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. Lyricalturtle

    The kid is right in a way Religion is a way to enslave people to the thinking of that particular religion Jesus didn't come to form religion but to give us a way to get to Heaven through him The only mission of a church is to teach you about God's love to help the poor to love one another to do things that Christ would do There is a penalty for not being saved by the blood of Jesus There will be a separation from God for all eternity God made us for one reason to love Him the Creator of all
    The meaning of life

    The question, what is the meaning of life
    Why are we here in this endless strife?
    Answer, we are here to love the Creator of all
    To enjoy the blessing that He foresaw

    God could have made us robots loyal to Him
    But He gave us freewill right from the beginning
    God could have made us perfect like the Garden of Eden
    But He gave us a choice love Him or leave Him

    God could have made us Angels with a Heavenly voice
    But He made us special He gave us a choice
    We could be stars in the sky He controls
    But He wanted true love that comes from the soul

    We could be just another planet floating through space
    But God gave us a conscience that we can’t escape
    God want our love and obedience to Him
    The choice He gave was righteousness or sin

    God wants our love that He doesn’t control
    The reward He gives is our eternal soul
    The age old question, why are we here
    The answer, to be His loving children that He can hold dear

    January 23, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Jeebus


      January 23, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  2. RhondaMorgan

    I have watched this video a million times and It really thought provoking. I even got my bible out and looked up a few things that he mentioned! I really see his point. and I realize that I feel the same way, I was just not able to put it into words! so for that I thank him!

    January 23, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Richie Cunningham

      What exactly did you find in the Bible that confirmed this poem(rap)? It certainly didn't mention that Jesus came to abolish religion and said nothing about Republicans (which wasn't invented until centuries later).... Did it confirm the poet's claim about starting wars and not feeding the poor?

      January 23, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  3. Leo in NC

    The truth of the matter is that religion has caused more separation of people, and more bloodshed than anything else in history. Organized religion is MAN MADE, and brought us the Crusades, Jihad, the Spanish Inquisition, and all sorts of "spiritual" conflict. It's all about man trying to enforce or impose rules on others that he doesn't even understand. A relationship with God is a personal, one on one thing, and all the church does is get in the way.

    January 23, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • md2205

      There are only seven basic laws that G-d wants people to observe and that is all He requires of them. All other beliefs, etc. are not necessary and may even get in the way. They are: To believe in One G-d, not to blaspheme Him, not to steal (and kidnap), not to murder, not to do adultery, etc., not to eat the limb of a living animal, and to set up effective courts of justice.

      January 23, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  4. alleyccat62

    Finally, someone was brave enough to say out loud, what I have been quietly debating with what I call cliche Christians.I to believe that Jesus came to abolish religion. If not, why didn't he get any of his disciples from the established religion. I am sure there had to be one person that was not corrupted by the religious establishment of that time. Jesus had nothing to do with anybody from the church at that time. Jesus did not even hang out with church folks, prompting the question to Jesus, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" Jesus replied "those who are not sick don't need a physician"(Matthew 9:10). Churches today don't follow this message, but do just the opposite. Churches act more like exclusive clubs. Then, to bring the message to the gentiles a murderer of Christians was chosen to, Paul.
    I had my awakening about 10 years ago and have found the a personal relationship with Jesus has fulfilled more than 35 years of church going. I could go on, and on, But i will just say THANK YOU Bethke for this truthful video.

    Michael Lyons

    January 23, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Question

      "Jesus had nothing to do with anybody from the church at that time. "

      That's funny since Christianity was just being born and there wouldn't have been Christian churches for him to hang out in right? LOL!

      January 23, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  5. Ernest

    Organized religion is a Curse on the earth. Over the course of recorded history more wars and killings have been done in the name religion than for any other reason. If you want to believe in gods, spirits, devils, demons, angels, ghost, faries, easter bunnies, santa clause, the tooth fairy and the great pumpkin, fine, but keep it to your self.

    January 23, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • md2205

      I don't think all organized religion is the cause of all curses and wars. I think when people add to the religion that G-d wanted them to have, we can get in trouble. The only thing G-d asked was that people believe in a United, One G-d, not to blaspheme or blame Him, not to steal and kidnap, not to murder, not to do adultery and related, etc. not to do animal cruelty, including not eating from the limb of a living animal, and to set up a court system that works. This is everything He wants. If people would do it, I think we would have better results as far as the world being a pleasant and more spiritual and G-dly place to live.

