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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. Clyde M

    Good for him. Had this been the kind of religion I'd grown up with, I might never have started to question my faith and become an atheist. I mean, I have no plan to go back now because i don't believe the claims, but what started me questioning them at all was the anger, hate, vitriol, bigotry, and hypocrisy of the churches I came up in. I wanted religion to be what this guy is saying, but had no outlet to find it.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Joe T.

      That doesn't sound like you are an atheist. Sounds more like you are anti-religion.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      You can be an atheist and an anti-theist.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Clyde M

      I am an atheist because I now lack any belief whatsoever in a god or gods.
      And I'm not necessarily anti-religion at all. In fact, there ARE atheistic religions–they are just religions that don't revolve around a god-being.

      What I'm saying was that I grew up in a religious situation that was more negative than positive. And because of that I started to question it. And because of that, over a period of years (probably a decade) my faith waned and waned until it was no more. However, had I been in a religious situation like this guy is speaking to–one that was more positive, more uplifting, more about truly bettering the now and living an upright life than being a good Sunday Christian and fearing damnation all the time–I'd probably have stayed in that faith much longer, if not still be in that faith. Once I started questioning, my atheism was inevitable. But the only reason I even began questioning to begin with was the negativity and hypocrisy of my religious experiences.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  2. Atab

    After reading several pages of the comments, I wanted to talk about the facts.

    Christianity is a religion, and is widely accept as one globally.

    While it's a separate issue, it's true that most, not at all, but most conservative (in their belief not politically) Christians do vote Republican.

    His point in bringing it up is challenging in general the origin of a persons belief, even religion, is often followed because that is what you are raised to do. Several psychological surveys site "because thats why my parents believed" as the number 1 reason people say, others believe in a religion. Which is interesting because when asked why they themselves believe, the same person says its because of true belief or intelligent design, in psychology we call this mental factual discrepancy cognitive dissonance.

    Lastly, atheists, while some are loud and obnoxious children, most atheists have researched religion extensively for clarity and the core idea is that that since science provides, falsifiable evidence for the natural world, the burden of proof rests on the religious to counter that claim. Studies show that atheists are as moral as the most most moral religious folk due to morality being linked to conviction and not christ. Biology suggests that some mammals like whiles and primates have mortality as well.
    I know we're the minority and may be hard to understand but please attempt before you cast the first stone.

    Atab

    January 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Illiterate Dude

      I....ummmmm....I.....I remember my first coment on a messerge bored also.

      Thanks,
      Dr. Wachowski.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  3. PL

    Well done, Jefferson, well done.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  4. moebar

    this is just one way that someone can bash other religions while keeping reserves for their own....

    January 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  5. "Don't quote what u don't understand"

    The bible is for Christians to understand it thru God. Maybe u are not a cChristian;
    so this could be why u are having a problem understanding it.
    Ask Jesus for help. When he does, resend your video with a correction attached.
    We are waiting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 20, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • bnb42

      are you saying you understand the bible?

      Please explain why the 10th commandment lists "Wives" as property.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • streetsmt

      If your waiting for Jesus to tell him something, don't forget to turn the light out. I'm going to bed.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  6. jemzinthekop

    Jesus seems like a cool guy, unfortunately there is not a single text that exists that provides any evidence of his existence. Even the Bible contains exactly zero eye witness accounts of this man.... and of course The Bible doesn't exist anymore either, we are simply left with two centuries of revisions and translations of translations of translations. Even the language of Jesus, Aramaic barely exists any longer.

    So yes, loving the teachings of Jesus is great.... but my 4 year old daughter can provide the same advice as can 99% of society. We all know the golden rule and we all know life is better when we share, care and respect each other.... we don't need mythological figure heads to sing the praises of those virtues. And we don't need religion to be charitable, there are thousands of secular charities in every country that distribute billions of dollars to the needy WITHOUT the stipulation of using that giving as a springboard for converting the needy to a certain way of life.

    So yes, love the teaching of Jesus, Ghandi, Buddha, Prometheus... whomever you like, but stop putting an imaginary person on a pedestal, the logic Jesus provides us is already known in the world of natural law and through our own evolution as humans. Peace be to the world.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      *edit... by centuries I meant Millenia, I must have been thinking in Creationist years.

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

      "Even the Bible contains exactly zero eye witness accounts of this man."?????? Did you mean to say this?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • aginghippy

      Very well said.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      Since CNN loves to prevent messages from being posted for reasons beyond my understanding I am not certain if this will post either. But to answer your question VanHagar, I did mean to post that. None of the Gospels were written in the time Jesus was purported to walk the earth therefor they are all hearsay. I believe the youngest of the Gospels was written 70 years after the death of Jesus with each respective other Gospel coming later and later and later. They are all stories, word of mouth, mythology and hearsay.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  7. schkheptic

    I'm not buying this guy. If what he is saying is so important he doesn't need to have that ridiculous, cheesy music in the background, or shoot it like a music video. And if he said "see because" one more time...

