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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. Fred

    Someone on here had it right: atheists do consider themselves to be the foremost authority on religion.
    Just shows how deluded and self-deceived they really are.
    I love how atheists love to claim mental superiority over Christians and yet their posts are full of misspelled
    words and grammatical mistakes.
    Darwin converted on his deathbed. It's been disputed, but never disproved. There is a difference.
    He missed his late brother Erasmus. Christianity holds out a hope for the opportunity to see your loved ones again
    someday. What hope does evolution hold out? Maybe one day people will evolve into lizards with three heads?
    Atheists criticize Christians constantly on here. Maybe they should take a long hard look at the hate they spew out.
    It might make them... Nah. They think they know everything already.

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

      Darwim was religious all his life. This conversion on his deathbed thing is just some lie propagated by people that have something to gain by it. Trust me, I know – I'm GOD!

      January 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Rick

      Only the Atheist comments on here have spelling mistakes? Really? Just goes to show that you hear what you want to hear. You are foolish enough to point out a couple of post from anti-religious people that have spelling mistakes while ignoring the posts supporting your view that have spelling mistakes.

      The last thing you can pin on Atheists is that they are uneducated.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • The bible

      Atheists never read me, therefore they don't read!

      January 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • cdn1951

      Like I said earlier...all of the main religions Christian,Muslim etc. believe in a supreme being....but everyone else is wrong and some will kill.....to make their point

      January 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Rick

      If holding out hope of seeing dead relatives someday was enough for me to disregard every other thing I have learned about religion and faith, I would be as religous as you are.

      By the way, yours is one of the most arrogant, obnoxious posts I have read on here from anyone on either side of the subject.

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

      @Fred: Why all the anger? is the ol' Low self-esteem acting up today?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • fred

      Fred
      SeanNJ
      I agree with Sean you make the kinder gentler fred's of world cry. On second thought here comes a big prayer for you, let me know what happens so we can put that atheist sound bit prayer does not work to rest. Here I go

      January 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Fred

      I don't see Christians get on here and brag about their smarts. I see atheists doing just that all the time.
      Of course, it's sometimes hard to tell just how smart they really are with all the misspelled words and
      grammatical mistakes in their posts. Apparently, a lot of them have never even heard of punctuation.
      Darwin converted on his deathbed. Why is that so hard to accept? Of course it was disputed by family
      members who felt like they had a lot to lose if he became a Christian! The gravy train must roll on.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  2. demo joseph

    Very bright young man. You need to send that to Santorman, Newt, Mitt, and whatever repos are calling them self christian while saying ugly thing about other. I they were christian, they would not have to tell us. What the hell is a G D conservative and what makes them think they are better. NO MAN IS AN ISLAND, but some like to belive they are.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  3. notjesusfault.com

    Jesus never intended to start a religion or be the object of its devotion - and so to say that Jefferson Bethke "hates religion" but still "loves the church" is contradictory....
    http://notjesusfault.com
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iezsz3Pb9iQ

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

      It is kind of my fault.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • notjesusfault.com

      It's hard to be held accountable for things that happen decades or centuries after your death. It's like saying the current economic crisis is the Founding Fathers' fault - because they're the ones that promoted individual liberty and favored a free-enterprise system.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  4. Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

    Gotta run guys, got a doctors appointment with my pediatrist.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  5. sabrina

    Atheists need to learn to have more tolerance for Christians. Christians need to learn to have more tolerance for everyone else.

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

      Agreed. And I am a Christian who is tired of the abuse on both sides. I have had so many amazing conversations with people curious about my faith or interested in pointing out contradictions. I have also had way too many conversations which started with, "Oh, so you are a Christian? Am I going to hell because I am not? Why would you think that about so many people?" Really not a useful way to begin a conversation.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • LoopTheLoop

      Atheists need more patience with Christians? It's been 2,000 years already!

      January 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  6. PeteH

    Anarchy doesn't work with faith any more than it does with government. Typical of his age group, Jefferson thinks he knows more than he does. Only with age, and hopefully wisdom, will Jefferson realize that "religion" happens for a reason.

    This happens to all of us when we're young. Luckily for most of us older folks though, our youthful naiivity wasn't viewed 15 million times... and counting. Personally, I thank God for that...

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

      Old people said the same thing about me in my time. Thanks for the cynicism and derision!

