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. humtake

    The dumbest part about the whole thing is how he actually thinks only Christians vote Republicans. It's amazing how the media has been able to dictate how people think in this country.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Carol

      The comment about Christians being only Republican, only meant that the majority of Christian Republicans are fundamentalist Evangelicans and are against the GLBT having the same rights as anyone else. The commenter certainly understands that there are Deomocratic Christians. Some of us really try to live Jesus's words, as this video of the man tells you, not just to live the doctrines that human ministers and popes impose on us.

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

      I'm guessing he's referring to how republican candidates are always trying to get the Evangelical vote.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  2. oreo

    Poorly done.
    I did not get the reference about Republicans, this dude is labeling people, what a hypocrite.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  3. David Crosby

    Jesus is long dead and not going to affect one thing on this planet...Time to grow up and realize that we are on our own on this Earth...Which is OK...

    January 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • ModernMan

      That was Friday... Sunday's coming.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Angel

      you are wrong sir

      January 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • TG

      Hello David. It is written in your heart to know that there is truly something greater than yourself. I hope you find it.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Carol

      Jesus lives forever. Haven't you heard God is not dead?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • DK

      Thank you. Thinking people need to start coming out of the closet!

      January 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      TG> your heart is a muscle/organ which pumps oxygenated blood around your body.. I am sure that your internet browser will navigate to google, and help you answer some of the basic biology questions you may have.

      January 22, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  4. Justin

    Jesus called Christians to be a community of believers. A community without leaders and without organization is doomed to chaos and weakness.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  5. Gamer Geek

    Well that almost reinstates my faith in humanity at least.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  6. Ed

    I think it's nice that people who need to believe in something that is bigger than they are can do that to give them some hope, or something to look forward to, etc. But when religious leaders use fear and this empty promise of 'salvation' to manipulate the weak minded in the name of a non-existent god just for the purposes of getting their money or political support.

    Yes, I am an atheist, and quite happy actually. Yes I implied quite strongly that many religious people are weak minded, yes, I said non-existent god, and no I won't go to hell because there isn't one. But being weak minded doesn't mean they are bad people, they are just raised to believe they aren't enough.

    But having said all that, I still believe in the one true "god", and that is the belief that we are all god, and the only way to find it is to have love in your heart, real compassion for others, without it, all is lost. Love your brother and your sister {amen}

    As for voting Republican, not gonna happen, I only wish there was a more liberal Democrat I could vote for.

    Have fun flaming my comment, and have a great lifetime.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Ryan M.

      What rebuttal is needed for you? Your own illogical conclusion are their own rebuttal!

      January 20, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Ponter B

      Bravo! I couldn't have stated it any better.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • TG

      Hello Ed. I wonder if you will believe the same way on your death bed. Add 100 years to your life. Where will you be?

      January 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      "add 100 years." I would estimate that all of us will be dead and this conversation moot.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • another1

      TG, on my death bed I plan to reflect on my life, my loved ones, and I will have no regrets because I did not allow religion to dictate what I can and cannot do. I do what I please as long as it hurts nobody, and there is nothing wrong with that. I don't have any 'higher power' to answer to, and it suits me just fine. I won't have any regrets caused by the artificial restrictions of religion when I'm on my deathbed, how about you?

      January 20, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      Tg> I love the passive aggressive line you always deliver "have fun on your death bed" the argument works both ways however,. We can just as easily say "have fun with all the emptiness and hungry worms". A conceited notion it is that you get to escape the final conclusion of your life to go play forever in happy land., Say hi to santa and the easter bunny for me.

      January 22, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  7. Jimmy

    I go to church,my family goes to church and we ENJOY going to church.If you don't,sit in your recliner all day and watch TV commercials or go out and try to knock a little white ball into a hole in the ground.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Ed

      Hey I like hitting the little white ball. Where do you learn how to judge others – in church?

