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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. catadmin

    To rationalize a belief in God or a non belief in God using one's rational thinking brain, prevents it from knowing anything about God. With each question asked, it takes one further from the answer. Nothing is clarified at all. Look at it like a giant wheel The core or hub being the answer (the exisitance of God). The questions becoming the spokes that lead from it. With each question asked it generates another question. Every question asked makes more spokes off the first question. Thus, it moves further from the core 'answer' that which will never be understood. A rational mind is limited by the questions it asks. It is better to ask from the heart.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • What?

      "A rational mind is limited by the questions it asks. It is better to ask from the heart."

      Most hearts are corruptible and the world would go to hell. LMAO!

      January 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  2. Sean

    Aren't flying chariots a part of Mormon theology? Yet if an adult still believed in a Santa who flies around in a sled pulled by reindeer we (including) most Mormons would think they were nuts.....

    January 20, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  3. misty

    It seems everyone is trying to prove their view is the one and only right view – what does this teach us?

    January 20, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Russ

      @ misty: I guess math teachers everywhere should agree that 2+2 can equal anything. Narrow-minded punks.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Sean

      What does it teach us? That I am right and you are wrong.....LOL

      January 20, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  4. AMP

    Religions are not bad at all. Only bunch of selfcentered, narrow minded arrogant leaders whose goal is to divide people by brainwashing them and making themselves reach is the biggest problem. Churches and Mosques should be used to shelter poors, feed and educate them rather than making people fanatics. Most of the religious leaders are working for their own as you may see on TV Channels every Sunday. Missionaries should use their enrgy and Vatican should use the money to educate poors rather them sending missionaries to converts tribes all over the world. Claiming Religion bigger doen't mean anything when your own people are straving for food.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  5. Josh

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=GYMLMj-SibU

    January 20, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  6. Sean

    What if a person who believes in god met and adult who still believes in Santa Clause? Would they just let them be or would they try to explain that Santa doesnt exist. Perhaps this person TRULY believes with all their heart that Santa exists would the god believer ask for proof, would they think the santa believer is nuts? Hmmmmmmmmmmmm

    January 20, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • bnb42

      Are you saying there's no Santa Clause.....

      Who brought me the new red rider BB gun last Xmas?

      January 20, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • *

      *Claus (not Clause)

      January 20, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      Hmm, Saint Nicholas was a real person, unlike god, who has always been a figment of people's imagination.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Iconoclast: a little historical irony in your appeal to ol' St Nick over & against Jesus...

      the real St Nicholas slapped Arius in the face for saying the historical man Jesus of Nazareth wasn't God.
      http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/bishop-nicholas-loses-his-cool/

      Not saying that was a good thing to do, but if ol' St Nick slapped a guy for saying that Jesus was only a man...
      how much more upset would he be over saying Jesus didn't even exist...

      January 20, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • keefah

      Subjecting dictation of ALL THAT IS to human rationality (quickly: consider the "status" of humans on earth relative to the rest of the universe) is, well, nuts.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • john

      oh lawd.. now the athiests are busting the athiests in logic faults..

      January 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  7. Sharon Yeates

    Some people seem to be ignoring the reality of the fact that what many organized religious organizations teach as Christianity has almost nothing in common with what Jesus Christ taught, which is the real meaning of this young person's video. It is okay to hate hyprocracy. It is okay to hate social clubs masking as faith-based-houses of God. If Christ was actually being honored in many churches, if Christians were actually acting more Christ like, (loving, forgiving, less judgmental), videos like this would not be so popular. Christ said, "Judge not," but many religious people do nothing more that judge. Christ said "love your enemies," but the loudest supporters of an eye-for-an-eye profess Christ. MANY churches need to stop "playing church," and start following Christ again.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • keefah

