I hate “Imagine” by John Lennon. Hate it. I hate it’s sappy, maudlin piano riff; I hate it’s  dull, lazy structure. I hate the video featuring Yoko just off to the side like some soul-engulfing gargoyle. I hate the insipid cartoon image of Lennon that packages the song.

What a dork.

But most of all, I hate the lyrics, which paint the picture of the saddest, lamest utopia ever conceived by the mind of man, yet has been transubstantiated into some kind of progressive Sermon on the Mount.

Let’s rip into them, shall we?

Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

I didn’t know that so many people needed reassurance that imagination required small effort. Although, before you imagine that there’s no heaven, don’t you first need to imagine that there is one?

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Hooray! A universe with zero permanent consequences for your behavior! You will neither be eternally punished nor rewarded for your actions. Nothing matters, folks. Enjoy.

Imagine all the people

Living for today

If, despite Lennon’s counsel, you struggle to imagine such a happenstance, meditate upon the lives of junk-bond brokers and meth addicts. Or perhaps the Once-Ler from the Lorax story.

Live for today, man. Tomorrow will look after itself.

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Again we are told that conceptualization requires no effort. If we needed to be told this, could we actually do it?

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Yep, without politics or religion nobody would ever kill or die for anything, except of course food, shelter, clothing, mating, insults, and all the things humans killed each other for before complex public institutions existed.

Oetz, the Ice Man of Europe, discovered in Tyrol in 1991, who lived in pre-civilized Europe around 3300 BC. A CT scan in 2001 revealed that he had an arrowhead lodged in his left shoulder before he died, and other bruising indicative of a blow to the head.

Imagine all the People

Living life in peace

Back in 1990, William F. Buckley hacked into this sentimentality with characteristic brusqueness:

Well, we certainly want to imagine a world in which everyone lives in peace, but you see, that is only possible in a world in which people are willing to die for causes. There’d have been peace for heaven knows (assuming heaven existed) how long in the South, except that men were willing to die to free the slaves, and Hitler would have died maybe about the time John Lennon did, at Berchtesgaden, at age ninety-one, happy in a Jewless Europe. There have got to be reasons that even affected John Lennon to prefer one country over against another. I happen to know this to be the case, since a long time ago he asked me to help him get papers permitting him to live in the United States, rather than in Great Britain.

The hypocrisy of the prophets, it is delicious. Let’s savor the final stanza.

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

Our Prophet has lost faith in us. Perhaps if we all crowd into a New York park and sing “Strawberry Fields Forever” as if it were the Gloria again, he might forgive us.

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of Man

Herein shall I invoke the Law of Infinitude: if every man is my brother, then being my brother doesn’t have any singular importance, so granting him the title doesn’t really do anything for him. “Brother” no longer implies any familial affection; it’s just a word.

Imagine all the people

Sharing all the world

Yeah, and who decides how this sharing shall happen? What do we do with those who will not share, but prefer to keep their possessions? For that matter, who decides what shall be done with the things we are sharing? Infinitude strikes again: if everyone owns something, no one can do anything with it.

To recap: No heaven, no hell, no planning for the future, no countries, no reason to care about anything sufficiently to fight for it, no religion (which would be an obvious consequence of their being no heaven or hell), no possessions, and no “need” for greed or hunger (which, I presume, would preclude the existence of either). Very little of this tedious song tells us what we would have to replace these things which have been part of human life for millenia. The only non-negatory parts of “Imagine” proclaim that we will all live in peace as brothers, sharing everything, which one might expect from someone who grew up without brothers, as John Lennon did. This is the quasi-nihilistic vision that the terminally progressive have held up for the past 40 years as the new Internationale.

So when Cee-Lo Green had the temerity to alter the lyric from “And no religions too,” to “And all religions true,” at the New Year’s Eve show, the atheist corner of the twitterverse swarmed to smite him hip and thigh. Keep in mind that “All religions true” shifts the meaning ever so slightly from atheism to a waffly pantheistic agnosticism. Infinitude again: if all religions are true, then none of them are.

