God’s Death in the College Classroom

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Over the weekend I caught the new movie God’s Not Dead. It’s about a college freshman named Josh Wheaton, who in his philosophy course encounters a militantly atheist professor. The professor tells the students to sign on to his Nietzschean credo that “God is dead.” He asks them to literally write it down and sign their name. Josh can’t do that, and a battle begins.

The professor challenges Josh to defend his beliefs before the class. He gives Josh the podium for three class periods. Josh isn’t always perfect, but he does very well, and he makes a big difference. Josh convinces his classmates that God’s NOT dead.

The movie is uplifting, though I don’t expect it to make many converts. It’s an extremely evangelical movie, with all the language and lingo, much of which will strike cradle Catholics as very odd. Still, the movie is worth seeing and supporting.

But God’s Not Dead prompted another thought: I’ve been in higher education for 30 years. Sadly, the hostile professor that Josh Wheaton encountered is hardly unusual. And most Christian students cannot pull off what Josh pulled off. I find that their parents think that they can; that they’ll be just fine. The parents eagerly tell me about the highly ranked secular university that has accepted their child for admission. Unfortunately, these young people go to these colleges and often get chewed up the radical secular progressivism.

I can’t begin to tell you the number of times a parent has told me, “Hey, Jimmy decided to take a religion course at his college, but the course is taught by an atheist who hates Christianity!”

Well, of course.

Worse, the parents pay for this. They pay the university a lifetime savings to, in effect, undo everything they taught their child. If your child is in that destructive process right now, stop it, and transfer to a Catholic college—a real, genuine Catholic college. A true higher education embraces rather than rejects and ridicules faith.

Dr. Paul Kengor


Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism” and “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”

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  • John

    Good article, Paul! Yes, the parent will give up their savings to get their kids in, but hey, at least they’ll get a good job after and “succeed”, which is what most parents seem to want these days

  • Mother Hen

    I wholeheartedly agree. I refuse to pay for the “privilege” of having the faith stripped away from my children.

  • Bernadette

    I agree, but something should be said of Catholic colleges that are not “real [and] genuine.” I always think of what Saint Bernadette had said when she was asked what she feared most. “All I fear in life are bad Catholics.” Colleges that are Catholic in name only teach students corrupted morals in the guise of truth is a scary thought in my mind. There are anti-Catholics and then there are bad Catholics. I wonder which do more harm…

  • JC

    I have found, since moving to the South, that most colleges here, even the secular ones, are clearly Christian. Usually Protestant, and primarily Southern Baptist, so a Catholic who goes to school there will likely very much need a firm grounding in at least basic apologetics to survive his fellow students’ attacks on his beliefs. But at least that Catholic will also find common ground with his Protestant peers. He will find that mentioning God in the classroom is not forbidden, and faith is encouraged. So any student whose chosen career requires a college education (very many careers require no college degree; I never had one and did quite well), wouldn’t go too terribly amiss by adding a Southern college or two to his list of choices, in case he doesn’t get accepted to one of the truly Catholic ones.

  • Elisa

    Wasn’t there a news story awhile back about a Muslim college student who was in a similar situation? As I best remember, with the publicity surrounding the incident, the university had to react and deal with the professor who initiated the whole thing.

  • Mark Mathias

    Paul, would you please do me the favor of reading the USCCB site’s review of this movie and offer a reflection of what you find? They basically panned it, but a local pastor praised it at the Easter Vigil I attended, and you have also given it greater praise than them. I really loved the way Henry Herx handled the capsule reviews at the USCCB, but I find that the service is much less useful than it was in previous years, partly due to the focus on full scale reviews which introduce a higher degree of the critic’s subjectivity. Thanks for this helpful commentary! I agree that it takes an exceptionally well-prepared and unusually gifted undergraduate to counter the ammunition of the seasoned college professor. It is easy to overestimate one’s (or one’s child’s) capabilities.