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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. Dave

    "Religion is the opiate of the people"-Karl Marx. This says nothing of having spiritual faith, but rather the collective opinions of others tend to simply numb the populous from the core ideals of traditional religious practice and human nature. For instance, God likely really has little interest in sports, the oscars, BET Awards, politics, etc.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  2. Tom

    God doesn't want you to vote democrat or republican, he wants all that lobby money they collect to be used to feed the poor, not to build huge houses to themselves and threat war on other countries. God doesn't want you to hate gay people because he created them, like us all, and he doesn't make mistakes. God doesn't want you to hate women because of the same reason. And god will be damned if you keep telling people that he wants you to vote or hate any other of his creatures.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Anon

      What god?

      January 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Tony

      Excellent Post!

      January 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • john

      anaon. the god that people have been drawn to since the birth of man. the god you are drawn to and will call on in the face of death. i gurantee if you were hanging fro a cliff you would ask for help from the sphagetti monster.. guarantee.. you are not as smart as you think you are..

      January 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • religious skeptic

      If all religious people were like you, they wouldn't be so irritating.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      If there was a god and he cared so much about those starving, don't you think tthe alleged creator of the universe couldf make it rain and crops grow?
      It's amazing what otherwise intelligent people will accept from authority figures.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Mr.Moderate

      John, actually man has been around close to 100,000 years longer than he has been drawn to the God you are speaking of. Try again. You're definitely not as smart as you think you are.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  3. Ross

    Funny how anything to do with Christianity, good or bad, brings out so many athiests. You all are so desparate to share a connection in your beliefs with others. Interestingly, that's exactly what believers seek as well. We call it fellowship.

    @bootyfunk: did you spend all day working on that? Or is it pre-drafted so you can make yourself feel intelligent? No matter to me, I'll never see you, in this life, or beyond. Hope you can take the heat.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Tim

      It brings out just as many insecure evangelicals to defend their twisted version of religion.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Rick

      Ross....you believe because your parents believed...and their parents before them. Not for any good reason. A lot of the comments on here are telling. Many of you believe in god because you are scared as heck of what comes after death. You don't want to chance it. Ridiculous.

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

      Christians are all delusional and still playing an ancient game of telephone.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      Pascal's Wager

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

      "Christians are all delusional and still playing an ancient game of telephone."

      Weak generalization.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Anon

      Go take your psych meds.

      January 21, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • Fahrenheit 451

      @ Anon

      what're you, a broken f'n record? You got nothin' else but "take your psych meds"?

      January 21, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  4. John pelegrini

    Interesting how critics of this great guy understand the message. For unbelievers who have the will not to believe they simply do not understand the whole thing. Like the silly poem in the article. They call it irrational because they simply do not grasp the spiritual truth this young man probably has. Even an atheist here made a comment the video guy "desires' a relationship with God (he wrote putting quotes 🙂 ). That young man like me and millions of others, we don't "desire". We have. It is real. It is tangible. And because we love you we try desperately to tell you the Truth. The only way, the meaning. Anyway, it was a great video and a nice attempt to reach people. What happened to that smart man on his privacy, cannot be understood by unbelievers. Is that simple. They can't call him stupid (like they do all the time) so they challenge his credibility. But what do a unbeliever know about this subject to be credible anyway? Great Job man! happy you experienced the creator and found He is real regardless what religious people, or atheists or anybody else say. 😛

    January 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Anon

      Go take you psych meds before you spread more insanity.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • john

      anon. i didnt see anything insane about this post. you, on the other hand, sound like you have some fear problems.. which a good 'session' might cure..

      January 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      Oh John, you profess god's love from one side of your face while hating atheists from the other and then go so far as to question the morality and credibility of people you don't even know and know even less about. That's arrogance and self-righteousness at its very finest. I don't believe becuase I sinply don't believe. Should I cast dispersions at you for not believing in Zeus, or Ra, or Odin?

