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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. m

    Religion serves just 2 purposes:

    It gives the weak minded a reason to not take credit for their lives. To say that it is "gawd's will" and keep their head in the sand.
    It gives the stronger minded a tool to manipulate the weak minded.

    How many churches, religions and figure heads are far, far, far wealthier than their the people that follow their words?

    Religion throughout history has been a tool of manipulation. Be it jesus, allah, "gawd", Zeus, etc it's all the same scam. The final thing is that weak minded doesn't mean unintelligent. I know numerous people with high IQ's that are blithering idiots when it comes to bowing to religion.

    Only those that have independent thought realize that the universe is it's own creation and not created by a being. The rest of the fools are out following the dribble of politicians who as I said before use religion & "gawd" as their tool to manipulate the masses. If you don't believe me, watch the non-sense in South Carolina this week with the republicans.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Justin

      I feel sorry for you.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Anon

      Sorry for what? That he doesn't accept your screwed up desert blood cults?

      January 20, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • tintin

      Why because proselytization hasn't or wouldn't work on him?

      January 20, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Amen Ya'll!

      m Well said.

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

      @Justin.. I don't think he/she asked for your pity.. why feel sorry for the person who makes that statment. There are much, much worse things going on in this world and many, many more people who do deserve your pity and possibly charity. Don't waste your pity where it is not needed or wanted... do something constructive with it.. go build a home for somebody or something!

      January 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Hello

      the Christian myth was designed / written to control the masses..

      http://caesarsmessiahdoc.com/Radio/radio.html?utm_source=Caesar%27s+Messiah+List&utm_campaign=6ca09a7fb4-NewYear2012&utm_medium=email

      January 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Hello

      http://caesarsmessiahdoc.com/Radio/radio.html?utm_source=Caesar%27s+Messiah+List&utm_campaign=6ca09a7fb4-NewYear2012&utm_medium=email

      January 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  2. liz

    Jesus was never a Northern Eurpoean, neo-con, uber-corporate fascist WASP

    January 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  3. Sheldon

    Wouldn't a believer of any religion claim their religion is not man-made? The faith-religion distinction, though a clever invention by Christians, is nothing more than simply artificial.

    Christianity is a man-made religion just like all the others. With that said, this video is great example of rhetoric in contemporary religion–or faith, or whichever word is spiritually correct.

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

      Religion is man-made and man-manipulated! Faith is REAL!

      January 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Hello

      Faith was the name of an ancient Roman god...the name was changed to a term used to describe on how to believe in a god..
      with faith.. not fact..

      http://caesarsmessiahdoc.com/Radio/radio.html?utm_source=Caesar%27s+Messiah+List&utm_campaign=6ca09a7fb4-NewYear2012&utm_medium=email

      January 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Rich

      @Hello, faith just is. It doesn't matter what word you use.. it's still faith.. Many people in many countries have faith, even though they use different words to describe it. It's an emotion, a gut feeling, that inner voice, it is what drives us.... w/o faith many loose their way.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  4. tintin

    Another Jesus apologetic/proselytizer but nice rhymes though...and oh yeah I am happy being a Buddhist

    January 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  5. Eric of Reseda

    I'm a Jew, and as far away from the "Christian Right" as I can get. But I hear THIS Christian speak, and it brings tears to my eyes. I don't accept Jesus as my savior, but I accept this young man as my neighbor....lovingly.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  6. Reggie from LA

    Orgnanized religion begs to be blasted and/or criticized. I know many of you hate what this young man is saying. Understandable since you're probably considerably brainwashed. Not about God and Jesus, mind you, but your behavior as Christians and other religious beliefs. Many of your views are shaped by preachers and politicians on how, when and where you should worship. There are good churches, temples and mosques etc, but many are rife with snakes, or at very least, money grubbing snake oil salesmen. Good churces spend their money on the sick and poor. Many "good" churches spend their money on the preacher or priest who might just be molesting your children (or your wives). A lot of people are part of churches that do God's work. A lot of churches and politiciians make sure everyone knows they can do God's job (better than he can). Young people and stupid elder ones, please don't give up on God and Jesus, but i don't much care what you think of modern, religion.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • InVT

      The first 'Holy Man' was the first rascal that met the first fool.
      The rascals have been getting richer and more powerful selling their gain as God's word.
      And I don't see it ending anytime soon.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Hello

      it will probably not end soon but many will understand its real intent as they learn about CM.

      http://caesarsmessiahdoc.com/Radio/radio.html?utm_source=Caesar%27s+Messiah+List&utm_campaign=6ca09a7fb4-NewYear2012&utm_medium=email

      January 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  7. Amen Ya'll!

