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. Jaya

    If you cannot see the divine in all, you cannot see the divine at all.
    I wouldn't let religion get in the way of personal spirituality.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Real Deal


      What is "personal spirituality"? Do you think that there are supernatural 'spirits' wandering around, hobnobbing with mortals? Is it your fantasies and imagination running wild in interpreting human emotions?

      Fantasy is pleasurable, and is even useful at times, like when brainstorming for solutions; but to live as if these fantasies are real can sure get one into trouble.

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

      Denying your own spirit will get you in trouble too. Like assuming all christians are Republicans, or having atheists impose their religious views. We all get to choose our own fantasies. Energy follows attention.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Ian

      @ Real Deal
      "Personal Spirituality" is the exercise of defining who you are.

      For Christians, they seek to define who they are through Jesus.

      For Theoretical Physicists, they seek to define who we are (themselves included) through science.

      Some people define who they are through money, some through their looks, and some through their abilities as an athlete. Everyone's self image is an extension of their spirituality.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Real Deal

      Jaya and Ian,

      These descriptions sound to me like examples of deductive and inductive reasoning.... assembling facts and assuming things... or making judgements. Even hunches or intuition are the result of (often unnoticed) concrete input of facts. One's personality is shaped by a long series of input of facts, in addition to some genetic components.

      I do not see what 'spiritual' means.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Ian

      @Real Deal
      What I said is the litteral definition of Spirituality. Im not arguing with someone who refuses to learn the very definition of the word and then denounces that definition as Deductive and Inductive reasoning.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  2. David

    You have every right to move to a country that is not consumed with religion. You have every right to fight against the belief of religious people. But the point is, why would you come and comment on a video that was solely produced and created, to reach those that do believe in Jesus. I don't read articles on atheist and comment. I don't care.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Prior

      "Those who reject the path to enlightenment, must be destroyed."

      "Hallowed are the children of the Ori."

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

      Are you the same David that said a few minutes ago that religion doesn't affect us? Sorry but I can't take you seriously after that. Anyways, I came here to watch the video because I figured it would be full of doubletalk, misinformation and general BS. I was right. Sure believe what you want, but just know that this guy and this video is utterly meaningless.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  3. Ian

    Faith is personal, religion is not. Religion is the rules and practices governed by shared faith. Those rules and practices can be manipulated.

    Where in the bible does it say to observe Christmas?

    Thats the fundamental message, he espouses his search for faith and redemption without subscribing to the traditions of an organization.

    I'm Jewish.

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

      From where then does your faith come?

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

      the term FAITH was really the name of a Roman god.. the Romans used that word to assist in creating the Christian myth.
      Was first a NAME of a god then a term used to believe in a god...


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


      I know what you are getting at and I get it. I have struggled with my personal faith for a long time and I am not sure what I believe. I don't believe what other's tell me is true, you have to figure that out for yourself.

      I'm very big on science and math (I'm and engineer) and I think I will find my answers there, but I have respect for my heritage and community.

      I spend almost no time at all thinking about god. God either has such a profound impact on my life or such a minute impact that it really doesn't matter what I think cause it will change nothing. For that reason I don't even think about it.

      I do not believe in a personal god that communicates with me and listens to me. If there was a personal god who loves and cares about me then god will come to me and change my life, but god hasn't yet. If and when it does happen, maybe I'll think about god a little more.

      Jews believe god is the personification of the collective soul of all things. Christians and Muslims don't.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Ian

      @ Hello
      How does that have anything to do with what I said?

      January 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  4. Chris Hogan

    This video does nothing but PROMOTE religion. The same fundamentalist, anti-women, anti-whatever RELIGION packaged in a different way. I think James Dobson, Tony Perkins and Rick Santorum all owe this clever kid a MASSIVE consulting fee. This is disgusting. I don't believe for ONE SECOND that the supporters of this video care about poverty, or humility. They want to ban gay marriage, ban reproductive freedom, and pass other laws that punish non-believers. They needed a more effective way of putting out their message, and apparently they have found it.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  5. whuuu

    i love it when people talk about religion and there faith its mind boggling how people create up what ever they want. god hates us all

    January 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  6. John,Peter & Paul

    Rap is Crap

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

      unless your referring to Christian Rap 😉

      January 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  7. Michael

    On this rock I will build my church-jesus. his omniscience leaves him complicit with every religious atrocity ever commit. Maybe he should have left some Cliff Notes.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  8. The Jackdaw

