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. Fred Riek

    Truly devout people do not need a priest or minister or rabbi or omam to be close to their god. These religious power mongers only get in the way and deliver self serving indoctrination. Having been a Catholic, I know they are in it onoy for the power and the money.

    January 30, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Jimmy

      Hey Fred Riek, interesting that you state "having BEEN Catholic, they're all in it for the money..."
      Oh yeah, that Mother Theresa (a Catholic) she was really living the high life caring for the poor and cast-offs on the streets. That Pope John Paul II, helping to bring down the Iron Curtain and free his homeland of Poland, he was really in it for the payola baby! Shocking as it may be to you Fred, there are good solid Catholic Christians that are in it for JESUS, not money. Most priest and nuns that I've met (and I'm still Catholic, so I imagine I know more than a former Catholic) are in it because of sincere willingness to do God's work, not any material rewards. They just don't make much money at all! Grow up Fred and try to make a reasoned argument.

      January 31, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  2. Me

    He doesn't like the word "religion" so he makes this ridiculous claim that his belief system is somehow not a religion. Someone should let the IRS know that Christianity isn't a religion so that people stop deducting donations to churches.

    January 30, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  3. Marc

    Nicely done!

    Every day I deal with folks who expound "I'm a GOOD CHRISTIAN!" and then immediately judge and belittle those around them. So many churches state that only they have the "true understanding" and this leads to that type of elitism. Reminds me of Jesus's dislike of the Levites standing on the corners making huge displays for all to see, while extolling the woman sneaking into the temple to make an anonymous donation.

    We should seek Him in our own way and live the life. Be an example and don't judge others around us as they may be on equally valid journeys of their own. It's not our place to judge...

    January 30, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  4. Lydia

    Great video. That line about building big churches but not feeding the poor says it all. Jesus would never have done that.

    January 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Pips

      Doesn't Jesus in the bible scorn organized religions? He seems to want to keep it private. To spread the word, but pray in your room alone, away from others. Not to ever proselytze.

      January 31, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  5. john

    and yet another reason why I don't believe.

    January 28, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  6. Jeffrey and Michael Short

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! We feel you have sumed it up perfectly. I cry every time I hear this. I believe you have heard from God. Keep on doing what God has called you to do.

    January 27, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  7. Liz

    Really makes me think if I am truly a reflection of Christ in my everyday life. Thank you for sharing the gift God has given you.

    January 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  8. Misty

    KER – guess your post was for me??? I enjoy many secular books, poems etc. That was not my point. I was asking for those
    atheist posting here to share something they wrote, sung, etc. (like the man in ?) that is meant to inspire others to do good, or be a better person, etc.. You completely misunderstood. I am sure I am at least as intelligent as you!

    January 27, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  9. Misty

    Mary, you speak your mind well! Many people have had your experiences in churches. But, to be honest, those things happen
    everywhere else too – schools – workplaces, etc. – but we just expect churchgoers to be better than the rest. Some of them are better and some are not. You cannot put ALL people who go to church in the same pew. That is not fair nor true.

    January 27, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  10. Mary from Baltimore

    I love Jesus and God and believe in the divine. I do not believe in religion at all. Jesus had simple rules love God and your neighbor, do no harm. I do my best to live by those rules. I pray everyday and frequently. I had someone tell me once that I am not accountable to anyone. I disagree. I am accountable to myself and my fellowman. I don't need organized religion to guide me. All I have found in churches are a bunch of fake people who put on a show on Sundays and treat people badly the rest of the week. I was disgusted and decided I could do better on my own and I have. I have the best relationship with God. I see him in nature, my fellowman and I feel His spirit in every breath I take.

    January 27, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Lydia

      I agree with you 100%!

