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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. GoRemote

    Dude, the Bible (New Testament), and everything you've been told Jesus did, and said, was written and put together, by the Catholic Church. Trying to separate the two is ridiculous and shallow, since everything you know about God was brought to you by religion..........

    January 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  2. JoJo

    Jesus told his rich friend to give all his money to the poor, and that a rich man has less chance of getting to heaven that a camel going through the eye of a needle. He also said PEACEmakers were blessed, to love your ENEMIES, to forgive seventy times seven times, that he who lives by the sword will die by it, to turn the other cheek, repay evil with good, thou shall not kill, etc. The only people Jesus really got angry at were RELIGIOUS hypocrites. Leaving aside Ron Paul, does any of that sound like the Republican platform of increasing economic disparity, starting pre-emptive, unnecessary wars of choice, Gitmo, torture of enemies and theocracy? It seems to be directly OPPOSITE to it.

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

      True.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • LuLu

      Exactly! Notice how he mentions that if Jesus was alive today how many churches would he be welcome in? The answer is hardly any, especially here in the US where he would be viewed as a socialist/hippy/commie. Do I believe in Jesus? Yes. Am I a Christian? No. I think he was a great teacher, a Buddha. I see too many Christians using their religions as a cop out of doing the right thing because "only Jesus is perfect, I'm a sinner" where they should be trying to emulate Jesus. I'm a Buddhist and I'm not perfect either but I realize it's a practice. Sure I get mad at people who do stupid things sometimes but I realize we are all on different paths to enlightenment and try my best to show compassion.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  3. alex

    Jesus – no such thing

    January 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • bnb42

      Not silliness... It's my religion:

      Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  4. silliness

    Hate religion, love Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • bnb42

      Haven't you heard of the invisible pink unicorn?

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

      Invisible pink unicorn? That's just ridiculous.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • bnb42

      Oppss hit reply on the wrong topic.....

      Not silliness it's my religion:

      Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Lord Omar

      A PRIMER FOR ERISIAN EVANGELISTS by Lord Omar

      The SOCRATIC APPROACH is most successful when confronting the ignorant. The "socratic approach" is what you call starting an argument by asking questions. You approach the innocent and simply ask "Did you know that God's name is ERIS, and that He is a girl?" If he should answer "Yes." then he probably is a fellow Erisian and so you can forget it. If he says "No." then quickly proceed to:
      THE BLIND ASSERTION and say "Well, He Is a girl, and His name is ERIS!" Shrewedly observe if the subject is convinced. If he is, swear him into the Legion of Dynamic Discord before he changes his mind. If he does not appear convinced, then proceed to:
      THE FAITH BIT: "But you must have Faith! All is lost without Faith! I sure feel sorry for you if you don't have Faith." And then add:
      THE ARGUMENT BY FEAR and in an ominous voice ask "Do you know what happens to those who deny Goddess?" If he hesitates, don't tell him that he will surely be reincarnated as a precious Mao Button and distributed to the poor in the Region of Thud (which would be a mean thing to say), just shake your head sadly and, while wiping a tear from your eye, go to:
      THE FIRST CLAUSE PLOY wherein you point to all of the discord and confusion in the world and exclaim "Well who the hell do you think did all of this, wise guy?" If he says, "Nobody, just impersonal forces." then quickly respond with:
      THE ARGUMENT BY SEMANTICAL GYMNASTICS and say that he is absolutely right, and that those impersonal forces are female and that Her name is ERIS. If he, wonder of wonders, still remains obstinate, then finally resort to:
      THE FIGURATIVE SYMBOLISM DODGE and confide that sophisticated people like himself recognize that Eris is a Figurative Symbol for an Ineffable Metaphysical Reality and that The Erisian Movement is really more like a poem than like a science and that he is liable to be turned into a Precious Mao Button and Distributed to The Poor in The Region of Thud if he does not get hip. Then put him on your mailing list.

