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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. steven c

    Wow, a true Christian, show his face on youtube and World wants to crucify him, nothing has changed.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Patrick

      Funny thing is it’s the Christians that want to do the crucifying. lol

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

    I'm always interested in the "think-for-yorself" mentality which says that religion is brain washing. Actually, the entire doctrine of sin is based on free will: thinking for youself and then acting badly.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  3. Joe T.

    If you are Christian, you cannot believe in evolution. Evolution destroys the reason for Jesus. If man evolved from other species, Adam and Eve never existed. If Adam and Eve never existed, there is no reason to put faith in the sacrifice of Jesus. If there is no reason for the faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, there is no reason for Christianity.

    Since evolution is pretty well established, I'll stick with fact over faith.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Joe Schmo

      Joe T., you have NO IDEA what you're talking about. Catholic schools have been teaching evolution (with Intelligent Design) forever. One belief is Adam and Eve were the first self-aware beings. Go do your research. But don't do your research at a public school–they can legally only offer one side. P.S. Our priest just spoke about evolution, and offered it as fact. However, what science does not address is where the "super planet" came from. It did not create itself.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Tom

      Evolution?
      So you think every being in this planet evolved from the same cell, and that this first cell was somehow created in the depths on the ocean near heat vents, etc, etc?
      That a creature living at the bottom of the sea, an insect, a whale, a human being – all from the same source?
      How? Because the DNA mutates every time during reproduction? If so, how come we have all these species that are "stuck" and not evolving for million of years?? Crocodiles, some plants, etc...
      What else in nature was "created" in the likes of the DNA structure? Please give me other examples...
      Bottom like, I do not believe in evolution, as we" understand" it...

      January 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Joe T.

      So they were the first self-aware beings? Were they born self-aware or did they become self-aware during their life? Do you understand what genetic bottlenecking does? Do you even understand how evolution works? Did you know that evolution is a severely gradual process? Did you know that the Bible talks about people that existed outside of the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve were supposedly cast out?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • CosmicC

      @Tom – you need to restate this. The problem is not evolution as "we understand it". Clearly, my understanding is different than yours. If I can understand it, so can you. Just open your mind to a bit more information.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Tom

      please explain

      January 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Tom, there is plenty of proof to support evolution. I'm still waiting for someone religious to give me examples of why God exist besides "because this book says so" or "because thinking is hard".

      How does evolution sound any more ridiculous than the teachings of religion? I'm thinking maybe you should get a better understanding of evolution.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Tom

      I definitely will – reading on "genetic bottlenecking" now ...but I don't think that explains what I mentioned before...
      anyways, I'm just using common sense – And yes, I do not know about the THEORY in depth...
      But this is not an expert commentary section – Regular people come here from different backgrounds and areas and post what they believe or what they think makes sense.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Joe T.

      I love when people point out that it is called the THEORY of evolution. You clearly don't know how the scientific process works which gives you zero credibility on the subject. Maybe if it were called the HYPOTHESIS of evolution you would have a point.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  4. reverend bob

    Does Athena exist= no, Zeus= no, Quetzalcoatl= no......

    ALL GODS AND GODESSES ARE MADE UP. THAT INCLUDES THOSE OF THE CURRENT RELIGIONS

    January 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • cleisl

      And what church do you preside over, reverend? I'm guessing the church of Bob.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Silver Back

      Athena does exsist, she's my daugther, born 11/14/89. Guess that makes me Zeus so I too exsist or how could I post this?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • CosmicC

      My wife's aunt was Athena. She's dead. I guess Greek dieties aren't immortal.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Silver Back

      Quetzalcoatl is my best friend and he too exsists. Oh well, that blows your comment out of the water, or heavens or out of the world or whatever.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  5. Anon

    People need to mind their own business when it comes to other people's religion. Once upon a time when patents still taught manners people knew better! Do what you want and leave other people alone! Forget the nonsense line about "religion being responsible for so much war and death". People are responsible for that, people! There is good and bad in all people! Mind your own business.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Test

      You are a flaming hypocrite.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Anon

      Based on what, test?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Test

      Based on your previous comments to other peoples opinions found throughout this article. unless you are a different anon.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • lulu

      I completely agree with you Anon, We just like to blame others instead of ourselves.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Patrick

      @ Anon
      Riddle me this batman: Why are we to blame ‘people’ for religious wars but give credit to religions for charities? Wouldn’t that also be just ‘people’ being people?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Silver Back

      @ Anon, seems your not taken your own advise. By the way, who are "patents"?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  6. Grown-up Adult

