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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. Alex

    Cool video. i am very impressed with this younge dude,s creative flow. Good on you! How you can remove Christ from Christianity i dont get- i suppose a vibrant imagination is a good tool to have. Nonetheless, valid attempt! As to the whole AntiReligious campaign that especially north america has adopted, shift down a gear, maybe two, please. atheists are hardly in a position to talk smack about the devout- at least the religeous have chosen a faith to follow, with all its ups and downs. The unbeliever denies having faith- that is as void and unsatisfying as they come. Its faith that drives people, to do good or bad albeit. But it is a catylist nevertheless. So quit knocking people for saying that they believe in a numinous, invisible existance. For all you lovers out there, you might want to take offence to such a stance. Religion, or a lack thereof, is fundamentally a choice, and to a great deal, a subjectiveness. So i propose that the believer as well as his counterpart, the unbeliever, are fundamentally persuing the same prejudice principle. I say to you all, keep your opinions to yourselves, if they are only itended to degrade others.

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

    Do athiests have faith in anything?

    January 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Abu Musa

      Atheists believe it is good to be hateful and intolerant towards people who want to worship God, do good deeds and lead a moral and organized way of life.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • CJ

      Faith that reason, tolerance, reading, understanding, travel and openmindedness can do more for the world than anything christians ever proposed.

      And anyway, who needs faith? What does 'faith' do? Except kill and enrage and blind people.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Jimmer

      They have faith in themselves and that they can do whatever they want without remorse. Think about it, isn't that the best excuse to not be responsible or held accountable for your actions?

      Unfortunately they're so predictable, both on these blogs and in real life.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • jimbo

      "They have faith in themselves and that they can do whatever they want without remorse. Think about it, isn't that the best excuse to not be responsible or held accountable for your actions?"

      Seriously, wow. What a ridiculous thing to believe. Maybe you need a god to make sure you behave morally, but most of us aren't that weak minded. I don't steal because I don't believe it is right. I didn't need a god to come to that conclusion. Open your mind, don't be such a simpleton.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  3. Abu Musa

    Christians who idol worship a human being are going to hell.
    Jews who idol worship money, power, the golden calf are going to hell. (Although they claim to worship Eloh)
    Hindus who idol worhip cows and drink their pee are going to hell.
    Muslims who worship alone the One True Lord of the universe are going to heaven.
    Hell will be a painful torment for those who have rejected the truth.
    Freemasons/jews are filthy kuffar who are going to hell.
    WTC was brought down by controlled demolition.
    Ron Paul is an invisible man.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Test

      Salvation does not whatsoever require the Koran.

      Muhammad was a false prophet.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • John Stranger

      You have a very cool name.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Alex

      Abu Mussa. Its this mentality of yours that makes some of this younge man,s complaints legitamite. you better have God on your side, because you cant make it on your own. BTW, there is a variety of believers, this is but one skew.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  4. waterman

    God help people from belief in God and religion.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  5. KM

    ... opiate of the masses.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  6. Isabel Clark

    Absolutely phenomenal. Good for you.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  7. Lawrence 77

    There is actual evidence for reincarnation, which means that there is evidence for the existence of a soul . That doesn't mean there is a god or any justice or any help if you get caught in a woodchipper, it just means we go on and on.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • brad

      show me the evidence

      January 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Steve O

      What's the evidence?

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

      I like funny people like you.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  8. ambi

    I watched it and loved it and feel like him I pray to God and nope don't believe in the trinity it was man made to help the kings rule etc anyway Loved this video, organized religion is a horror

    January 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  9. Alison

    I haven't even begun to read the comments here but I know they are going to be pure entertainment.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  10. mark

    seeeeee....I dont care for religion.... OR Jesus.. Its just that easy...

    January 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  11. Christy Rachelle Ford

    When this man talks about "religion" he means following a set of rules and regulations, ordinances and sacraments in the hope it will make us worthy of God or whomever we choose to follow. Christians know that we can never be worthy of God. We can do nothing to earn our way into Heaven or anything like that. We need Jesus to live in us, we need a relationship with Him. Only Jesus can save us from ourselves.