      January 23, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  6. Gloria

    This is absolutely correct. If Christians, especially the older Chrisitians will stop being self-righteous for one minute and really pay attention to the Word (the Bible), Jesus hates Religion. The Pharisees were all about religion. Self-righteous and Jesus called them hypocrites! We all fell short. I'm over 40, and so proud that this young man had the courage to tell the truth. I just had a conversation with family members and I told them, no one in this world, ever again will hold me in bondage when God gave us Jesus to set us free. I love church, that does not make me a hypocrite. It makes me obedient to God's word. I am to go to church to fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ and regain strength and knowledge in order to go back out into the world to win more souls, but I will challenge ANYONE brother or sister in Christ who does not give God the credit instead of themselves. Man don't save souls, Jesus does. We plant seeds and only God and grow them. Religion gives man credit by deeds, Jesus gives OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN the credit. When you think religion think Pharisees. It was Religion that crucified our Saviour! Think about it people; better yet pray about it, sincerely for God to give you discernment and wisdom. Why do you think so many pastors fall; they are only man. I go to church to share in praising and worshipping God with family, not to praise a pastor. Get off the soapboxes, Christians!

    January 23, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • topfuel

      So what is that your standing on a stump?

      January 23, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Jeebus

      Gloria is just another church educated person who imagines herself being a great amazing person because she follows a religion, which was made by many different combinations of stories and denominations and finally what it is today, well we really dont know because there are so many different followers of so many different versions of one religion that its hard to keep up, yet they all think they have the answer or they all think they have this god given right to express their "knowledge" of god and what people should do and why and when and how... its so disgusting to see how many millions and even billions believe in such a lifestyle.. there is a part in the Zeitgeist which just grabs religions myths and stories and takes a crap on them plain and simple. It shuts them all off in a matter of minutes with historical facts. But hey, Gloria here thinks shes going to be saved so lets leave her alone and not ruin her educated future mythical plans.

      January 23, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  7. MJStroud

    There is no mystery that fundamentalists "hate" Catholics. This is really what he is saying.

    Hahahaha!!! Well this proves that 22 year old kids can be very ignorant. He is taking the words of his fundamentalist preacher from his "organized" church. There are 2 billion Catholics on this planet, and the church is very dedicated to feeding the poor.

    January 23, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Nope

      "There are 2 billion Catholics on this planet, and the church is very dedicated to feeding the poor."

      And making money. The Catholic church is the biggest financial power, wealth accumulator and property owner in existence. She is a greater possessor of material riches than any other single institution, corporation, bank, giant trust, government or state of the whole globe. The pope, as the visible ruler of this immense assessment of wealth, is consequently the richest individual of the twentieth century. No one can realistically assess how much he is worth in terms of billions of dollars.

      January 23, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Gloria

      Your deeds will not get you into heaven. Salvation is a gift, sweetie. Nothing in this world can you do to get saved. I would lead you to John 3:16. Get educated. Education is a good thing. Stop putting down the so-called children. This young man has more wisdom and knowledge than you are exhibiting here. Read about the Pharisees! Read and pray and get knowledge. Pray for wisdom and discernment. Your good deeds, as good as they may be, does not make you righteious! Their are good deeds people that does not believe in Jesus/God at all. What happens to them? Wow! Get wisdom and knowledge before you speak!!!!!

      January 23, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Nope

      "Their are good deeds people that does not believe in Jesus/God at all. What happens to them?"

      They burn in hell for all eternity because your God is a monster.

      January 23, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Jeebus

      "Sweetie" please explain how someone isnt educated just because he doesnt believe in the myths you do. This is the problem with religious people such as yourself. Saying they are wrong and that if they dont believe in the lord oh mighty they will not be saved.. saved from what? your dumb @$$ stories that were inserted in your brainwashed waste of DNA body? what good has come from religion that we should all take sides with you? If you want to tell someone to get educated, "sweetie" please do us all a favor and get some non-religious/biased education yourself first, then speak. Oh and btw, how do you compare to Mormons? Scientologists? Jihad lovers, etc... dont you know your little brainwashed self will never become something more than a slave to religious jail.. going around thinking your going to be "saved" ... look at that dumb old man who I wont mention because just mentioning his name gives him another hit on the internet, who says "Rapture" will happen, and some idiots even killed themselves and their babies so they wouldnt face "Armageddon"... The reason for more atheist coming out and the % of us growing is because we have gotten smarter and have been able to do more research and logical thinking throughout these past years. The internet has helped a lot because we can find information and put two and two together within minutes and our knowledge of history combined with common sense makes us many times more educated than yourself any day. Thank you.

      January 23, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Richie Cunningham

      @Nope... in what way does the Catholic riches have to do with the rebuttil that the church in fact DOES feed the poor? Make a better argument.

      January 23, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  8. Mike

    Be careful. You start putting these millionaire Preachers out of business, they will put a hit out on you. JUST LIKE THEY DID JESUS..

    January 23, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Professor Trollworth

      I know. 4 serius!

      January 23, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Paul MacGregor

      organized religion (Catholicism) is quite different than membership in a local autonomous assembly of believers where Christ is head. These make up the true church that Christ established.

