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January 19th, 2012
05:27 PM ET

'Hate religion, love Jesus' video goes viral

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - With so many atheists coming out of the closet, it’s not difficult to imagine a video decrying religion racking up millions of hits on YouTube.

But a video along those lines has been viewed 15 million times and liked more than a quarter-million times since it was posted on January 10, featuring an enthusiastic young Christian from Washington state.

“What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?” 22-year-old Jefferson Bethke says in the video, reciting a spoken word poem he wrote. “What if I told you getting you to vote Republican really wasn’t his mission?”

“I mean if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?” he says later. “Why does it build huge churches but fail to feed the poor?”

Bethke's video is emerging as a symbol for many young evangelical Christians who are calling themselves “followers of Jesus” rather than overtly identifying with institutional Christianity. Many of the country's fastest-growing churches are nondenominational.

“Religion is man-centered,” Bethke writes in a post accompanying his YouTube video. “Jesus is God-centered.”

In the video, Bethke talks about what he calls his own spiritual rebirth, saying he went from being a self-righteous religious person to an admittedly deeply broken believer.

The video has provoked an avalanche of response, including other YouTube videos, like "Why I hate religion but love Jesus, Muslim Version" and "Why I Dislike Your Poem, But Love God," which includes these lines:

I see where you’re coming from but there’s insanity in your vision
You overlook the fact that Christianity is religion
You’re like the van who claims to hate diets
Or astrophysicists who reject laws of science.

That response video has itself been viewed 390,000 times. Not bad.

Many religious bloggers echoed that video’s criticism on Bethke, alleging he’s trumpeting tenets of Christianity while purporting to blast organized religion. Critics called Bethke’s take on religion overly simplistic and dangerous.

“Anyone who does just a little digging on Bethke's YouTube channel or on Google will quickly learn that this young poet is a conservative Christian and member of the Mars Hill Church led by controversial pastor Mark Driscoll,” writes Patheos blogger Brian Kirk, a Missouri-based pastor. “All this seems to me an odd résumé for one who lambastes organized religion.”

Yet Kirk marvels at the national conversation that Bethke has provoked around deep questions:

Certainly one can agree or disagree with Bethke's take on religion but it's difficult not to admire the way he has stirred up those of us who may have been slumbering comfortably in our own faith without really thinking about why we do what we do. Some times the best way to wake up a sleeping giant is to poke it with a stick and Bethke has done just that.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity

soundoff (3,716 Responses)
  1. ralphie

    "Truth Be Known was created in 1995 by independent scholar and author of comparative religion and mythology D.M. Murdock, also known as "Acharya S." Acharya's work is designed to bring to light fascinating lost, hidden and destroyed religious, mythological and spiritual traditions that reveal an exciting core of knowledge dating back thousands of years. She is a shining light of knowledge for exposing the truth behind the Christ Myth!"

    dear god. a scholar? a scholar?

    March 20, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • ralphie

      Here are some ULTRAGODS that have the courage to speak out against our enslavement!

      o, forgive me. i forgot to mention she promotes herself as an ultragod

      March 20, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
  2. nadarkhani

    I think the combination of religion and politics is not good at all. Listen to Ayatollah Muhammad Rosa Khani and respect your neighbours, no matter of what believe. Hear what he has to say. Hear how he recitates the quran. No war and no politics to it. religion is heart and politics is danger. The true believer is who believes in god. Religion is a guidance to the right way. It does not matter what religion you believe in. Just believe in God and help others.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  3. Name*Jana

    Look god is one and we all know it buy fail to establish it. Reject all Islam all
    U want here in this earth but my sweethearts when we stand infront of the one and only god on the day of judgement , I want u to know that you will be like why did i fall into the twisting words of Satan and mix the creator as one who urinates and has reproduced. Why why ask yourself. Did u watch the muslin version just to criticize it was that your one hundred prescient why, I'm possitive that each in one of u have a .10% doubt in Christianity and that lead u to watching the Muslim version because u love hearing the truth and know it makes sence but choses to close ur hearts and follow. I love Allah and everyone I swear I want to see everyone who reads this in heaven, don't get mad do me a favor and please just like we Muslims respect ur book respect ours, go and find a Quran translated in English and read read at least the first 10 pages then listen to a reciter his name
    Is sheikh al maher al Miakli, then ask ur self why am
    I hear if u will not sacrifice for god(Allah)s sake why did he Jesus say or sins our forgiven and let us do whatever we want here without purpose and give us heaven. Trust me ask your self questions god gets happy when u learn more about him the rite and truthful meaning, atheist ; I want u guys to ask ur self do u think that a human could be controlled without a brain? Do u believ that a car can beade without a mechanic? Everything has a controller except for one Allah , you know he exist but fail to open ur hearts and believe
    Ask yourself this can u see ur brain no? Can u hear it no ? Can u fell it ? Yet u still no it's there how ? Cause u no ur body can't function without a controller
    YOU GUYS OPEN UR HEART AND SEARCH FOR WHAT U BELIEVE IS THE TRUTH PRAY O GOD PLEASE SHOW ME THE RITE WAY. Show me reasons why Islam is wrong, cry while u pray nd ull c the truth will be shown ..,,

