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. Yikes

    This is not news.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  2. karen

    Good for him....I think he's refreshing.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  3. mabel

    religion is the root of all evil

    January 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  4. RealHistoryX

    Jesus, if returned today, would treat current church leadership in similar fashion to the Pharisees. He was a revolutionary, an extremist. Religion is purely of man and one's PERSONAL relationship with God is not a religion. Similar to that whole "spiritual but not religious" debate.

    Personally, I think church leadership only finds in dangerous because of the control and wealth they gain by making themselves the "middleman."

    January 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  5. Independent_me

    I totally agree with the young man! My father was a Preacher who eschewed organized religion for the reasons this young man outlines. I love Jesus, live my life for Him as best as I am able, bit I will have nothing to do with organized religion – especially since it is so closely aligned with the Republican Party. Jesus was all about the poor, love and compassion. The Republican party is all about the rich, guns and division...and, incredibly, is supported by "evangelical leaders". I run as far away as I can from organized religion!

    January 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • RealHistoryX

      Well said. Live with love and compassion.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Great Grandma

      To: Independent me.....

      Agree 100%. We (true Believers), need to "BE" the example...."walk the talk": you know what I mean. There's a whole lot that we can do........because of "hate". So, let's do a whole lot... because of "LOVE"! The end of the story...LOVE!

      January 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  6. Robinho70

    Great video! Jesus summed it all up in this way: Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

    Seems like bigotry and hatred that many cite in their comments about the bible are simply false. God Bless

    January 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • kyle

      The problem is religion is based on the bible which is not reliable. Mixed messages that are incompatible so people simply pick and choose what they want to follow. Here is an example.

      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 2:04 pm |
    • Patriarchae

      The bigotry and hatred are false? HA, have you even read your own bible? Both the New and Old testaments contain astounding levels of moral corruption.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • RealHistoryX


      January 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  7. Mr. Magoo

    Atheists are the true deluders
    They stand for nothing and post angrily behind their computers
    They love their evil ways
    And will refuse God until the end of days
    They claim to be so smart and knowing
    Yet they have no real knowledge and it's painfully showing
    They are the biggest hypocrites of all
    While claiming they're the opposite is their biggest downfall
    I do not wish them harm, only that they will find Him
    For the love and peace He brings, will never end.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Patriarchae

      We stand for science, peace, and logic, which is more than can be said of you.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • lolwut

      Pray for us, it works right??

      January 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Bruce

      Patriachae, do you deign to speak for all atheists with your "we"? LOL.

      And we only stand for peace when it's convenient. Everybody stands for peace until they want to go to war.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      I've never deluded anyone. I only speak facts that can be tested and verified. And theories based off of said facts. What I try to show is the fact that no god needs to exist for the universe to also exist, or for life to exist. I tell facts to show that no god is needed and because of that, belief in a his is just silly

      January 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • TransHuman1

      Mr Magoo

      Is naming yourself after a blind man a stab at irony?

      I don't hate you. I don't look down at you. I simply don't agree with you. I don't believe in spiritual powers, gods, and the like – and that's okay. You're welcome to do so. That's fine, too.

      I _do_ resent you posting things like you just did.

      Condemning strangers who don't follow your beliefs, but wrapping it in that BS of "hate the sin, love the sinner" That's false, a lie, hypocracy: you just like to judge others. I recommend you yank the beam for your own eye, before you attempt to criticize what you think _may_ be a mote in mine.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Go die in a fire, herbie.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Independent_me

      Your arrogant poem shows exactly why religious people are so anti-Christ. However...I must remember that Christ died for you also...

      January 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  8. JMonty

    Non-denominational Christianity is still a religion. They are often times networked and follow the same dogmas. That's called "organization" genius. Also, notice the article references the line about building huge churches while not feeding the the poor but doesn't mention the part about salvation coming thru faith and not works. Hypocrisy much? I took the whole thing as an anti-Catholic/anti-Mega Church rant. Eloquent guy, though, so props for that.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  9. P7

    Question - by all of these nondenominational churches popping up everywhere, aren't they inadvertently creating a form of religion themselves? Why can't we just say we're people of faith and leave it at that? Even atheists have faith. Faith is the believe in something that cannot be proven. No one can physically/scientifically/literally prove the existence of a God...but at the same time, no one can disprove it either...