    January 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  8. Elitebuyer

    I dont know which book this guy is reading by you can read the Holy Quaran and it will make sense to you. Your lost you dont love yourself or the church. You have to make some video like this to get notice. Be humble and chekc it elitebuyer at long beach computer store support your small business and we will do good in america. Salam

    January 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  9. God

    The existence of god is a lie just as much as religion is. God is a product of Religion.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      I don't necessary believe that. I think most indigenous peoples gave praise and thanks to son gods long before religion ever existed. It was only when greedy and evil men realized they could exploit the reverence shown to the sun deities that religion was born. They went and associated rules of worship, cost to worship, political influence, fear of the one they worship, afterlife, sin, guilt, power and all those other horrible things that have changed simple appreciation for that which provides life and turned it into the murderous, political ideologoy machine it is today.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • What banged?

      The universe somehow sprang into existence full of 'inflationary' energy, blowing up the universe into the large, smooth state we observe today? OK.....

      January 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • yeahalright

      With some nitpicks, yes what banged that is what evidence points to. You've heard of evidence right?

      Let alone, all you are saying is that god did it...well ok where did god come from???

      January 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      Hey Whatbanged... Religion's idea of how the Universe came to be is the exact same except a singular consciousness was there before all of it. Sorry how does that make any more sense?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  10. bnb42

    Religion is based on ancient traditions based on superst.itions based on the absence of understanding. The more we learn, the more the bases crumble and so shall too traditions of old. A higher society shall rise. No more discrimination. No more hatred. No more fear. No more lies.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • DAVIDS1240

      Also no reason to live or higher purpose. Basically grown up germs. Teach people that they are animals long enough they will start to act like it. Sounds a great deal like the world today, huh?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      DAVIDS we are still in the world of the religious, bnb42 is talking about the NEXT stage of human existence in which people with your world view are pushed into the same realm as those that worshiped Zeus or Mithra. The absence of a creator does not provide a void it makes the existing world of humans, nature and all life forms sacred and things to be respected. Once we get past the notion that this world is a dress rehearsal that if we play the part good enough we will be rewarded then we can truly achieve enlightenment and peace.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  11. Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

    I like turtIes and weinerdogs :/

    January 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Ironicus

      I like hotdogs and turtlenecks.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      Thanks for hi-jacking my name, but yes, I do like weinerdogs, i have a lovely one named Gir. She's a black and white piebald with freckles on her legs.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      Who hijacked your name? Looks like you hi-jacked my name clown. Provide proof that you first posted with this name and I'll provide my proof that I've used this name since day 1. Don't you dare start flinging false insults at me doofus.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  12. Bruce

    For those Christians out there that didn't watch the video, or who watched it and ignored a message fundamental to the video, here's something you often don't see coming from Christians (which I saw in this video, and found it refreshing):

    It's not my job to find God. It's His job to find me.

    In my case, if God exists, he's doing a p1ssp00r job... 🙂

    January 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Bruce's Dad

      Bruce – I TOLD YOU TO GET OFF THE COMPUTER AND CLEAN THE HOUSE!!! I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR SHENANIGANS. YOU GO CLEAN YOUR ROOM RIGHT NOW!

      January 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Clarify

      If you didn't turn your back on Him, you just might get some "sight". How can you see Him when you've turned to look in the other direction?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Bruce

      Clarify, is He so powerless as to not be able to turn me back around, or appear on the other side of me and not stay behind me after I've turned?

      Doesn't sound so omnipotent to me. Even my wife can do that when I've turned my back on her.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  13. Christopher Hitchens

    🙁

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

      Go die in a fire, herbie, you twit.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Christopher Hitchens

      Who's herbie? That VW bug from that movie?

      I personally dont think i resemble a beetle, but to each their own I suppose Ironicus the loser.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  14. hamrose

    I like it...been saying this for years. I love God, but hate his "peeps". they all so all self righteous, they giving me the creeps. they all act like his mouthpiece, telling what he say. but i don't listen to them, that would be the day. old men and old ladies, saying it for the young. but they're time is over and what have they really done. using the bible for a weapon, clubbing others on the head. with their stale religion, worshiping the god of the dead. i talk to him straight, don't need no intercessor. all the interference, don't make the connection better.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Scott

      very stupid..Respect your elders not dawg them in your statement . People like you still do not get it. Rhyme away

      January 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Real Deal

      hamrose: "i talk to him straight, don't need no intercessor."

      Odd, that's what the 9/11 (and other terrorist suicide bombers) say also... and the Westboro folks too.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Ironicus

      hamrose! Wassup, yo!

      January 20, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  15. Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

    Let us Sing:

    God you are so good,
    But sometimes it's like what's the deal,
    You never answer your cell phone,
    and your messages are often ambiguous,
    A-men

    January 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  16. George Jetson

    Jesus would want you to vote Republican.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      unlikely, wasn't Jesus all about helping your neighbor? I don't think that's the republican platform unless your neighbors are all wealthy bankers.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • God

      Jesus helped others voluntarily. Dems use the state to force people to do the right thing.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • kristyn

      I'd bet he would prefer Socialism

      January 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • @Lilly

      Jesus would approve open marriage and vote for Newt 🙂

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

      Agreed, Lacking Evidence. However, you seem to have misunderstood Jesus. When he told people to help your neighbor, what he really meant was "Ask other people to pay higher taxes so the government can buy tanks and lavish pensions for their employees. Don't give anything yourself, because you can't brag about giving to charity. You can, however, constantly espouse your belief that the top 1% should pay more. That way people know you're generous, but you don't have to actually do anything."

