Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
This expresses some blatantly anti-religious sentiments, saying we’d all be better off without religion to fight over. Yet the song was played countless times on the radio and on TV programs with no outcry from religious leaders, censors, fundamentalists or anyone else that I can remember.
This contrasts sharply with the huge reaction to his “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus” remark.
Why the difference? Surely the same people who were offended by the Jesus remark would have had a similar reaction to “Imagine”. Why was there no protest to this song being played to the youth of America over the public airwaves?
There was a reaction…just not as widespread or as loud as there was for the “Jesus” remark. I remember an episode of WKRP that dealt with religious censorship, where the pastor quoted the lyrics of “Imagine” to Carlson, and demanded that the station stop playing the song. Carlson told him to take a hike.
Well, for whatever it may be worth, we tried to have “Imagine” played at our wedding, as one of the musical interlude pieces played while the guests are milling about and finding their seats in church (before the whole Dog & Pony Show started). The Catholic monsignor who married us objected, for fairly obvious reasons. So we had to settle for John Lennon’s “Grow Old With Me” instead (and “Love Me Tender,” if you can possibly believe that).
I think the Beatles got hammered most unfairly w/regards to the “more popular than Jesus” statement. I’ve seen transcripts of the interview in which the comment was made and it was pretty obviously NOT a “We’re more popular than Jesus, isn’t that cool?!” sentiment so much as a “Popular culture and celebrity status is bloody ridiculous. The Beatles are now more popular than Jesus, isn’t that ludicrous?!”.
I don’t know why they didn’t do a better job of defending themselves when they got flamed for it. It’s actually the kind of sentiment one would expect the brimstone preachers themselves to be making from the pulpits.
Yeah, I remember that episode, with that actor that looks just like Jerry Falwell. (Talk about being typecast!)
The pastor argued that the song should be banned because it said there was no heaven, etc. And Carlson corrected him, “No, it says *imagine * there’s no heaven.” And that difference has always stuck with me. The song isn’t saying “this is the way it should be”, merely “what if”. But of course lots of people don’t see it that way.
The song Imagine was used for the closing of the movie The Killing Fields, about Cambodia during the takeover by the Khmer Rouge. The lines about “no possessions” and “no religion” struck me ironically as just what Pol Polt imagined for Cambodians.
A lot of water went under the bridge between the “we’re more popular than Jesus” thing and “Imagine”. The whole world (well the US anyway) was much more open and accepting of different ideas and lifestyles. When the “Jesus” thing came out, you still had the fear of getting your ass kicked by a bunch of rednecks that hated longhairs, by the time “Imagine” came out, the rednecks had longer hair than the old hippies.