      January 28, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Angie

      Mary, I agree with you 100 percent with one exception. Although you don't have to go to a "church" setting, believe me I know exactly how you feel and that's the reason I don't attend a church group, God wants you to fellowship with other believers to help you stay strong in his word, both for you and the other believers. It can just be one other person who you speak to about God, have a weekly get together for reading or studying a particular part of the word at lunch or dinner. He doesn't want us to be alone in learning his word. You will be surprise in learning there are a lot of people who feel the same way you do about the church setting and would be very receptive in this type of approach. Just my two cents' worth 🙂

      January 29, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  11. KER

    It's called HUMANISM – you don't need a new name for it, you need to look it up and not be scared of the implications. it puts the "human" in "humane." "Jesus" was a humanist. Like a lot of historical, "spiritual" figures. They mix humanism with spirituality so people feel they have a "faith" but also know how the heck to act around other people.

    January 26, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • ProHumanity


      January 27, 2012 at 3:32 am |
  12. Ejiro Obire

    Whether religion or no religion as people claim today to be associated or member of a particular organisation. the fact is that Christianity is a lifestyle (as a christian one ought to live the lifestyle of Jesus Christ) not a religion. We see people today claim Christianity; more in numbers but are not Christian. Jesus is the way the truth and the light. We see in his example how He lived aboved the Synagogue and spread the Goodnews of God, not bound by the Synagogue but the TRUTH – doing good all over the world and making Himself example, but today people preach what they don't do and brain wash people to be and remain in a particular organisation called religion. JESUS IS ABOVE RELIGION for if he is religious, He wouldn't have spread salvation to the Gentiles. Come on people WAKE UP!

    January 26, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  13. Jeff

    I agree with this young man. I have become tired of "organized religion" as a whole. The Bible was actually written by man, not GOD, god doesn't need to write.....he is ominpotent. Ten people can read the same bible and or verse and five of the the ten will interpret it differently i would imagine. No where in the bible does it say you have to attend a church to believe in or worship God and his son JC.

    January 26, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Mary from Baltimore

      So true

      January 27, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  14. ashrakay

    Philip Morris became Altria. They're still the same company responsible for selling chemicals that are known to kill people. Christians can try to rebrand themselves, but they're still the same people under the label.

    January 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  15. Karen

    to k: You wrote: "Subsequent to them, we sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the previous scripture, the Torah. We gave him the Gospel, containing guidance and light, and confirming the previous scriptures, the Torah, and augmenting its guidance and light, and to enlighten the righteous. Quran [5:46]"

    My question is this; If God is not a Triune God, then who is the WE in the sentence above?

    January 24, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Rayhan

      'My question is this; If God is not a Triune God, then who is the WE in the sentence above?'

      There are many verses in the Quran where Allah speaks using the Arabic pronoun “nahnu” (meaning we) or its associated suffix….”we” created, “we” sent down, etc. In Arabic, this is perfectly acceptable, because “nahnu” does not necessarily imply plurality. It can also indicate the speaker’s lofty status, and thus, when the Most High uses it, the meaning is evident.
      The closes thing to this in the English language is Majestic plural (the royal 'We').
      This may help you understand:

      January 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Test


      John 14:6
      King James Version (KJV)
      Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Abdulla

      Whenever in the Qur’an Allah is mentioned in the third person there are always singular pronouns used, such as He, him (Huwa or Hu). Whenever Allah is spoken to in the second person there are also singular pronouns, such as Thou, Thine and Thee (Anta, Ka). However only in the first person some times the pronouns I, My or Mine (Ana, Iyaya, ya) are used and sometimes We, Us and Our (Nahnu, Na) are used.

      This is a style of speech. Sometime the speaker says I and sometime says we. We also use that in our conversations. In the Qur’an you will see that often the first person singular such as I or My is used, when Allah speaks about His love, care and closeness and forgiveness for His servants. In a similar way the first person plural is often used when Allah speaks about His power, majesty, glory, great deeds or when He speaks about His anger and wrath for the sinners and criminals. (This is, of course, the general use. Sometime the reverse is also the case, depending on the context of the Surah.)

