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Hercules, the Straw Man: A Critique of God's Not Dead

Kevin Sorbo
Kevin Sorbo
Kevin Sorbo

Straw man - an informal logical fallacy where one party misrepresents the other side's argument, attacks it, and then acts like he has refuted it.

The new film, God's Not Dead wants you to believe that its antagonist, Professor Radisson, a character played by Hercules star, Kevin Sorbo, is an atheist. He is not. As is revealed twice in the film, he is not an atheist. He is an anti-theist theist who hates God because he believes God either killed his mother or let her die when he was a boy. The film's premise is misleading, but then again what should we expect from a film that features a cameo by Willie Robertson, a member of the "reality" show, Duck Dynasty where uber-rich folks pretend to be rednecks. The now bearded brethren and clan did not start growing their facial hair until just a couple of years before the start of their show.

But let's get back to our antagonist, Philosophy Professor Radisson.

Kevin Sorbo's role he plays in God's Not Dead is a purported stereotypical atheist professor, challenging his students in an effort to humiliate them and expose their vulnerable intellectual underbellies if they dare to disagree with his character, as he describes himself "the only god in the classroom."

The instructor, wanting to dismiss and pass through the various apologetics arguments for and counter-arguments against the existence of a deity, has all his students write Nietzsche's famous declaration, "God is dead" on a sheet of paper, sign it, and turn it in.

One Christian student, Josh Wheaton, who when signing up for the class was urged to take another instructor by the person registering him, after seeing a cross around the student's neck, tells the professor he can't do it because of his faith in God.

The professor then tells the objector if he does not write out "God is dead," sign the paper, and turn it in, he must defend the case for God's existence before the class.

After the class is over, Wheaton tells his long-time girlfriend what happened. In an effort to play into the theme that if you stand up for your faith, those around you may abandon you and sever ties with you, she first warns him against not signing the paper, saying he may suffer a lowered grade as a result and they both have their collective futures to think about.

The student inevitably stands his ground, going against both the Professor and the wishes of his girlfriend and she breaks up with him.

The film wants there to be nothing desirable about Radisson. We learn he is emotionally abusive to his girlfriend, a Christian. When the subject of religion comes up while she is dutifully serving as hostess at a party, she meekly says, "I'm a Christian." He tells her to stop talking about it. Also, he humiliates her after the ones gathered at the party drink the wine she left in the trunk because the of the less than pleasant taste of it, by saying, "Know your limits, honey." She politely sits the tray of appetizers in her hands down and excuses herself to go to another room, tears in her eyes.

Near the end of the film, after the incident at the dinner party, Professor Radisson's girlfriend comes up to him while he is conversing with his colleagues and tells him it's over. He says he "won't accept that," apparently not realizing that a relationship is like launching a missile on a submarine: two different people each have to turn a key in order for it to happen. Radisson then realizes he is wrong and goes to find his girlfriend, who with the rest of the main characters, not unlike every Seinfeld episode, has had their stories intertwine near the end.

They are all at a Newsboys concert. In his haste to reach her, he runs out in front of a car, which hits him. Two other characters, who earlier in the film exhibited the ability to get a rental car to start via having faith and prayer, come to his aid to proselytize while his lungs are filling with blood, but not to worry, he comes to Jesus in a cliched moment where the movie tries to make the case that all who are on death's door worry that there might be an afterlife and just in case, he prays the salvation prayer and goes to Heaven.

My point in all of this is to say that the movie's antagonist, Kevin Sorbo, has gone from being the Strong Man from his days as Hercules, to straw man, a mischaracterization of what an atheist actually is in a role in a film meant to misrepresent and mislead.

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