      January 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • oreo

      I like a white ball in my nose.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Jonline

      And let me guess, those who do not enjoy that are evil? I cannot stand organized religion but call myself Catholic when asked. Maybe its because I believe in the faith of my fathers but not the men who lead it.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Ponter B

      I don't have a problem with anyone going to church or believing in God. What I have a BIG problem with is when your religion tries to use its own dogma to create public policy which affects everyone.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Real Deal

      Jonline: "I believe in the faith of my fathers"

      The "faith of your fathers" was the product of the religious leaders of *their* days - clueless men, just like today.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  8. Connor Dicken

    Having been raised with various forms of Christianity crammed down my throat (my grandmother would take me to either a Catholic or a Baptist church every Sunday) I can see where he's coming from. Being told you're going to hell simply because you're a Catholic, Baptist, Protestant, Lutheran, or whatever else, is kindof dumb. Christianity is really the only religion with so many sub-groups that seem to hate each other in a passive way.

    'Course, now I'm a Wiccan, so, I probably can't say anything...

    January 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  9. Justin

    Seeking Jesus without the church is the surest path to aetheism.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Ed

      And Atheism is the one true path. Every journey starts with a single step.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Angel

      No not really sir

      January 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      Actually I would argue that reading the bible is the one true path to atheism.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • ModernMan

      That is a ridiculous statement. God said "I do not dwell in temples made with hands". If you read the red letters of the bible, you would clearly see that Jesus calls US the church. WE are the church, not some building or gathering of donut munchers on Sundays.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Angel

      @ stuck in the middle
      you are wrong sir

      January 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Reality

      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

      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.

      (references used are available upon request)

      January 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      Angel> That is a great and well thought out retort.. "you are wrong sir". I mean in the face of all that truth, how could anyone argue against you?

      January 22, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  10. LouAz

    Since man started walking on two legs he has denied what is self-evident. He is born, he lives, he dies, and death is forever. All religion is derived from this denial.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • WordUpToo

      well that just about sums it all up doesn't it? well done.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • another1

      I could not have said it any better.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • aarrgghh


      January 22, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • layne arnold

      there are theists who have abandoned the concept of eternal reward/damnation. Some have argued that the ultimate truth being espoused it that you die and if you've lived well, it's okay. you rot in the ground but it's okay. It's rejected because it adds a self interest that is incompatible with the absolute ideal of good. They argue that at the very least, it should not be put forward as a reason for doing anything. They put forward a theism in which people do stuff simply because it's right & not because there is any reward.

      January 22, 2012 at 2:00 am |
  11. YBP

    Christianity has become for some people a "safe" way to be anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic despite the more progressive, secular and politically correct culture that has developed and continues to move forward. Unfortunately for them, the rest of us see right through it, and are not araid to call them out on it.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Test

      LGBT,Muslims, and Jews are by nature not Christians. Of course being Christian would put a person in a different state of mind with different morals and ethics to uphold. Your comment merely states the obvious.

      The "Secular" masses do not claim all progressiveness in this country, to believe that is to live blind.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      Test> Christians do NOT have different morals than everyone else. the problem is that they believe they do.

      January 22, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • layne arnold

      "they"? – not to generalise or anything.

      January 22, 2012 at 2:06 am |
  12. Test

    It is year 2012, 2012 years after the Death and Resurrection of Christ Jesus. Believe in him or not, we live in a world effected by his works.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Connor Dicken

      Agreed. You'd have to be dumb to dismiss Jesus Christ AS A PERSON, since he DID exist and there is legitimate proof of that. The debate lies in whether or not he performed the miracles he is credited with, which, is honestly a can of worms I'm not about to open.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      af·fect·ed1 (adj)
      1. acted upon; influenced.
      2. influenced in a harmful way; impaired, harmed, or attacked, as by climate or disease.
      3. (of the mind or feelings) impressed; moved; touched: She was deeply affected by their generosity.

      And yes, i'd say it was defination (2).

