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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. a believer no longer

    All religion is mental slavery. You will be amazed how free and empowered you will feel if you can stop believing this silliness. Come on out of the closet, my fellow atheists! You have more company than you know.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  2. StuffUrMamaShudaToldYa

    silliness, do your math. what percentage of all knowledge to you possess? There is plenty of room for us all to be wrong about everything. So what can you say that is worth listening to? only that we are all living by faith in what we choose

    January 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  3. Reality

    For the next viral YouTube: The Nitty-Gritty of Jesus Via a Prayer–

    Only for the "newbies":

    Summarizing with a prayer:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (references used are available upon request)

    January 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Jesus

      I LOVED Assassin's Creed 2, great game.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  4. Leucadia Bob

    http://soundcloud.com/leucadiabob/meth-head-girl

    January 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  5. Jesus

    People! Can't we all just agree that I'm way more magic than Harry Potter?

    January 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  6. DrSpin

    This is just a sad attempt by evangelicals to distance themselves from the long history of evil in the name of god or gods. Any belief in supernatural beings which influence life on earth is religion – that is simply what it is. If you want to believe in god and/or JC you have to accept all the trash that comes with it, you cant pick and choose the elements you like and discard the rest. Although that has been happening for millenia – beliefs change over time, and branch into sects and cults through a process called evolution!

    January 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  7. Dim Debow

    What a dork.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  8. DoUntoOthers

    All I have to say is...I don't know if there is a god and there is no way anyone can possibly know for sure. I don't know how the earth and the universe began; I don't know what happens when we die; and I know that no human being alive can possibly know, either. And they sure as heck didn't know these answers 2,000 years ago. I choose not to dedicate my life to worshipping and praising something 'just in case' its all true and I have to make my case when I die. All I know is that it cannot possibly be perceived as a bad thing that I was a good person on earth and never hurt anyone intentionally. I think religion was good for me as a kid because I learned about the Golden Rule and the seven deadly sins, and that has served as a great guide for how I have lived my life. But as an adult, I see no purpose in being religious. The only purpose it can possibly serve is to save you in the afterlife, and that is a horrible reason to pretend to love and worship someone who lived 2,000 years ago.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  9. Paulie

    I'm amazed. Amazed that I actually watched the whole thing. This video changed everything and I can finally go date that nun I've been eyeing at my church.

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

    That was one of the best and most accurate sermons I've ever heard.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Dim Debow

      You must go to some stupid church, like southern baptist, if that was the smartest thing you've heard.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  11. no fan of religion

    ... or of made up figures like JC! Google "Jesus never existed at all." He and all religions are just varying aspects of mythology. Free yourselves! Stop believing this nonsense and think for yourselves.

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

      Most histories agree that Jesus did exist...........

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

      "Today nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed and that the gospels contain plenty of valuable evidence which has to be weighed and assessed critically." – Stanton, Graham. The Gospels and Jesus. Oxford University Press, 2002; first published 1989, p. 145.

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

      "Most histories agree that Jesus did exist..........."

      So did Santa Claus.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • josh

      or just google – "I'm an idiot" – because anyone that doesn't believe jesus was a historical figure is one.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  12. government cheese

    According to the US Census, there were only 1.5% of the US population that didn't believe in a god. In 2012, that number has risen to 18%. It is hard to imagine that a political party can influence people this much. But, we have seen it in the past in Germany during the 1930s.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • jimbo

      My disbelief has nothing to do with party affiliation. The fact that you would suggest otherwise shows that you listen to too much Ann Coulter. If being logical and inquisitive is associated by being Democrat, then so be it. Maybe it is because logic draws people to the same table.

      The Germany you refer to, I suppose that is the same one where Christians sat by and watched the slaughter of the Jews without any comment? How Christ like of them.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  13. Shaggy

    Not a bad start, breaking away from an obvious scam that promises secret knowledge and eternal life but hit's you up for cash while they do it. But he's still believing in a magic Zombie from the sky who does magic tricks. Kind of hard to take that type of person seriously. It's a big jump from being brainwashed by religions that assuage your biggest fears (death for example) to thinking in a completely rational way about existence. I hope this is step one for him and many other people.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • eldono

      Its interesting how people look outside themselves to find answers. More than anything else, we need to believe in ourselves and that WE can make change. WE are the problem, and WE are the solution. The answer is in the mirror. GOD helps them who help themselves.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • jimbo

      "WE are the problem, and WE are the solution. The answer is in the mirror. GOD helps them who help themselves."

