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. Patriarchae

    This is such a stupid and inane video, pandering to the clueless sheep. Religion and Jesus are inseparable. Jesus FOUNDED the Catholic Church, according to Church doctrine. If you follow the teachings of Jesus (the bible) you are also following the Church's doctrine. Just goes to show how mindless many Christians are.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Fersh

      Agreed. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. How can he say Jesus hates religion?

      January 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Alfonzo Muchanzo

      Hahahaha or how you don't have the slightest clue what you're talking about, yet you claim others are the ones uninformed. Your stupidity is laughable.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • VirgoNightingale

      Um, no, Jesus did not found Christianity. St. Paul and his disciples.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Joe T.

      You said it yourself. That's according to church doctrine. That doesn't mean that is how it is.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • gera

      "those who have ears let them hear" Matthew 11:15 You just don't get it.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Huh?

      Jesus never said "I am here to relieve you of sin and found a new religion". If you look at his life and teachings all he was trying to do is make the world a better place, it was man who took his teachings and decided that treating others how you want to be treated is not good enough, we need to make this formal. Jesus does not equal christianity, if anything it is the other way around (and man of course screwed that up!). your wrong.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • J.W

      I take it you are a former Catholic. Only Catholics believe that Jesus founded the Catholic church

      January 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • sheepiam

      Do a little more research on who founded the Catholic church, please. Romans founded it long after Jesus' death and resurrection. You just proved his point perfectly. All organized religions have been founded by men and taken the Word of God with their own interpretation and used it to gain power, promote hatred, and justify wars. Jesus did not start or stand for any of this. man does. And they do it in God's name and call it religion. All the poet was saying is that we have continuously gotten lost in ceremonies and rules and passionate debate over right and wrong and lost the message. Jesus didn't come to establish a world dominating organization. He came to free us from that and from our bondage to sin and teach us how to live. Hate religion (man's invention) Love Jesus (the cure).

      January 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  2. karen

    I don't understand how it can be said that Jesus hated religion when he made it a custom to go to the temple (Jewish temple) every Sabbath. He debated and read the holy books within the temple. If Jesus hated religion then why did He go to temple?

    I also don't understand how you can hate religion and not risk hating people. The two are closely linked. I think the word "hate" is thrown aroud too easily these days. You can disagree with people, even deeply, but I don't understand why we must easily go towards "hate."

    If you hate something or someone, it is much easier to do harm. We must tread carefully.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Snap

      The bible does show that it was Jesus' custom to attend temple on the sabbath. But if you'll notice, the only group of people who actually got angry with were the religious leaders. He honored the poor woman who gave her only two pennies to the temple as offering, but despised the money given by those who would stand in public places and pray loudly, so that all could hear. From these stories and more I also think Jesus was against organized religion and what the priests had turned the church into. However when he looked at the church, he saw what his father intended it to be, and through faith looking forward was able to attend a true church of the heart, one that existed only because of his faith, and therefore attending it would refresh his soul. (disclaimer, I don't believe the Bible was written by God, or is completely accurate.)

      January 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Mark

      To Karen,

      Your question was "If Jesus hated religion then why did He go to temple?"
      Answer: Jesus went to the temples not because of religion but because that was where lots of Jews could be found meeting together. Jesus wanted to proclaim the gospel to many as he could so what better place then a temple. That's why Paul always started teaching in temples, so he could have the biggest audience available to proclaim the gospel to. One more thing concerning Jesus and religion. Remember it was because of religion that Jesus's own people could not see he was Lord even though the entire Old Testament is about him. It was the Gentiles who saw him as Lord and recognized him as the Messiah.

      As far a religion and Christianity goes people in this day are extremely confused because the two concepts have been blurred together. Religion is a set rules, traditions, rituals, beliefs, and doctrines. Christianity is a relationship with Christ. That's where the confusion comes in. Just because you belong to a religion doesn't mean you have a relationship with Christ. There are many people out there that belong to a religion because there is something that is missing in their lives. People can't easily accept that our salvation is provided to us through the Grace of God. They think that you have to work for it or be always doing something, or following some religious doctrine to keep it. Paul wrote in Romans 10:8-10, "8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”(that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

      Now I ask you Karen where do you see that we must do anything else but "confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead" in order to be saved? So I say we must lose our RELIGION and follow CHRIST alone. We don't need RELIGION tell us what to do and how to do it. We need to look to the FATHER, SON, and HOLY SPIRIT along with the KNOWING WHAT IS WRITTEN IN THE BIBLE to find how we should live and what to do..

      January 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Mark

      To SNAP,

      You said, "(disclaimer, I don't believe the Bible was written by God, or is completely accurate.)" That statement alone tells me that you not really read the Bible from cover to cover. And if you have, well my dear friend I would start asking yourself if you are really saved." Because the Bible is the INSPIRED WORD OF GOD.

      Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Paul also wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:14, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

      January 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  3. Frank

    Organized religions have gone astray from their original teachings for the most part. This young man is simply expressing that for all of us. True spirituality is within your soul, between you and your heart. Your actions speak much louder than words. All the mystics and enlightened teachers speak the same truth, love is the answer. Call it compassion or empathy or forgiveness, that matters not. Those are just labels. We are all one being. The illusion is separateness. Put aside judging and get back to loving. There's no time for hate. Heaven can be here on earth if we love each other as we would like to be loved. Peace.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  4. Jessica

    And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
    in this way must the SON OF MAN be lifted up
    in order that everyone believing might have in him life eternal,
    for in this way God loved the world;
    and so God gave the only Son
    in order that everyone believing in him might not perish; rather, might have life eternal,
    for God did not send the Son into the world
    in order that he might judge the world;
    rather, in order that the world might be saved through him. John 14-17

    January 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • LOL

      OK.. You can quote a 2000 year old book. Great! It still speaks of supernatural beings in the sky somewhere. Am I supposed to get something out of it?

      January 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Test

      " It still speaks of supernatural beings in the sky somewhere"

      is that some kind of atheist mantra?

      January 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Test – well, in fairness, it is kind of the first of many ridiculous things that jumps out at someone looking at religion.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  5. gggg

    The statement is simple. It's not God I have a problem with, it's his fan club.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • PleaseUseLogic

      I believe that's my favorite bumper sticker. "Dear God, Save Me From Your Followers!"

      January 20, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  6. Charles Sabella

    If there was no "religion or Church" we would not know the first thing about Jesus. Two thousand years of scholarship, prayer, and lived lives can't be ignored, which this very superfical way of thinking reflects.

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

      2,000 years of wasted lives and time. Imagine if all that time spent studying a fiction book were spent on concrete moral, political, scientific, social, ethical...etc. pursuits.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • jeff ollerich

      Are you serious?!! scholarship?!? wow.....there is no scholarship in that book of hate. If thats the word of God it displays 'him' as a rambling jealous insane patriarchal bigot. Nuff said.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • kenny

      actually 2k years should be seen for what they were.... men killing each other in the name of their religion, while keeping the good teachings alive, but tweaking them to fulfill their own personal desires of wealth and power. So should the "church" who represents the good and bad be kept around? I say no, we don't need them anymore. Follow the words that are good and don't give power or money to the so called "leaders" of faith.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  7. Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

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

    More like "Religion is man-created and Jesus is, well, man-created"

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

      Hahah this is very true. People are too ignorant to see it though

      January 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  8. svann

    I dont usually watch cnn videos, but this was worth it. Far more meaning than in the textual article. He is mistaken that religion caused most wars (do a count before you argue it), but spot on with everything else.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • God

      He doesn't say religion caused most wars, just that it's caused many... which is completly true.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • JC

      I counted as you suggested and religion easily wins, no contest.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  9. Dr bill Toth

    A common perspective for youth throughout time. The tune changes when those youth have their own children and begin to look for guidance as to rearing them. I am very happy the video has ignited passions and discussions regarding one,s faith and beliefs. Live with intention, drbilltothCom/blog

    January 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  10. lip

    It's Obama's fault!!! What are we talking about again?

    January 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • gera

      "those who have ears let hear" Matthew 11:15 You just don't get it.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Well gee gera, why didn't your god give him ears that can tune into the crazy channel?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  11. GAW

    I want to make a video "Why I hate dairy products but love cheese"

    January 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  12. debbie

    religion is NOT a relationship with Jesus!! Jesus wants a relationship with us, not our 'religion'. religion only makes us feel good, like we're doing something worthy of His love. if you know God, you know Jesus because Jesus IS God! ....and beware..the devil would like for you to believe otherwise.......

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

      When he wants a relationship he supposedly knows where to find me. But since he is so full of crap I'm not sure I want a relationship with a delusional idiot anyway. I've had friends with mental illness before. It's rather a pain in the ass.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      He says he wants a relationship but he never returns my calls.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Canadain

      Psychological not Supernatural !

      January 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Watcher

      More fairt tales. I find it funny that people believe in fairy tales. Let me get this stright. No contact from God until Moses goes to Mount Sinai, then tousands of years later Jesus appears and now for 2000+ years nothing. Not to mention that no other side of the earth has a Jesus or otherwise visting them from God. Now for the real message: I want your money!

      January 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  13. bnb42


    I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. Mohandas K Gandhi

    January 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  14. rockysfan

    Love it! Love it! Love it! Could not have done a better job myself. I've been going down the same path also. Kudos to you for doing this! THANIK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  15. mary

    Followers of Christ? How can that be? We do not know what Christ said or did. We only know what was written about him years after he "died" How can there be followers of Christ (which by the way is not his last name). That's man made too.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • David

      We know that it is Yeshua the annointed one...did you research its meaning.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Yes, did you research the made-up "meaning" and realize it's all bullshlt yet? Because you really oughta.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Denverian

      DUH! CHRIST is not "his last name" Christ means Messiah.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Who Is James?