      It's so annoying when dumb Republicans preach "personal responsibility" and don't even need the government to tell them to pay more money to "poor people"

      January 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • @Lilly

      Jesus would also support gay marriage and using recreational drugs 🙂

      January 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Right Brendan because you benevolent christians had solved problems like hunger and poverty until the big bad gubmint came along to try to help, which somehow made your efforts not as successful as they once were? Do you people walk around with headaches all day dealing with the cognitive dissonance of reconciling your illogic?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  17. Ironicus

    I like turtles and weinerdogs.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Test

      🙂

      January 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Hijacking my name, eh? I like turtles and weinerdogs okay. I like hotdogs and turtlenecks more.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  18. Greg

    I was very intrigued at first by what this guy had to say. Then when he started to praise "Him" and point upward, I was thrown. As someone said earlier he seems to be bashing BIG religion (ie the Catholic Church) but still wrapped up in some form of Christianity.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  19. Josie Behnke

    This man has it right on. I too have asked people in the past, if Jesus was to walk into your church today, would He be accepted or would you turn your back on Him because he wasn't "Christian" enough. Jesus hung out with the outcasts, he attacked the religious leaders regurally and told His followers to not be like them. He gave the greatest commandment of all time..."Do unto others, as you would have done unto you." He would not have been found in a church preaching, He would not have been gathering up money to big bigger churches, and He sure would not have hated someone according to a list of "what you can and should be". A very good friend of mine passed away about a year ago...one of the few true Christians I have ever gotten a chance to meet. I'm Pagan, and he would defind us to the die he died, with these words...it's sad when the Pagans seem to get the real message of Jesus better then the very Christians that claim to follow Him.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Blinded By The Light

      The bible says Jesus did and said these things. However, this has been proven to be a very unreliable source. The very existance of Jesus is under question.
      Since this is the case, it is not necessary to gather so much of our collective wisedom from this one source. We have thousands of years of philosophy, socialogy and science to draw upon. Most without the blatent contradictions as baggage.

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

      There is no Jesus. It is all a lie.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Jenn

      You are incorrect. Do some research. Disagree if you want, but to pretend there are no valid reasons to accept the truth of Christianity is just being dishonest.

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

      There are no valid reasons to believe in a god who was made up unless that sort of thing doesn't bother you.
      Religions are bullshlt. You couldn't prove your god existed if your life depended on it, and that, my dear, is a fact.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  20. 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 2:14 pm |
    • Josie Behnke

      Jesus also stated that he was here to end those commandments and gave a new set of laws to follow, which are not the Old Testaments, many of those laws were to be cancelled. That and add to the fact that the Bible has been re-written many times over, and was written long after Christ's life, who knows.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      What Joise is saying is that God was wrong. Ooops, didn't know perfect beings could make mistakes.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Bruce

      "religion is based on the bible"

      Nope. The scriptures came from the Church, not the other way around. Glad to help!

      January 20, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • kyle

      Josie, Jesus said the opposite, guess you should read your bible.

      Bruce, yes religion compiled the bible, the scriptures were not written by the church but by historians, and scribes to the apostles. But the new religions that have came out of those have been based on that bible.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Bruce

      Kyle, you are ignoring the importance of the canonical councils of the 4th century. The Church was around for more than 300 years before anything like a "Bible" existed.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • kyle

      I am not ignoring anything. ALL the abrahamic religions are based on scripture with all modern christianity using the bible (scriptures compiled by the early christian church) as the basis for what they believe. Even christian religions that use other scripture still use the bible scriptures as the principle foundation of their beliefs. Heck there are TONS of religions that are not abrahamic at all and DON'T use the bible but I was not trying to be all encompassing and perfectly precise in my wording as this article and the video it is based on is based on the christian religions.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Bruce

      What you are ignoring is that the Canonical councils arranged those texts, chose some and rejected others, and did a very important process of making "Bible" and "not-Bible" decisions based on a whole host of reasons. Among those reasons may or may not have been consistency between Matthew and Deuteronomy, but nonetheless it was they who chose to leave both texts in there along with the apparent contradiction you point out. That is, it was the CHURCH who is responsible for the Bible, with that and other "contradictions," and not the other way around. The Church is NOT based on the Bible.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Bruce

      That is, you are putting the cart before the horse.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • kyle

      Yet the church did not write those scriptures. The contradictions existed before the church, the church simply compiled them together. The passages I listed are not a contradiction in scripture but a contradiction between currently held beliefs and what the bible says. The fact that a religion, compiled the bible does not make the scriptures dependent on that church as many christian religions use additional scriptures. Just like you protestant religions are not based on the bible not martin luther, and the church of england is based on the bible, not henry VIII. If you want to pin religion on anyone then you pin it on who wrote it, as the "church" who compiled it did so based on what the scriptures said (they obviously didn't look too critically).

      January 20, 2012 at 3:17 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.