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. Sade'


    January 20, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Sorry dear. It's a nice thought, but it is apparent from past and current history that it is against human nature.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  2. Oh Yeah

    There sure are a growing number of "relationship" guys like this. How long before they get as organized as the folks they are advertising themselves to be unlike?

    January 20, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  3. Petros

    Most religions have completely alienated humans from their true nature by imposing archaic, repressing standards to live by. Using fear of hell and damnation to lead us like lemmings. Most religions were invented by men and have been and are generally repressive to women. There were some noble reasons to try and organize ancient peoples, but in our current stage in history, religion has become an outdated, hypocritical source of leadership motivated by power and greed like all big business.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Want to bet that this guy doesn't believe in hell?

      January 20, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Sunflower

      amen to to that!!

      January 20, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      Good. I've always said it. There are only TWO religions in the world. One True & One False.

      True religion teaches that we can never make it on our own. Only God can make it through us, through Jesus Christ's death and resurrection.

      False religion teaches everything else other than what true religion teaches. They all teach self-fulfillment, self-effort, self help and....just plain SELF.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Prior

      "Fear not the Ori, fear the darkness that would conceal the knowledge of the universe. Believe in the truth of all things, and you too may find the path to enlightenment."

      "Hallowed are the children of the Ori."

      January 20, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Tony

      Heaven, Hell, Santa Claus, Easter Bunny.....

      January 20, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  4. James

    "vegan" not van!! check for spelling errors before you post a news article!

    January 20, 2012 at 5:45 pm |

    So guy watched or read The Da Vinci Code movie and then made a rap video based on that about Religion being negative and people are finally sucking it up?

    Maybe the next step is to read Richard Bach's Illusions and determine the meaning of "Bad is what you don't like, evil is what makes you unhappy" because things are a little more complicated then the drivel your leaders and the media feed you to shape your outlook.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  6. From an Athiest

    About time someone says it from that side. I say it and people scoff because I "don't believe," well take it from your own "kind." I hope this wakes some people up. Props Bethke!

    January 20, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  7. Gehenna

    Christians are the latch-key kids of an absentee father (Jesus).

    January 20, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Ok, I have to admit I laughed.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  8. wlfbearshaman

    "Non-denominational" is a denomination. It is a denomination called "non-denominational." And it is STILL religion. Christianity, whether practiced in the Roman Church, a Presbyterian Church or a "non-denominational" church is STILL CHURCH and is STILL RELIGION. Just a gimmick. Nothing more. And religion STILL causes more problems than anything else in this world. Get rid of religion, and many problems go away.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • PureFury

      How many Russian Orthodox priests did Stalin "cleanse" in the name of atheism?

      January 20, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      Fleeing from religion (especially TRUE RELIGION) can be compared to a fish who wants to leave the ocean for an aquarium, because ocean life is treacherous and short-lived. But once in the aquarium, the little fishy will realize that his little life is limited and short-lived just as it would've been in the ocean. The only difference (and not much different for that matter) is that this little fishy will be a bit more comfortable in his very limited and closed environment, only to realize that God is the only way out.

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

      "How many Russian Orthodox priests did Stalin "cleanse" in the name of atheism?"

      None. He wanted to consolidate power and eliminate any opposition. He wasn't religiously motivated, and neither were many believers who were tyrants.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  9. Well now

    Goofy athiests and Goofy Religous folk – there is a middle ground. Some of us believe in somethin.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • wlfbearshaman

      "Everyone must believe in something. I believe I'll have a drink." W.C. Fields (and me...)

      January 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Prior

      "And those who are prideful and refuse to bow down shall be laid low and made unto dust."

      "Hallowed are the children of the Ori."

      January 20, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  10. Abbot

    All you guys complain about the spanish inquisition and Crusades.
    1) Crusades was started becasue Muslims were killing christian pilgimages.
    2) Spanish Inquisition was spaniard reclaiming thier country from the muslim moors.
    Thank god we atleast won the spanish inquisition. Or else Spain would have been a muslim hell hole.
    Imagine we won the crusades. The ME would not have been the sewer of the world. And 911 would never happened.
    So loony lefties. Stop complaining and thank the lord you were born in the christian west. Or else you would have been hung up on a pole if you were born in the ME or Pakistan.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • DeWitt Bunch

      Spain is a Muslim hell hole ... or not... it's still mostly Muslim moron

      January 20, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  11. BoldGeorge

    True religion (organized or otherwise) is not about following traditions, not about sticking to creeds, not about following men, not about how good you are (or think you are), not about how much charity you've given or been devoted to, not about how nicely your prayer is verbalized (whether in private or in public), not about how often you attend church services, not about how many religious/christian friends you have, not about how long you've been a christian, not about how little you've sinned, and not even about how hard you've worked for the Lord.