    January 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • jason price

      The problem with your argument is that there is nothing to prove with atheism. Why do atheists have to prove that god exists. If I told you I had super powers but I'm not going to show you them, you can choose to believe or not, but onus is on me to prove to you that I do. How could you prove that I don't. The same goes with god. How would an atheist ever prove that god doesn't exist. My answer would be, the atheist doesn't need to, for there is no reason to believe in the first place. For the record, I'm agnostic.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:13 pm |

    wow this guy is delusional... he does make a lot of good points but saying you hate religion but love the bible, the biblical stories, and Jesus is just plane silly. they are one in the same, religion created Jesus!

    January 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  11. Spearwielder

    “I mean if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?”

    Sadly, people start wars. Always have and always will. Religion is just one excuse among many to start them, and (historically) not the deadliest.

    “Why does it build huge churches but fail to feed the poor?”

    Look up the statistics on who donates to charities, including those that feed the poor, and what organizations are actively feeding the poor. Then we can talk.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Just as it is people who start wars, it is people who help other people.
      We do not require religion to have empathy for others, just oxytocin.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  12. marisstella

    In the words of G. K. Chesterton, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It's that it has been tried and found difficult."

    January 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • kevin j. omlor

      perfect analysis

      January 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Total bullshlt. Christianity is so much crap and you are full of it.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Independent_me

      Good point!
      As long as arrogant people feel that they can and should dictate how people experience and practice their religion, it will continue to be difficult. We can simplify it by simply loving our neighbors as ourselves...

      January 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  13. clc

    Come together, make everyone come together, O nation without shame; Before the Lord sends you violently away in flight like the waste from the grain; before the burning wrath of the Lord comes on you, before the day of the Lord's wrath comes on you. Make search for the Lord, all you quiet ones of the earth, who have done what is right in his eyes; make search for righteousness and a quiet heart: it may be that you will be safely covered in the day of the Lord's wrath. wow!!! that's powerful.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  14. White Horse

    God (you can call his/her Jesus, Allah, Krishna, Budha.........) is with in each one of us and in every thing and being around us.........is within this world and the universe. How can a mortal with finite mind define INFINITY. So stop preaching this Jesus BS to others because he/she exists in each one of us.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Hmmm

      "How can a mortal with finite mind define INFINITY."

      Sounds like you think you can? Or are you not a mortal with a finite mind?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  15. Great Grandma

    I was part of "religion" for half of my life........ then, I saw it was simply another way to "control" the people.
    Jesus set me free; now, I know that I'm loved and accepted. Love is liberating: lack of love is fear... and,
    that isn't the nature of God. God is Love: total Love!

    January 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  16. thereturn

    Man does not need religion. period. full stop.

    The first mission of Christianity and Islam: inculcate fear.
    The second: create dependency.... the religion is the Middle Man.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Russ

      @ thereturn: such reductionism. Would you say the same thing about marriage? "Nothing but inculcating fear so I won't cheat, lie, etc." I guess it depends on the spouse, huh?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  17. gera

    Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life, nobody gets to the Father but though him. The only God that reaches to you to be with him, to have a personal relationship with him, to save us and not to condemn us. Glory to God in the heavens and on earth!

    January 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • White Horse

      STOP the MADNESS.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      Musing in an old book are not valid evidence for it being true, so I guess Jesus doesn't lead to truth, just leads to questions that no one can answer.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Ho Hum More Religious Nonsense.

      Hey look, everybody- A Christian writing about how Christianity is the One True Religion!!! Isn't that surprising!!! I have a question for you, Gera, and if you can actually answer it, you'll be the first of thousands I've asked. How do you KNOW what you say is true? Before you respond, please be aware that "I have faith" is an unacceptable answer. Please be aware that I am asking a specific question, and looking for a specific answer. You wrote a very specific comment, and to not be able to back it up seems somewhat irresponsible. And that's if I'm being generous.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Bad Religion

      You actually believe that??? That's like me saying I believe in Hogwarts school of magic b/c I read several books in the Harry Potter series and it changed my life and now I must profess my faith due to a HUGE lack of security and self esteem!?.... same BS and equally as foolish.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  18. Free Thinker

    Science declares that "something" cannot be created by nothing.

    No eternal being, responsible for creation = no universe.

    Science (or a look around you) declares that there is a universe.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Steve

      Ohh straw man, you are so frail.

      I completely agree, of course it was magic, just look around you!

      January 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      Ah, the first cause argument, where you posit everything has a first cause but exempt your "god" from that requirement. If you can exempt god from needing a first cause then why don't you just exempt the universe from it. What if the universe has always been here?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • dan25ny


      “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.”
      That's Hawkings speaking.

