Atheism isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship … with reality

I’m succumbing to peer pressure and posting Jefferson Bethke’s spoken word piece, “Why I hate Religion, but Love Jesus.”

Damn near everyone else has already posted comments on this particular virus of a video. Some notables are (on our side) Friendly Atheist and Godless Girl. From Christians, The American Jesus pans the whole thing and picks apart the assumptions. On top of these, Jonathan Fitzgerald at Patrol has the decency to call it out as bad poetry.

For myself, I’ll just say that Bethke has an extremely narrow and completely self-serving definition of religion that would be unrecognizable to a good chunk of the world’s religious population. He’s attempting to project everything he doesn’t like about his tradition onto the word “religion” and then disassociate himself from it. It doesn’t work that way.

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  • Custador

    This is going to make John C moist in his special places.

  • TrickQuestion

    I can see a movement starting from this.
    I say let it. Have x-tians separate themselves from religion and say that they aren’t, they’re doing something else…
    then watch them backpedal like mad when they realize that they’ll lose all the nice benefits that come with our laws regarding such things.

    • Thin-ice

      It will. That’s the source of all the denominations.

      Just yesterday I was talking to a sweet 20-something Christian. She had seen and totally agreed with the video. She said she was fed up with religion and theology. She was just a simple follower of Jesus. I asked where she went to church, and she said “I don’t believe in churches any more. There’s just a bunch of us that meet in x’s home to read the Bible and discuss it.”

      She was completely oblivious to the irony of her last statement, given that the New Testament considers her little home meeting a church! She still believes in heaven and hell and all the rest of the bullshit, but somehow thinks that her little cozy group has somehow got the distilled essence of the “relationship”, while all the others have caved in to “religion”.

      (It would make me laugh, except that I used to say EXACTLY the same kind of things just 6 years ago with my cozy little group of Christian friends!)

  • Paul Wright

    This is getting a lot of publicity. I’m not sure why, though: it’s just a re-iteration of the standard evangelical trope that “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion”. This is false: the Christianity is a religion by the common definition of the word, and Christians have never shown any signs of being in a relationship with God. For example, if I were in a relationship with someone and wanted to know what they thought about gay sex or the age of the universe, I could ask them, yet Christians cannot agree on these issues, among many others. As an atheist blogger who I can’t remember the name of points out, despite their claims to be supernatural, all any religions can give us are words written by people.

    • Kodie

      It’s preaching. He’s not saying anything new, but it’s so new to him that he felt like sharing it in a slam poem to catch the drift of any other young church Christians so they know what they’re supposed to be like and judge other people. It always comes down to the judging.

    • Nox

      Are you perhaps referring to Deacon Duncan’s “The undeniable fact and its inescapable consequence“?

      • Paul Wright

        Yes! Thanks, that’s the one.

  • Noelle

    I can’t decide which is more annoying, this or flash mobs.

    • Kodie

      This is.

      • Noelle

        I don’t know. I mean, this is very irritating. But if he broke this out at your local mall, your risk of getting trapped at a Sbarros for 20 minutes is much less likely. One man being much easier to walk around and all.

        • Kodie

          Well then, baseball games are the most annoying.

          • Noelle


    • Skippy

      I’d say this is because people have been posting this to FB and I’ve had students emailing me this thinking that it’s So Very Profound. I hate slick, slogan-driven crap like this; while it certainly sounds “deep,” it really isn’t (as American Jesus points out via a thorough dissection).

  • James G

    I think we should make Atheism a religion. We’ve already got our deity – all powerful Atheismo. Now we just need a holy book and to start hating teh gays. As a self-loathing fag, I’m already holier than all of you.

    • TrickQuestion

      Atheismo has no problems with the gays. Apparently, YOU haven’t paid attention to our lack of a holy book like I have.

      • James G

        I prayed to Atheismo last night and he told me what he believed. By a remarkable coincidence, all of his views are exactly the same as mine. If you want to leave and form your own heathen sect, that’s fine by me, but be warned – the branch of Atheism I believe is the one TRUE religion.

        • Mahousniper

          I might have to nail a list of thesis to the science lab door.

        • Len

          Praying is so bronze age. Why not use e-mail?

          • UrsaMinor

            Email is so 20th century. Atheismo requires his adherents to text him.

            • Len

              Just watch out for that auto-correct.

            • Francesco

              I’m chatting with Him right now

  • John C

    He’s on the right track, is ahead of where I was at his age, is beginning to ‘seize’ his inheritance in Christ. It only in-creases once we begin to ‘break through’ the tear, the hole in the sheep pen made by the One and by which we may escape…’And from the days of Yohanan (John) the Immerser (Baptist) until now, the Kingdom of the Heavens is being breached and the breachers are possessing it.’ (Matt 11:12). This passage parallels Micah’s prophecy in 2:12&13 ‘One who breaks open the way will go up before them; they will break through the gate and go out. Their king will pass through before them, the LORD at their head.’

    ‘oh-hah-zeem’ and means, ‘to seize…to take, catch, in hunting, to take or have possession’. The verb also means, ‘to take possession (of the land)’ (i.e. Israel, Josh. 22:9), and it also speaks of an ‘eternal possession’ (Gen. 17:8; 48:4; Lev. 25:34)

    That’s what we’re seeing here, a man coming into his own, or as Paul put it…that I might ‘apprehend’ that for which I was also ‘apprehended’ (Phil 3:12).