      January 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Ed

      Don't believe. I think you got the date right though.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Test

      ef·fect   [ih-fekt] Show IPA
      something that is produced by an agency or cause; result; consequence: Exposure to the sun had the effect of toughening his skin.
      power to produce results; efficacy; force; validity; influence: His protest had no effect.
      the state of being effective or operative; operation or execution; accomplishment or fulfillment: to bring a plan into effect.
      a mental or emotional impression produced, as by a painting or a speech.
      meaning or sense; purpose or intention: She disapproved of the proposal and wrote to that effect.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • cme884

      Assuming you're right (which is a big assumption), wouldn't Jesus have been born 2012 years ago and died 33 years after that?

      January 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Wordy Wordpicker

      Re: affect vs. effect

      Lucifer's take is correct (except for misspelling "definition" :))

      When something affects you, it has an effect.

      (an exception is when you are speaking of a term in psychology referring to an "affect", which is an abnormal physical display - eg., "He displays a flat affect")

      January 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Real Deal

      The BC/AD calendar was the brainchild of a 6th century Catholic monk, conjured up as he tried to fix the date for Easter each year. The Church was very powerful socially, politically and in every other facet of life in those days, and the calendar caught on... but not worldwide for many, many centuries. Several cultures keep their own ancient calendars also.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Test

      Affect (verb) To influence something without causing it to happen.

      Effect (noun) Is the result that was accomplished or to directly cause something

      i'll leave it to the reader.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      The Anno Domini dating system was devised in 525 by Dionysius Exiguus to enumerate the years in his Easter table. His system was to replace the Diocletian era, that had been used in an old Easter table, because he did not wish to continue the memory of a tyrant who persecuted Christians. Your notion that the calendar somehow started with the birth of an imaginary deity, is nonsense and quite easily dis-proven.

      January 22, 2012 at 12:34 am |
  13. Eric

    We all find out who is right when we die. I'm not in a big rush to figure that out...

    January 20, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • aarrgghh

      you may find, that you don't find out anything. you just die

      January 22, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  14. John

    Has a new internet meme just been created?

    January 20, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  15. ILoveJesus

    AMEN Jefferson....AMEN!!!!! Well said young man. Thank you JESUS!!!!! Thank you LORD GOD!!!!!! HALLELUJAH!!!!!!

    January 20, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Big O

      ooooooohhhhhhhhhh, was it good for you?

      Best to keep that stuff in the bedroom...

      January 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  16. André

    God. Is. Imaginary.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Test

      not a complete sentence.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • John 3:16

      Man. Is. Foolish.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • rick

      The. Universe. From. Nothing.Without. God. Is. Imaginary.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • G Man

      I know God. He is not imaginary. There is more to us than mortal frame. We are His children and He loves us.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      So do unicorns and the giant spaghetti monster

      January 22, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  17. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    "Guide us on the path that we may triumph over the enemy of our salvation and be with you in the end of ends on the planes of enlightenment."

    "Hallowed are the children of the Ori."

    January 20, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Prior

      "Hallowed are we; hallowed are the Ori."

      January 20, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      You're quick Prior. I've seen you posting all over these blogs. You trying to out post "Atheism is bad, blah, blah" tool?

      January 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Prior

      "Those who reach enlightenment shall rejoice with the Ori forever."

      "Hallowed are the Ori."

      January 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  18. YBP

    The remedy to the illness that is religion is education.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • layne arnold

      it might be argued that any statement that resists contradiction and places itself as a truism is contrary to the notion of intelligence that is central to education. Supposedly, intelligence is grounded in the distrust of any orthodoxy, be it religious, atheistic, social etc.

      January 22, 2012 at 2:05 am |
  19. J.R.

    sorry – NOW AGNOSTIC***

    January 20, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  20. J.R.

