In response to the Paris attacks, I’ve seen a number of posts and replies on social media quoting John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.” A pianist set up in front of the Bataclan music venue where one of Friday’s attacks took place and led hundreds in singing the anthem, and Coldplay performed a rendition of the song on Friday. This song continues to serve as a response to Islamist terrorist attacks ever since 9/11. Back in 2002 when I was living in the Cayman Islands, the island’s newspaper was kind enough to publish the following editorial from me.
That’s what John Lennon wanted us to do. In a poignant voice he sang—
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 [sic], It isnt hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for, No religion too,
Imagine all the people living life in peace
The song’s popularity has returned since September 11 when men shouting “God is great!” took over the cockpits of 4 jet airliners to plunge them into prominent American buildings. Over the next several days we discovered that these men, and many others where they came from, hope heaven will welcome them for their “martyrdom.” Suddenly Lennon’s vision of how beautiful life would be without religion sounded fresh and relevant again. Neil Young sung the song on a live TV show raising donations after 9/11, growling the lines above with bitter sarcasm in his voice. Our local newspaper, the Caymanian Compass, quoted Lennon’s lyrics in their entirety on the back page of a booklet commemorating the 9/11 tragedy.
The former Beatle urged us to imagine a world where we all live only for today. So let’s imagine—it’s easy if you try:
Let’s see . . . the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia . . . the systematic “re-education” and execution of dissidents in Vietnam . . . the bloody revolution of Chairman Mao in Communist China . . . and Stalin’s “purges” . . . and don’t forget the brutal management of power in Castro’s Cuba (just read the book “Against All Hope” before you disagree with that last one).
Lennon urged us to imagine a world where we all live only for today. But we don’t have to imagine it. We can look back across the last century of a world exhausted by communistic atheism and see it.
Sometimes I’ll hear someone trot out that tired old line, “More people have been killed in the name of religion than for any other reason.” The implication behind the line is, “So, religion contributes to our world’s problems, it doesn’t solve them.” But none of the vast, horrible atrocities I just listed off took place in the name of God. In fact, they took place in societies that firmly and dogmatically rejected any belief in God whatsoever. I certainly don’t favor violence that is done in the name of God, but I’d venture a guess that more people have been killed in the pursuit of stamping out religion than imposing it. The Communist experiment of the last century proves my point.
It’s interesting that many years after Lennon recorded “Imagine,” and a few years before he was murdered, he began a spiritual search. What intrigued him most was the life of Jesus. He even hesitantly declared at one point that he had become a Christian, though by doing so he was more likely expressing his admiration for Christ’s teaching than announcing his conversion to it. Obviously the utopian sentiments he expressed in the song “Imagine” didn’t satisfy him in the long run. I wonder where his examination would have brought him had a deranged gunman not ended both his life and his spiritual search.