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. lesan

    religions(howewer nice and deep) is a manmade just like science.And it's up to mankind to deal with it.

    January 23, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • md2205

      Some yes, and some no. When G-d gave the Torah to Moses it was in front of all the Jewish people, 3 million of them at the time. They passed that tradition down each year by observing the practices of Passover, which included baking matzo, which we still eat to this day. They observed that practice every year thereafter and told their children, and their children's children, etc. every year about how G-d took them out of Egypt and gave them the Torah. This could not have been made up hundreds of years later and forced upon the people because if they had not had that tradition, and were not observing these laws of Passover, and someone tried to come up with the story and enforce it upon them many years later, they would know it was baloney and not do it.

      January 23, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Bizarre


      Granted, those ancient Hebrews were great storytellers.

      There are *some* pearls of wisdom for beneficial human behavior in those stories.

      There is not a whit of verified evidence for the supernatural beings or events in those stories or writings.

      January 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  2. WretchedSon

    "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind." Albert Einstein

    January 23, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  3. Reality

    HEAR YE, HEAR YE all you "red-neck" Muslims, Christians and Jews:

    Only for the newbies:

    A PowerPoint Slide for your refrigerator doors-




    Added details upon request.

    January 23, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Phil in Oregon

      I once thought like this, that it's all just a scheme to get people to follow somebody and give them money. For a lot of cults and sects it is. Christianity IS nothing but a book of do's and don't's until you meet the Author.

      January 23, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Illusion


      To think you can fully understand the world makes you the most ignorant person in the world...

      January 23, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Jeebus

      @illusion for replying to @reality
      Poop. Thats where your brain belongs.

      January 23, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Reality

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      January 23, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  4. bigot

    LycidaS: "Why do those that don't like Christianity always going to extremes? Why are they always wanting to go to absolutes?"

    Religion is the biggest absolute there is...what are you smoking?

    January 23, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • lesan

      he isn't triing to be absolut he's just explaining a quaite interesting philosophycal dispute, it 's nice.

      January 23, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  5. bigot


    okay this is for the Athiests you say they your belief is in Reality do you truely know what is Reality anymore? "Here is my belief "Science was also created by man" what does man like to do more then anyone here on earth?" Lie, Gossip, Steal, Murder, Envy themselves by thinking they are better then anyone else, and dozens and dozens of things we are not supposed to do. And we dont likee to be told that we arent supossed to do it. so we do it anyway. that is called SIN Satan created sin so it would take our mind off of GOD, people need to wake up and stop letting greed blind them...."

    FYI, that bible you hold so dear to your heart is also MAN MADE. How can you not believe one based on corruption, but believe the other?

    January 23, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Daniel

      Satan was created by your god, and Sin is nothing more than the free will he granted us in action. According to your own dogma, everything beautiful in the world is given to us by him, but so to is everything evil. Does your omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent god really need Satan as a scapegoat?

      January 23, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Daniel

      oops, misread the intent behind your post. Sorry bout that duder.

      January 23, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  6. bigot


    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

    Faith is not a guessing game. It's assurance and conviction. I can tell you that I believe in Christ and why, but I can't force you into anything. You can ridicule me, but never change my mind because I'm sure he is the embodiment of God and he is present."

    Only crazy people talk like this.

    January 23, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  7. Daniel

    My #1 criticism with religious people, is thus: Those of us who reject religion in favor of science tend to speak about our beliefs in the way the universe works with an assumed sense of "we think." We recognize that our ideas and beliefs are based on theory and subject to change.
    The loud minority of religious people that aggravate me so describe their beliefs with the assumption that they are invariably correct, their ideas are not subject to change and their minds are closed to discourse.
    Science is resistant to change, but accepts it when it makes enough sense, and never requires war to accept those changes. People die even to this day for denying religious "truths." We are human beings, the smartest beings on this planet that we've been able to find, we dominate this world and have created marvels of technology, architecture, art and bioengineering that the closest species in intelligence to us couldn't even recognize. Why can we expand our minds in so many ways but not make it over this tiny speed bump?
    The worst is that the loud ones you hear are the vast minority. I know tons of Christians who marvel at scientific discovery and think of their god as the greatest engineer of all time. To be fair I also know a ton of agnostics that won't shut up about how Christians are inferior to them. I suppose it goes both ways, I just wish we heard more from the rational, open minded religious and less from the medieval psychopaths.