    There’s a (by now) gaping hole in the sheep pen guys…quick, escape through it and out into those wide open, free spaces…

    • Mahousniper

      Yes, do. The gaping hole is called science and reason, and the free open space is Atheism.

      • John C

        This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look, ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ (Jer 6:16)

        • Mahousniper

          I don’t want the ancient paths. I want modern, enlightened paths. Ancient paths were built on myth, superstition, and ignorance. None of them are good ways.

        • Artor

          The LARD can say anything he wants, except that he’s dead, assuming he lived in the first place. Why do you think imagine that bible quotes are valid assertions in this forum?

    • jeff c

      You might be amused to know that I read that initially as “The one made the sheep pen”, and had to re-read it a couple of times to get your meaning.

    • Raymond

      Wow! What you just said is far too much buls**t for such a dumbass video, it is not as serious as you’re making it out to be. No pith here at all. You’re trying to elevate nonsense, but it has nowhere to go, and it’s on the bottom with no chance for advancment.

  • Julie42

    This type of Christian is the worst when it comes to arguing with them. They’re definitely the ones to say that you were never really a Christian because “You just haven’t experienced Jesus like I have!”
    This type can also be extremely judgmental. They feel so enlightened by their “relationship” and they can see that everyone else is just so terribly lost and living in sin.

    There should be a field guide for types of Christians…

  • Mahousniper

    I like The Amazing Atheist’s response to this.

    “I Hate Religion And Jesus Too”

    [Fixed - Custador]

    • Mahousniper

      God dammit. You know what, just copy and paste. It’s easier.

    • Jeromw

      The Amazing Atheist’s response is excellent indeed!!

    • Kodie

      I love it.

  • FO

    I want attribution… =P

  • Sunny Day

    Well now I know what John C looks like.

  • GodfreeGabriela

    I’m sorry this Bethke guy is playing for Team Jesus instead of ours.

    It’d be nice to see a male atheist with some actual sex appeal at least once in a blue moon.

    • Kodie

      “Shame he’s a Christian” comes to mind.

      • vorjack

        Could be worse. He could be a Catholic priest. That’s the cliche, at least.

        Father What-A-Waste. The Church gets the best and we get the rest. Etc.

    • Noelle

      Aw, hey now. I’ve known some atheist guys who were real easy on the eyes, back when I was single and had hopeless painful crushes on some. They are all in the 35-40 year-old range now, and I have absolutely no idea what any of them look like now because I would never,never googlefacebook stalk any of them out of curiosity. :)

  • UrsaMinor

    It’d be nice to see a male atheist with some actual sex appeal at least once in a blue moon.

    Male atheists run the same gamut as male theists. I nabbed myself one of the ones with sex appeal, now go find your own!

    • UrsaMinor

      *Sigh*. Comment nesting fail. Seems to be happening a lot lately. Is Patheos quirky like this, or am I just getting senile?

  • Leighj

    I often find it funny when people say that Jesus is separate from religion. However, Jesus defended the temple, participated in religious functions and never said that he replaced the law (i.e. the Jewish Organized Religion) rather fulfilled the law. In the end even Christ established significant rituals.

    All that these people are trying to do is make themselves seem acceptable to the mainstream and forget that conforming is something of the past for a Christian. It’s sad that the desire to be accepted and such has made Christ-followers (got that from another post about this) simple insecure people who cherry pick their beliefs.

  • dantresomi

    let me say this, as someone who helped build a spoken word community and organized many spoken word events, this is HORRIBLE on a technical level. his delivery is wack, his syntax is very elementary, and his rhyme scheme is predictable.

    and this is before i began to disagree with him.

    • Custador

      Facebook-style “like”.

    • Kodie

      I thought he was just talking until halfway through.

      • dantresomi


  • Leland Somers

    I can see why he takes people in. After all he is cute ;)

    But then he reveals that he really hasn’t a clue about who the real Jesus might have been, if he existed at all. He reiterates the Imperial of Constantinian Christianity developed after the first Council of Nicea when Jesus the Jewish peasant was thrown under the royal bus and the god-man-king-creator of all was invented.

  • Jackson Baer
  • Skippy

    How can there be so much fail in one sentence? “What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?” Well, then I’d tell you that you clearly don’t know jack shit about your own religion and you need to stop doing “spoken word” because you suck at it.

  • Jerome

    Ok, that didn’t work … I just wanted to link to the Amazing Atheist’s awesome response to this video again:

    It’s really a must watch.

  • Greg

    Hi Vorjack,
    I take your point, Does that demonstrate why atheists give ten% of their earnings to the evolutionary prophet?

    • Len

      Do we have a prophet?

  • Jabster

    I watched the whole thing and I may not totally agree but I understand his point of view … I for example think the Nazi party is a bad thing but love Hitler.

  • Tristan Vick

    I wrote an open letter to Jeffy-Jeff about his video.

    If anyone is interested.

  • CantiSempai

    I really don’t know if I should be happy or annoyed.

    On the one hand this could be a sign that rejecting religion is a huge enough trend that religions will soon turn into a much more benign form in an effort to stay alive. It almost seems like he’s suggesting reading the stories of Jesus the way you might read the works of a philosopher or a dead leader. While I don’t see any point to anyone doing that, it would be much less ridiculous lie for people to buy.

    On the other hand this could be a setback to Atheism in general because it’ll make it easier for people to hang on to the religion that they used to have without feeling so counter to the growing Atheist movement of the future.