      January 21, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  5. KIM B

    I agree with this video. I am a Christian and have a relationship with Jesus. In the name of religion so many things go wrong but in the name of Jesus so much is right. I love all people and wish for all to know the truth! But I will not be made to focus only one place or one denomination. Jesus is what matters. Jesus is who matters. He is the difference!

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

      Everything you think you know about Jesus is a product of the Catholic Church......You know, the "religion" that put together the New Testament.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  6. Brandon

    How does one get the status of super viral video instead of just regular viral video?

    January 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  7. Chris

    I've said this for years if god was real and came back to earth his first act would be to get rid of Religion. Religion is worse then cancer.

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

      God is wore than cancer.....no wait......they both suck bad.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  8. Soylent

    If Jesus came to Earth to abolish religion, and you love Jesus nd think he was a great man, then stop worshipping him.

    Oh. You meant all religions but his? I'm sure Scientologists use the same logic.

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

      Scientology is nothing like Christianity, there is no comparison.

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

      Actually yes, because in the past the ones with lots of money could fund/create their own religion.
      Jesus doesn't count since the mo'fo (pun intended) is a mythological farce.

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

      Actually, James, there are lots of similarities between the two.

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

      Like most people, you are confusing the word religion with belief. Religions are codified systems of belief, not belief itself. I can worship my God ( I am a Chrstian) without having to participate in any particular organization.

      Christ (and later the writers of the New Testament) taught that we shoud gather together to worship and discuss how better to serve both God and our fellow men and women, but nothing about building elaborate piles of masonry and writing tomes of regulations. Christ layed it out pretty simply:

      "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

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

      ... allright, so I mispelled Christian; I'm certain that He'll forgive me for that. 🙂

      January 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  9. Irene

    FANTASTIC!! THIS 22 YEAR OLD IS AMAZINGLY ARTICULATE AND GIFTED!!! GO JEFFERSON!

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

      The cognitive dissonance is strong in this one.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  10. ProperVillain

    I think it strikes a chord with people (like myself) who are sick of churches that are basically large corporations sitting in judgement of people from their ivory towers. The time is over for big churches. Time to sell the property and go back the first century model of meeting in houses and just loving and helping people. American churches have made Jesus and god into a their image: a capitalist loving american who thinks that American can do no wrong. It is time to take a wreaking ball to this idea. Hopefully the ideas of this video go viral in the hearts and minds of people and the doors close on big churches forever...

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

      Jesus is a complete farce.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Jeff E.

      Well said

      January 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  11. lulu

    He, like many, believe in a relationship with Christ like the bible says we should have. Not like Christianity has evolved to be and thought of today. Many people say they are Christians because their parents said so or because they go to church but don't really know what it means. REAL Christians believe and trust in Jesus, don't judge others, speak the truth, and try not to sin.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Anon

      Christianity imposes thought crime punishment against everyone.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • bill

      But can't I have a relationship with Buddha as well and not be judged by Christians? Why does a good Buddhist go to hell, but a bad Christian go to heaven? After all, the one and only requirement to being a "Christian" is to accept Jesus as your lord and savior. There is no other requirement in the the book called the bible.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • lulu

      You are right, that is the only requirement in the bible, to accept Jesus. You can can have a relationship with Buddah, that is none of my business. Am I judging you? That is completely your choice. From what I'm seeing Christians are the ones that are being judged more than not based on these posts. Why are you offended by my post and why does it make you angry?

      January 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      Actually, Christians are being rebutted, not attacked. Their passive aggressive attacks on free thinking people have been tolerated for far too long. finally, the hard questions are being asked of organized religion. It will be a great step forward for mankind, and the planet, the day it is considered insane to believe in these archaic mind control methods.

      January 22, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  12. Hypatia

    critics called Jesus' take on his faith 'overly simplistic and dangerous', too. Odd but unsurprising that a fundie pastor would so obviously identify with the Pharisees. In fact, that's hilariously appropriate. Oh the irony!

