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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. notconfused

    It is impossible to debate Science with Faith. Science can be proven in the physical sense. Faith can only be proven on an individual basis. Some things in Science will never be proven. Many things in Faith can't be proven physically. Atheist find comfort in nothing after death. Believers make an effort to believe in life after death. Both can be comforting depending on how you believe. Science will not prove what happens when we die. Faith has a message of what may happen when we die. The end.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Maire

      Hear, hear!

      January 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • @usxpatriate

      Completely illogical argument. "Can not" and "Will not" are not logical in the assumption of the capabilities of present and future science. More BS by "faith-based" reasoning. The End.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • john

      actually, REAL science requires massive amounts of faith. how else could you explain two particles communicating telepathically, or our two biggest forces in the universe making no sense together.. think about it

      January 20, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  2. ReligionIs4Dolts

    Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.) are the most obnoxious and belligerent forms of religion in the world! Of course they inspire hate when their "god" tells them to go kill in one breath, and then "don't kill, we're really about peace and love" in the next breath. Bipolar, schizoid, sadist "god," UP YOURS!

    January 20, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • KBC

      Jesus loves you

      January 20, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • mike

      Mormonism isnt and Abrahamic religion only islam,judiasm and Christianity is

      January 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      Moronism is a rip-off of Christianity, therefore it IS Abrahamic. Or am I just imagining things when I hear "Jeebus Christ of Latter Day....."?

      January 20, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  3. misty

    Michelle, 1. An unborn child is still alive or it would not grow so it can leave the womb and enter the world
    2. Hitler killed gay people, ill people, anyone who opposed him, and Jewish people – when he was younger he showed
    his artwork to art curators who were Jewish and they refused his art which made him mad – also Hitlers father was
    Jewish and was abusive to him – Hitlers Utopia was self serving –
    3. Some people are better because of religious beliefs and some people become worse – the same is true for any cause one engages in

    January 20, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • ashrakay

      1) 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage, which would make god the greatest abortionist of all time. 2) Hitler was a professed christian. 3) if your argument is that some people are better because of religion and some are worse then the results cancel each other out making the premise of religion meaningless.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Igor

      Wow, Impressive shot of irrelevant falsehoods, repeated so often by the most unoriginal. She claims that Hitler killed gay people, so you'd think that after all that loving Christians would take it easy on them, but they got the whole "love the sinner, hate the sin" saying, which probably means something along the lines of "loving Hitler, but hating Nazism". Unfortunately Nazism wasn't Hitler's sin. Hitler was his own sin. Hitler started off as a christian and eventually combined christianity with faux Norse Mythology. It's there in his personal writings and various recorded speeches. Why, out of millions of unfalsifiable idiotic claims some always use something so pernicious and demonstrably false? But it's pointless impute Hitler's actions to Christianity either. Stalin eventually became an atheist. Orthodox Russian church corroborated the divine right of rule to the Russian Royalty and was it's power base. Religion, and in particular Russian Orthodox, was a powerful influence in maintaining the status quoof divinely inspired rule over the indigent Russian working class. Stalin wanted that divine place in the minds of the proletariat. Of course dogma often leads to terrible abuse, as we saw with Stalin. I think this is enough for one day. The amount of information and reaserch of these two tyrants can fill a small library. Which is why it's a shame that your knowledge of Hitler and stalin stems from what someone who heard it from someone else and possibly half asleep in school and not from a homeschool teacher who used the term "home schooling" as an unintended euphemism.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • john

      oops... hitler was not a christian. he had a christian schooling.. the ignorance on these boards is staggering.. midnumbingly staggering

      January 20, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • ashrakay

      @john, read a book... "My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice." Hitler Speech delivered at Munich 12 April 1922

      January 20, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • ashrakay

      @john, as I said, "Hitler was a professed christian"... This is not opinion.... This is factual record. Before you decide to criticize someone's ignorance, you should take an extra 5 minutes to research whether or not what they are saying is true. It may save you some embarrassment in the future—though if you are a religious apologist, there are far greater things you should be embarrassed of.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
  4. david

    well im pentacostal/apostilic and i believe u need to go tto church to learn how to get to heaven....like repeanting,being baptised,and recieving the holy ghost....im 14 i dont really get all of what ur saying but in my opinion u need to be and act religious...

    January 20, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • ashrakay

      The great thing about being an adult is getting out from under your parent's and the church's rule and start making decisions for yourself.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  5. yo4realD

    Let me tell you why I hate religion and Love Jesus...because Jesus is the one that does my gardening at the house...and his last name is Garcia...haylow...

    January 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  6. yo4realD

    Let me tell you to which church I would go to...the one from Richard Dawkins, that is the one for sure I would go to...

    January 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  7. Nyarlathotep

    I don't hate religion - this would require that I take it seriously. I mostly ignore it or laugh at it.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • @usxpatriate

      Yes, but it is not so funny when those enslaved by it vote for their Führer.... There numbers are great and their influence terrifying......

