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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. LWZRGHT

    Kick up the tempo a little, add some drums. It's a good rap.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  2. jmadey

    how much would jesus charge to cure sarah palins brain cancer?

    January 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  3. lulu

    Just a question to atheists out there:

    Where does your hope come from?

    January 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Hillel the Elder

      My belief in myself

      January 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Greg s

      Eww hopeless then Huh!

      January 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • bill

      I focus on what is, and seek the truth by detaching myself from wants and desires. How do you do it?

      January 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      My hope lies in the fact that most religions eventually die. Nobody speaks seriously of Thoth or Zeus or Odin or Kokopele or Quetzlcoatl any more. 10,000 years ago was an age of superst¡tion, and there probably were no atheists at all. Today we're about a fifth of the world and the 2nd fastest-growing worldview (behind Mormonism). And, unlike Christians, we do it without crusades and torture chambers; unlike Muslims, we do it without bombs and hijackings; unlike Mormons, we do it with science rather than science fiction; unlike Scientologists, we do it without brainwashing.
       
      In short, PLENTY of reason to hope.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • jimbo

      You need a god to have hope? Very sad.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • uh dur?

      What does religion or the lack of there of have to do with hope? If religion is the only thing you have going for you, then you aren't very appreciative of the world your god has provided you. Why, when millions die from cancer, heart disease, even hunger, would you still have faith in a god that allows all this to happen under his watch? IF god is a kid on an anthill with a magnifying glass, who's to say you won't be the next unlucky ant? I have hope, but it's based on my own good fortune and hard work. I am lucky enough to not be born into poverty. I am lucky enough to have opportunities, though I know it just as easily could have turned out the other way. I am appreciative of my good fortune, and I try my hardest to experience the gifts this natural world has to offer. Religion, if anything, is the epitome of hopelessness, in my opinion. You spend your days praying to a god that is demented, at best. You spend your weekends praying with others who are selfish, at best. You live your life in a way that you feel would please this demented god. You don't live, you act. And that is hopeless.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Greg s

      The way I see it, I believe in god and of course an Atheists believes he is his own God, Now If I die tonight in my sleep and im wrong and the Atheists is right, Ill never know I was wrong, Ill be forever asleep....ahh thats not so bad, Now on the other hand and there is always another hand, If the Atheist dies tonight in his sleep and hes wrong.......He gets to see how well My bad! works with The Lord.
      Now one of the things that prove to me there is a God is a Atheists unnatural hate for God, If I didnt believe in God I would not give a hoot about Christians and all of there little holidays and events, Why would I care, Living in America means no one is going to kill me for my lack of belief so why care. But let me tell ya something we all know deep down inside there Is a God, Atheists do too there un bridled hatred is proof in its own way of that knowledge, You don't see Atheists hammering Hindus,Buddhists...there safe from the Fire breathing Atheists and the Muslims, well even the Atheists are scared of something. Anyway get over yourself, You know there more to you then plain ole chance could ever have conjured up!!! You will meet God someday and I dont know how it will play out because Im not so sure about hell fire but I got feeling you wont live'n on my street in the hereafter. So id be sure before I made that decision to blow off God, You aint near as smart as you think you are, Your actions Prove that!

      January 20, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • lulu

      You don't have a mere idea of who I am or what I have done with my life. If you get hope from just BEING you and because you THINK you can estimate what is going to happen then that's on you. I'm not trying to force anything on anybody, if by asking a question so that I can get some understanding where other people are coming from makes you think that then you are way off. I realize it is your choice to believe what you want. In my opinion hope doesn't come from fortune and I am not one to declare myself above others because I can. Hope is a feeling and no, religion doesn't cause it but God does. If you defend the meaning of reality to be no god and believe that you don't need god then you would also understand that everyday isn't promised and you will die and be nothing tomorrow and your definition of hope is useless. I have hope that there is a God, that he will work things in the favor of those who believe in him whether that means that I die or not. Death will not keep me from my God and my hope is just that. Try to prove hope with science, you can’t.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Ummmm

      "Now one of the things that prove to me there is a God is a Atheists unnatural hate for God,"

      You can't hate something that doesn't exist. Do you hate Tinkerbell? Do you hate the mystery planet Pandora? It might help if you actually knew something about atheism before commenting.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  4. The Lord Almighty

    Super viral? Wow! That's, like so totally ultra mega awsome to the max!!!

    January 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  5. GAW

    “When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” – Humpty Dumpty

    January 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  6. bill

    Exodus 21:20-21
    Glory be to God

    January 20, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Hillel the Elder

      How is that at all relevant?

      January 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Hillel the Elder

      Potato Chips

      January 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  7. DarthWoo

    I imagine the Protestants thought they were so clever when they were railing against Catholicism. I suppose that at least he isn't blowing anyone up.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Not blowing people up Yet!

      January 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  8. Bob Seamans, Vancouver WA

    Religion is human-kinds hold on spirituality.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • chrism

      No, religion is reconnecting to God.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      chrism
      Which religion? Which god?