    True religion is about 5 things:

    1) Acknowledge that your sinfulness and your unbelief has offended God immensly.
    2) Ask for God's forgiveness and salvation (because without these two things, you're already condemned).
    3) Believe and accept His Son's sacrifice to pay for your sins (because we would never have made it). That's why He sent Him...for you.
    4) Live a life that's honoring and glorifies His name.
    5) Most of all, have a yearning to learn about God's word the bible and a yearning to grow closer to Him.

    All you need is a little faith and openness to believe all this. Once in the faith, it won't be easy but Christ will be with you till the end of the earth...as promised.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • DeWitt Bunch

      Obviously you have confused true religion with Christianity.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      I have not confused the two....I have only fused the two.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  12. truthbringsfreedom

    RELIGION:A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the
    universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency
    or agencies,
    If you believe in Jesus, you are practicing a religion. You don't need to go
    to church or follow someone else's creed. The whole argument that believing
    in Jesus is somehow unrelated to religion is a fallacy.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  13. George

    So he's saying that Jesus is Buddhist?

    January 20, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • phelonius

      no, he's saying jesus IS buddha

      January 20, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • DeWitt Bunch

      Buddah was before Jesus

      January 20, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
  14. phelonius

    god is us.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  15. gary

    EVery Atheist needs to stand proud, show a telling symbol in your car window. I show the read "A". From what I've seen online, we are in the majority. We must stop the politicians pandering to whacked evangelicals. Let's live in the 21st century without ancient myths affecting national policy.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  16. Al

    If rags, k-ikes, f-aggots, communists, socialists and other t-rash were gassed, would the world have ANY problems?

    January 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • phelonius

      if all mankind were annihilated would the world have any problems?

      January 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • bnb42

      Yes this world would then be full of people who hate (Like you) and when you run out of other people to hate and kill you'll start on each other....

      Why don't we get rid of haters like you and live in a peaceful world.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Al

      What about just the ones I mentioned?

      Sub-humans don't belong to 'man'kind by the way.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • rebar

      Probably better to gas racists.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Well now

      Just one – you.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Me

      Well we certainly wouldn't have to deal with you anymore.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • macgyver

      Yes, It would have YOU

      January 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Al

      Rebar and the other half-wit sub-human animals that attempted to belittle me or what I said with a term created in the 60s,

      How did you dege-nerate, group-thinking worshipping pieces of garbage dodge Auschwitz?


      January 20, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Fewer problems if we start with you, tough guy.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • sam

      What's the matter, Al? ED acting up again, no one to take it out on? Tiny peen not working?

      January 20, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  17. Last Call

    Hmmm, 2,200 comments and counting. People are hungry for the Truth. Keep preaching it brother. It's Not about religion, it's about a Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ. Accept that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and salvation. Pray for fiorgiveness and accept Him into your heart and you will be a Christian and will be saved. Then follow Him. Bethke is not anti church. He's ani religion. There is a HUGE difference. That's what the video is all about and why it's viral. If you don't understand it, you're not listening to what he's saying.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • bnb42

      2200+ Responses yes...

      but about 2000 are from atheists bashing religion..

      Just saying....

      January 20, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  18. AdmrlAckbar


    January 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • bnb42

      Wow all caps... You don't need any proof... I believe you!

      January 20, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn


      January 20, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  19. AdmrlAckbar

    Mark in California.. you ALL CAPS'D "YOUR God" but not "their GOD" I am going to have to deduct -5 internet grammar points.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  20. Steve the Goat

    There is no god. There is no jesus. Well, there are people named jesus, but there is no jesus as in son of god jesus. What he said about religion being a horrible thing is correct, but trying to extract the son of the space ghost out of it to make yourself feel better is a mistake.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:27 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.