      January 23, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  9. Jrange79

    Religion just hangs around the cross.... hiding behind the veil of Jesus..while being corupt in some instances... while following Jesus and His teachings is taking up your own cross and follwing Him.

    January 23, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  10. DCW

    To all those out there that believe that science is the answer: Tell all of us how and were the first humans were from or how we came to be??

    January 23, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Jeebus

      How did Jesus and his father came to be? Alright then, you ask a question trying to sound smart yet the answer to my question from you will be a myth based on what? books/stories written by MEN. Who let me just say, were very much on some good drugs, did you know back in those days opium was a way for them to get high, well they didnt call it this but you can do the research yourself.

      January 23, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  11. Richp

    The issue of organized religion is like career politicians, once a group discovers they can make a career of it and make money it gets corrupted. Once those who make it a career get power they use and abuse it. That has been proven again and again from catholic or Muslim. Just like politicians, they make money, send people to die for their causes and make more money and acquire more power..

    January 23, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  12. DCW

    I must agree that religion is man made and Jesus is God made. Jesus was against religion. I will say this that Christianity is a religion and made by man. It refers to Jesus Christ and was created to identify those that followed the teachings of Jesus, again made up by man. Your faith is your own but your religion was made up by some one else. Jesus came to us to stop the religious leaders from having the power over our individual choices. I feel it did not work because we a people allowed a new religion to be created called Christianity. The disciples were called followers of Jesus not Christians. This label was given to the followers of Jesus by the Romans and Jews of that time so they could identify them. We all just need to think for ourselves and stop letting others tell us what we believe. God gave us free will so use it.

    January 23, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • kabir

      I couldn't agree more..time for folks to stop letting others do their thinking. And deep down the truth waits for them to find, but a fear of being the individual who had the courage to find that truth is a tall wall to hurdle for some.

      January 23, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  13. kabir

    Really liked the video..Ive always considered myself to be spiritual but not religious. I was raised in a home where Islam and Christianity were both practiced, and as i grew up people would ask what religion are you and i would never know how to respond..for me i see the beauty in all religions and if you open your mind and heart you would see theirs more similarities than differences especially with Islam and Christianity.

    January 23, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • lesan

      not just between those two but all around religions ,.....I agree with you, that they are all based on good intentions .But being constantly abused and misdused by people persuing their plans and views.

      January 23, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  14. Chris

    Just because Wars had been waged in the name of religion doesn't make the point of it Wrong,,, otherwise why does it say (He who loves me, keeps my commandments) almost at the same time as it says (I give you a new commandment, love...)
    in short, Yes, Jesus is what matters, but to know Jesus I need His word, the Bible, I need a relationship with Him, I need to understand What He wants me to be Like (Be Holy as your Father in Heaven) which is not just an old testament quote, but a new Testament as well,,,
    at the end, if Religion was so pointless and to be hated, why Would God ask us to test the spirits, why does he tell us (by their fruits you would know them.)
    instead of blaming religion we should stop being blind followers and start doing our part, namely that what God told us to do, to read for ourselves, to question what is being taught under prayer and based on knowledge of the Bible, knowing that If He really is God, and the Bible is His word, it can not contradict, and if it seems to do so, then maybe i should question my understanding of it before questioning Him!

    January 23, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Ok

      "if Religion was so pointless and to be hated, why Would God ask us to test the spirits, why does he tell us (by their fruits you would know them.)"

      So based on what a lot of Christians are posting the world is in the crapper, guess the fruits you’re talking about is the destruction of the planet your God gave you. Now you know why religion should be hated because many have said men are responsible for the starving people in the world that includes those of your religion. Yet if you look at many preachers of today, they instead surround themselves with wealth. The people who are blind are the fools that believe like you.

      January 23, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Ken

      What if there is no god? Is your existence any different?

      January 23, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Jeebus

      the existence isnt any different because no one here can prove what happens when you die, no one, so i suggest you make the best of your time in this planet that has the perfect balance of oxygen for you to breath and be thankful to whatever happened in this planet that made so many animals and plants and nature coexist and allowed us to have a place to live...well sorry to those who were killed by religious agendas... Do you know that someone tried to shut me up once by saying, oh then how can we be so perfect in form, we cant be evolving because how come we dont evolve today.. I felt like slapping them in the mouth... do you know how long we have recorded history since? maybe 15,000 years old, such as manuscripts and artifacts, etc, now it takes about almost 500,000 years for something to evolve, due to many factors in the atmosphere and the environment... you will never live long enough to see something evolve, but galapagos shows you something spectacular about rare species and kids being born with 2 heads and 4 arms, these are just rare mutations, but dont you realize that there are soooo many different species of animals, that for "god" to have created each one, its just so illogical, have you see animals from the deep sea? these are creates that adapted to zero light, its like a blind man who develops very good hearing senses after being blind for so long, so there are so many examples of evolution all around us but everyone rather believe something very simple like oh yea god created all, rather than explain step by step how things came to be.... and they call themselves educated...