      January 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  7. cdn1951

    It's funny how all the main religions believe in a supreme being yet they all think the other are wrong....to the point that they want to kill them

    January 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  8. Anon

    Christians – the new acceptable whipping boy. I feel sorry for people who can not accept others. And do not bother to tell me that is what I do, you know absolutely nothing about me.

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

      That is what you do.

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

      Another post fail. I know you are Christian.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Whether or not Anon is a Christian is irrelevant to how true the statment he made is. If it is a "fail", it's not because of the reason you mentioned.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  9. OLE

    I have seen much better anti religion videos than this one, what's the hype??

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

      But he kind of raps... badly. You just don't get it, man!

      January 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  10. les

    I love how all of these evangelicals tend to be Jew haters and yet they are worshiping a Jew. TOO funny

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

      Foolish statement. Christians are Jews that believe in Jesus as the Messiah.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • El Duderino (if you're not into the whole brevity thing)

      Then how do you explain Mel Gibson, as well as the devout Christians of Nazi Germany, and the Spanish inquisition?

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

      Well, Christians are not Jews... No one can be called a Jew except the direct decendants of Abraham. Christians are what the Jews referred to as Gentiles.

      But as far as Christians hating Jews, no Christian should. God said to the Jews "I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who curse you"

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

      Mel Gibson – mental health and alcohol issues (clearly). The Inquisition was about politics and control wrapped in a warped perspective of the bible and some things the RCC made up. Hitler created his own religion, he was not a christian.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • El Duderino (if you're not into the whole brevity thing)

      First of all, Hitler was Catholic; however, it is debatable as to whether his faith was truly towards Catholicism. However, the majority of Nazi Germany—including the military were devoutly religious. How is it that many followers of Christ were able to commit such atrocious acts? Also, if people can read the bible front-to-back, believe in the bible and Christ, and then do such horrible acts, then what good is religion if it doesn’t make people any more humane? Also, why didn’t the pope condemn Nazi Germany during the war? Wouldn’t that be something Jesus would do?

      The same goes for the Spanish Inquisition, the pope didn’t condemn it. Also, it was devout followers of Christ who killed many including the Jews, and these were people who strongly believed Jesus was on their side. Let's also not forget the persecution Jews have long-since faced by the Church throughout the Dark Ages, and Medieval Times.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Patrick

      @ Anon
      You should go back and read all your posts and the responses on this article. Almost everything you’ve said has been proven wrong or is completely unsupported by facts and often hypocritical. But its okay I don’t hate you or your jebus.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • R. Smith

      This Is actually to Anon. Christians are not Jews. We believe in the same God, the God of Abraham, as do the followers of Islam. Yes, dear children. Allah and the God Christians and Jews believe in are one in the same. That doesn't make me a Muslim. Christians believe the Old Testement to be the word of God, just like the New Testemant, but Jesus' resurection changes things from the Old Testemant in Christian eyes. Do your research before you open your mouth. Thanks.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Anon

      Thank you all for clarifying my faith for me... not really. Lol. People have a right to believe as they choose. The truth is the questions are nothing but an attempt to trip the answerer. So be it. An online forum is hardly an opportunity to articulate such a deep topic. Thanks for the assumptions and ever so slightly hidden unkindness. I will take it with a grain of thought. We are who we are.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  11. Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

    "The very first line of the New Testament (Matthew 1:1) claims that Jesus is the son of David. This claim is refuted by none other than Jesus himself in the same book (Matthew 22:45), in bright red letters if you have a red-letter edition!"

    And isn't it that Mary couldn't have been a virgin since I believe it was Joseph that was a descendent of David not Mary if I'm remembering correctly.

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

      Both Joseph and Mary are decendants of David, I don't remember which one does which but one gives the lineage of Mary, and another gives the lineage of Joseph.

      And Jesus never refuted that he is a decendant of David, but he was saying if David was referring to the Messiah as "Lord," the Messiah is much more than just a decendant of David but is God Himself. Jesus always wanted to make sure people realized his divinity.

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

      Jesus is from the seed of David... Descended from the line of David. Mary and Joseph were both descended from the same, David.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      I skipped reading the lineages, didn't think you could get anymore boring and an already really boring book, but they did.