      Within the universe, something can't be created from nothing. This is not to be confused with whether the universe it self could come from nothing, a prospect top scientists are indeed considering.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • medstudent

      actually science says the universe and all it's matter have existed for eternity, however before the big bang it was in a state of zero energy. Mathematical models can take us to fractions of a second before the big bang, and the current information leads one to believe the initial event was something called a quantum fluctuation.

      Anyway long story short, if everything needs a creator, one would say god needs a creator

      if god doesn't need a creator you are admitting not everything needs a creator, you accept something can exist eternally, i.e. god.

      so you can accept an invisible super deity with human qualities existed for eternity, but saying matter existed for eternity just in a different form is somehow illogical?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • kahlesh

      what created the universe?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Free Thinker

      Science declares that the universe was created, from a single point, and expands outward from that point at an ever-increasing velocity.

      So, no, the universe is not eternal. According to science.

      The law of gravity was sewn into the fabric of creation, along with everything else. It does not pre-date it, and even if it did, gravity does nothing until there is something to be acted upon.

      It was quite laughable when he said that, actually.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Ok, then what created god?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  19. Beth

    Way to go!! Jesus didn't come to start a Religion and He was, in essence, against Religion. He came to start a Lifestyle. Jesus revolves around creating a Relationship (you wiht Him and He with you) and all Religion does is create boundaries, build walls, start unneccessary wars, and drive you further from Christ. Congrats, young man. I hope further Wisdom is poured upon you.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • kevin j. omlor

      He was NOT against religion. He came to correct man's adaptation of it.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Bruce

      "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."

      January 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      Right Jesus came to fix the imperfect creations made by a perfect being. Yahweh really sucks at getting stuff right the first time.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • medstudent

      @kevin j omlor that's actually not true at all, which is why many biblical scholars mock the hypocrisy of christians.

      If you do believe jesus existed (which is debatable at best), and you accept the bible as a true account of his "word", then any logical person (a bit of an oxymoron since belief in jesus is inherently illogical but I digress) would be able to conclude he actually despised religion.

      In fact during the biblical era, archaeological evidence shows that the bible itself simply exists because the rulers of the time chose to adapt certain aspects of folk religion and leave out others. Most commonly, dropping paegan themes for monotheistic traditions, and leaving out anything that could possibly empower women or non-"nobles" or whatever the ruling class consisted of at the time.

      In fact the original jews believed in a goddess, a matriarchal companion of yahweh (the jewish god). Those creating the written form of the religion however, left that out. It was only until archaeological findings discovered this that we even know about it today.

      The point is, religion itself (at least the monotheistic traditions) are simply the following of a 2000 year old folktale that was selectively edited by whatever the very, very few scholars of the time wanted.

      So even if a jesus did exist, or moses, or any of these so called "prophets", archaeological evidence already has shown the bible itself would most likely not resemble anything they actually said anyway.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  20. I'm Me

    I went through alot of these posts because I like to hear different views on this subject. As a Christain, I'll be honest, I didn't always look to God nor did I depend on Him. I had my doubts and all of that. I've come to the conclusion that we, as Christains, can't push our faith on people. It doesn't make anything better at all. Bad enough we have people predicting the worlds end and publicly making themselves look foolish and further doubting God in the process. TO EACH HISN OWN! If I want to believe there is God, that's on me. If you want to believe there is no God, that's on you. We'll find out one day if there is a God (or not for those who don't believe). The bible clearly states that not everyone will believe, as it also states that everyone who claims to believe will make it to Heaven (or the lack thereof for the non-believers). Either way it goes we answer for our OWN conclusions and decisions we make in life. And for all my Christains out there, we should know better than to sit here and try to judge those that do not have the same belief. "He who is without sin let him cast the first stone." = Get your own life together before you try to regulate someone else's.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • I'm Me

      Correction: The bible clearly states that not everyone will believe, as it also states that everyone who claims to believe may not make it to Heaven (or the lack thereof for the non-believers).

      January 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Bruce

      "[The Bible] also states that everyone who claims to believe will make it to Heaven."

      Ummm... no. It doesn't say this at all. Try again.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Bruce

      Oops... sorry! Thanks for correcting yourself. 🙂

      January 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Real Deal

      What makes you think that the Bible of primitive ethnocentric Middle Eastern tribesmen has unknown (and possibly unknowable) things right?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Uh, dude, the bible states lots of things. Many of them not very pretty or ethical.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:31 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.