      If we are the problem and we are the solution (which is true), then why do we need a god? Why not just save a step? Just another example of irrational thinking. I had a family member who was an alcoholic. When she sobered up, she would say it was god who gave her the power. But it wasn't, it was her who solved her problem. God didn't lower the bottle, she did. She short sold herself on something she should have been proud of.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  14. George

    Many religions promote ideas that are NOT in the bible...............

    January 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Yeah

      "Many religions promote ideas that are NOT in the bible."

      Yeah, all those priest molesting boys was not in the bible. 😉

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

      That's because christianity promotes the bible. Not other religions.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • eldono

      We would hope so.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Shaggy

      The bible is mostly a recording of tribal customs of people who lived in a certain area thousands of years ago. It's obsessed with lineages because that's how the people in charge proved they were fit to rule. It's obsessed with what you should and shouldn't eat and what you do with your naughty bits, and whether or not you should cut a chunk of your naughty bits off if you're a male (Final decision: you should). Taken as a whole sections contradict each other because they are customs of different people in different places over a very long time. Their culture changed just like ours still is changing. It's clearly an invention of man, it shows all of our concerns. I severely doubt an all powerful being in charge of the entire universe would care what type of meat you were eating today. Or whether you hack decorative pieces of skin off the tip of your Johnson. I think if a force of the universe wanted to communicate with humans it would be concerned with much more cosmic level things than the bible is concerned with in enormous chunks.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  15. 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 3:29 pm |
    • George

      Agreed!

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

      But Islam is such a peace loving religion – what could possibly happen?

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

      Yes. We are a nation of victims and hypocrites.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  16. literate

    Church and religion are different. I think this young man is commenting about the discrepency/hypocrasy between what "religious people" say and what they do, esp in Christianity. Words are not equal to action. That is the very essence of Jesus' message – to do as you say.

    I agree with him in that I think religion is a language developed by humans to communicate with God. God (Jesus) is not religious, nor is HE a Christian. He is what He is...He did what He Said..and He served as an Example of HOW TO LIVE..and as fellow Christians (i.e. followers of Christ), that is what we should be concerned with, not adhering to religious interpretations that are often flawed or hypocritical. If Christianity is a vessel to get closer to Christ, then we need to make sure that vessel is in line with Christ's message.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  17. JG

    There are literally thousands of religions. That should tell us all that we need to know. Christianity has been around 2,000 of the 15,000 years or so that man has been around. It will die off eventually, just as many other did, and the next "story" will come along.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  18. Anon

    Oh well, peace all. Don't kick each other around too much. That always hurts.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  19. Scott

    The historical evidence for the existence of Jesus and the general story of His life are well established by any academic standards that measure such things. The only conclusion consistent with the evidence we have is that he lived, performed miracles, and rose from the dead. However, the evidence we have is not scientific proof beyond any reasonable doubt. Therein is the area for faith, and decisions about Him you have to make for yourself. In any case, let's keep the discussion civil.

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

      "The only conclusion consistent with the evidence we have is that he lived, performed miracles, and rose from the dead"

      I suggest reading from a different source. The last two are in no way "consistent with the evidence."

      January 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • silliness

      You make sweeping statements and brazen assertions and ask for everyone to keep the discussion civil in the same comment? Astounding.

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

      Scott, please show us even a single citation for the evidence of his miracles and rising from the dead. And no, citing the Bible as a historical reference does not count. That would be like using Gone with the Wind as historical evidence of the American Civil War. Yes, the Civil War did occur, and yes Gone With the Wind was a novel set during the Civil War. However, it is still a work of fiction with make believe characters who try teach us something about human nature through the story being told. All good works of fiction do that.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  20. StuffUrMamaShudaToldYa

    lol didnt i say what its faith? you dont have to believe it. I didnt try to sell you anything. all im saying is that we are all in the same boat...

    January 20, 2012 at 3:27 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.