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

      @Anon
      So what you are saying is Jesus is inbred?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Patrick...do you think that most of humanity isn't?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  12. Jess

    He's soooooooo hawt 🙂

    January 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  13. robert frost

    The GOP uses Jesus to promote their "Christian" taliban

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

      The only thing missing are the long beards!

      January 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  14. HZD

    One of the most frustrating things about this video and the response to it is that people do not realize that Bethke is using an extremely narrow definition of "religion" that comes from his own pastor and also Matt Chandler. For Bethke (following the lead of these evangelical pastors), "religion" refers to a system of works-based righteousness whereby we clean ourselves up in order to impress God. Bethke is basically making a simplified statement of basic Protestant theology of salvation.

    "Religion" for Bethke becomes a catch-all term referring to man's sinful tendency to rely on himself rather than God. Undoubtedly Bethke would tell you that he struggles with his own temptations towards being "religious" rather than relying on Jesus. He would not be saying that he was tempted to fit into organized religion. "Religion" means something else entirely.

    But that is completely missed by most of his viewers because they just assume that "religion" refers to organized religion. Bethke is not opposed to organized religion or the Church, as he has made clear in subsequent interviews. He is opposed to a system of works-righteousness. Of course, a video talking about one aspect of Protestant theology and posing it against another system–well, that video wouldn't become "super-viral."

    All in all, this video is an illustration about what happens when people change the definition of words to try to make neat little dichotomies. They create their own exclusive little world around themselves; no one else understands what they are saying. That's why so many people here are commenting, "duh, Christianity is a religion." Yeah, it is, unless you define religion by its opposition to a super extremely specific aspects of Protestant soteriology. If you do that, then Protestant Christianity, at least, isn't a religion.

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

      Great response. 'Religion' is just too broad a term to love or hate. I agree he is probably referring to' works based righteousness.' You can't follow Christ unless you first define who He is and what we as Christians should do and believe. Christians are supposed to be of the same mind therefore sound doctrine is necessary and good.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Dude

      Bro, you just posted an intelligent comment and asked people to think critically. Those sort of comments aren't welcome on these boards, which you can probably tell by just reading other comments.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • cdimarco

      I think the term "religion" itself has become tarnished, but the word is biblical – in the book of James, James (brother of Jesus) says:

      "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, [and] to keep oneself unspotted from the world".

      So religion isn't in the rituals, which is what Evangelical Christianity is referring to.... Rather true religion is in the actions motivated by a pure heart and a love for Christ.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  15. yourmom

    “What if I told you getting you to vote Republican really wasn’t his mission?”

    Well then I'd say you're crazy...everyone knows that's his mission, duh.

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

      That is my mission. Confirmed.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  16. Andurill

    I didn't find Jesus in any book or in some building – I found him in my heart, and every day I try to help someone as he would do. Growing up my mother never had me baptised – she said I could choose my own religion when I got older. Problem is when I got older I couldn't find any organized religion that I felt fit me. Thank you Jefferson for your video it's wonderful and it's how many people feel – not just young people but people of all ages. There would be alot less war and hate if everyone helped and was kind to one another but greed (among other other things) has made people forget what's really important. At least I know where I'm going when I die which is more than I can say for some (and no I do not believe for one minute that I will going to hell just because I don't belong to your church 😉 )

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

      Andurill – "At least I know where I'm going when I die..."

      No, you don't *know*, nobody does - NOBODY.

      Also, it is the height of Greed to not be satisfied with this life, but to desire and crave MORE... and not only MORE, but a perfect, blissful, eternal MORE at that.

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

      I believe there is a higher power. People call him by different names but I think they are one in the same. Do you think that dying is the absolute end of us or do you think there is more than what we can see and feel around us? What does your heart tell you?

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

      You found Him because someone planted a seed in your heart. Faith comes by hearing and by hearing the word of God. Someone along the line actually read the bible and taught you a little about who Jesus is. It doesn't end there. You need to grow as a Christian and be around other Christians. You need to read the bible daily to learn about God and what He has planned for you. Keep in mind we as Christians do these things not for our salvation, but because we are saved. So you don't have to be afraid of Church or organized religion. I would stop looking for a church that is the "right fit for you" and simply find a church that preaches God's word. There are lots of good bible based churches out there, though none are perfect. My pastor always says "if you ever find the perfect church, Don't go there because you'll ruin it."

