Imagine By John Lennon

As the 70th birthday of John Lennon has just passed us many people are remembering him and his music.

To be sure, his musical legacy is without comparison. I listen to and thoroughly enjoy The Beatles often– I prefer their later more psychedelic stuff.

His extremely popular post-Beatles solo song Imagine is cherished not so much for its musical simplicity (which is beautiful), but for the ethic and value its lyrics espouse.

The words of the song express a desire for a world with no divisions, where the whole world lives in peace. Which is a wonderful thing to imagine indeed. And an even more wonderful thing to work towards.

He seems, however, to misunderstand his own philosophy. He advocates peace and oneness but suggests that one way to help achieve that is to get rid of religion. The song promotes a secular humanist perspective of the problem and the solution to that problem. What Lennon seemed to fail to recognize was that secular humanism is a religion, too.

In essence, the song is saying believe like me and we will live in peace. Which is the same thing many religious people say which creates divisions. In offering a solution to the world’s problems, the song Imagine unwittingly creates the very thing it decries.

Of course a song cannot answer all the questions and cover all the details of a philosophy it promotes. However, what is surprising to me is number of people who adore these lyrics without questioning their own underlying assumptions. Many of these assumptions are truths indeed, but if one just assumes that it is true without thinking about why it is true one is building a house without looking at the foundation.

For example: Underlying assumption: Peace is Good

We must ask: Why is this true? Most everyone instinctively believes that peace is good. But what philosophical foundation do you have for that? Someone could argue since survival of the fittest is what helps us progress that peace would actually work against the evolution and progress of our species and is therefore bad. If you don’t agree with their argument, do you know why you don’t?

Ultimately, I agree with most of John Lennon’s vision in the song Imagine. Except it is my religion that teaches me those truths. If you strip that from me, as the song suggests, I can think of no foundation that builds the house he envisions.

The dream, then, evaporates and gets no farther than what it was when it started– imagination.

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Explore posts in the same categories: American Politics, Christianity, Cross-Cultural Experiences, Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Philosophy

2 Comments on “Imagine By John Lennon”

  1. theologigal Says:

    “What Lennon seemed to fail to recognize was that secular humanism is a religion, too.
    In essence, the song is saying believe like me and we will live in peace.”

    Very true. So often those who claim to not hold religious beliefs have just thinly veiled a form of religion with something like what is expressed in Lennon’s song. At the core it’s the same sort of thing.

    Although I very much like this song and the Beatles, it’s interesting how when you take a set of beliefs, give them prosody, and set them to a nice melody they are so easily accepted with little questioning. Think of all the messages we unconsciously pick up on from the music we listen to…

    For the record, don’t hear me saying that secular music is bad or anything, but we just need to practice discernment in subconsciously accepting what we hear or recognizing when the ideas behind a song may be false.

  2. Jim Dew Says:

    Interesting comments. Secular humanism is only a religion like football, feminism, and communism are “religions.” The 9th Circuit Court decision in Peloza v. Capistrano (1994) ruled that the Supreme Court had never “held that evolutionism or secular humanism are ‘religions’ for Establishment Clause purposes.” So Secular Humanism is not LEGALLY a religion. “Secular” means “non-religious.” A non-religious religion?

    The author claims to like “their later more psychedelic stuff,” however Imagine was released in 1971 after Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour (1967), Yellow Submarine and Abby Road (1969) and it was from John Lennon’s solo album. So the author is no Beatles scholar.

    Finally, the author writes, “Someone could argue since survival of the fittest is what helps us progress that peace would actually work against the evolution and progress of our species and is therefore bad.” Unfortunately the author fails to appreciate what may be the greater part of evolution, that of cooperation between species. The vast majority of the cells making up our body are “foreign organisms” that cooperate with us to help us survive and most live in the digestive tract. We are like walking communities. Religion has helped us overcome one limitation of our evolutionary heritage, the propensity to limit our groups to under 150. We still see crises when group sizes approach this limit. Religions serve other important social functions as well. The real danger of religion is when it becomes merged with the governmental power or aligned with one political party.


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