The time is nowBy now, I’m sure a lot of you have heard about the “Hate Religion, Love Jesus” video that’s gotten so many hits on Youtube over the last couple weeks. A lot of ink has been spilled — or rather, bits transmitted — about this video by Jefferson Bethke. Unfortunately, the video is based on an invalid and semantically nonsensical premise, and most of the commentary on it has missed this invalidity.

What makes this video illogical is something I’ve blogged about a couple times already: namely, that it’s possible for religious believers to separate themselves from what they call “religion.” Lots of people love to say they’re “spiritual but not religious”; however, this is a non sequitur.

In the case of this video, Bethke states that “Jesus came to abolish religion.” That statement is plain and simple bullshit. A heaping, steaming load heaved straight out of the barn. There is no way one can logically claim that Jesus came to “abolish” religion. “Change it,” maybe. Preach against its excesses, I guess. But “abolish” it? No fucking goddamn way! Jesus preached what he called “the Kingdom of God” or “the Kingdom of Heaven.” Both were — and are, still — religious notions. They were religious in his own putative lifetime, his followers accepted them as religious, and they remain religious notions even now.

Really, Jesus as he’s widely known is a decidedly religious figure. It is impossible to talk about Jesus and not talk about religion. They are joined at the hip, utterly inseparable, and always will be. Thus, it’s irrational — and semantically incorrect — to say that one can “love Jesus” but “hate religion.”

Now, I get where this guy, and a lot of other people, are coming from. They dislike what they view as the excesses of what they see as “religion.” Without a doubt, a lot of religious institutions and religious people have done a lot of very bad things. A lot of Christians have actually failed to live up to the teachings Jesus left for them. A lot of religious folks have fallen short of the goals they claim to pursue. And a lot of them have cloaked themselves in religion in order to acquire power, money, or both.

I get that people like Bethke and others want to distance themselves from these evildoers and disassociate themselves from the disingenuity of others. I get it. Honestly, I do. Really. I truly do get it. The problem is … this attempt at distancing flies in the face of reality, semantics, and logic. If one is religious, then one is religious. Period. What other religious people think, say, or do has no bearing on the matter. Having religious beliefs is all there is to being religious … other people, whether genuinely religious or just posturing, cannot and will never change that.

What I would suggest to Bethke and others who think this way, is: If other “religious” people are making you look bad, then get off your fucking asses and do something about it. Stop them from making you look bad. If they’ve stolen your religion out from under you, then take it back for yourself; eject them from your company, disown them, deprive them of their religious offices, quiet them, and in every possible way, make it clear to everyone outside of your religion that they do not represent you and that they are repugnant creatures.

In other words, if you belong to a religion, then it also belongs to you. Take ownership of it — in concrete, unmistakable, and unambiguous form — and stop sniveling that you aren’t religious, in order to avoid having to deal with the malcontents and evildoers in your midst. Let me put it as bluntly as I can: If your own religion means so little to you that you refuse to take control of it, then you have no right to expect any of the rest of us to respect it — or you. And using cowardly little dodges — like claiming not to be “religious” — aren’t going to fool the rest of us. So stop insulting our intelligence by trying.

The choice to act, is yours, and yours alone. What you choose to do, and how and when you choose to go about it, says everything about you and about your religion. Make it count. Don’t whine and quiver and defy semantics instead of taking action.

Photo credit: wmacphail.

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  • Devin Jones

    Dude, thanx. You've just solved a HUGE spiritual dilemma in my life! I'm not going to lose my religion…which IS UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM!!!!

    • Wait … is Unitarian Universalism even a religion!? 😉