    January 23, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Jon

      What is wrong with dying for what you believe in? Jesus himself died for what he believed in…

      It’s great faith that Christians believe in what they do. As a Christian, I respect any man/woman’s choice to believe in what they want and I expect the same respect in return.

      Not all Christians believe war is the answer. I for one believe in peace and forgiveness… be careful in judging all Christians as the ones you dislike so much. I do not judge everyone who is a nonbeliever based on the few that I d o know…

      January 23, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  8. Shodan06

    @Lloyed... How exactly is science a belief system..? Last I checked, its based on theories which are rigourously tested and verified or denied.. Religion is taken on FAITH which, by definition, means a belief in something with no evidence, or better yet, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary.. True, science cannot disprove the existence of god.. but what it can do is give a better, explaination for everything giveing us no real need for "god(s)".

    @ Ivan the people you refer to as the ones who would rather "just be atheist and forget about it" are the ones that are rejecting "just accepting god" and doing the opposite of forgetting about it. Rejecting god is only the beginning of a long learning process. In the words of the great Christopher Hitchens "The offer of certainty, the offer of complete security, the offer of an impermiable faith that can't give way, is an offer of something not worth having...." "...take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way."

    January 23, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  9. EVN

    That theism is a whack job magnet has been shown once again by these posts.

    There is a god. There isn't a god. If I agreed with you, then we would both be wrong.

    January 23, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  10. Eric G

    @Jibs: Just to make sure I understand your position.....

    You make a claim that there is a god, but you do not need to provide any evidence to support your claim.
    When pressed for evidencial support for your claim, you state that proof is subjective.
    When pressed further, you claim that the burden of proof that exists from your claim is not the responsibility of those making the claim, but those who ask for evidencial support.
    You attempt to back these statements up with claimed knowledge of physics that, when asked for references, you decline to present in a condecending tone.

    Your position is based in one of two arguments.

    1. You do not understand the evidence that supports the hypothesis that conflicts with your world view or the methods used to obtain it. This is called an argument from ignorance.


    2. You do understand the evidence that supports a hypothesis that conflicts with your world view, but deny it's validity because of the conflict. This is called an argument from dishonesty.

    I have enjoyed our conversation, but you have proven that you lack the intellectual ability to continue this dialog. If you would like to continue, you will need to preface your future posts with an explaination of which argument position that you are basing your statement.

    Ignorance or dishonesty?

    January 23, 2012 at 8:05 am |
  11. Jarod

    M. Ghandi once properly stated, "I have read about your Jesus Christ and I like him, I like him a lot; it's your Christians failed to live as Christ instructed that I don't like." This is what the young man was saying.. he believes in Jesus Christ but the so-called voices of God (man made, self annointed religions) have made it into a joke. While I wont go into a rant, try thinking for once and recognize that if me, this young and the countless millions are wrong, then does that make, "Al Quaeda, The Westboro Baptist Church, Rev Jermiah Wright, Tikkun, Rev Hagee, etc, right? God said, his temple reside in you, not some built up church created by angry men and filled with the truest of the blind.

    January 23, 2012 at 8:02 am |
  12. Jorge

    Religion is a cunning ploy to cash in on the most attractive business concept in the world, the prospect of utopic immortality.

    January 23, 2012 at 7:22 am |
  13. antf12345

    Critics called Bethke’s take on religion overly simplistic and dangerous.

    So does this mean they are going to try and do something to him?

    January 23, 2012 at 6:43 am |
  14. Anon

    I find it funny that he rejects "relgion" yet pulls all his lines out of the Bible (a _religious_ scripture, and one which has undoubtedly been modified by the Church many times in the Middle Ages).