    If Jesus ever did come back (he won't) Christians would crucify him all over again.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Hello

      your are all invited to the best Sunday bible study class ever created..

      http://caesarsmessiahdoc.com/Radio/radio.html?utm_source=Caesar%27s+Messiah+List&utm_campaign=6ca09a7fb4-NewYear2012&utm_medium=email

      January 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  8. AutumnskyD

    And Jesus said " You can tell if a man deserves your respect in many ways. The color of his skin,the language he specks, the clothes he wears, the food he eats. But the most important mark is his money. For if a man has no money he must be lazy and deserves not your succor. Only rich men deserve repect. If a man comes to me and says Jesus heal my children for they suffer greatly and are near deaths door I say unto to him If you dont have an insurance card you must pay in cash before I will lay hands upon you or your children for God does not care for the lazy poor" Sanctimonious 1:1

    January 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Reggie from LA

      Yeah, I remember reading that...well maybe I didn't read that in the scripture, but Iv'e seen that prophesy come to pass. Yep, I seen it alright.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • HA25

      I do not think your planet is orbiting the same star the Earth is.

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

      cool... and so true...
      god needs money.. lots of money... he has lots of expenses in heaven he needs to keep up with... so for the price of admission to heaven you must pay his bills....

      January 20, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  9. GAW

    The harshest criticism of this video came from the Amazing Atheist on You Tube.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Anon

      Sadly Christians are trolling it non-stop.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBo7Z_abiLE

      January 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Alfonzo Muchanzo

      I saw that guys post. Found it quite ironic that he had a profanity filled angry tirade the whole time just bashing, bashing, bashing......and then in the end he claimed that he was here to bring peace not Jesus. Hahah now that guy's delusional.

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

      ^ Ya es hora de tu sesión de hablar en lenguas como un trastornado mental.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Hello

      Faith an ancient Roman god..

      http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/206119/Fides

      CM.. aimed to put the truth in faith of a myth

      http://caesarsmessiahdoc.com/Radio/radio.html?utm_source=Caesar%27s+Messiah+List&utm_campaign=6ca09a7fb4-NewYear2012&utm_medium=email

      January 20, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  10. Illuminati

    Someone needs to inform this fellow that his church is apart of organized religion or Christendom. If he celebrates holidays like Christmas he is apart of christendom and has accepted their watered down teachings of Christianity. Traditions of men is what Jesus condemned along with Religion. Holidays and a myriad of false christian teachings have infiltrated even his church and his relious beliefs. So that makes you my friend a part of the world and thus a part of RELIGION! Truth sets you free and I mean a truth that sheds the light on all of the watered down teachings of christendom. Why else do you think the bible calls religion a harlot? Because she/ religion has mixed and mingled with the religions of the world and with teachings of man and has defiled the true tachings of God! She is/Religion is worthy just as the bible says of death! Religion will be abolished one day and yes your bible even says it! Then you will see just how christian Christianity really is.... It wont have a leg to stand on and Jesus even said that many will come in his name and say and do mighty works yet he never knew them! This is your Christianity he is talking about my friend!.... One day all will see the true God and will never be mistaken for what the real truth is that sets men free...

    January 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • sportreform

      apart from = non-inclusive
      a part of = inclusive
      want to resubmit your comment?

      January 20, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Bloom

      So you don't celebrate Christmas at all when that season rolls around? Just wondering....

      January 20, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  11. VonDoom

    Wow! As an Atheist I pretty much agree with what this guy is saying. While I don't think that Jesus is the answer to everything, he hits the nail on the head when it comes to organized religion. Jesus isn't the only foundation for morality and if it is, it's a sad choice. Look at Gandhi, Buddha and all those other individuals who champion peace and tolerance beyond what Jesus is constantly quoted with. The Bible is the core foundation to Christianity and he's taking what it says about Jesus in a literal and religious connotation. It's a book that was formed from a loose network of sects, it was compiled and heavily edited by those who thought Christianity was a brilliant way to control others. It has been re-edited over and over throughout its existence to suit the needs of those who want to establish power over others. If he wants to question and shake the core of Christianity, he needs to look at the meaning behind Jesus and question if he really existed at all let alone the literal quotes by him printed in the Bible. One can interpret the Bible as they want but that's how new religions are born and everything goes back to square one. His opening statement about Jesus coming back to abolish religion testifies to this. If your going to question something question everything or you're just another part of the problem.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Anon

      More accomodist nonsense from a faitheist.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Test

      "More accomodist nonsense from a faitheist."

