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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.

[youtube= http://youtu.be/1IAhDGYlpqY]

“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. MS 29

    I havent yet had an opportunity to view this video and i think im looking forward to seeing it. One comment in the above story said that this guys views were simplistic and dangerous. Doesnt religion realize it has grown too serious and complicated to do any good. Simply put, Be a good man/woman. In doing so be good to others and put them ahead of yourself...Those two simple rules make the following that much easier to achieve... Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you... Not everyone will be for you but dont die away and shut yourself up in a tomb to be solitary. Its more of a reason to put yourself and your thoughts out there to be heard(Crucifixion and resurrection metaphor intended)

    January 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  2. Chris H

    I think the reason why this is so popular is because the underlying message is heartfelt...but the overall message is confusing. Jesus is bigger than religion? Umm.. JESUS is religion. So while I applaud his great spoken word... it really doesn't make any sense.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Wayshower

      Jesus was a teacher, he is not a religion. Man made Jesus' into a religion that started out with good intentions but has now been twisted into something else.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  3. Aezel

    So he's smart enough to see how dumb religion is but he still thinks there's a pretend invisible friend in the sky........

    FAIL.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Follower of paul

      if you do not believe then why do you care what is said or written,. So many rant and rave, about what someone has wriitten about their belief in jesus, and others write how foolish it all is. If they do not care or belive, why even argue a point that they do not believe. Sounds like to me they just need to argue to themselves a truth, that they beieve but want admit.. Their truth or belief is theirs, but they want everyone else to belive what they think, they want you to agree with them, so they can be right. They argue that point so much, they argue it to much, to be right.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Follower: Ask Santorum or the Taliban why I fear that religion will become the law of the land. It supercedes logical thinking and subjugates reason in the name of man's interpretation of God's law.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • boarddog

      You're OPINION only

      January 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  4. Canadain

    a bit like saying "I hate Drugs but I love Drug dealers"
    take it that tiny step further and admit that , common sense, and the pursuit of evidence based truth feel a lot better than dark-age myth.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Reasonably

      I believe you have it exactly backwards: he likes the drug (religion), but hates the dealers (established curch).

      January 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Canadain

      No, The Drug / opiate of the masses is Religion. The Original dealer of this brand (Christianity) was .. you guessed it! Jesus..

      or more probably the creeps that wrote the scriptures as there is little evidence of an actual "Jesus" ever existing.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • kyle

      Yes, mix your quotes for optimal effect. Religion and Jesus are the same, they teach the same, the difference is Jesus is like a doctor prescribing medication to make you well, religion is the kid selling his medications to his friends at school to get high.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  5. lolwut

    I hate Greek Mythology, but love Hercules.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Anon

      One day in the distant future Christianity will be in the same vein as Greek mythology.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • lolwut

      It already is for me, along with everything else.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  6. justathought

    I believe, that Jesus did not want to abolish religion. He said it himself, when he said i came to continue the laws and not change them. What good are books and students without teachers and schools. Religion is needed to keep the flock in the right path. If you say how do they know what's the right path? You will only know that once you know your bible. The church and religion are there to complement that. Remember: You are the rock and on this rock i will build my church. That what Jesus told St. Peter. I also believe that this is an attack on Jesus himself. Ofcourse the singer will not state that, but when you wanna attack someone, you attack what's around them first. In this case: The Church. This person want to sound innocent and welcoming but i am sorry to say, when i saw his video, all i could remember was the wolf in sheep clothes.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Clarify

      You are correct in the original intent but the majority of churches no longer LIVE as a Christian community such as the first churches. I would say that most nonbelievers could walk into a church today and see the members living a life no different than the rest of the world.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Wayshower

      Jesus' True teaching is that the TRUE CHURCH of every man is in that man's heart. That is what Christianity of today is missing. The true meanings of Jesus' teachings. Christianity of today deals more with doctrine of what the Bible says rather than with the True Love teachings of Jesus who said to be self sacrificing. That is what Jesus' message was when he let himself be crucified. Laying your life down for your fellow man is what will create world peace. As long as we are at odds over controlling each other with beliefs, financial situations, and such, we will war forever.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • MS 29

      I havent seen the video yet but reading what you wrote and some of the quotes from the video. Do you believe that organized religion is right at this moment. that they build huge expensive churches and fail to take care of the weaker of their flocks. understand i am not saying all churches are this way. remember that jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their sinful higher than though lives. Also as far as being a teacher Jesus taught through example using his actions as well as parables to illustrate the right path. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" I have always took this to mean that the way to god is through walking in Jesus's footstep or following his example. not judging as we have no place to judge but accepting and sharing our ideas and thoughts in fellowship.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  7. Qualia

    I think you should watch the viral He Man, "What's Up?" parody instead.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  8. coder

    as long as man claims to know the will of any god – humans are in danger

    January 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  9. Test

    @Anon

    Your broken record stimulates nothing intelligent in anyone. You're a totem for hate.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  10. svann

    There have been far more secular wars than religious. American revolution, US civil war, US v spain, korea, vietnam, yemen, syria, US v Iraq 2x, Iran v Iraq, Russia v Chechnya, darfur 03-2010, US v panama, somalia, russia v afghanistan, khmer rouge, indonesian revolution 1945, paraguayan civil war 1947, etc etc etc

    January 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Patriarchae

      Funny that all of those wars take place in a relatively modern timeframe. You seem to be forgetting the thousands of years beforehand when religion was the only reason you needed for war. Religious atrocities FAR outweigh secular atrocities and wars.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Never in the course of history has there been so much blood spilled as that in the name of God.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Joe T.