    January 23, 2012 at 5:57 am |
    • antf12345

      Thats the whole point he says he believes in God not religion makes sense to me I have always had this belief.

      January 23, 2012 at 6:42 am |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Prayer in the morning sets the perspective for the whole day

    January 23, 2012 at 4:40 am |
  16. Osho

    Religion is a road map to get lost. All religions started somewhere as a spiritual path but somewhere along the way they get so twisted and turned, it is no more a road map, it is completely distorted.

    Belief cannot give you the truth. Know the facts as they are. Encounter them without any interpretations. You can believe that this is night but just by your believing, this is not going to become night. There is this danger in belief: it makes you feel that you know the truth. And because it makes you feel that you know the truth, this becomes the greatest barrier in the search. Believe or disbelieve and you are blocked - because disbelief is also nothing but belief in a negative form.

    The inquiry into truth begins only when you drop all believing. You don't believe in the sun, you don't believe in the moon. You don't believe in the theory of relativity: either you understand it or you don't understand it; there is no question of belief. You don't believe in gravitation; there is no need. Nobody believes in a scientific theory - it is logical. Belief is needed only when something illogical, something utterly absurd, is propounded.

    January 23, 2012 at 4:13 am |
    • Anon

      I and all other followers of the mightly Zeus salute you!

      January 23, 2012 at 5:58 am |
    • just sayin

      drop your belief in gravity. what happens?

      January 23, 2012 at 6:07 am |
    • Lloyd

      Drop all believing... Really? You think that you are some higher being able to take belief out of the equation? You have a BELIEF that there is a TRUTH out there. You have to. Because you don't know it now. If you knew the truth about the universe right now, share it with us. The method of science cannot give us the truth with 100% certainty. That's why science is a belief system, its man made, just like religion. It is inductive knowledge gathering and can only prove something is truth with a high degree of confidence. You make me laugh, because you are no different than the "scientists" that believed the sun revolved around the earth. Prove to me god doesn't exist.

      January 23, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • bigot

      Lloyd: at least science uses evidence to support their theory. When said evidence contradicts their theory, scientists go back to square one. They do not continue to believe something when the evidence argues against their claim.

      Religion is the belief of something without any proof whatsoever. The bible is not proof, it is a book written by men.

      "Prove to me god doesn't exist." I do not have to prove to you the non-existence of god. That burden is on the one who believes in the existence of god. Just saying god exists because you believe it does is not proof and any scientist would throw the "god theory" out immediately because of lack of evidence.

      January 23, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  17. Tom

    I thoroughly enjoyed, and agree with, the Amazing Atheist's rebuttal of Bethke's claims. I suggest you hear him out.

    January 23, 2012 at 4:01 am |
  18. Ivan

    I believe this 22-year-old Jefferson Bethke is right. "Religion is man-centered" and "build huge churches but fail to feed the poor". I like the part in the movie 2012 when the Vatican tumbles down... another iconic symbol of man's darkness and nasty corruption.

    January 23, 2012 at 3:42 am |
    • Ivan

      But honestly, it is too little, too late. People are waking up too late.. and doing too little... and the 20-something generation would rather just be atheist and forget about it (or just get a Frappacino) than to take the time to make a video like this. I praise Jefferson.

      January 23, 2012 at 3:45 am |
  19. Fheal

    GOD is..... science. Science is just a manifestation of GOD's work, and a unveiling of what we know not yet. It is no surprise that you equate a nothingness to all HIS handiwork, for you have nothing to say. and only do so with a proliferation of words.

    January 23, 2012 at 3:32 am |
    • Anon

      Even though science has long ago rejected "God" and many otherr Christian beliefs. Ignorance is amazing.

      January 23, 2012 at 5:55 am |
    • Lloyd

      @ ANON science never rejected god. Science never disproved the existence of god. Science cannot prove intuition, science cannot prove alexander the great existed, or the hypothetical constructs like greed and guilt. Science in itself is a belief system. Just like religion. Your ignorance is amazing

      January 23, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  20. Bob


    January 23, 2012 at 3:27 am |
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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.