      The fact is, the whole New Testament was written within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. For example John Kennedy was assassinated 48 years ago. If today I were to write that Kennedy rose from the dead there are too many people still living who would repudiate. The same is true for the gospel accounts.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Last Call

      The difference is Christians believe in the RESURRECTION. Old Testament prophecy points to Jesus and the reason he died. One powerful example is Isaiah 53:5.
      But he was pierced for our transgressions,
      he was crushed for our iniquities;
      the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
      and by his wounds we are healed.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Enyinna

      actually the old testament was written before he was born and the new by people that were with him while he was alive

      January 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  16. came to abolish religion?

    Then I'm not sure why "he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers". (Ephesians 4:11) Sounds like an organized religion if you ask me.

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

      Letter from Paul?

      Paul != Jesus

      Who do you worship again?

      January 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Bruce

      There is nothing whatsoever organized about a prophet...

      January 20, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Who Is James?

      Those are ministry gifts not offices!

      January 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Denverian

      if you don't know why, you should've continue reading... Ephesians 4:12 says "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (KJV)

      January 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  17. Bruce

    It doesn't really matter what he believes, what you believe, what I believe, or by what name he calls this "Jesus" guy. The only thing that really matters is whether or not all that stuff about Jesus' death and resurrection is *true*.

    The truth is not affected by our opinions, or by the inaccuracies of our beliefs. If all that stuff about Jesus is actually true and I don't believe a word of it, I am no less-saved by Jesus' actions. If all that stuff about Jesus is false and I believe every word of it, I am no-less not-saved by Jesus' inaction or even Jesus' non-existence.

    People think WAY too much of themselves and of their opinions and thoughts. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter one whit.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  18. bob

    People who say this kind of thing are arrogant. They're basically saying that their brand of piety is superior and so deserves to be called by some other name than what it really is: religion.

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

      Oh, like the other organized religions of this world didn't? Personal beliefs are just that, PERSONAL. Don't see a church or statue being erected now do ya? Speaking of arrogant and superiority....just sayin.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  19. James Romer

    "LATUS AB DEUM " Lets rise and show ourselves. It is time. Show the world your strength and numbers. We will rise from the ashes and bring a new era. "FRATERNITATIS SURGERE"

    January 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  20. brett

    this is great. organized religion is usually dangerous. it really has nothing to do with the teachings of jesus because if it was there wouldn't be all the pomp. In all the stories i know of jesus, he hated organized religion that was set to control the masses and yes that is what we have today. I am a chrisian, believe in jesus, but also believe in many ways to god, not just one, but im beginning to hate organized expression of religion. but i also believe that jesus/god will be ok with that because i don't need a church to act as intermediary, i can have a personal relationship with jesus.

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

      besides the fact that Jesus said....I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE, NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER BUT THROUGH ME!!! what part of that don't you want to believe or do you only believe bits n pieces of what He said!!

      January 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      Only problem is that it's all BS.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • gayjesus

      I hope your relationship doesn't involve inappropriate touching.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • colin

      Im a Christian as well. I strongly suggest you to check and study the Bible, not follow your opinions. You claim to know of Christ but not his teachings. Christ even said, "I am the way, the truth, and the Light. No one comes to father except through me." It's not multiple paths to God. There is only one path. Hope you will challenge in what you believe and know, just as I will.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • JohnR

      There are many paths. Most are ineffectual at best, including following Jesus.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Bahareh

      Praise Lord Jesus!! I loved this video. I truly expresses what Lord's Son came here to do. To anyone who thinks otherwise, they should read Matthew and Acts in the New Testemant. I used to be Muslim and I am a new Christian. When I hear the words of hate and judgment, it reminds me of myself when I was Muslim. I was blind and bound by religion and laws that enslave you and bound you to human-made rules, which means never being able to be with God since everything you do will put you in hell, and whatever you do isn't ever good enough. Now I have learned that with my faith in Him, my sins are forgiven, providing that I pray to him to firgive me and to confess my wrongdoings. I am still growing and have so much to learn and improve, but with the Lord's Grace I know I will!!!

      May His love and grace touch your hearts and may He reveal his Glory to you just like he did to me and so many of my friends.


      January 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • fred

      The church serves a great pupose as individuals need a small group of close friends that are believers and then a larger group for community. Even the communists knew the basic way to break anyone down is isolation. It is church and community that has the power to stand up against the well organized forces of labor, politics, militants etc. On your own you are dead.
      Jesus did more than speak He was an example for us. Note that Jesus had 12 close apostles and 70 not a close disciples in the New Testement. Jesus spoke to gatherings and at "churches". The model after Jesus resurection was a small group ministering (see Romans 12) to the needs of each other and then larger church meetings. Nothing in the Bible is there by accident.
      Now, if your church is not doing as the Bible called out then find a new one. If you are involved in a church I would recommend going on LOTE.org and check out R12 it is a great program to launch at your church.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Ironicus

      I take exception to the 14 billion number, which has changed quite a few times already, but agree with your sentiment.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
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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.