    January 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  13. Isaiah 41:13

    Christians are hypocrites. But thats what makes Jesus so beautiful. We are all lyers and cheaters. So look at yourself before you go bashing Christians.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • lulu

      Real Christians know they are sinners just like others and will not point fingers. Not all Christians are hypocrites.

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

      Nah, you're all screwed up in the head.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • GH

      EVERYONE is a hypocrite...no one escapes that label.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • lulu

      GH, you are right. No one is perfect. My apologies.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Lord Omar

      I'm a lyre. Pluck my strings!

      January 21, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • aarrgghh

      I am no sinner. I am following the requirements of my species and fulfilling my needs for survival. I have done no harm to anyone and do not need the forgiveness of a spoiled, imaginary, spiteful deity. Keep your passive aggressive c,rap to yourself please.

      January 22, 2012 at 12:53 am |
  14. Jeff E.

    Wow, what a well thought out argument. Perhaps there is hope for us after all.... what this young man has discovered is called spirituality. The truths that he has found in the name of Christ are the same truths that other religions have found under the names of other Gods. They are deep observations into the fundamental nature of man. One who listens with an open mind and heart can discover real meaning in their lives. I've only begun to walk this path and Buddhism was one of the key starting points but I think any faith that starts us on a path to self-discovery will work.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • umi

      Ciao, sono aoainistrmtmre di un gruppo chiamato . Ci farebbe piacere aggiungere l?elemento al gruppo.bella macro, bella la luce ed i dettagli

      March 1, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  15. Shaheen

    i want to make a video called, hate religion..no seriously i hate it, f**** jesus.

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

      Ditto.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBo7Z_abiLE

      January 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Mike from CT

      its funny his attack also is on religion.

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

      This guy makes a lot of excellent points, but all the f-bombs are a bit self-defeating. It's hard to take someone seriously on any topic when he is unable to express himself above a 7th grade level. I'm surprised CNN has kept this video up in this thread.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  16. svann

    “I mean if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?”
    In the last 200 years almost every single war has been secular.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Andy N

      Yes because 200 years in the spectrum of all human history is such a large portion of time

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

      You obviously don't keep up with the Middle East...the conflict in the region is based entirely on religious differences.

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

      Are you serious? How about the never ending Israeli/Palestine conflict (pick any war ara-isralie, six day, lebanon, gaza), ethiopian/somalian absynnian-adal war, the lebanese civil war, the nigerian conflict still going on, the darfur conflict, just to name a few in the past 50 years.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Bill Costello

      Oh, really? 200 is one tenth of 2000!

      And you're wrong about the last 200 years, as well. By focusing on the two big wars, you're ignoring the Jews fighting Muslms, Muslims fighting Jews, Muslims fighting other Muslims (Shiites vs. Sunnis), Muslims fighting Hindus, Christians fighting Christians (Protestants vs.Catholics in Northern Ireland); the FACT that the "Pilgrims" had to leave England and Netherlands to escape perscecution by OTHER Christians (Protestants) who were perscecuted by OTHER Christian (Catholics); and the FACT once they got here, they couldn't get along, and that part of the reason the Founding Fathers had f to form a federal govt was to resolve the intolerance they had for each other among the colonies!

      Organized religion has it's peaceful sects, and sometimes gives it's members a sense of community. But because dogma is at it's center, it has a propensity to instill intolerance and bigotry... as witnessed even today!

      January 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Bryan

      So AL Qaeda is attack us for completely secular reasons?

      January 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • bill

      200 years is paltry given that modern humans have been around for some 200,000 years with 50,000 years of behaving much like modern humans (organizing cultures, developing higher level thinking), 16,000 of creating art, 3000 years of writing. By the way, what happened to all those humans who died before Jesus walked the Earth. If they died before accepting Jesus as their lord and savior are they currently roasting in hell?

      January 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      bryan: 9/11 was not a war. it was an event. The two 11 year plus things that bankrupt the country, were wars, and with Christian passage numbers being stamped into the weapons we were using, I would suggest that they were somewhat religious based.