      See for example the verses where the first person singular is used: “When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me: that they may walk in the right way.” (al-Baqarah 2:186) Or “Verily, I am Allah: there is no god but I: so serve thou Me (only), and establish regular prayer for celebrating My praise.” (Taha 20:14) or “But, without doubt, I am (also) He that forgives again and again, to those who repent, believe, and do right, who, in fine, are ready to receive true guidance.” (Taha 20:82) or see another example where both pronouns are used side by side, “Before them the People of Noah rejected (their Messenger): they rejected Our servant, and said, “Here is one possessed!” and he was driven out. Then he called on His Lord: “I am one overcome: do Thou then help (me)!” So We opened the gates of heaven, with water pouring forth. And We caused the earth to gush forth with springs. So the waters met (and rose) to the extent decreed. But We bore him on an (Ark) made of broad planks and caulked with palm-fiber: She floats under Our eyes (and care): a recompense to one who had been rejected (with scorn)! And We have left this as a Sign (for all time): then is there any that will receive admonition? But how (terrible) was My Penalty and My Warning? (al-Qamar 54:9-16)

      January 31, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  16. MISTY


    January 24, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  17. MISTY




    January 24, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • J.W

      Why are you shouting?

      January 24, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Poetry doesn't have to be literally true to be inspiring, does it, and the Bible is largely written in verse, correct?

      January 24, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • ashrakay

      Have you read the Harry Potter series, or Lord of the Rings? There's some good atheist stuff in there.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • KER

      what they heck are you talking about?

      for one, YES, there are millions of secular poems, novels, books, etc., that inspire people. YOU just don't go looking for them, so to YOU, they don't exist. have you tried? i know you haven't, because if you had, you would know that your statement is just plain wrong.

      you are just another one of those people who keeps their head in the sand. that's up to you, it's your life, but when you limit your own knowledge base, don't go saying other things don't exist just because you didn't learn them. that is just showing how uneducated YOU are, that is all you prove.

      January 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • QuestionMark

      Troll? Hard to tell that from the simply unintelligent these days.

      January 27, 2012 at 3:59 am |
  18. k

    God speaks to the whole humanity through His book Quran..

    “Proclaim, He is the One and only GOD. The Absolute GOD. Never did He beget. Nor was He begotten. None equals Him." [112:1]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    Subsequent to them, we sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the previous scripture, the Torah. We gave him the Gospel, containing guidance and light, and confirming the previous scriptures, the Torah, and augmenting its guidance and light, and to enlighten the righteous. Quran [5:46]

    O people of the scripture, do not transgress the limits of your religion, and do not say about GOD except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was a messenger of GOD, and His word that He had sent to Mary, and a revelation from Him. Therefore, you shall believe in GOD and His messengers. You shall not say, "Trinity." You shall refrain from this for your own good. GOD is only one god. Be He glorified; He is much too glorious to have a son. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth. GOD suffices as Lord and Master. Quran [4:171]

    Most exalted is the One in whose hands is all kingship, and He is Omnipotent.The One who created death and life for the purpose of distinguishing those among you who would do better. Quran [67.2]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website

    January 24, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Test

      Salvation does not require the Koran.

      Mohammed was a false prophet.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      He has the same amount of justification to make his claims as you do yours.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Test

      @Oh Yeah

      Then let him speak. i don't need to hear the obvious.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • ashrakay

      The quran also promotes war and violence. You believe in that stuff too or are you a selective believer?

      January 25, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • Troy Huffman

      Islam was created 1400 years ago, keep your satantic ramblings to yourself.

      January 30, 2012 at 7:54 am |
  19. tina

    It is not a "hate religion" video. He's a Christian. Basically, he's a Christian who just doesn't want to be made to do anything. Don't make him go to church, say a prayer, or read the bible. He'll do that when he feels like it! Nothing new here.

    January 24, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Also, he doesn't want to be associated with any of the wars, witch burnings, inquisitions, and other embarrassments that Christianity is responsible for. In a way, it's the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.

      This kind of rebranding makes about as much sense as claiming that, since it's based on long dead plants that originally got their energy from the sun, oil is actually solar power.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  20. Fookin' Prawn

    Best thing ever.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:06 am |
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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.