    As someone who was raised Catholic and is not Agnostic (Anti-Organized Religion) I have to say, I have never been happier now that my head isn't filled with delusions of a magic man in the clouds out to get me if I misbehave. That bible you put so much interest into: a hoax. It was written BY MAN to control mankind and keep you, and you, and you in line. Read it and you will realize it's nothing but a contradictory, hypocritical mess - just as any given GOP candidate who wants to impose anti-Equality measures against us in the GLBT community. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!

    January 20, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • J.R.

      **now agnostic.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Test

      broken record.

      " That bible you put so much interest into: a hoax"

      please, are you like 5 or something?

      January 20, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Context

      You need a new term. Agnostic is unsure, not anti organized religion.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • jimbo

      Are you like 5 as well? Even a five year old knows that Elmo is a puppet.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Follower of paul

      unbelivers are not suppose to understand the bible cause you are not a beliver. Only belivers can undertsand the bible. thats what God intended, its one of the mysteries that God explained to paul. Those who are not belivers of 1 corithians 15 -1-4 will not understand the bible and see it as mans work and foolish. It states that in the bible, unbelivers think its foolishness and belivers understand how wise it is.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • jimbo

      To say "unsure" makes it sound like we haven't yet made up our mind. The way I view myself is that I am open to either possibility but can't say for sure either one is a 100% certainty. But I can say that no religion we have on Earth is correct. There are no religions here that are in the proper scale. Religion isn't in proportion with what we know is out there in the Cosmos. Why no mention of extrasolar planets, other galaxies, black holes, etc. in any religious text? Because they didn't know about them 2000 years ago. To me, that is the telling evidence. The bible was written given our understanding of the world at that time. As that knowledge grew, religion did not (and more often than not, persecuted those who discovered such things). Now we find these texts only address a tiny fraction of what is there. If it is indeed the word of god, he would have known and told us about it. It is hard to believe that a galaxy 100 million light years away, that we can't even see, was created as part of a god's plan for man. There may well be some larger truth, but to claim that they knew about this 2000 years ago or before is pomposity at its worse.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • jimbo

      "unbelivers are not suppose to understand the bible cause you are not a beliver(sic)."

      It is logic like this that blows me away. Like it is some kind of secret code. This type of logic is intellectually lazy, and a cop out at worse. I have a dragon in my garage, but you can't see it because it only wants to be seen by those that believe in it. You can never disprove that statement. What you are saying is EXACTLY the same thing.

      I was once a believer, but now I am not. Having taken religion one hour a day for 12 years of my education, I can say that I understand the bible just as much as you. I still think it is bunk.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • hmm

      interesting because according to your claim, the bible was written by men to control men... i don't see the bible having any authority over men these days or any other days. so perhaps that's not what it was written for. the magic man in the cloud is also not out to get you when you misbehave, let alone, he is also not a man. He is looking out for you just like parents look out for their children and hope to grow them up by loving them in gentle and harsh ways. you can't blame the parents for wanting to discipline them so you can't blame God. the point of this young man's video was to proclaim what Jesus did for you, whether you like it or not. there are different versions of the belief but the fact that he put what God did through Christ in the center is the biggest point he's making. if you missed that, i'm sorry to hear. you're missing out, being "unsure" and all. after all, how can you be so sure of your views and beliefs? doesn't faith mean a belief regardless of proof?

      January 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • I Don't Get It

      follower of Paul - "the mysteries that God explained to paul."

      Why do you believe Paul's claim of a visit from "God"? Many people claim those "visits" - and they don't all agree. They can't all be right, but they can all be wrong.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Follower of paul

      if you do not belive then why do you care,. So many rant and rave, about what someone has wriitten about their belief, and they write how foolish it all is. If they do not care or belive, why even argue a point that they do not belive. Sounds like to me they just need to argue to themselves a truth.. Their truth or belief is theirs, but they want everyone else to belive what they think, they want you to agree with them that there is no God so they can be right. They argue that point so much, that they are argue it to much, to be right.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
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About this blog

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.