      More childish slams from a trolling anon poster.

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

      Up yours too.

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

      @Anon

      Is that the best you have to offer?

      your comments are silly nonsense spammed at people with honest opinions. you sound like any other internet educated anonymous troll wielding a pallet of logic used only to dement reason. your angst stinks, wipe your ass.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Hello

      Jesus and the mythic book created by the Romans was the answer for the Romans to control the masses.
      and it is still working....

      http://caesarsmessiahdoc.com/Radio/radio.html?utm_source=Caesar%27s+Messiah+List&utm_campaign=6ca09a7fb4-NewYear2012&utm_medium=email

      January 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Test

      @hello

      "Jesus and the mythic book created by the Romans was the answer for the Romans to control the masses.
      and it is still working....

      http://caesarsmessiahdoc.com/Radio/radio.html?utm_source=Caesar%27s+Messiah+List&utm_campaign=6ca09a7fb4-NewYear2012&utm_medium=email"

      Waste of time. Their synopsis relies heavily on unfounded claims. and they are trying to make a buck on it too.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Hello

      @ Test

      The same can be said of the bible

      January 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  12. Jesu Crisco

    Religion is a huge scam set up for the sole purpose of robbing the gullible and raping the innocent.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • kuba

      Everyone has there own set of beliefs and has the right to express them publicly. If you chose not to believe or indeed to believe that become your own personal decision and no one elses.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  13. Agnostic Observer

    Why can't we just be inspired by Jesus Christ and not be Christians? He serves the same purpose as Ghandi or Buddha. I don't have the answers. No one does. http://www.theagnosticobserver.com

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

      Jesus is a farce.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Test

      "Jesus is a farce."

      Why is Jesus a farce?

      January 20, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Manhattanslide

      Anon, and you're really good at acting tough on an anonymous message board. Kudos.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  14. Toumi

    People misunderstand what the guy is saying. He doesn't like the rules that man makes as requirements to be right w/ God. He only believes in following Jesus. And from reading The Bible, there are things people do for the sake of religion that aren't really what Jesus said to do. I guess the issue is that since religion is a man made way of honoring God, it's easily corrupted. What the disciples established in reverence of Jesus strayed from it's pure origins into war and condemnation. And the difference is, the disciples were following Jesus, it was a lifestyle, but those that turned it into bloodshed weren't following the lifestyle Jesus led. They followed their standards mixed with Jesus's. Jesus calls us to love, but a lot of "religious" people aren't very loving. They replace the lifestyle Christians are called to have with rituals (going to church and giving offering) but not actually practicing what Jesus taught, which is way more than just that. True Christianity is about the redemption we have because of God's love and God's Spirit transforming us into the kind of people He wants us to be, but we make it about doing what makes us "good Christians" in society's eyes.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  15. Bailey

    oh here we go again blasting the "church" for all the wars and horrors in the world! Sorry, but I don't buy it. I attend a church with the full knowledge that it is I who will stand before God and answer for my sins one day. Me...and me alone. Just as everyone else will. I don't necessarily agree with everything that my church says at times...but I am comfortable there, I enjoy the fellowship, so I go. One has to truly believe that we answer to a higher power, not to those who express their opinions on this earth. If I'm wrong when I die, I could care less. But I hold truth to the quote..."Never confuse the will of the majority with the will of God". Stop blaming the church and start looking within your own self folks!

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

      The problem is that you spread your nonsense while alive and don't notice the collateral damage it has done when you die.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      I must assume from your argument that you've never actually read the bible. The god described there is a monster, hardly worthy of worship.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Rich

      "but I am comfortable there, I enjoy the fellowship, so I go"... exactly.. church is more a social experience for most, they feel lonely, lost or are looking for answers in their lives so they group together to make themselves feel better and try to find the answers together. Not everyone has this sort of dependancy when it comes to religion. I am very spiritual, I LOVE GOD, the one GOD, the same GOD we all pray to. But I don't need to go to a church and make myself feel more secure knowing that others share that belief. I don't care if they do or not, it's not up to me to judge them and I surely don't need someone to tell me I am right or wrong.. my faith does that and my faith alone will guide me.