      January 20, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  8. Nero

    Plenty of studies have shown that the smarter you are, the less likely you are to believe in god. Ignorance is bliss... right christians?

    January 20, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Saul

      It must be lonely being so brilliant...

      January 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Entil'za

      And yet Nero...you do not have the good common sense to supply any of these made up studies of yours.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • john

      not true.. at all.. but since were making things up, studies show that all your posts are made up..

      January 20, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  9. @usxpatriate

    I hate Christmas, but love Santa. I hate nursery rhymes, but love Mother Goose. I hate religion, but love jesus.... A fairy tale is a fairy tale is a fairy tale. I love Cadbury Eggs! God, I can't wait for Easter! I'm so happy the Easter Bunny rose from the dead so we could have Cadbury Eggs everlasting!

    January 20, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • john

      trust me. the majority of the things you hold dear and think are true are fairy tales.. such a shame that you think you arent religious..

      January 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  10. Sean

    The very word "Christianity" is a misunderstanding – in truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross....Nietzsche

    January 20, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  11. Igor

    From an atheist to a young Chrisian: Way to go. I'd gladly join his church as long as there are no rituals, mandatory meetings, or requirement to worship a particular deity. I think it's called a church of good people making a connection. When you strip the conformist requirement, suppression of the individual, arbitrary and anachronistic rules, and ritual observances, it is very easy for a group of otherwise good people to become an unthinking mob. Of course a lot of this is an oversimplification and there are exceptions and better religious models. At least that kid seems to get it, I adore Bethoven's Ave Maria, but I don't want to pester my classical music hating buddy about how much he is missing it and how he just doesn't get it. At the same time, its Christian theme and lyrics do nothing to detract from my enjoyment of brilliant music.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  12. Maire

    The "Hate religion/love Jesus thing" isn't new. This random Youtube celebrity didn't invent that. It's just an age-old attempt to have it both ways; people who are Christian and perceive that others will reject them for being "religious" or "conservative" love this kind of talk because it allows them to distance themselves from the Christian community while still claiming to follow Christ. "Don't worry, cool, liberated secular people. I'm down. I'm with it. I hate those disgusting Christians too, really I do!"

    What if someone said, "I hate Nazism, but I love Hitler," or "I hate Marxism, but I love Marx." Really, people? REALLY? Christianity and Christ are inevitably intertwined. Real Christians know that you cannot keep the two separated in hermetically sealed boxes. "Organized religion" is nothing more than the church, the community of believers. I'm tired of all these "Christians" trying to mitigate their personal shame by denying the church, without which they would never have heard the name of Jesus.

    Matthew 16:18 "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church . . . "

    January 20, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • ashrakay

      Well said.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • Igor

      Wow, you are such a parody of what this article is about, Even finished with a biblical verse, which doesn't actually have many objective interpretations, so you conveniently use the interpretation that best suits your point. I like the New International version: :"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." It has Hades, the Greek god of the underworld in it and it makes me feel like Greek mythology that I enjoy to date.

      "What if someone said, "I hate Nazism, but I love Hitler"

      !. That is entirely possible. Nazism is is a political/economic ideology. Someone saying that can like Hitler because of their shared passion for anti-antisemitism but be a huge antisemite but hate politics, This isn't even unlikely. I guarantee you The problem with religion is that faith is inherently malleable, making it very easy to cultivate your own brand if appealing enough. I'm sure no one likes loosing the status quo, and it explains your bitter words. Jesus ruffled the establishment for initiating a religious upheaval that he got crucified by the status quo. I'm not in any way implying that this kid is Jesus. But the status quo in this country can't legally crucify dissidents anymore.

      Curiously enough I sometimes long for the second coming, because while I don't care where my beliefs land me, I won't mind because I am certain that no amount of zealotry and self-deceiving piety will let someone this judgmental ascend to heaven. I mean why else would kids like that so desperately cling to the symbol of the whole religion while rejecting the organization that betrayed its own foundation? So you become very dramatic and invent things none of us actually say like "I hate those disgusting Christians too, really I do!" In fact, it would be very hypocritical to say one is a member of one of 50 different denominations thereof to say he hated other Christians. Lighten up, you don't want to sound like a Five Point Calvinist.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Maire

      "Lighten up, you don't want to sound like a Five Point Calvinist."

      Actually I *do* Igor. It's my life's ambition. : p

      January 20, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Saul

      Thank You!!

      January 20, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Igor

      It's good to have goals. Mine was to be an astronaut. Baby Jesus' might have been Jesus, but I doubt it.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  13. Nero

    To Sasquatch,

    Don't blame Jesus. I doubt he ever claimed to be the son of god. If he did, then yeah, screw him.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • notconfused

      Jesus did claim it............