    I’m convinced that the only reason people follow religion is because it’s engrained in them. Most people don’t even think about the religion itself, they simply repeat rhetoric. They have done this since birth and it’s all they know. To question their religion would be to question a lifetime of things they have taken for granted. It would be to question their respected authority figures and it would be to question their parents. It would be to risk being ostracized from the community they have not only been a part of but have identified with their entire lives. Thinking about the facts of their religion could be dangerous to their way of life, so they actively chose not to think about it. This in turn creates a lifestyle of simply not thinking, not only about religion, but about everything that’s around them: including differing viewpoints and so frequently, science. If it can call your world view into question, it’s bad.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Patriarchae

      Well said. Religion is man-made and atheism (or agnosticism, I'll give you that) is the natural default. I was raised without religion in the house and left to make up my own mind, and surprise, I'm an atheist.

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

      not true.. at all.. in fact the basic ideas of religion come to surface naturally, and always have. Atheistic views on the other hand are forced and learned.. think about it

      January 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • john

      patriarch. atheism is NOT natural, in any sense. in fact, athiesm is a FIGHT against the natural instinct to believe in a god. thats the entire purpose of it. people have a natural tendency to believe in a higher power and athiesm is a mode to undermine that since it cannot be scientifically tracked. if you were born on an island byyourself theres a 99 percent probability you would come to beleive in a "god" of some sorts.. get a grip

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

      learn more about the myth the Romans made ans why


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

      John, I think the religious views only come to surface when the individual uses it to fill in the gaps in his/her understanding. The more educated a person is, the less likely he/she will use religion (unless he/she was indoctrinated).

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

      Lol, that describes how about 99% of people following everything. People are sheep. This is just as true for faith, science, and morality in general. That is part of what makes these comments fun. We get to read religious views from people who know nothing of religion and scientific views from people who have no clue about science.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      John – I disagree. If religion seems to be the default conclusion, I think it’s because you were surrounded by that accepted viewpoint since birth. Suggesting that if you grow up alone on an island will bring you to the same conclusion is completely untestable as religion is a part of every society and corner of our planet. I believe that religion and a belief in “God” is so frequently concluded simply because humans have evolved to be outstanding at pattern recognition and have an innate desire to understand how the world around us works. The universe being an incredibly complex system has anomalies and coincidences, which appear with mathematical predictability in any complex system. Not being able to explain these anomalies leads people to assume that there is somebody or something pulling the strings; an unmoved mover. The more we learn about the world around us, however, the more we see that this is simply not the case. Today we know that there is no demon inside your body making you sick. We know that earthquakes and thunderstorms are not caused by an angry deity. We know that religion, at the very least, has been manipulated by man to serve the purpose of man, and should therefore be questioned.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  9. Vivitar

    Nicely done! This guy is halfway there. At least he has his eyes open to the world, past and present. but he still believes the words in the book are an immutable truth. I wonder how long it will take him to consider that the "whole thing" is man made. ...and he's just a humanist. 8^ )

    January 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  10. Test

    All beliefs require faith, even this one.

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

    Christians have been suffering fools gladly for centuries. As Jesus said, "Cast not pearls before swine." If the people of the town reject you, shake off the dust of your sandals when you leave.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  12. Bassmaster

    I wonder when we will be free of all religion and deity beliefs. It really is the last major "the earth is flat" concept that humanity just can't seem to move past. Might have been helpful many years ago to explain comets, floods and death but we should be past this now.
    There is no greater enlightenment than living a good life and doing the right things because you've chosen to, not because there is a book, a guideline or a figurehead...and certainly not because there is a pay off later.

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

      We will be free when the Age or Mythic Stupidity ends... with the help of Joseph Atwill


      January 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  13. Blame Bush

    Dear Father, who art in heaven, save us from your idiot followers and the GOP loons, gun nutters, and government haters.

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

      The problem with religion is that is is run by people....It is a good control for the uneducated masses to keep them in line.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  14. rufus

    He's making some progress in hating religion. Now, if he would can Jesus, he might attain full enlightenment.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  15. bob

    I am so glad that someone is publicly addressing this issue. I used to be religeous now I am spiritual. The HATEFUL INTOLLRANT republicans are NOTHING but moderen day Pharisees!....... ex. (wife CHEATING HYPOCRITE newt gingRICH!)

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

      What does it mean to be spiritual? No two people have described it to me the same way.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • lee s

      That story was out years ago. And Newts not the only guy to ever cheat on his wife, ahh Bill Clinton? Shes is a troll and wants to be back in the spotlight.