      January 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • chrism

      Oh Yeah, most religions have some truths that can bring you closer to the One true God. However the full revelation of God to man is as is recorded in the old and new testaments.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • bill

      Chrism. Don't you mean the Book of Mormon or Holy Koran? Both expounded on the Bible and further revealed Gods word. Trust me. They say so.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Greg s

      O but wait a sec young fella, The Gospel says no other gospel but that taught by the apostles is to be followed no matter if it taught by an angel and is to be accursed, and both Islam and the Mormon faith were taught to man by a so called angel.....hmm Not so good there my friend.
      here is the deal Either God pressed his desires

      January 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  9. SPK

    Nicely presented but incredibly naive take on the history and effects of religion. About what you would expect from a 22 year old kid. Like much of his generation he's grasped on to some tired pseudo-intellectual dogma du jour and tried to construct a type of moral philosophy around it. Unfortunately, dogma will always let you down.

    I'm not a church goer or a true believer in any particular doctrine, but I am a student of the historical effects of faith in general and organized religions in particular on civilization and society. Nearly all the premises of his argument are completely flawed. Yes, religions have caused a great many wars and cost millions of lives. They have been perverted countless times for personal and political gain. Of this there is no doubt. But organized religion and religious thought has also been the moral basis for resolution of many societal/political conflicts and prevented or mitigated many, many others. Additionally, organized religious groups over the centuries have been responsible for feeding more hungry people and spreading more literacy through isolated populations than all the governments of the world combined. This is not my opinion...this is a fact. Organized religion has also often provided the only stabilizing force in times and places (from the dark ages forward) where anarchy and wholesale slaughter would have otherwise prevailed. These are all facts about organized religion conveniently ignored by the shallow minds and comically faulty reasoning of sad, angry people like Bill Maher and Christopher Hitchens. Their flavor of the month intellectualism is completely without depth or legitimate underpinnings. Like Joseph Goebbels and his pals, they use carefully selected examples, emotional invective, hate and pomposity to drive their lemmings before them. They are a true reflection of the paper-thin depth of much of today's emotional morality. Reason has become a whisper on the wind.

    I admire Mr. Bethke's attempt at coalescing a philosophy around faith versus doctrine and dogma. He should return to his history books and try again...

    January 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • ThinkAgain

      I think you're missing the point, which is "religion" often misses just that: The point. What would improve young man's poem would be to take "Jesus" out of the literal and into the metaphorical, where it does the most good and touches all of humanity.

      It is not the literal Christ that brings people close to God, but "the christ" in all of us: compassion. People of all faiths experience this, not just Christians, but it is this confusion that leads to so much hate, fear and war. If people could truly see the christ in each other and accept that there are many paths up that mountain to God, then we could all coexist a lot more peacefully.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • John 3:16

      The only "history" you need to know, which he's just given to you can be summed up as simple as this....my sign-on name...For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him would have everlasting life. That "history" will give you eternity, if you choose for it too.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      John 3:16
      "That "history" will give you eternity, if you choose for it too."
      Actually, it's not a "history", but a belief, and it only gives the promise of eternity, like the fabled Fountain of Youth.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • PulTab

      You denigrate Christopher Hitchens? He would crush you with his intellect.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • John 3:16

      Oh Yeah
      Actually it IS history. Jesus WAS here and he's coming again. I PROMISE YOU. Doesn't matter whether you believe it or not. But he's coming again...count on it. 😉

      January 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  10. Torak

    Wonder full ... sophistry.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=yBo7Z_abiLE

    January 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  11. Mj

    I totally agree with the content of this video. Thank you Jefferson.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • chrism

      Jefferson attended the Capitol church and funded missionary churches,

      January 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  12. Alison

    When someone is trying to pass a law against gay marriage claiming that it is wrong because the bible says so, that is very much shoving your religious beliefs down our throats.

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

      i think thats the point of "love god not religion" in this whole thing.. you know..

      January 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • NNx592QA

      @ John
      But we are told though religion what God "thinks" and "wants". Any stance or teaching that claims existance of God can be caracterized as religion. God and religion are inseparable; they go hand in hand. God cannot exist without religious thought.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  13. Nate (Seattle, WA)

    Religion-centered. God-centered. Jesus-centered.

    IIt's all nonsense-centered. Grow up, people. Mature adults don't believe in fairy tales.

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

      sure you do. you are fed fairy tales everyday. and you bow to the same peer pressure, and thats why you adhere to them as truths. think about it.. long and hard. for starters, try proclaiming you dont "buy" evolution and the first thing youll get is insults. Funny actually. there are over 8 theories as to how life started.. but somebody made it "trendy" to say evolution is it.. and its faaar from it. seriously.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • NONO

      Amen brother

      January 20, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • memyself

      Evolution has nothing to say about how life started. There are no competing theories to the idea of evolution of species through some kind of natural selection, just as there are no competing theories to the idea that the sun is a star, or matter is made up of atoms.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • tom

      I am just going to point this out, John. The theory of evolution has absolutley nothing to do with how life started. It only explains how life evolves. Trust me, there is nothing but consensus in the scientific community with regards to the theory of evolution. Try again. Science is not Dogma

      January 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  14. Jim

    Sounds like an old old saying I heard once,

    "Going to church doesn't make you a christian any more than being in a garage makes you a car."