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

      This past summer, the religious powers-to-be changed some of the wording in the bible to make it more applicable to today's society. Instead of 'booty' meaning loot or treasure, it now means the human ass. For those who think the bible is the word of God, they're actually worshiping the word of man. What friggin' fools.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  16. David

    You live in a country where the majority believe in God. What do you expect? Everyone to change their beliefs because it makes the minority angry that they have them? It's annoying.

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

      Ever heard the term that most people don't believe in all the God's that have existed throughout history, Atheists just include one more? The vast majority of the people in America (let alone in the world) don't subscribe to the same God therefore they don't believe in a consensus of what God is. Most of these religious people are on the fence with what they literally believe, most just go to church because of group polarization and habit. That being said, most people don't believe in the God you believe in. Do you believe in the same God the Mormon's do? There you go.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Rich

      @Vondom .. .. . I believe there is one God.. We all pray to the same God, no matter what name we give God. I belive that even life on other planets have the same God as we do. God created the universe and all that it contains. I don't care what you call God, as long as you have faith and you do not try to push your beliefs on others who do not want to listen. Just love God and love all that is good.. Do good, live good, die good, be close to God! 🙂

      January 20, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • J.W

      I don't think the Mormons believe in a different God than any other Christian. And we do know that Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe in the same God.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Anon

      The problem is that religious folk want to abolish secular laws. Apparently you're oblivious about that.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      What's annoying is how christians whine about their freedom of speech and the 'war on religion', yet at every opportunity try and shut up the people who don't believe as they do. I have never knocked on anyone's door and attempted to gain entry to try and get them to invite me in and talk about what I believe. The hypocracy of the religious knows no bounds....

      January 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  17. sherri

    Jesus says: I am The Way, The Truth, and the Life, no one come to the Father but through Me." John 14:6

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

      There you go. Let God's word speak for itself. Also in God's word referring to the end time when it will be too late for many, Jesus said: "Many will come to me crying "Lord, Lord", but I will say to them "Away from me. I never knew you."

      January 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Think Instead

      By quoting a biblical verse, you only reinforce the video author's point.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • James Romer

      How is it that someone that we speak of who is all understanding and loving tell us we can not talk to god directly. Why not. It's like our politics. We cant talk to the president. We have to talk to senators and then they talk to the president in a chain of command of course. Not cool. I don't believe that a god would not want to just hear from one person. Religion has killed like he said and has lost it's ways. Why can't there just be a free religion. Now i am going to start my own thing. "LATUS AB DEUM"

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

      learn more on that bible

      http://caesarsmessiahdoc.com/Radio/radio.html?utm_source=Caesar%27s+Messiah+List&utm_campaign=6ca09a7fb4-NewYear2012&utm_medium=email

      January 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  18. us1776

    Nope.

    Still fantasy.

    .

    January 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  19. GAW

    I find it odd how he and others feel the need for Evangelicals to re-define the word Religion. I am fully aware of the fact that Bethke has redefined it to mean..lots of rules (Legalism) hypocrisy, oppression ect But still it has thrown too many people way off. When you attempt to take theological propositions and put them to rhyme something often suffers. Overall I have to wonder if this was nothing more than a slick marketing gimmick to get peoples attention. But if we understand the ways of You Tube we can be assured that this video will be forgotten about within a month or two.

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

      "I believe it was the Momons....yes, that's right, the Momons." South Park 2007?

      January 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  20. Jcl

    I liked the video because it was self fullfilling, self truth, his own belief system which he conveyed well via the video format.

    As far as 'Religion', I find this self truth, self fulfilling: Religion is something that is personal, and different for each person: Here in the West Cristianity: But in different parts of the 'world' there are different belief systems in place: Now for me personally, I have a very liberal viewpoint: For those 'preaching' to me, I say one thing 'Have you been to the other side' because if you have not then you cannot preach to me what is the 'true way': Therefore for me personally, as long as you are on a 'good path' and not on a self destruction path..then all is well in the land of oz.

    Finally as you can see by the many entries...each have there own belief...

    January 20, 2012 at 12:52 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.