      Thanks for so vividly illustrating for all what is so very wrong with religion.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Rick

      How is your relationship with God tangible?

      January 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  5. NJBob

    Well, he's halfway there, so I guess that's something to be happy about. When he has his second epiphany, he'll realize there is no Jesus and no god either. Then he'll finally be free.

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

      hallelujah!

      January 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • john

      wow.. njbob. you know everything about everything huh? definitive proof just because you cant prove it.. very bizarre.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  6. Brian

    I'm not against this or the guy starring in it, but the rhyming gets old real fast.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Aurthur Miller

      It is the only language that today's youth understands since most of them are ADD and ritalin junkies

      January 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Arthur
      Could you please provide your scientific, peer reviewed docu/men...
      Oooo! Shiny things!

      January 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  7. Michael p

    How do you seperate Jesus from Christanity? What he's saying is nothing more than more than the natural EVOLUTION. It's funny, at first there were many Gods and their religions, then there was one God and his religion, now we have just one God minus religion. You're almost there, pal, you just need to subtract that one last thing before you discover free-thought.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Dave

      Well, let's see...Jesus reportedly was first and foremost, a Jew. He was born Jewish, lived Jewish and dies Jewish. Christianity wsn't born until centuries after Jesus' death.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Ray in Vegas

      Amen, brother.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • religious skeptic

      And a Middle Eastern Jew, no less....

      January 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • John

      A religion has three parts: code of behavior, rituals and doctrine. If you focus only on those components of Christianity, you would be missing its core: Jesus. Belief for Christians is not so much religion, but a relationship, with God.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  8. Rick McDaniel

    Organized religion is more about little dictatorships, than about what is right or good, for humanity.

    This guy is a thinker.......and he knows what he is talking about.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • ben

      er...no. This guy isn't a thinker, philosopher, or educated man. He is simply doing what ALL christians are doing, trying to claim that christianity is not a religion. Listen to what he says "I believe in the bible! I believe in the church! I believe in Jesus!" Well guess what? Believing in that stuff...IS A RELIGION. It's called chrsitianity, ever heard of it. The fact that people think this video makes an intelligent point,m shows how unintelligent americans are. Truly sad.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Anon

      That video is full of christian apologetics.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  9. dudeuloose

    Why is it that those who claim to be athiest, who hate God, who want nothing to do with God, they want to be left "ALONE" read these kind of articles? They then post and get involved. If I'm not interested in something, I don't even bother reading it, you should do the same and let those who have faith and belief to go about as they choose! Yet there is something that just won't let them give up. Jesus who is God is so intriguing, they simply cannot let it go. I can assure you that all those who past away and did not experience God are now believers too, but its just tooo late.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Rick

      Atheists don't hate god... because they don't believe in god. Atheists hate what religion has done to our fair planet.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • ben

      Atheists dont hate god, you cant hate what doesnt exist. Period. I personally hate religion, of which christianity is. It's 2012, stop believing in an invisible man in the sky. you're embarrassing the rest of us.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • bnb42

      Sorry dudeulose, when you have someone like Rick Santorum trying to become president running on the "Let's be a more Christian nation" ticket.... we atheists have to get involved....

      and besides if you don't like your religion be laughed at you shouldn't have such funny beliefs.... (Excuse me while I go stone someone who worked on Sunday)

      January 20, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Anon

      We despise the concept of Abrahamic god of the three desert blood cults and the collateral damage it has done.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jf_f1H14rXE

      January 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • I Don't Get It

      "all those who past away and did not experience God are now believers too, but its just tooo late."