      January 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Patrick

      @Andurill
      My heart and my history book tell me your god isn’t real.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Andurill

      It doesn't matter to me that you don't believe in God – it only matters what kind of person you are. I have never looked down on anyone who didn't believe in God – and I don't expect them to look down on me.

      Organized religion does have one very good point. It's comforting to believe we're moving on after this life and some people like to have that reinforced regularly. What would happen if one day everyone found out there was no God or Jesus or any other being people worship? Chaos. If hope is what keeps people from turning into lunatics then that's not such a bad thing.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  17. widget

    You can't debate/argue with religious people. Debating/arguing would require some sort of logic or reasoning to take place. Since religion frowns upon that and requires faith instead, anyone who has been brainwashed into a religion has voluntarily given up logic or common sense. Or, even more sadly, were brainwashed by their parents and the legal brainwashing centers known as "churches" before they even developed these skills.

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

      It's incredibly ironic that this comment is coming from someone attacking religious people for being illogical, but this entire post is a textbook example of the ad hominem fallacy.

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

      Well then... I guess we are all extremely lucky to have someone like you with the unique vision to lead us, the blind. Uh, where we going???

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

      Widget is correct. Faith by definition is belief without reason. Indoctrination by parents is a recordable, repeatable fact. If you Christians had been born in India you would be Hindu, if you had been born in Iran you would be a Muslim and swear you were right and Christians were wrong. In short you are a victim of your parents and they are victims geography.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  18. Steve

    Jesus was religious–he was a Jew; admittedly, somewhat radical, but still within the tradition.

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

      With respect, the son of yosef was named yashua as the letter "J" did not exist in the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek or Roman alphabets. The letter "J" did not come into existence until sometime between the 13-15th centuries. The original King James version of the bible from 1611 never once contans the name 'Jesus'. There is a history how the name evolved. Do some research, you might find it rather interesting.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Patrick

      @ grouchomarxdeceased
      You waste your time with facts sir. Most of them believe their god’s name to be God!

      lol

      January 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  19. pauljack

    For the big bang theory to be proved by empiracl evidence....there would have to be both direct observation and indirect observation. SO..... who was there when it went down? Speak now or forever hold your peace. LOL!

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

      Who believes in the wind ?? You can feel it you can see its effects ...

      Who believes in the SUN ??? You can see it you can feel it ... Has anyone ever touched it ??

      Who believes in love ??? You can feel it ... Has anyone ever touched or Seen it ???

      I could go on ... but I think you get the point ... There are many senses that god ALLOWED us to have and revel in ... However, he left all these blanks ... now if there was a god ... why would he do that ?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Huh?

      "There are many senses that god ALLOWED us to have and revel in .."

      No, they evolved over time and we also lost some too. LOL!

      January 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      It's the best explanation model that we currently have through the observations that we've made of the universe and the movement of the cosmos. It's not absolute, it's the most likely explanation. "God did it" is not a very good explanation at all since there's no evidence to support it.

      Just like how the best explanation of how we got a moon is the Great Impact from lunar samples and mathematical models we infer that it's the most likely thing that happened.

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

      "Who was there....?"

      That one again! You guys keep these in your Talking Points Manuals? The problem is, you're supposed to scratch them out when we show you they fail.

      We DO have indirect evidence, and we DON'T require direct observation in order to understand many phenomena; we can determine the probability - certainty is not always possible - with sufficient information.

      And even if we couldn't know without being there, what should we do? Believe ancient stories?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • oger

      So Paul...using the same logic...we also need proof of when "god" supposedly created earth and everything on it....

      so lets see...anyone raise your hand on that one??

      No??

      Your argument is so stupid!

      January 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Patrick

      @pauljack
      This is why Atheist tend to get snobby about theists are there apparent lack of education and logic skills. What part of…THEORY .. both layman and scientific do you not understand. That aside… if you could prove that theory wrong it would still not prove your god any more real than Zeus.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Patrick

      And their* ? thank you auto correct.

      p.s. CNN may we finally have an edit button?

      January 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  20. harry

    All cultures and religions have their own stories of creation. Which one is correct??? NONE. Because they are all made up to try to explain what primitive man couldn't understand.

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

      Thank you for boiling it down to a very basic fact and I might add that the 'intelligencia' of ancient times, the privileged few that had access to books and had power and wealth, certainly benefited by perpetuating religion on the ignorant masses.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:22 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.