      Nice. I think there is something I call Americhristianity - the cultural christianity that most Americans grow up in - and it actually has many un-Jesus ideas (a major one, as you mentioned, is eye-for-eye justice). True spirituality transcends allows us to transcend even "good" American ideas, but there is so much mixture in the American church that it gets hard to separate 'em out. The idea that God is a republican makes me puke. But the idea that He is a democrat makes me puke even harder. We have to go with ideas that are closer to HIS ACTUAL IDEAS, as found in what Jesus said and did. It's hard when we've come to view American ideas as Jesus ones.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Sean

      well said, if Jesus returned would he hang out with conservative white baptists that run the local State Farm insurance office in anytown America. You know the type...the ones who THINK Jesus would like them...the ultra conservative type that make business deals at church on Sundays, drive a Buick, gossip about the "bad" people on the other side of the tracks. If Jesus returned do you think he would want to hang out with Catholic priests...LOL Televangilists?

      January 20, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Steve

      The irony of being "Christlike" means to not be judgemental and yet there is a "judgement day" where those simply not believing in him will be suffering eternal hellfire. Please, I admonish you not to be Christ like. I am not a Buddhist either but I don't think the Buddha ever said to "bring them here and slaw them before me" those who would not accept his kingship (so to speak).

      January 20, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  8. AdmrlAckbar

    Let's look at the facts (P.S. I don't need to supply any support for these facts, so shush):

    1. Science is mainly a fairytale.. I mean come on chemistry is just fancy alchemy. Biology is just an excuse for perverted science teachers to tell children about s-e-x. There's no way any of it could be true! It’s all a system designed to manipulate sheep into becoming mindless followers. “Thank you sir! May I pay you for another Flu shot!”

    2. Science is responsible for nothing but evil in the world, e.g. The atom bomb, biological warfare, Carrot Top etc... Ok well, maybe the devil is responsible for the last one..

    3. By NOT believing in science you are automatically somehow a better, more ethical and more intelligent person. That's right all you have to do is not believe and POOF! That said, all believers in science are automatically idiots and hicks.. every one of em. I mean after all, they all look alike and I can’t tell a physicist from a molecular biologist in their posh white lab coats and conformist safety goggles! Which is more proof they wish to indoctrinate you.. they all dress alike!

    4. Science has done nothing but hold back the progress of belief and spirituality... It's an active agenda people! Sir M.C. Hammer once said we just have to pray to make it today, but now science is trying to make you buy apples everyday or else they will send their doctors after you!! Yeah science, I know where your agenda is based.. In the biggest global corporate economic power in the world.. Apple!

    5. I am somehow claiming to backup all my comments with an implied knowledge of religion and faith, but most likely the last class I took on religion was in high school and even then I was too busy writing the names of bands like Wynger on my Trapper-keeper to have been paying attention. Still it's a cool word to throw around “Religion”!

    6. And remember simply NOT believing in science isn’t enough! One must repeatedly insult, mock and belittle the followers of science at every chance given, whilst all the while implying #3 on the list above. Go thee forth to the street or forums of internets and shout: LOOK AT ME!! LISTEN TO MY OPIN.. I MEAN FACTS! SURE I CAN’T DISPROVE THE NULL HYPOTHESIS ON WHICH MY BELIEFS ARE FOUNDED, BUT I AM A BETTER PERSON THAN YOU AND GOSH DARN IT PEOPLE LIKE ME!

    January 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Milton

      Satire is so hard for ppl to do.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • bnb42

      Wow my sarcasm meter is registering off the scale......

      January 20, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • keefah

      Nice. I love how human rationality worshippers base their entire judgment of existence upon rationality's confirmation that certain natural laws operate according to principles it can understand. Suddenly our minds are experts on EVERYTHING in the universe. Talk about arrogance. 🙂

      January 20, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Arrogance is believing that one out of the thousands of belief systems is completely right and only those who think and believe a very specific way can get to "eternal paradise".

