Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus
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Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus (also known as Jesus > Religion) is a Christian YouTube video that went viral across the internet in January 2012 and sparked much discussion in both religious and secular communities. The video features a young man named Jefferson Bethke who, in the form of an (admittedly catchy) spoken word rhyme, explains his opposition to organized religion and fundamentalism and the bigotry and oppression they cause, instead supporting a more personal following of Jesus.
Although many of Bethke's arguments are in agreement with the rational/skeptical/atheist community, much of the video features nigh-incomprehensible usage of the No True Scotsman fallacy to explain why he believes his viewpoint is correct. Additionally, many of Bethke's claims about Jesus, the Bible, and the foundations of Christianity are historically inaccurate—as is the implication that worshipping a religious figure (Jesus) is somehow not religious in nature.
Many atheists feel that although Bethke should be praised for telling his fellow Christians to be more tolerant and loving of others, his usage of fallacies, poor logic, and factually wrong claims should be politely criticized. The video has become a huge hit among Christians (as of January 13th, 2020, the video has amassed over 34 million views), proliferating rapidly through social networks like Facebook (which is incredibly ironic, as Bethke rails against so-called Christians whose only evidence of their faith is their Facebook profile). However, other Christians have criticized the video for Bethke's "hippie" approach to their faith and his confusing claims about organized religion.
The video starts with the onscreen message "Jesus > Religion." Bethke begins by claiming that Jesus came to "abolish religion" and that one can be a Christian without having to vote for Republicans. He then makes the (highly ironic) statement that just because you tell someone they are blinded by their false views doesn't mean you aren't the same way. He goes on to make several statements supported by rationalists and atheists the world over: religion is the cause of many wars, church funds are used for petty purposes instead of feeding the poor, some claim that women are not loved by God if they get a divorce, and that many Christians do not practice what they preach. He suggests, through several metaphors, that bigoted religious people oppress others to hide personal insecurity.
He claims that many religious people use their faith as a way to feel superior to others. He then says that "there's a problem if people only know you're a Christian by your Facebook [page]." Through more metaphors, he accuses the religious of not truly living the words of Jesus, and instead using them to feel better about themselves. Bethke says that he was once this way himself (then makes his first nonsensical claim, that he was not a true Christian because he was "addicted to pornography"). From this point on, the video devolves into a rapid-fire list of No True Scotsman fallacies. Bethke describes how he became a born again Christian, explaining that church is not where good people go to brag, but where "broken" people go to be saved. After several more verses of typical self-loathing and apologizing for being human, Bethke suggests that Jesus hated organized religion and would not be allowed in many modern churches.
At this point, Bethke begins claiming religion and his form of Christianity are two different things, with little elaboration. He says that religion causes people to be enslaved to an ideology, while Jesus sets a person free. He then uses several more verses to gush about how great Jesus was and how believing in this mythology is somehow different from being a religious person. He concludes by saying "when Jesus said 'it is finished,' I believe that he meant it."
Bethke's video is the epitome of the phrase "I'm not religious, I just have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." At no point in the video does Bethke explain why his particular interpretation of the Bible is more accurate than anyone else's. Although his message of tolerance and acceptance is admirable, it is contradicted by the Bible itself, a book full of violence, murder, intolerance, oppression, suffering, and cruelty.
It is also unclear what "religion" Bethke is referring to throughout the video. He makes no mention of any faith other than Christianity and does not explain why his religion is right and the others are wrong, or why the Bible is true and other holy books are not. He also accuses "religious men" of killing Jesus, but this is not entirely accurate and said men were certainly not Christians, as that faith obviously did not exist before Jesus or even during his lifetime. In short, Bethke does not seem to use the definition of "religion" used by most other people. Additionally, although it likely goes without saying, Bethke speaks of Jesus as a real person whose alleged words are accurately reported in the Bible - and both assumptions are a matter of significant dispute.
In any case, belief in a deity, such as God or Jesus, is religion, by definition. What Bethke seems to be arguing against might be organized religion, but his beliefs still constitute religion and thus his catchphrase is a contradiction in terms.
The silver lining of the video is that Bethke makes numerous claims at the beginning of the video that most atheists and antitheists agree with, regarding the hypocritical nature of many Christians, their cherry-picking beliefs, and the gluttony of organized religion. Unfortunately and ironically, Bethke falls into the same trap of cherry-picking and ignoring parts of traditional Christian teachings that he does not agree with.
The video can be seen as the best example of an emerging trend in Christian demographics: that is, the increasingly large number of young, educated, predominantly liberal American Christians who preach vague messages of acceptance and love while ignoring the volumes of evidence that their own religion and holy book oppose this message. Known in the 1960s and 70s as "Jesus Freaks" or the "Jesus Movement", this demographic seeks to achieve harmony between religious people of all faiths—an admirable but likely impossible goal due to the conflicting nature of most religions.
- Cherry picking
- Evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ
- Jesus Freaks
- No True Scotsman