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

      possible deist, animists, ..
      Read.. Ishmael and The Story of B my Daniel Quinn...
      The Masks of the Gods series by Joseph Campbell
      The Golden Bough by James Frazier.. is available on line FREE.

      and listen to this Web radio broadcast.


      January 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  16. POV

    He's made the first step, rejecting religion. Now he needs to make the next one, that there are no supernatural beings.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  17. Hello

    Time to know who Jesus was....


    January 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Hello

      moth Teresa was a huge Catholic cash cow.. she even admitted it later in life.
      in reality she gave very little to those she claimed to help . Most of her gleaned donations wen to Rome...Lie most of the donations go.
      The biggest business the C-church has ever had is in its child business. both orphanages when got huge amount from locals, but the largest percentages went to the church and child selling..
      The real truth on this can been seen here.



      January 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Hello


      January 20, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  18. Tim


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

      Thanks for posting this video, Tim! I thought it was quite refreshing... (I'm a Catholic seminarian)

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

      Great job. Both what you say and what Jefferson are much more alike than you thing though.

      The Roman Catholic church does great Kingdom work caring for the poor, building and running hospitals and building and running schools. I respect them a lot.

      But would Jesus live in a palace filled with silver, gold and great works of art or would he sell it and use it to take care of the poor.
      Would he live in luxury in his own "Kingdom" in Rome.

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

      I'm a big fan of how the Catholic church let's kid rot in orphanages when there are gay parents knocking on their door. Oh and how condoms are evil so lots of black people die from AIDS. got to love those old timey values!

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

      Nice digs preacher. But, why not do something that helps the unfortunate instead of glorifying your self. Mother Tresa I understand, you and your self serving kind....Not so mush.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  19. Gamer Geek

    I see a man, who grasp that people in groups are stupid. The larger the group the lower the collective average IQ. Eventually one person stands out as being a leader, and that is how you get organized religion (No matter the belief system, yes even science has these little cadres that persist on theories, unproven yet mashed forth as truth, when they may not be irreducible facts). Doubt everything, seek your own answers, be yourself, and enjoy your freedoms to decide while you still have them. Don't become a herd member to anyone's philosophy or theory, demand explanations, don't accept infinity as an answer! Its lazy and usually wrong.

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

      Well said Gamer!

      January 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • mark

      While I understand your argument, lately the pushing against religion has become its own religion with its own leaders. Its hard to say go your own way, when many people are going that way and there tend to be leaders driving the push. We live in a polarized world... no matter what you believe, you are either with us or against us. Whichever side us really is.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Charles

      Thank you

      January 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  20. David

    Kind of funny that non-believers get so upset that people do believe. Why do you care? It doesn't affect you. Let it be.

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

      It does effect us when people try to legislate their religious beliefs and force them on everyone. They should just keep their cooky beliefs to themselves and let the rest of the country run their own lives.

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

      Stupidest thing I've read today. Yes, it DOES affect us, in a very big way. The separation between church and state is slowly being dissolved, an atheist will NEVER be elected president, Christians believe that a woman should not be able to make decisions about her own body, religion is responsible for untold amounts of hate, violence, and bigotry.

      But go ahead, put your head back in the sand and keep worshiping your "god." I'm sure being an intellectual slave is a fulfilling life for you.

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

      It affects us very much. It affects us when they attempt to teach creationism in schools and dumb down our nation and children. It affects us when they pass laws restricting the rights of certain groups such as gays and lesbians. And mostly, it affects us when so many in leadership positions make irrational and illogical decisions that affect all of us, for example not caring about the environment or wars in the Middle East because of the "coming rapture." It affects us when their religion causes these same leaders to favor one side over another in international conflicts because of what their religious textbooks tell us. Etc.

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

      Jeebus, your lack of belief affects believers the same way. We don't like it when non-believers legislate things we don't agree with either. That doesn't make either of us evil, or stupid, or silly. So it would be great if the athiests could remain civil in their discontent – something that I find to be more and more rare.

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

      Abeliever, your logic astounds me and sums up how Christianity is infiltrating our government. This is supposed to be a SECULAR government, separation of church and state. That means that religion and god should be left out of legislation, which is exactly what non-believers want.

      No, I think you fundamental Christians who seem to want America to become a theocracy should remain civil in YOUR discontent.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "ABeliever – Jeebus, your lack of belief affects believers the same way. We don't like it when non-believers legislate things we don't agree with either."

      But that legislation doesnt come from a personal faith or a holy text, and they never say its because god doesnt like it. And what legislation do you disagree with that actually affects you?

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

      Rick Santorum is one good reason to be against Christianity.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:04 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.