      January 20, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, Wonderful! Sarcasm at it's highest expression.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  9. bubobubo

    Easy to hate religion, but can one hate Jesus? I suppose so. Jesus may or may not have existed, as the evidence is poor. Either way, he didn't last very long. The reason to hate Jesus would be that "he" promoted nonsensical beliefs that caused a lot of mayhem for all of us.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  10. Sean

    The ultimate test would be to see how many religious people would allow their investment portfolio, 401k or life savings to be managed by someone who says "god tells me how to manage your money" or "god tells me which stocks to choose". Uh huh....thought so......probably ZERO.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • bubobubo

      It seems that most of the Republican presidential candidates got the call from God, and they are now being dumped by the people. They don't trust the callees.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • john

      many religious people do not believe in or pray to god.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  11. catadmin

    Someone who requires proof of God will never believe in God. Someone who believes in God requires no proof.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • bnb42

      To have an invisible friend at the age of eight is charming and not a cause for concern. To have an invisible friend in adulthood is however a cause for concern and could be considered psychotic. So how exactly does giving them the name of a deity change that opinion?

      January 20, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • thor

      yeah i guess u r right
      all those 1000s and tens of 1000s of kids who were abused by priests and other church officials believe the same,eh?
      the pope is a nazi pedophile

      January 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • john

      calling god an invisible friend is such a cop out. boring tactics used by boring people..

      January 20, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  12. Commoner

    The sentiment communicated by this video is somewhat anti american. Hating religion is kind of counter intuitive to freedom of religion.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • bnb42

      Freedom of religion also includes freedom FROM religion

      January 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Anatomically Bombed

      Much like you Christians like to believe you can hate the sin without hating the sinner, you can hate religion without hating the people.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  13. thor

    thor loves feeding the c0 co to older women
    especially most of ur mommas!
    they love to read from the bible as thor slides his meat into their #ssholes!

    January 20, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  14. Amy

    "You’re like the van who claims to hate diets"... I'm sorry wat?

    January 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      I had a van, a Ford Econoline E150 Club Wagon to be specific, 1976 I think. It hated diets, never lost a pound that I could tell.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  15. Chris

    There has been a huge increase in atheists. People have the right to believe and feel any way they choose. Most of the atheists I have talked to feel the way they do because of the falsehoods that the world's religions have force fed them. And, yes, almost every war that has happened in history has been in the "name of religion." This fact cannot be disputed.

    However, the truth is that most religions do not teach Bible truths. The truth IS recorded in the pages of the Bible but it is just too inconvenient for the clergies to accept and live by themselves. The scriptures also say that few would really become "true" Christians.

    What most people also fail to realize is that the earth's major religions all have the very same beliefs. Immortality of the soul, hellfire, praying to statues, etc. All encourage large donations, keep their parishioners in the dark and in fear and keep them paying even when they cannot feed their families. Jesus was accurate when he called these so-called godly men, "white-washed graves and hypocrites."

    No, Jesus would not choose the Republican party, but neither would he choose any political party from any nation on earth.
    His kingdom is no part of this world.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • sybaris

      "There has been a huge increase in atheists."

      Fallacy

      You cannot count what was uncountable

      January 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  16. ralph

    religion was a goodthing that got screwed up by mans own ego and fears..and if they knew that they are all praying to one god,to the same god,things would be better.and im glad it is literally dying out..no one goes to church anymore,you will never see a full church besides on holidays..religion truly does nothing but create hate,which turn to wars..watch Religulous by bill mahar..and the republican party is a party of hate and division.they wont accept gays,unless they take the "gay-cure",they wont accept women,unless they promise to honor&obey,they wont accept blacks,unless they are will to be enslaved again..because they wanna party like its 1776.how typical,backwards,instead of going forward,thats how they roll..lol

    January 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  17. Sean

    I wonder how many god believers take seriously a person who claims to be an alien abduction "expert" or a bigfoot expert or a ghost expert or pyramid power expert or naburu (or whatever that "hidden" planet in our solar system is called" expert. i wonder how many take seriously a person (and there are a lot) who believe in vampires or werewolves? Interesting because to me these people are just as credible (or not) as a god believer....not a single shred of proof, nothing, nada except they all say they "feel" god in them, just as people who claim to have been abducted by aliens "feels" that it truly happened to them.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • john

      you do understand, your version of "proof" only exists here on earth.. pretty closed minded to then equate it with "truth". some places in the universe, very close to earth, proof and logic are out the window.. what then? what would you do with your "proof" if it changes all the time? hmmm..