      Why would it be too late? You have NO idea of what goes on after death (if anything), nor does anyone else.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  10. LuisWu

    Why anyone would accept ancient mythology as fact is beyond me. It's scary that so many people live in a fantasy world.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • john

      yet you put your blind faith into what a man tell you without proof? sounds religious to me (yes, im talking about the scientist that tells you we know the age of the universe.. when we only know 7 percent of what it is) and on and on and on

      January 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • ben

      John, you dont seem to understand what 'blind faith' is. Believing in FACTS is not faith. Atheists dont have 'faith', they have beliefs based on evidence. I dont believe things without evidence, because I am not an idiot. Can you say the same? Thought not.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Victor

      I'm with you there. You would think we would beyond falling any old mystical explanation given by a charismatic cult leader. Of course, scientific conclusions rely on proof, unbeknownst to John, here. Looks as though he mistakes his lack of investigating the evidence for there not being any.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • sharoom

      alright, look, there is enough evidence in the universe to suggest it's more than 6000 years old. I accept it not because they just told me but because they actually went out and did a physical measurement to see if a measurement is consistent with a much older model. They at least were curious and made an EFFORT to do it.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  11. Xtopher

    This video is gay...just like most evangelical youth leaders and priests.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  12. NoMansLandd

    What's the big deal? Humans believing in a "greater being/force/god/whatever" is fantastic! People started wars, NOT religion. BIG headed egos started wars, NOT religion. People made people poor, NOT religion. People hurt people, NOT religion.

    Religion, or a faith in a higher supreme being is not going away, it is eternal.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • John

      agreed, and good post. Religion (like nationalism, socialism, or any other "ism") was only used to compel and rally the masses into fighting for the rich and powerful and greedy. War has always been fought at the behest of the rich and powerful, who exploit the weak into giving their lives to further the goals of the elite.

      Religion doesn't start wars .. greed, lust, power, arrogance .. they start wars. The bloodiest wars in history had nothing to do with religion (world wars 1 and 2) .. they were fought for other reasons.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • ben

      you're right. People did all those things...and they used religion to justify it. "God wants us to destroy the heathens". that's how we got the crusades and the inquisition. believing a higher power forgives you when you act evil is the most dangerous idea in the world. It lets good people do horrible evil. That is ALL because of religion.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • NoMansLandd

      Great replies, both of you...

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

      Your religion is not eternal. A sudden gamma ray burst o a giant meteor could wipe it all like it never existed in the first place.

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

      " A sudden gamma ray burst o a giant meteor could wipe it all like it never existed in the first place."

      Typical fantasy diatribe from an anon troll.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Anon

      It has happened in the past and it could likely happen again.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  13. travelinpants

    This young man is on a journey to find and have a relationship with G_D. I believe if he continues his journey he WILL find what G_D has for him. I believe his views will change dramatically as he seeks G_D. Bless him for embarking on this journey and G_D protect him as he seeks you!!!!!

    January 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Anon

      Screw your imaginary desert GOD of war called Yahweh.

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

      @Anon

      Broken Record.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Anon

      Broken brain.

      January 21, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  14. angryersmell

    Jesus did come to abolish religion.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • ben

      yes, he can to abolish religion, by founding christianity. Makes perfect sense if jesus is either a lair or an idiot. Did god not know that people would start a cult that would grow to the largest religion in the world around jesus? If he didn't...he isn't god. Logic much?

      January 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • angryersmell

      @ben – Jesus didn't found Christianity; the Romans did centuries after his death. You have no idea what you're talking about and your anger is misdirected. Redirect your energy and you will find your life far less frustrating.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Anon

      The historical Jesus is a complete farce.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • ben

      angry, you might want to read the bible (acts by paul, anyone?) Jesus founds his church as peter as it's rock. Paul then founds christianity. Christianity is further solidified during the council of nicea. You have no idea what you are talking about, but thank you for pretending to be intelligent and well read. LOL at your self-ownage.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • angryersmell

      @Anon – Correct. A Roman invented farce. "All religion must go (except ours, of course),". The original Jesus was no doubt far more meek than the superpowered hero they invented. Fitting that they should usher in the armageddon and 1000 years of darkness that they predicted and feared, along with laying the foundation for the destruction of all organized religion. Hilarious, in fact.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • angryersmell

