)
The movie then segues, but returns two minutes later, with Josh apparently finishing up a very persuasive cosmological argument; shame that the film couldn’t include it.
Where Did Everything Come From - Part I: Poor Science & The Shifting of the Burden of Proof
Josh then asserts that “in the real world, we don’t see things popping into existence out of nothing. But atheists want to make an exception - the universe itself!”
The main problem here is that Josh is conflating science and atheism. Atheists need not explain where the universe came from. All they have to say is they’re not convinced that the story of an ancient book has the right answer. Just like I don’t have to know the actual origin of the Native Americans to say that I think the Mormon explanation is total bullshit.
Furthermore, aside from the philosophical problem, there’s also the scientific one: We know that particles actually do pop into and out of existence all the time. (Sci.American) And there’s a lot of scientific data for the “exception” which scientists want to make. It’s not special pleading when there’s actual data to suggest it’s that way. It is special pleading, however, when one simply avoids a question by arbitrarily choosing a special condition for their position when faced with opposition. Which brings us to….
Where Did God Come From?
But Josh’s confusion continues when a student then quotes Dawkins as asking the logical question: If you, theist, ask me “where did the universe come from?” I can equally ask, “Where did god come from?”
Josh avoids a real answer by explaining that he defines god as something that doesn’t need creating. Of course, “atheists” (really, materialists, but wtvr) could say the same thing: “We are simply defining the material things which created the universe as things which do not need creating.” In other words, it’s a semantic trick to avoid the question, but not a real answer. It’s like saying, “I’m the greatest man on earth bc I’m defining myself as the greatest man on earth.” It doesn’t actually demonstrate anything nor answer anything; in this case, “why or how are you the greatest man on earth?” Or “Why doesn’t god need creating? How does that happen?”
Of course, the discussion could get more fruitful - and philosophical - by asking: Why do we assume everything needs to be created? Josh hints at this when he says that “we don’t see things popping into existence.” But then it’s an argument from experience or inductive reasoning; just like “we always see the sun rise, so we assume it will tomorrow.” Or, “we know how watches are made and therefore where they are found, so finding one in the middle of the desert wouldn’t make sense.”
The problem, though, is with comparing our experiences to forms of experience we do NOT have. Namely, how universes are made. We have no experience with this and so can’t say if it’s common or rare. In other words, maybe a universe can pop into being from nothing. Our experience does nothing to tell us it cannot.
This answer, could, of course, help to argue that god doesn’t need a creator, but that does nothing to help with josh’s ultimate point, proving that there’s a god. It just obliterates this entire “Where did everything come from?” approach.
Where Did Everything Come From - Part II: The Shifting of the Burden of Proof
But Josh continues in his poor thinking, arguing that ‘both atheist and theist are burdened with the question of how did things start.” - The problem with this is that it’s wrong. Atheists need not explain nor claim to know how things started. That’s not what atheism means. Atheism is simply a disbelief in the claims made by religions, such as “oh, we really do know how things started! It was a super being who lives outside the universe!” Atheists need not prove that wrong, or provide a better alternative, to simply say, “yeah, that sounds like primitive guesswork.” Josh is an attempting to shuffle off the burden of proof, or at least to share it, when in reality, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim (ie a supernatural being exists) to demonstrate that.
It’s the same problem as when the protagonist begins his speech by saying that “no-one can *disprove* the existence of god.” Again, it’s a switch of the burden of proof. No-one can disprove that tiny, invisible leprochauns dance on our faces while we sleep, but we’d expect the person making the claim to prove it, not those who doubt it to try and disprove it. Or, as Sagan famously said, “Extraodinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” A super omni-being running the universe is an extraordinarily extraordinary claim. Yet the evidence provided is not even ordinary. It’s laughable.