    Also, when he talks about loving the church, he's referencing to the Bible. The Bible talks about Christ loving the Church, which refers simply to the worldwide body of followers of Jesus Christ, not a church building, denomination or bureaucratic organization.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  12. scott

    You know Jesus was controversial. He said, He was God. Then proved it on the thrid day. So I got to go with Jesus.
    //Critics called Bethke’s take on religion overly simplistic and dangerous.// But it is that simple. Put faith in Jesus and be saved. That is it.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      Put faith in the invisible pink unicorn and be saved, it's that simple.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Steve O

      Imagine today you found out about a guy that claimed to be god who died in the 1930's. You find out because someone had heard the story told at his dinner table, and finally decided to write it down. In the story, he wrote down that the guy was obviously god because he rose from the dead.

      The author tells you that he has proof that the man was god, and when you ask for evidence, he points to the book he just wrote as the evidence.

      Would you believe him?

      Yeah, me neither.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  13. Al

    I don't like tihs half-wit Mesitzo already and I haven't even watched the video yet.

    And Boston, I think you're right about the RC.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  14. Rod

    I think its interesting the article opens up with atheists "coming out of the closet" yet this young man is NOT an atheist. In fact he is far from an atheist! The "Belief" section of CNN CONTINUES to be a laughable column where the flat out stupidity is blasted onto the internet under the banner of an otherwise credible news source. If you accept the teachings of ANYONE as more than a philosophical guide, you are NOT an atheist. If you believe in any kind of cosmic determinism or metaphysical influence in the affairs of man then you are NOT atheist. If you're still hung up on a 2,000 year old poorly translated compilation of poetry and religious edicts written by desert nomads you're definitely NOT an atheist.

    This kid is at least talking about a point that has some but not much validity. I agreed with just about every other stanza excluding of course the drivel about his adoration of a long dead philosopher with interesting but not necessarily new ideas for his time.

    I sincerely hope SOMEONE comes to their senses and removes this abhorrent section, "Belief". CNN, you're better than this!

    January 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • CJ

      finally, somebody sane.

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

      Haha. I don't usually like to call people idiots, but you're an idiot. Read the entire article, please.

      "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."

      Where is he claiming that he's an atheist? I really hate when people who can't even read properly bash on writers.

      By the way, if you would've read the entire article, you would've come across the part that says,

      " '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."

      Learn how to read you imbecile.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  15. StuffUrMamaShudaToldYa

    its easy to call the Bible mythology. But what of your formal education? how much of that is true? now prove it. what you people lack is perspective. you live and die. inbetween you can have fun and talk trash about what someone else believes, but whatever you believe or dont believe amounts to nothing in the end right? If there is no God, who cares about what you believe. I understand why believers care. I dont see why unbelievers care. You should be living it up instead of wasting time hating on us.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • HellBent

      "I dont see why unbelievers care."

      When believers stop trying to deny civil rights to other, or trying to inject god into science classes, or trying to rewrite history, then I won't care. When believers (and yeah, I get that most people don't do this) start respecting the consti.tution, then I'll adopt a more live and let live atti.tude.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • ....

      "You should be living it up instead of wasting time hating on us."

      pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • CJ

      Formal education criticizes itself, each idea is debated by thousands of specialists, then you get it in a book or from a teacher who suggest it could still be wrong, but we think this is right.

      That is a little different from a set of ideas thrown together that some claim explain the whole of history and ignores the thousands of other cultures around it.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • not really a hater....

      Non-believers care b/c 'believers' want to make us follow all the laws that they think 'god' wants them to follow – you follow whatever you want, but it's not your place to tell me what I can and cannot do or who I can and cannot be in a legal relation ship with... if non-believers don't care, the US will fall into the hands of the christian version of the taliban so fast it'll make your head spin.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Alison

      I agree with everything HellBent, ..., and CJ said. When believers stop shoving their beliefs down my throat and stop trying to run this country based on their beliefs, I'll stop hating. Until then, haters gon hate.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Benjamin

      Who threw the first stone?

      January 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Alex

      First, CJ, you're not going to convert anybody in the comments section of cnn.com...

      Also, I'm with HellBent. Non-believers care because their way of life is affected by religious individuals who want to get into everybody's business and tell them how to live their lives.

