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. The all potent one

    Nice to see young people are able to think for themselves and not fall for the scam that is organized religion

    January 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Please don't drop out of school

      Hahahahahahah, what an ignorant comment........hahahahahaha.

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

      'Think for themselves'? That couldn't be further from the truth. You have no idea what thinking for yourself is given that you've never done it and are probably incapable of it to begin with.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Patrick

      They call themselves the flock for a reason …baaahhhh

      January 20, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  2. catholic engineer

    Bethke has fallen victim to the same schmaltz that we did in the '60s. Decrying organized religion is often fashionable among the young.

    During the 1920's and 30's, Stalin had murdered vast numbers of clerics and destroyed churches and seminaries. He made the Orthodox church illegal. But during the darkest days of WW2, Stalin relaxed his persecution of the church. THis reunited the Russian spirit with its sense of patriotism, leading to the defeat of the invading Nazis. Stalin once sarcastically asked, "How many legions has the pope?" Pius 12 answered, "tell my son Joseph that he will meet my legions in heaven." The election of John Paul II touched off a series of events that brought down the Soviet empire with no shots fired.

    Non-organized religion is ineffective except on a small, narrow scope, mindset. The church always outlasts it's enemies and is usually there to bury them.

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

      "The church always outlasts it's enemies and is usually there to bury them."

      And in the past, usually did so by killing them.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • The all potent one

      You forgot to mention that organized religion squashes these people for not believing correctly.

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

      OK, I give up why are you so focused on those parts of the Bible where God smashes those clay pots he went to all the trouble to make. God not only made those pots but put a bit of himself into every last one of them.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • rm

      Tell that to the Greeks.


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

      There's no way to thumb up your comment (and I'm not part of the Catholic church, by the way but looking into it).

      January 20, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      @HellBent Ah, yes. The Inquisition again. I think you've heard of the French revolution, when human Reason was enthroned. Immediately, the Reign of Terror set in when the quillotine became the National Razor of France. And a little guy named Napolean introduced the concept of total war. The blood spilled when man is left to himself far exceeds that of religion. Don't believe it? Look at the twentieth century. It was the most godless and bloody century in human history. Science and technology ushered in the concept of "mega-deaths", a la nuclear energy. In WW1, scientific discovery was turned into a meat grinder in which millions of cilvilians were killed.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • El Duderino (if you're not into the whole brevity thing)

      You can't just equate the French Revolution with atheism. And Stalin lusted for power. The fact that he was an atheist was incidental. Europe is less religious than the US, and they're not imposing a Stalinist model of politics. And you don't have to look any further than the Middle East and in some parts of Africa to see just how flawed theocracy is (not that you said you supported it, but it goes to show how little religion in a society helps).

      January 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Patrick

      @ catholic engineer
      Helbent made no such comment as to refer the Inquisition. Funny that you bring it up though.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  3. fed up


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

      Its amazing how cnn cowers down to show the muslim version where the guy completly attacks christianity. If a christian/athiest/jew/hindu/zorastrian etc etc where to show a video that completely tells the facts of Islam, CNN would never show that video. Goes to show something fishy with CNN and it does not smells good either.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  4. 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 3:16 pm |
  5. Bobby

    Amen Brother to KevinE that is

    January 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  6. Damo

    I feel similarly.
    I mean, I love the tooth fairy, but I don't see why I need to keep putting teeth under my pillow.
    And what's with the whole "leaving cookies out for Santa" deal? If I don't leave them out, does that mean I believe in him or love him any less?

    January 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  7. Leucadia Bob


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

      Bacon is not a food – it's a cult.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Su Lynn

      Is that a Turkey? WOW! I’m all for freedom of speech, but you could try being relevant, instead of narcissist, self-aggrandizing commercial advertising – or – did you see the face of Jesus in a stripe of bacon?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Leucadia Bob

      So true-according to most of these Bible Scholars – swine is the food of the Devil. No wonder I get along with everyone that eats bacon

      January 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Leucadia Bob

      Just watch the video Su Lynn – I'm trying to up the hit count, and make the video go viral so I can quit my job

      January 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • El Duderino (if you're not into the whole brevity thing)

      I worship the holy Bacon-Covered Turkey. I can't wait for the second coming. Yum*

      January 20, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  8. Su Lynn

    Oh ya' – football & "tailgating"! Yup! Right on point – – well, some point, some where!

    January 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  9. Stephen Nowlin

    Well, it's a step in the right direction - at least this young man has the independence of thought to question an authority of sorts. He should push on - like, question the concept of the supernatural itself, not to mention the bizarre notion of being so enamored by a mythology about gods sacrificing offspring to atone for the bad behavior of others. Just how does that work? Perhaps our court system should create a "Crucify Clause," in which defense lawyers can kill one of their own children in order to get defendants off and give them a clean slate. Sounds insane, doesn't it? What is it that Christians so admire in that proposition? THAT's why religion doesn't want to hear young people like Bethke - it fears that he shines a light into their cuckoo's nest, that there will be no stopping the questions once they start. They fear that ultimately people will follow those questions to a discovery of their own inherent worth, intelligence and human dignity - and be able to live positive loving lives without the need of a pretend god, his zombie son, and their wacky entourage of winged ghosts and pious spirits.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • go4it

      Well said

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

      Actually, many organized churches want to hear this video, because many are trying to move in the direction that the video promotes. Those that aren't, are dying. Some churches, like the Anabaptist Mennonites and Quakers, have been saying these things for over 400 years. In Canada, the "evangelicals" are not like the groups that use that name in the US. Canadian evangelicals sound like this young man and they are growing to the point that despite the mainline churches' declines, the proportion of the public identifying with a church grew about 5 percentage points starting in the late 1990's.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  10. Jennifer M

    I look back on my childhood, when I was forced to attend church 3X a week ... today, as an adult, I kick back and watch "NCIS" or "Bones" or "The Mentalist." No more long evening church services under fluorescent lights. Just comfort and relaxation in the warmth of my own home. Infinitely better than religion.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  11. lestre

    here is the devil incarnate:


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

      It puts the lotion in the basket!

