John Lennon, Imagine: Atheist or spiritual?

Published in 1971 on the album of the same name, and released as a single soon after, John Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s Imagine has often been viewed as an atheist song …

Imagine: Original video

… for its evocation of a world without religion, without heaven or hell.

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 (ah ah ah)

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Imagine was ranked third among the “500 greatest songs of all time” by the Rolling Stone Magazine in 2004, and again in the 2010 update.

John Lennon on religion

In his Playboy interview in 1980, the year he was killed, Lennon was quoted as saying:

People always got the image I was an anti-Christ or antireligion.
I’m not. I’m a most religious fellow.

John Lennon on Gnostics

I wasn’t aware that Lennon even valued a Gnostic point of view, until I came across the following quote:

[…] This approach through personal endeavour appealed to John Lennon, who said, ‘it seems to me that the only true Christians were the Gnostics, who believe in self knowledge, becoming Christ themselves.’

Mary Magdalene’s Dreaming: A Comparison of Aboriginal Wisdom and Gnostic Scripture, p. 36; see also this image

When asked about Bob Dylan‘s Christianization, he wasn’t too fond of it.

Imagine and Sufi wisdom

Like Jethro Tull’s My God, Imagine can be associated with Sufi wisdom:

Rabe’a al-Adiwiyah, a great woman saint of Sufism, was seen running through the streets of her hometown, Basra, carrying a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. When someone asked her what she was doing, she answered, ‘I am going to take this bucket of water and pour it on the flames of hell, and then I am going to use this torch to burn down the gates of paradise so that people will not love God for want of heaven or fear of hell, but because He is God.

Goodreads: John Green, Looking for Alaska

From that perspective, letting go of the belief in heaven and hell can actually help people remove obstacles they placed between themselves and God. Healthy spirituality is firmly based in the here and now, and not motivated by hope for a better life after death, or fear of punishment in hell.

Here’s the rest of the lyrics:

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

Live, Lennon also sang “I wonder if we can” and “a brotherhood and sisterhood“:

Imagine: Live version, 1972

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