    So funny to watch young people try to indaviduate from their parents/religion.
    Children believe in supernaturel things like god.
    Adults have open minds, are abstract and struggle to make fair decisions. They do not "believe" in things per se.
    Always moving from any dogma is good. Staying with peace and kindness until a person shows they are criminals who have no feelings- pretty good start.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • CosmicC

      We taught our children to color outside of the box. They are open-minded, independent thinkers and formed their own beliefs based on an informed view of the world. I find that most adults are closed-minded and dogmatic.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  7. Joe

    If your religion teachs you to hate or bomb the others, you should use your brain and walk away right away.
    You all "religious" people are freaking stupid and should be neutered.

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

      I love how you blast people for being stupid but yet you can't seem to string together a coherent sentence. Priceless.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  8. MightyMoo

    I like how this video linked off to that Amazing Athiest guy. From what side to the other it was entertaining.

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

      One side to the other, not what side to the other. I've been coding way to much today.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • cdn1951

      It's funny how all the main religions believe in a supreme being yet they all thing the other are wrong....

      January 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  9. Maksym

    How about we get rid of religion and God. This way world peace and paradise can finally be achieved.

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

      agreed

      January 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • john

      spoken out of ignorance. How can you speak of God when you know nothing of it? you speak of peace? what wisdom have you gained to lead you to peace. you are just another lost person like us. searching for reason and hope. Get rid of the "concept" of god, and youll get people praying to men (n korea).. People always need god. Sorry to tell you that..

      January 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • PeppeRiviera

      That's what the Soviets thought.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • jonathan rand

      yes because the red line genocide in tasmania, genocide in Sudan, American Civil War, World War I, all were fought in the name of God. I could keep going, but please be a little more open minded. A lot bad has been done in the name of God, but a lot of starving people have been fed, a lot of sick people immunized, art, music--in the name of God. Does the pedophile go after little girls in the name of religion? It's pretty obvious, humans will war and fight regardless if they believe in God or not.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • lulu

      A few parts of the bible come to mind here. That's where the world is heading and your words just proved the mentality (in majority) of the world today.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • CosmicC

      If children are taught to reason and love, then they will feel safe. Safe people do not need to believe in god. Safe people do not fear and fear is the root cause of hatred, anger and violence.
      Imagine....

      January 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  10. moebar

    quick questions for Christians. how can you believe the bible when there are parts of it right now that are being removed because they were interpolations (parts that were added on after the bible was initially written by unknown authors).
    here is a link to these verses:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bible_verses_not_included_in_modern_translations

    January 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • john

      people shouldnt believe "in" the bible. its book with the mind of god in it. Science is also the mind of god. i dont believe "in" science, I follow it like a map.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • moebar

      your just switching around words...its the same thing your just trying to make it look nicer. but you didnt answer my question how can you follow or listen or whatever you want to call it if parts of it were put there by random people....

      January 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • lulu

      I just have to say that wikipedia is not a very reliable source considering anyone can go in and edit the pages to their liking. I just edited the page, Just saying.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Jon

      First I believe in the word of God, not in the NIV which this article takes issue with. It is a translation. I believe that it is the Holy Spirit's job and power to elucidate the words of God and bring wisdom to whoever reads it which supersedes man's. Additionally, every verse listed in this article is stated in another gospel, and essentially still remains in the scripture. I realize that citing the Holy Spirit as evidence for my belief isn't quite fair if you want hard facts, but to answer your question, that is how I believe that the truth still remains, that the truth is made known, and that we are all led there. Try it. Try reading it and in an open mind looking for the truth in the gospels.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • moebar

      i have read the bible and i do have an open mind i just dont believe it. also Wikipedia is a good place to start. i used it because it is a quick way to show something and yes u can edit it but they go over their stuff really quickly and remove anything thats deemed to be untrue. You have missed my point because these verses show that people have tampered with the bible. how can i trust other stuff hasnt been changed.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  11. sharky

    I wish this kid knew history a bit better. Que sera sera.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Silver Back

      @ sharky,
      Like what, site some examables of your history knowlege.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • CosmicC

      *CITE. If you are going to use a word, please spell it correctly.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  12. Su Lynn

    Oh please – Jesus is about christianity. All ths Blah, Blah, Blah! Spirituality is about believing in God and doing the best you can each day. – end of story

    January 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • john

      you missed the point. Jesus himself hated religion. When you gather for a tailgate party and never watch the game are you still a football fan? probably not. you are a "tailgate fan". get the point?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  13. NPost