      There will always be wars. The only difference between any of them is what trick is used on people to get them to support bloodshed.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  11. Reasonably

    Honor, integrity and treating others with proper respect should be universal truths, not something we need a book or leader to tell us to do. Those values should be passed down from generation to generation in families and communities. Why do we need a myth or legend to tell us those values are correct?

    January 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  12. peick

    Why are we so anti-establishment when it comes to religion? Jesus was certainly against hypocrisy and an empty faith, but he never said the temple was bogus or that people shouldn't follow Jewish religious practices in his day. Christians believe he fulfilled the Jewish law, but he did not abolish it. Be careful about taking spiritual direction from an undisciplined young person who just doesn't like to be under authority. The Bible clearly sets up authority for the good of the church.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Wayshower

      But see this type of thinking is exactly why people are so anti-religious today, and why so many are turning away from organized religion. Jesus never had a church, he brought the Truth to this world in a way that Christianity is not being taught. Mainly, his message to Man was that we all should be self-sacrificing to each other for our world to be at Peace. He never said that a religion should be the authority of the land. When Catholicism took the teachings of Jesus, and "cleaned" it to fit the Christianity of today, the true teachings of Jesus were lost.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • asche

      because establishments get abused by the inhabitants and they become corrupt and even dangerous to those who show up and put trust in them. happens with ALL 'establishments'.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • J-Not-JC

      I'm not religious and my spirituality is not anything close to the norm, but I'd just love it more people thought like this guy. We might actually understand each other, and be kind to each other as part of the bargain..

      January 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Joe T.

      So you don't agree with Christianity that Jesus abolished the old Jewish law? Does that mean that you are not opposed to stoning women who get rap ed and don't scream?

      January 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • kyle

      Matt 19:17
      And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

      Guess what those commandments are? Everything in the old testament! Deut 13:18 " because you obey the LORD your God by keeping all his commands that I am giving you today and doing what is right in his eyes."

      Better clean out your pantry and get your stoning rocks ready.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • J-Not-JC

      "Do as you would be done by". A pretty smart guy espoused that as a Golden Rule, and it is tough to dispute..

      January 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  13. Eugene

    WOW PRAISE JESUS Kirk keep it up we are all praying for you that God will use you even greather ways!

    January 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • asche

      preaching is nothing more than a different manifestation self-centered. one of the most obvious and laughable contradictions in religion.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  14. Longstreet

    If you read the Book of John, clearly, oh whatever. I've got to take a poop.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  15. Sussay

    My hope with so many people, and especially young people, challenging the religion paradigm is that rational discourse will emerge about how we govern ourselves.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  16. DefyTheGods

    I'm an atheist, and I love this video!

    January 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Anon

      At least point out the obvious contradictions.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  17. Leah

    “What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?”

    I would think I'm about to be sold the Religion-Lite Version of the Good News (TM).

    January 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Love is Greatest

      Religious is what the Pharisees and Scribes were, we are called to be Followers of Christ.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • lolwut

      that sounds more cultish than anything.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  18. Gwendolyn

    When I failed and sinned, I was spewed out by the 'holy". Hyeah, right. If they'd helped me, I would not have become Muslim for over 5 years. I never wanted anything to do with their plastic Jesus again. Now, I am back to worshipping God and Jesus as his son. No thanks to the evangelicals. NO, it took the LDS to care enough about me to persue me. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Patriarchae

      So what you're saying is that they brainwashed your obviously fragile mind.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Reasonably

      So, for you, it was all about you to begin with? You wanted a religion to persue you (thus creating your self-value)?

      January 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Joe T.

      The LDS is a cult. They prey on weak-minded people. They pursued you because you were an easy target.

      I know this kind of stuff from experience. I managed to escape a cult. I just hope you will get past their brain-washing techniques and see the man behind the curtain pulling the strings. I hope you see this before you waste years of your life for a group that would throw you in the gutter the moment you decided to stop believing what they believe.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  19. Wayshower

    I like his message. The man is speaking sense in a world of bitter people on both sides of belief and non-belief. One thing I've noticed on these boards, is that you can say the most positive thing in the world that speaks of man loving each other no matter what you believe, and there will still be diehard atheists, or diehard religious people who will condemn that person.

    Atheists have become so anti-religion that they themselves, ironically have become "fanatical" in pushing their belief of "No Belief in God". You can barely say that you are even spiritual but non-denomination without someone biting your head off saying that you are crazy for believing in anything that can't be scientifically proven, etc.

    Strong religious believers will condemn someone who speaks about spirituality in a "Universal" manner if the spiritual belief doesn't follow what their religion has taught them.

    So in a sense, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. I have seen a great distaste of people hating each other based on their beliefs or non-beliefs that goes against the very fabric of why we exist. If you are going to hate each other, and not let people believe, or disbelieve what they want to, then we will NEVER get along and will war with each other forever.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • DrewNYC

      There are plenty of Atheists like myself who are respectful towards religious people as long as they offer the same courtesy. Unfortunately the loudest (on both sides) are the ones who get noticed. There are much more mellow and respectful people than there are arrogant people.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • J-Not-JC

      Both comments are great. And if you wish me to be loud in my respect of others, I will be so.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  20. Clarify

    Amen, Jefferson! Something many of us have been saying for years! Most of my friends do not call ourselves "christian's" since most in the world are in name only. We are followers of Christ.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
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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.