      January 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  15. VoipOfReason

    Not a bad poet,
    That man named Jeff,
    Has a decent message,
    But the world seems deaf.

    January 23, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • md2205

      To Ken: If there is no G-d, then what is the difference in what I do? My every effort is baseless and useless. There is no reason to do anything good and no way to pass whatever belief I have in doing good to the next generation. There is no value system that can last as it cannot be based on anything other than that is what I want to do because I think it is good. The next generation could say that is something they don't want to do and could do whatever they want – all is based on whatever the person wants. But wants are ever-changing, rationalized, and most times based on physical desires, not spiritual ones. The most sadistic, cruel acts are as nothing, and as equal, as the highest, most selfless act as all are based on what the person wants to do. A person's life loses all meaning as he cannot base his life on anything other than here he is and he might as well enjoy it. Isn't that much too low for a very intelligent being such as man, who has a brain and the power to go out and do so much good if he will only realize that there is a Higher Intelligence that created him for a purpose and try to figure out what that purpose is and fulfill it?

      January 23, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  16. Sydney

    I love what this young man is trying to say. He didn't once say that YOU should believe the way he does. He's simply saying that organized religion is not for him and he gives his opinion as well as facts to explain why. Someone in a post stated that he's trying to say religion is "not complicated when it is". First off, I don't get why anyone would say that religion is complicated because it's not. People try to make it complicated. I grew up southern Baptist and my father was a Sunday school teacher. I KNOW what organized religion is about. I'm not saying that it's bad or that there's anything wrong with people taking part in it. However, I AM saying that organized religion is very political when it isn't supposed to be and it's also being made more complicated than it has to be. What ever happened to just going to church and enjoying the preaching, putting money in the plate they pass around, and then going home. Now we go to church, vote to put our church members in office, whether it be for the Sunday school superintendent, treasurer, assistant treasurer, etc. It's all political any way you look at it. I think a lot of people that has posted really needs to go back and read the Bible because it clearly states to not judge others as well. It may seem that I've done that myself but I stated this is only MY opinion and whatever anyone else does is on them. Let's take the complication out of religion...read John 3:16 over and over until it finally clicks. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life". Doesn't sound complicated to me..does it to you?

    January 23, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  17. lesan

    like the quote that bible is like cellphone plan agreement .Almost nobody is reading it even less triing to understain it .But all are screamig AMEN! on the end...

    January 23, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  18. Lloyd

    @ SHODAN06 It is inductive knowledge gathering and can only prove something is truth with a high degree of confidence. NOT absolute truth. You have faith in science to be correct. Science cannot prove intuition, yet we believe it exists, science cannot explain why we yawn, yet we do everyday, Einsteins theory of relativity says we cannot travel than the speed of light, yet we have already clocked a particle moving faster than 186,282 miles per hour. Science cannot explain the placebo effect, yet people get better taking sugar pills. it cannot prove humans are causing the climate change, yet people believe in global warming. You have faith science is correct, even though it cant explain everyday events, but you still trust it? Let people who believe in God believe in it. Just like we ALL believe in science.

    January 23, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • E

      Light travels at 186,282 miles per second and so the "particle moving faster than 186,282 miles per hour" is not such a big surprise.

      January 23, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Jeebus

      Science cannot explain many of the things you said because WE, men, have YET to find the reasons. We are the ones who rather hypothesize, put a plan together, execute it by experimenting, testing, and the results provide an answer, rather than just say, oh that? well god made that, oh and this, yeah god made it too..i have no idea how it functions, what it is, what it was, how it came to be, but god did it, yup thats much better to know and believe in... if you take all the religious people and put them in a blender, the outcome of their educated knowledge, their combined IQ's, their combined problem solving skills without any hint of science and logical thinking is about as big as an ants antenna.

      January 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  19. lesan

    like the quote that bible is like cellphone plan agreement .Almost nobody is reading it even less triing to understain it .But all are screamig AMEN! on the end.

    January 23, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  20. T

    People believe in the Wind, but they can not see it. They believe in the wind because they can feel it, so they know it exists. They same holds for spirituality. I believe in a higher being, because I can feel it, not because I have seen it.

    January 23, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Bizarre

      T - "I believe in a higher being, because I can feel it,"

      "Feelings" can be misleading... and downright wrong.

      Just thinking of a sour lemon can make one's salivary glands go wild.... with no lemon in sight.

      I know a woman who as told me on numerous occasions that she just "has a feeling" that she is going to win the next day's lottery - guess what?... she never has. She's the same one who always tells you *after* a tragic event that she "had a feeling" that something bad was going to happen.

      January 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
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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.