    Interesting that the first few lines of the story bash Republicans. Although that should not come as a surprise. I know many democrats who are Christian.
    From what we know of Jesus as a man, he would want people to come together for our common good and not drive wedges between segments of the population.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • lulu

      I don't get why people try to put republicans and christians in the same category. Jesus would have a lot to agree with democrats too, I don't think he would declare himself either.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Patrick

      People don’t put republicans and Christians together. Republicans beat other people over the head with their Christianity. You need only look at your republican nomination candidates for a quick example.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  14. Pete

    Can't we enjoy the thought of a supreme being without making him/her into such an a**hole? Because only an a**hole would want to be worshipped without evidence and would send anyone who does not agree to eternal damnation.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • john

      no evidence would ever suffice. what would you like? what would "work" that you wouldnt refuse? Theres nothing. thats why God cannot be proven, and doesnt need to be.. its not possible.. talk to go yourself and see what happens. youd be surprised. proof isnt a real concept anyway. it only exists on earth

      January 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • yeahalright

      John, there's plenty he could do that I would accept. Materialize in front of me for one. Do some physically impossible stuff in front of me. I'll start worshiping right away. Instead he shows up once in history – at a time and place when there were no recording devices – and then goes into hiding only to go "Gotcha! you didn't believe!" at the end before sending you to hell for eternity.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  15. the_dude

    Oh yes because as we all know, 22 year olds are so smart and have so much real-life expierence. This whole hating religion thing is just another new fad brought on by the gay lobby.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • angela

      and do you have proof of this???

      no i didn't think so

      January 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Anon

      Absolutely true. It is all over the net and easy to see...

      January 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Man you people are so afraid of gays. The big gay boogeyman is coming to get you to turn you gay! Better watch out! Your neighbor might even be gay. You should do what the Bible says and stone him to death, just to be sure.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Trippp

      Ha. I can tell you, Im not gay, but I am an Atheist. You're whole statement wreaks of an angry human trying to validate his imaginary freind.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • El Duderino (if you're not into the whole brevity thing)

      I have to disagree with the latter of your statement. That said, have you heard about the teachings of the dudeism? check out dudeism com.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Just got out of the meeting with my gay paymasters. We're a little bit concerned that you're on to us and our fad. Please don't spread the word ok.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  16. Dr. Martin Von Heinze

    As a certified astrophysicist, I can personally atest to the complexity of the earth and the surrounding galaxy. Now this complexity doesn't prove or disprove of a God, only that our universe is extremely complex. One of the things I find most fascinating is the concept of Eternal Combustible Nucleareosis. At first the concept seems rather daunting, but when delving deeper the concept seems to make sense. For example, when analyzing the curtosis of the right side of the paradoid, it becomes quite apparent that the left hand side is also symmetrical and thus, the paradoid actually becomes a quadroid.

    Food for thought for everyone today! Hope you all can learn more about this great phenonenom.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • D. Green

      Seriously, slow down on the marijuana.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Silver Back

      @ Dr. Martin Von Heinze,
      I totally aggree, however, Curtosis s/b spelled Kurtosis and it measures the fatness of the tails of a probability distribution which does not apply to your theroy and Nucleareosis or should I say Nuclearoids is a puzzle & skill game which also does not apply.
      At least you got the astrophysicist correct.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  17. TheTraveler

    I have been a "disciple of Christ" for a long, long time ... You don't need "religion" to have and practice faith ...

    January 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  18. lance

    The evangelical "christians" are by far the worst. They are the biggest hypocrites.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Christopher Hitchens

      Next to atheists ofcourse...

      January 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Buddy Jesus

      Yo Chris, how is it out there?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  19. William

    Thank you for the wonderful, concise, articulate and insightful words. If only the hypocrites professing to be religious leaders would adhere to true scripture, the world would be a better place.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  20. Tom

    "atheists coming out of the closet" ...lol ... that says it all.
    atheists are gay

    January 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • meedily

      LOL

      January 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • andrew

      oh yeah because there are no christian, jewish or whatever gays (note sarcasm)

      January 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • El Duderino (if you're not into the whole brevity thing)

      Are you 8 years old Tom? "Atheists are gay."

      January 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • CJ Canada

      Nice one Tom, your religious and yet your bashing people. If Jesus did exist (he doesn't) he would be 100% against the way you interpret the Bible and you small minded comments. I'm an atheist and this guys poem doesn't bother me, it's his right to believe whatever he wants. What if this poet was gay? would you burn the bible and be a turncoat on JC?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:13 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.