      January 20, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Sean

      well if god exists everywhere then he/she/it would exist here on Earth as well. I love how you try to sayl God exists "somewhere" else where he/she/it can elude detection from science and that only those such as yourself are "fine tuned" enough to "see" him/she/it. LOL.....thanks for proving the point of my post....

      January 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      @John, you do realize your version of proof only exists in your head. Pretty closed minded to think that your version of proof trumps empirical observation. There are mysteries in this universe to be sure, but science has a far far better chance of understanding them than religion.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  18. bnb42

    Religion: It gives people hope in a world torn apart by religion

    January 20, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • john

      trust me player. this world would be just as torn up without religion.. religion is simply mans perversion of truth.. and perversion is within man, no a book or a god.. good luck with your utopia

      January 20, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  19. keefah

    It's funny (and slightly pathetic) to read the comments of people trying to figure this out. If you believe and have had your spiritual eyes opened, you understand EXACTLY what this guy is talking about. If you don't, not even a team of the smartest, most enlightened people who have ever lived could explain it in a way that you would understand. So all you're left with is whatever shallow conclusion you've come to with human rationale (he did it for money is the funniest reason). There is actually a New Testament Bible verse that explains why: 1 Corinthians 2:14 – "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." The only way to fix that is to ask God to open your spiritual eyes. Most won't do it because it requires the humility to admit that you are spiritually blind. I hope that you do.

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

      perhaps YOU can't explain it but most semi intelligent people can....its called a self reinforcing delusion...

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

      Nicely said. 🙂 So many people follow the ego (the mental rational mind) when they need to seek the quiet of the id (the soul or spirit). From there an understanding begins.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • ......

      YOU are NOTHING like your Christ.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  20. Daniel

    I'm an atheist, but I see little need to criticize religion. As long as it makes people happy, I have absolutely no problem with it. But, religion doesn't make people hateful; people are inherently hateful due to their background or upbringing, and use religion as an EXCUSE, not a REASON. Therefore, I see any argument against God/religion involving people or evil to be invalid, unnecessary or irrelevant.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • bnb42

      Without religion you would have good people doing good things and bad people doing bad things.... But for good people to do bad things.... That takes religion.....

      January 20, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Daniel

      @bnb42: People who do bad things are bad. Good people make mistakes, but there's a fine line between a bad act and a mistake. Therefore, I'm lead to believe bad people do bad things, and good people do good things, regardless of religion.. Good people don't do bad things. Religious "based" hatred doesn't involve good people.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • bnb42

      Daniel:
      So what your saying is that the crusaders who went to drive muslums out of their holy land... were already bad people?
      I thought they were convinced to go and kill others by the commands of their priests and kings.....

      January 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • keefah

      Daniel I think that you are right that many times a person's unresolved past produces the kind of dysfunctionality to where even though they desire to do good, they end up harming others due to subconscious beliefs about themselves. This is how many times the idea of HYPOCRISY rears its ugly head, because to onlookers, even a sincere believer in God whose life does not match his worlds LOOKS like a hypocrite. And that looks really bad (as bnb42 mentioned). But within that person's heart of hearts, they may be crying out and struggling to live a righteous life. Only God really knows. And only God, through answering the cries of the heart, can heal that person of past wounds and allow their life to line up with their God beliefs and desire to be like Him. 🙂

      January 20, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • john

      bnb42. the more of your posts i read the more i realize you have been really brainwashed and do not understand what you are talking about

      January 20, 2012 at 6:27 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.