      @ben – You might want to pull your head out of your backside and read my response to Anon. You might learn something. I know exactly what I'm talking about.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • angryersmell

      @ben – Aw geez. Sorry, I didn't realize you used the terms "LOL" and "self-ownage" in your comment. I stopped reading after you citied the same book that you're telling everyone is trash in order to prove your own point. Don't bother reading what I wrote...or anything at all for that matter. You won't learn anything.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • ben

      Angry, I read your response, as usual, you are factually incorrect. Rome actually persecuted chrsitians for centuries. They hardly 'invented it'. Christianity was accepted when constantine converted. Notice how I actually give facts when I respond? You can check them out. You'll find I am always right, and you are always wrong. Perhaps because I have a degree in religious studies, and you are an uneducated imbecile who posts on the internet. Thanks for the laughs though.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  15. Jim

    Religion is just a distraction, a means of controlling large segments of the population. The original propaganda. "I know God, and if you don't do as I/He says, you will be forever damned! Now, go forth and suffer so that I may prosper from your labors." That is all religion. Believe in God, the afterlife, whatever? Good for you. Why does it have to be public, and why does it have to be part of political discourse in the year 2012!?

    January 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  16. Luz

    I am a pentecostal, who attends an Assemblies of God church. This young man made a wonderful, not dangerous statement about what Christianity should really be about...Jesus, his love for us, that he died on the cross and rose on the third day so that we may be forgiven of our sins. The gospel, is simple, we make it complicated. I would rather my children take a stand for Jesus, and not be so focused on denominations, religious conditions, or works. Jesus is GRACE, a gift that can never be earned. That is simple, and profound...

    January 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Jim

      I'm truly glad your faith gives you happiness. However, I don't need nor want to know anything about it. I find it as disgusting as you find the 'gay agenda' or other non-christian-approved lifestyles. Please keep it out of our politics and government. Thanks.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • religious skeptic

      And I will add, gives you the right to make decisions about what I do with MY body.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • blah9999

      @Jim

      It's funny that you assume that because he's a christian the also hates gays

      January 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • religious skeptic

      Think it was the Pentecostal part that was a dead giveaway.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  17. Boston Guy

    Christians are the biggest hypocrites ever to walk on earth. Newt for an example, many preachers and so on. Divorce and having affairs are the things that bring down the family structure and harms the children, NOT gay marraige!! If you claim to be a Christian and are divorced then you are a HYPOCRITE! But will Christians say this and hate that as much as gay marraige? Probably never. To be a TRUE Christian you have to be "Christ" Like and there are very few who can honestly say they are. Otherwise, you're going down with the rest of the world. If that's what you believe in.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • john

      everyone are hypocrites, including you. its the human condition.. why so angry?

      January 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Jim

      Christians are not special. Jews, Muslims, Hindus – all hypocrits.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  18. rosestool

    i failed to see how this video and its poem in particular correlate to atheism as this article implied.
    albeit negative remarks toward christian church the message inside the poem is no more than another delusional attempt to preach about god and jesus.
    remove god from your plea, then you’ll get my attention.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • john

      trust me.. you have a god.. the ones in denial are the most religious.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  19. Rob Hannigan

    Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized. Albert Einstein.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  20. Richard Aberdeen

    This video is on the right track, but it confuses Christianity with Jesus, so he does't go far enough. Christianity has nothing in common with either Jesus or any author of the Bible. God doesn't need a religion; creation and the words and deeds of Jesus speak for God.

    In the New Testamen, Paul refers to himself several times as a follower of the "way", while he never once refers to himself as a Christian and appears to deliberately avoid using the name when asked by a Roman ruler in Acts if he is a Christian. Nobody other than Jesus hated religion more than Paul, once a conservative fundamentalist who became the most liberal author in known history.

    More information can be found at http://www.RichardAberdeen.com

    January 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Dave

      I'm sure it can...

      January 20, 2012 at 12:59 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.