Home > Film, Religion, Reviews > Film Review: The God Who Wasn’t There

Film Review: The God Who Wasn’t There

The God Who Wasn’t There (2005; Directed by Brian Flemming)

The God Who Wasn’t There is pretty poor both as a factual documentary and as iconoclastic anti-Christian agit-prop. Terribly, cheaply produced and edited, full of awful music and distracting graphics, absent-minded in its arguments and glibly condescending towards Christian believers, building towards a clumsy, poorly-executed “gotcha” interview that amounts to a whole lot of nothing, Brian Flemming’s inept argument for atheism does an entirely valid and even appealing intellectual viewpoint a huge disservice by making it seem creaky and easy to doubt.

Flemming’s refusal to expand his film’s critique of Christian mythology to the better-documented and more shady foundings of, say, Islam or Mormonism (each relying on the revelations of prophetic figures who were clearly on the make) hurts it badly and makes it and its director seem one-tracked and bitter. And even considering the many flaming arrows as he fires at the Christ myth, few truly hit the mark. His directs a blow or two at Biblical literalists, but reserves most of his attacks for the veracity of the story itself, something which only ultimately matters to scriptual fundamentalists anyway.

After marinating in the fanatical juices of evangelical Christianity himself, Flemming seems unable or unwilling to acknowledge that basing your moral and ethical code on mythic parables isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, especially if you can freely admit that they are just myths, after all (one of his expert talking heads says as much during the end credits, slightly undermining the hour-long argument that has preceded his comments). The God Who Wasn’t There is telling us that because there is ample reason to doubt the historicity of Jesus, then Christian belief as a whole is invalid. Doubt is the kryptonite of faith, of course, but it’s hardly a sledgehammer.

Even if Flemming is, on balance, not wrong about the Jesus story and the reasons to doubt its strict accuracy, his conclusion doesn’t quite follow from his premise or even from his arguments. Atheists will need a lot more than this mess of a film to help bring them out of the fringes of Jesus-mad America’s spiritual conversation, that’s for sure.

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Categories: Film, Religion, Reviews
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