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

      Ok either that dude's holding castrating tools in his hand and that cat is super smart, OR he's abused that cat so much that it views him as predator.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  12. MikeMcM


    The url above is a contrasting perspective to Bethke's points.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  13. matrix09

    I love it that these young folks are figuering this out on their own. Orgainised religion is and always has been, responsible for most of the murder, mayhem and war in this world. After all, it was the Jewish Priests who were responsible for the death of Christ, and they did it because his behavior was disrupting thier money flow. Thats all organised relgion is all about, "fleecing the suckers".

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

      I love simplistic minds like yours that say "Religion has started most of the wars, etc. etc. Man has started most of the wars. And if religion never existed Man would go to war over land, or food, or money, or oil, the color of ones skin.....or radishes. It is the nature of man to want to kill and dominate. He then decides which cause to assign credit....

      January 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      It's already poisoned fruit. Unfortunately we can't go back and run it over again without religions to see what the out come would be, but we can change the future and all move together once we can educate people that we all share this little planet and we all have to get along to survive. Once everyone wakes up to the reality of it all we can finally move forward, until then religion is tearing us apart.

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

    Does the big bang theory require faith?


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

      All hail the tooth fairy mother of god!

      January 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE


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

      Theories require testing. It's called the scientific process.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      No, just testing

      January 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Been There Done That

      Michio Kaku admitted that the Big Bang theory is not testable due to the "singularity" problem. When they work backwards, all matter is compressed into an infinitely small (impossibly small) point.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  15. Benjamin

    Another idiot who knows nothing about Jesus or religion.

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

    Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism...... are all scams

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

      I'm no fan of religion generally, but you gotta cut the The Buddha some slack – he thought questions of God were useless.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  17. Dave

    I like it... Bethke is just following the the tradition of thinking differently. We all get so hung up on the word "Christian" or "Muslim." A person is free to follow and redefine based on their own spiritual experience. Who cares where he goes to church? I think it's great to see a guy express himself from his core. Good stuff.

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

      "Following the tradition of thinking differently?"

      January 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Elysia

      Couldn't agree more.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  18. Alene Feltus

    Christ did not start a new religion. Christ was born a jew. lived a jew and died a jew. Christ tauht people to think for themselves and talk to God for themselves. Chirst gave no indication that one people or nation had a inside link to God. You would have better luck saying your prayers by a creation of God (tree, river, etc.) instead of some church Religion is the biggest con around!!!

    January 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  19. Been There Done That

    He's ignoring the fact that Paul was commanded to create the church. Jesus didn't give him instructions on how to do it.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • El Duderino (if you're not into the whole brevity thing)

      Paul was a man, and men are flawed. Who's to say that he didn't have an agenda for power? Throughout history we see people exploit someone or something for money and power. Just look at what MTV did to music.

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

      exactly. Paul and Peter are the pillars of the church. Also, what's with the lines of not feeding the poor? – the church feeds and clothes more poor than any other organization through the gracious giving of its congragation. We are happy and blessed to be able to help. Just don't say it does not happen, that is untrue and unkind. The Chrurch also accepts anyone in need. ....single mothers or not.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  20. KevinE

    At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!!! Jesus Christ is Lord of all creation!!! <3

    January 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • The Half Baked Lunatic

      Jesus is a figment of your overactive imagination.

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

      Amen Brother !!

      January 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Been There Done That

      Ok, so you don't believe in Jesus, that's your opinion. One thing that is an established fact is that this man existed. So it's not just a figment of my imagination.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      I'm not sure where you get this "fact" from but it's sketchy at best for his existence, his divinity is totally bunk.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • HeHasRizen

      thats why your name is halfbaked. If you keep living the lifestyle you live when the time comes you will be fullybaked. I have seen the gates of hell and it is not something to play around with. I love god with all my heart and my treasures are in heaven not on this earth. I will say a prayer for you. Seek Jesus and you will live a better happy life with no stress or problems. Praise the Lord with all your heart.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Truefax

      There is no historical "Jesus", there are is no written history about his man. And you know what the this was during the era of RECORDED HISTORY, sorry dudes there is NO "Jesus". The JUICE write down EVERY GOD DAMN THING IN THE TALMUD.

      Jesus was austensibly a JEW he commited both Heresy and Blasphemy his trial and execution would have been recorded you monkeys. It's not there, there are other listings but no one named "Jesus" but not only is that not there, there is no record of anyone claiming to be the offspring of Yahweh.

      At best dudes and dudets "Jesus" was a Jewish Rabbi who was angery at the greed of the temples and tried to get his fellow jews to get back on board. At worst he was a made up by a power hungery liar trying to amass as large a following in as short a time as possible.

      Christiantiy as you all know is big old stinky lie. The true followers of Christ died out 600-800AD. Pax Romana sukas.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:41 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.