    January 20, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • chrism

      The point you make is a good one, but that is unfortunately not the message of the video. The video seems to try to convince people not to go to church at all, when the problem is not going to church, but like your point the problem is going to church and not having it affect you in the least.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  15. BO$$

    This is corny..

    January 20, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  16. raven

    Regardless how people view this it has people talking. My son graduated with this young man.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • augustghost

      So what? What's your inane point?

      January 20, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  17. waterman

    Poor brainwashed kid. Thinks he is doing something different because he is just repeating 'Jesus, Jesus' and is 'against' religion. Religion is exactly what brainwashed him in to believing in Jesus and Bible.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • john

      and you have been brainwashed into believing what YOU believe. dont be naive. it didnt happen naturally

      January 20, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Mj

      EVERYONE is a product of their environment.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • waterman

      @john, no, because no one told me what I believe now. There is no book or preacher who told me my beliefs. Even my parents didn't indoctrinate me in any way. They never said 'believe X but don't believe Y'. "Product of environment"? Sure, that is a generic statement is true of everyone. But that does not mean that everyone is equally brainwashed.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  18. Novis Vox

    Religion is a government, and like any successful government it has it's triumphs, but it also suffers of corruption. In America in many cases, church has become a country club, a symbol of status, the "whole hearted" sacrifice of the week. It seems the weakness of man is each time they strive to attain higher enlightenment, it's met with greed, war, and hate. The reformation of Cristianity was in response to the "indulgences"(bribes) that were handed out to the churches pawns. He's just suggesting it's time to get back to the basis of what it means to be a Christian however niave it is. I don't see a problem with that. I think the Church has always been run by a**holes.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  19. 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 scientific subject. Maybe if it were called the HYPOTHESIS of evolution you would have a point.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • john

      evolution is so far from being proven its laughable. its about as concrete as proof of god.. seriously.

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

      If people don't believe in evolution, they certainly don't believe in science, so trying to explain scientific theory to them is pointless.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      http://www.susancanthony.com/aboutsusan/evolution.html

      January 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Wraith

      John,

      Scientific method. Look it up. To say that evolution is as provable as the existance of god is laughable. You clearly have no idea how the real, physical world works.

      I can't say this world would be better without religion (because, yes, it has done some wonderful things). But I will say that this world would be much better without zealotry, of any flavor.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Thayer

      John, Evolution is now scientific fact. If you have a problem with scientific fact, please turn off your computer and your lights and go live in the woods. Don't drive a car there. Scientific facts created that.

      You sound like a complete imbecile or religious nutcase.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Shaggy

      Gravity is a theory also. If you dropped something right now it could fall upwards. But repeated experimental observation would suggest there is an overwhelming probability it won't although this could be explained by "intelligent falling" as well.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Greg s

      I believe in evolution to a certain degree and I believe in God but neither one can be proven without the shadow of a doubt, Its why we have this whole argument in the first place. It your group of Scientists ever get something wrong they just say this needs further study, No harm no foul. The bible on the other hand is waiting to be proven wrong, unlike your scientist once its proven wrong its trash!

      January 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • lulu

      Evolution is nothing but a theory, if that is your argument that you are contradicting yourself becasue that can't be proven.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      john
      Laughable, eh?
      In the middle of a room full of people discussing a serious topic one person breaking out in hysterical laughter does appear odd indeed.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      lulu
      The proof lies in the evidence, and the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution. If you want to call creationism another theory, then what evidence supports it? Is there more evidence in favor of the Biblical creation myth, or the classical Greek one?

      January 20, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Momof3

      Greg s = the burden of proof lies on the believers, not the non-believers, to prove your bible is fact. It's impossible to prove something didn't happen, but it is possible to prove it did...IF it did!

      January 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  20. LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Gotta love the little atheists getting their panties in a bunch everyday. I'd think they should be out living their life but then they say that Christians are shoving their beliefs down their throat. That's laughable at best. Go do whatever you all want, we don't live in a theocracy and nobody's trying to make one, get over yourself.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Joe T.

      You think religious agenda being passed into law isn't shoving beliefs down atheists throats?

      January 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      Making laws based solely off of things from the bible IS shoving religion down everyone's throats

      January 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Greg s

      The atheists agenda is being shoved down everyone throat as well get over it!

      January 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • lulu

      This country was founded on christian beliefs and the laws were put in place that long ago. If anything it is you all that are trying to shove your beleifs down our throats. We just don't want things to change becasue we agree with the laws but it's really you trying to change them not us. Think about it before you accuse us of doing that.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      lulu
      Do you know anything about the Founding Fathers?

      January 20, 2012 at 4:52 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.