    July 5, 2012 at 3:00 am |
  4. mobile marketing solutions

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    May 2, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  5. Shaq

    The bottom line is no one likes the truth, and the truth is: religion is the basis of most wars, if not all. If you take a look at the biggest wars in history, they all have had to do with religion. The hundred years war for instance, the holocaust, all the wars in the middle east, etc. God is Love, and when you love somebody you would never hurt them. If we all had God in our hearts, war wouldn't be able to fit in this world

    April 2, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  6. Great Grandma

    I've learned that there is a big difference between being "religious" (self-righteous)...........and, being "spiritual" (able to hear the Spirit of God... and to be led by His Spirit... all "glory" to God). God is LOVE..........and, that is far more than enough... to meet all our needs and the needs of others.

    March 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  7. carlyjanew6

    http://www.Hear-The-Truth.com

    March 11, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  8. Baki

    Wow you spend a weekend at a frnceoence, and look what happens. Thanks to Bob for keeping an eye on things.Curt the earth's magnetic field is generated by convection in the outer core. That would happen regardless of whether the Earth is rotating or not (although the earth's rotation does affect the shape of the field, because it affects the pattern of convection). But the Earth keeps right on rotating when the magnetic field goes through one of it's more random phases that's the primary reason why it eventually becomes dipolar (like a bar magnet) again, although sometimes with the opposite polarity. Basically, reversals are all about processes that are going on in the core not the rest of the Earth, which really doesn't care what the magnetic field looks like.Tawny as I say in my post, my theory' is that nothing particularly out of the ordinary is happening, with the die-offs or the magnetic field, whatever the buzz around these events. And whilst our extraction of oil is obviously having significant effects on the earth's atmosphere and oceans they are but a thin veneer on a very very big planet. Our drilling barely scratches the surface.

    March 4, 2012 at 2:02 am |
  9. Sandy

    I agree with Roger, the reason that there is wars isn't besuace there are religions' but besuace there are people though certainly different ideologies promote different means. Forgive me I only have a passing glance of Obama's START 1 apporach towards nuclear weapons, but would we want to get rid them complete? At a debate in Britain, David Lange was asked about the peace that we live in cast by the shadow of nuclear weapons, to which he quipped I can almost smell the uranium now! As witty as he was, he didn't address the issue. At the time U.S.S.R. had both the means and motivation to invade western Europe, and effectively had a hegemony of conventional military capacities. Certainly a primary reason why they didn't besuace the Allies had a first-strike policy, whereas the U.S.S.R. had would only retaliate. This cannot be ignored in regards to why they didn't invade, why besuace they would get nuked! My point is that war is due to human nature, it is merely a coercive means to achieving an end, which is no longer practical in its traditional format due to Mutually Assured Destruction. If one considers that humanity has demonstrated its intrinsic peacefulness, reality does not reflect this. I personally would not advocate the total disarmament of nuclear weapons in the present climate, reduction certainly.But if humanity is so peace why wouldn't we and please remember that the U.S.S.R. was Atheistic, this is not a slur at them but merely a reminder that Atheists are people too. Harmony is easy when we are all getting along, but it considered that if we run out of oil then social disorder would ensure. Who knows, this happened in Cuba but choas didn't ensue however Cuba does not hyper-individualistic worldview.Why is it that Atheists and Theists so slanderous towards each other? I believe that it is human nature. Remember that the brain in a vat experiment is a nice example that shows that what we believe we like to believe is true. If X believes A and Y believes B, and their positions conflict reconciliation of this conflict IS played out one way or another, clearly the degree of saliency of a difference will vary. Consider, people love to praise the virtue of the golden rule, reap what you say, karma, what goes around comes around and so on, but do unto to others as you would have done unto you, tends to devolve into do unto to others as is done to you. An eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth, WOAH!!! Suggest this and prepare for a lynching, yet isn't this merely a negative expression of doing unto others as you would have done to you though frowned upon besuace there are better ways. And there are, but when those other ways fail, well Oh a side note to apparently an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth meant no more than an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth, which makes it quite logical. I forgot to confirm it with the person who told me, a Philosophy lecturer but it did seem quite convenient, but I keep forgetting to get around to it. Can anyone shed light on this?