      Believers hate on non-believers all the time. Every once in a while, the non-believers will tell you to back off. Let's face it, a lot of problems we have today are based on legislation not being able to pass because of believers. We're supposed to separate church and state, but when all of our representatives and senators are christian, it's kind of difficult to do.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • JJC

      Us unbelievers care because the believers are affecting our lives for the worse. They threaten my childrens lives with their teachings that you should not do stem cell research, nor use condoms, and that it is OK to fly planes into buildings. Unbelievers care when they are surrounded by insanity. Believers are trying to control MY life and what MY children can and can't do, so that is why I case. I am not trying to control the believers except to make them stop controlling me.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  16. md2205

    After the Great Flood in Noah's time, when G-d saved Noah and his family because the rest of the people in that generation did bad things to each other, G-d gave Noah seven laws to follow which he told him to pass down to everyone to do. After the Jewish people came into existence, G-d intended for them to inform the non-Jews about these laws. These laws are still in existence today, and are basic laws for everyone to do. They should be done with the intention in mind that G-d gave these laws to practice. They are to believe in One united G-d, not to blaspheme Him, not to steal and kidnap, not to murder, not to do adultery, etc., not to eat the limb of a living animal (animal cruelty) and to set up effective courts of justice. It is clear that if everyone would follow these laws, the world would be a much better, kinder and easier place in which to live, and G-d's purpose for creating people would be fulfilled.

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

      Except none of this happened. There's this thing called history. It proves or disproves past events. Sorry about that. Go out and do some good deeds though, will you? Jesus would have liked that.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  17. Boston85

    another naive 20 something..If even that....who thinks he knows everything about the world......
    last year the Occupods...now this guys 15 seconds of fame in cybespace.
    Roman CAtholic church..and many others.... whether you like them or not..have been running soup kitchens and orphanages for centuries........ i do agree many "religious" are hypocrites.... but have some respect.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • JNIH

      I agree. Now and days they want to create a state of being that says I want to leave my live for Jesus without having to actually follow his rules. These kids now and days think they can just come in and destroy what God himself created. In the book of James it tells us that if anyone considers himself a religious person then feed the poor and the hungry. Religion is not the problem! The problem is the Hippocrates that live within religion.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  18. ?

    It is amazing how you state either side of the argument you are just wrong, so what is the point to these blog comments.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  19. Jeff S

    The response video with this line: "You’re like the van who claims to hate diets" – has over 390,000 views. That tells you how much response videos on YouTube are worth. I haven't watched any of them, but wth does that even mean? I've never come across a van that either liked or disliked diets.

    People like to post lame response videos to everything on YT that gets some attention, just hoping it will help add to their own personal sense of self-worth. The people who are obsessed with fame, in any form, are an embarassment to humanity.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  20. CJ

    Nice kid, reasoned with good intentions. Still fails to understand his Jesus addiction insults billions worldwide. If he wants to love a figure who may never have existed fine. But he should not condescend to those of us who know better, and were doing good deeds before he was even born!

    January 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Jeff S

      Its funny that you think you "know better" – you don't know "better", you just think differently. Until you realize that, you'll never "know better." Just like those who think they know everything know the very least, and those who realize how little they "know", actually "know" far more than others who don't realize that.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • CJ

      Er, yeah, a Phd in the subject, growing up Christian, massive experience teaching it to kids older than him.

      I know better.

      Thanks Jeff. I'm sure you know some things better than me, nascar perhaps.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • someguy

      I don't understand what do you mean by saying you know better? What is it that you know better?

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

      But you murder God's son by being born (so did I) and don't think you can make up for that with being good.

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

      Fair point. I know better than to believe one man, held up by one sliver of humanity's religion, who may never have existed, could be the answer to the questions this kid poses. Jesus is fine, probably had good intentions if he did exist, but he does not explain native americans, asians, africans, indians and thousands of other cultures. Its pure ignorance to think he does.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • 3petes

      never have existed? I politly disagree...I think any historian worth his salt would state that it is a fact that a man named Jesus Christ existed 2000 years ago....And that he was crucified by the Romans is also a much agreed on fact...now what happened 3 days later, that takes faith. But that faith has changed my life. (thanks for reading, and I don't mean to insult anyone's disbelief.)

      January 20, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Lee

      Lot's of people have "known better" than to think that Jesus was divine. But to deny that Jesus never existed? That just seems ignorant.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:11 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.