      January 20, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  14. misty

    Not everyone honors LIVE AND LET LIVE

    January 20, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  15. One one

    Same old book with a different cover. It's kind of sad. So many people are leaving the church that they seem desperate to get their customers back by making Christianity seem hip and cool. But it's still just a fairy tail.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • yo4realD

      ...wow...love this comment cause it's for real...

      January 20, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  16. misty

    What does it teach us? That everyone has an opinion born from their own life experiences or lack thereof, and that everyone
    has a right to their opinion. It is called LIVE and LET LIVE!!

    January 20, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • So

      Then why do we have laws?

      January 20, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  17. Michelle

    I get what he is saying...

    Here are a few arguments to back up his point:

    1. War on Terror is a war of 2 religions – One thinks they are more pious and morally right than the other. To prove their faith in this they killed 3000+ people on 9/11. All in the name in religion.

    2. Many Doctors have been killed because they perform abortions due to one’s religious beliefs. In the name of saving a unborn child we will kill a live child. All in the name of religion.

    3. WW2 was a war based on religion. - Hitler killed the Jews because he thought they were less human because of their religious beliefs.

    4. The Catholic Church’s has burned countless so called Heretics at the stake all in the name of religion

    5. The Catholic Church protects child molesters in the name of religion and in cases allowed the child molester to continue molesting.

    Religion is not bad but ignorant interpretation of it is. Ten people can read the same bible verse and come out with 10 different takes on it.

    World Class Theologians all agree that the Bible is not the word of God. In fact the majority of the books were written hundreds if not thousands of years after Jesus died. The Bible is also greatly censored by Various Rulers and the Catholic Church.

    Also if you did not know this, The bible condones the following:

    1. The owning of Slaves - Leviticus 25:44-46
    2. The beating of those slave as long as it does not kill - Exodus 21:20-21
    3. The beating of ones wife if she refused to have relations with her husband - Eph 5:21-33
    4. Polygamy - Exodus 21:10
    5. Murder of ones child if the child disobeys - Deuteronomy 21:18-21

    So my question is this...if America is so Christian then why do we have laws against the following:

    1. Owning of Slaves
    2. Battery against those Slaves
    3. Domestic Violence
    4. Polygamy
    5. Child Abuse

    If the bible is the word of God and we are such devote Christians then why are these things against the law. BECAUSE we as human beings know inherently that these things are wrong. Do you know why we know these things are wrong? Because our Maker gave us Humanity, Compassion and a Conscience.

    I believe in a higher being and Jesus Christ. I also believe that if Jesus were to return today he would be over turning the money changers tables. So you Right Wing Rich Republicans better hope he doesn't return because I do not think he would be too happy with you. I strongly believe that Jesus, a wondering (Today referred to as homeless) man who depended on the kindness of strangers (Today referred to as a bum). Jesus would have been a Socialist. He's main message was always, "Love and take care of your fellow man". Love the sinner and hate the sin. Judge not lest ye be judged. And my favorite "Let he who have never sinned cast the first stone."

    Religion has taken us away from God because we have distorted it in order to try to excuse our sinful ways.

    This is why the Devil thought we were not worthy of God’s love. Why are we proving the Devil right??????????????

    January 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Nyarlathotep

      Sorry, Michelle - Jesus wasn't a hippie socialist, because he didn't exist. If you like socialism for some bizarre and illogical reason, fine, but why try to justify dubious political choices by appealing to mythological figures?

      January 20, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Justin

      Your response was spot on.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  18. Earthling

    When we die are bodies return to the Earth. Because that is where we came from. People are the planet as much as any other natural thing in this world. Trees, rocks, animals. The Earth is a living being. We are one of its parts and are not separate from it. Humans enjoy or suffer the consequences of our choices and actions while we are here on the surface, in the light. Ultimately no religion, science or teaching can answer why we are here. And so religion was created to pacify the fears caused by the unexplainable conundrum of existence.

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

      so.. youre saying theres not a single difference between me and a rock? sorry bub, i beg to differ

      January 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • You asked, we answered

      John, the real difference between you and a rock is that the rock is smarter.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Earthling

      Not saying we are rocks. Each part of the Earth has a different purpose. The fact the we can walk, talk, think and reason which a rock can't do, shows our purpose is different for the planet. Humans clearly stand out as a stewards of sorts for the Earths abundance, where rocks make good walls for instance. In the end regardless of the higher or lower level of our Earthly purpose, all things on the planet equally fold back into the Earths crust eventually.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      The problem is that too much of humanity right now is a bad part of the whole – the cancerous right nut, to be exact.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  19. pototoy

    Religious evils are finally getting their proper due in America. Why is FOX denying that atheists exist, or that they represent only a few misfits in American society?

    January 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • What?

      Fox is republican. LOL!

      January 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  20. Reality Jr.

    Yes Sir! My dad will be here again very soon as usual with some neatly copied and pasted paragraphs for you to read through.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:44 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.