    March 3, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  10. Rezky

    Thanks for your posting. When I was a neteager in Oklahoma, it was just a given that everyone attended church and that our town was (and yes, I’m quoting a huge billboard on Highway 81 which is probably still there today) “Jesus Country.” Nobody thought much of religions other than Christianity; as was obvious by our public school pledge—which admonished us all to be good Christian citizens… Sure, I had questions too, but our church was pretty low-key so I was safe from some of the more radically-minded (read: brainwashed) of my peers. Nevertheless, I sang the hymns, recited various Creeds with the utmost reverence, but without qualifications or introspection. It was just the way things were… I thought. Actually, my favorite thing about church was playing/listening to music for the service and hanging out with friends and family.Fast forward to the present… I haven’t gone to church in years. Since moving to the east coast, I have opened my eyes to the fact that (with God) there’s more than one way to fillet a fish; so to speak. I am reading the Upanishads… for fun! I find spiritual fulfillment in walking through a park or reading any good book . I flat out don’t believe in several parts of the Bible (including such favorites as the story of Adam and Eve, divinely inspired plagues and infanticide in Exodus, man’s supposed superiority over women, etc.). Paradoxically, however, I am more spiritual than I’ve ever been in my life; tending to dwell on the optimistic side, being thankful for… just about everything; which leaves little room for spiteful gods. I still read the Bible, but I keep a mountain of Morton’s close by. Many of the teachings of Jesus still inspire me deeply… far more than the melodramas and tasteless wafers which have followed.Admittedly, as parents we’ve had some uneasiness—when it comes to what to tell our kids about religion. We try to keep it simple, but will encourage them (when they get a bit older) to explore the faiths of the world and decide for themselves.Keep searching and asking!Notice the stars at night and imagine how vast everything is… listen to the works of the master musicians and read the words of the authors you revere and know that only through questioning and discernment were they able to bring creativity to work. Most of all, listen to yourself. You speak the truth to you.

    March 2, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  11. Papu

    I just tuhgoht you should know, that you're not alone. As a christian I struggle having to hear the bad name some people give to other christians. Not only is it annoying a lot of the time but it's also very discouraging. I'm glad that you mention you don't think all christians are haters or judgemental. I don't ever want to be that way. I'd like to apologize for the people that stray from the true meaning of christianity. I know most of them are ignorant or cruel but some have truly just forgotten God's message and have made it into whatever fits them at the time. Maybe one day they'll remember what christianity is supposed to be. How can: Because people used the Bible to justify the housewife position, women only existed to serve their husbands and procreate. They could not do ‘a man’s job’. Perhaps that is why our country was founded on the principle of women not being allowed to vote for their own president, they didn’t have as much going on up in their heads as men. Then the Bible was used to defend slavery. There are extensive topics regarding the subject, all pointing to the absolute obedience of a slave to his master. White supremacy ruled over our nation and churches did nothing to stop the vast injustice. happen to people that are truly godly. Well first of all they're not truly godly and it's kind of like what happened to David when he slept with another man's wife. He forgot about God for a moment and everything fell apartI thank you for not being predjudiced against christians as i hear a lot about how terrible of a thing christianity is now a days. Maybe the world that God imagined will happen someday.That'll be when everyone loves their neighbor as their self. Its not the golden rule for nothing XD

    March 2, 2012 at 4:56 am |
  12. Francisco

    Posted on Maybe wvinaeg the strips next time instead of sewing them?? And then sewing a strip around the edges for a type of piping.I agree with Marge: if it's a success with your kid, then it's not a craftfail. I have some hideous pillows that I made out of old t-shirts. (Note to self: dayglo orange and purple are NOT a good combination.) My daughter loves to sleep with them because the shirts are worn and super soft.Thank goodness it's dark in her room. :)

    March 1, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  13. Misty

    I love to hear the preaching of JosephPrince.com. He shares what the Ark of the Covenant means from the old testament
    and how it is tied to Jesus. Some preachers on TV are really after Gods own heart.

    February 1, 2012 at 5:50 am |
  14. Misty

    The difference between a believer of Christ and an unbeliever is : the believer realizes his life is covered by God's
    Grace and the unbeliever does not recognize it yet. Both are covered. The believer can live his /her life knowing
    he/she is loved by God. The unbeliever has not learned to accept how much God loves him/her. When one truly
    believes he/she is loved by God, his thinking will be different, and will strive be a better person. An example of God's
    love is like a child who rebels against his parent, gets into trouble, the parent again shows love for the child, the child
    then realizes how much the parent loves him/her and then tries to be a better person. The parent has always loved
    the child, it is the child who needs to recognize it.

    February 1, 2012 at 5:42 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.