      January 22, 2012 at 1:00 am |
  17. King

    wack... wasted my time watching this.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  18. bnb42

    I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. Mohandas K Gandhi

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

      I had heard that quote years ago but didnt recall it any longer..thanks for the reminder.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • lulu

      Sadly you can't change others because we are all sinners, what is most important is the relationship with Christ. This article really puts it into prospective.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • aarrgghh

      Lulu, we are not sinners and owe no atonement to your imaginary deity. Thanks for playing

      January 22, 2012 at 1:01 am |
    • Sunil

      Gieon J Ikumu Posted on Iam from Papua New Guinea, 35 years old, have been a plcoie commissioned officer for 13 years to date and very much intersted in securing a scholarship. I had difficulties with school fee and was not able to complete my law degree before joining Police. I seek a bachelor's degree and also intend to learn about your country and Asia in general. Policing has globalised and that would help me in my duty as a deputy director HR Training and Development officer. Please what is my prospect and how can I apply

      March 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  19. WMesser58

    I like the young man for thinking this through and it is clear he is bright and intelligent. I would not mind having a conversation with him. However, being an atheist I do not believe in god and can not see why people want to take serious a fairy tale written and misinterpreted so, many ways like it was passed down through word of mouth and was not translated until 400 years after the original language became extinct never mind that regards of the accuracy it was still written by a human.

    Some want to believe inspired by god but, that is no different if what I told you was inspired by god.

    You would lock me up as crazy. Anyway,I would listen to what he has to say because if the world needs something to lean on at least he gets that requires a behavior of compassion and not judgment, intolerance, and self righteousness.

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

      What would the initial followers of Jesus make the decision to spread the Gospel? If they did not see Christ rise, why would they go out to be persecuted, many times killed, by the authorities of the day? What rational thought is there in going out and defending something you did not see at the price of death? Or possibly, and more logical conclusion, is that something highly dramatic must have occurred. Something that led normal people of the day to risk their safety and lives to spread the word of a risen again Christ. I wouldn't go all across the known world, fearing for my safety, unless, I saw Christ rise. The Jewish authorities and the Roman Empire wanted this new faith gone, and yet in time it became more powerful than the Roman Empire. It is completely insane, considering the theory of rational choice, for the initial apostles to do what they did if the salvation event did not occur.

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

      Also, the gospels were written approximately between 30-50 years after the crucifixion, so you may want to look at your "400 years later" and oral tradition part. It is fairly easy to look that up and find a secular historical reference to verify that point (Wikipedia).

      January 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • bill

      Then why do you believe in Christ since you obviously didn’t see him rise? Why would today’s followers of Jesus make the decision to spread the Gospel? Since they clearly did not see Christ rise, why do they go out…It is completely insane, considering the theory of rational choice, for you to believe.

      Some of the Gospels were written 70-100 years after Jesus death. Given that the average life expectancy in the Bronze Age was in the 30s, few of the Gospels were written by witnesses to Jesus. Even if one were a witness to Jesus, then writing about it 50 years later would certainly be prone to error and exaggeration.

      That would be akin to me writing about my life in the 1970s. I remember the day Nixon resigned, and I touched the Liberty Bell in 1976 during the Bicentennial celebrations. However, I can’t accurately recall details before or after those historical events (though I loved the red, white, and blue ice cream that seemed ubiquitous in ‘76). I was witness to great events in history, and my dad said something really profound – “Someone should’ve stuck up for the President!” I’ll just hypothesize about all the things he meant by that statement, and I’ll write a great lesson around it in the gospel of my dad.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  20. Carol

    J. R. read this again and again until this young man's interpretation sinks in. I know many Christian Churches who in spirit turn your people away, and they are turning Jesus and all He did for mankind away from their hearts and their churches when they do. There are pro-life people who mean well but don't see how they are turning the Lord away when they murder doctors, and etc. to force their interpretation upon American women and all of us, instead of obeying the laws of our country.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:06 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.