But non-Hell hath no un-fury like an atheist scorned.

“F–k you, Cee Lo. It‘s ’And no religion too.’ F–k you for spitting in the face of John Lennon & what he conveyed with his lyrics. F–k you!” wrote Twitter user TerranRich, who describes himself in his profile as an atheist and a liberal.

Strange, she doesn’t believe in God, yet she expresses anger at Cee-Lo in the harshest of terms. It seems that in Imagine-Land, there’s nothing to kill or die for, but plenty to spout f-bombs about. Another Tweeter summed up the nature of Cee-Lo’s crime perfectly: “What blasphemy.”

13 Comments

  1. Yeah, it’s true. Anti-theists can show how churches go nuts when religion gets mocked… when the same happens to them, with probably even more ease.

  2. Thanks folks. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. I really hate this hypocritical, pseudo-ideological, pseudo-idealistic so-called song. Imagine no possessions – from a multi-millionnaire.

    1. John, for all we know, could have given half his money to different causes later in life. But he was shot. He was only 30, he knew what the world was like but he was barely halfway through the average human lifespan.

  3. You are taking the lyrics too literally. “Imagine all the people, living for today,” Doesn’t mean tomorrow doesn’t matter. If hell is the only thing keeping you from doing bad things, i am afraid. The meaning of life is to give life a meaning. Living for today, can be interpreted as living for your one life. It’s all you have, so make it be the best you can have. What John dreams by himself is a dream. If everyone dreamed it together it can be a reality. He never says, that religion causes the problems. He says imagine a world with nothing to kill or die for. No countries and war. No greed and hunger. No religion. I think by nothing to kill or die for, he doesn’t mean nothing be worth that; John wanted for us to not have to kill or die for anything. Sure he was hypocritical. He wasn’t saying to live like this. he was saying:

    IMAGINE LIFE LIKE THIS

    1. Yeah, no. To ask someone to imagine something is to advocate it, at the very least on an emotional level. If what you’re imagining isn’t an improvement on the current lot, then there’s no point in asking others to imagine it, is there?

      “The meaning of life is to give life a meaning.” Then life has no meaning.

      “If the fear of hell…” You miss the point. Either our actions matter, on a cosmic scale, or they don’t. Either there is an awareness that transcends time and space, or we are chemical accidents. If the latter, then nothing we do matters except insofar as it effects us personally. And in 100 years we’ll all be dead.

      Cheap poesy does not elide these thorny metaphysical problems. You don’t, as a grown man, get to play with cosmic truths like they were silly putty and not have someone point out the logical consequences.

      On a more emotional level, the presumption that no one else ever thought of this before, and that we needed to be exhorted to “imagine” them, as if we were children, offends even as it bores.

  4. It’s Just telling you to think about it. It isn’t saying it’s right. Am I advocating slavery by saying, “Imagine a world where there are still slaves?”

    On a cosmic scale, no our actions don’t matter and we are chemical accidents. What I meant when i said “The meaning of life is to give life a meaning,” Is that there is no destiny or objective in life. You make your own. It’s a giant sandbox. Do what makes you happy. The reason conflicts occur is there isn’t enough things to go around. Sadly, In the way people are designed, A utopia and will probably result in a Miranda-like situation. Most of the population will go crazy. The others lose the will to do anything but eat, sleep and drink. It’s human nature that someone will always die in the cold. I am a child and I can cope with the fact any day I could die, while most adults are inventing afterlives. I am afraid too, but I understand It’s inevitable and I should try to make the most of my life. I would like to point out that many atheist aren’t the front page of R/atheism. A religion requires belief in a supernatural entity or power. It’s not being hypocritical when some atheists want a government representative, unless it is the same person. Atheists aren’t an organization, it’s a lack of belief in gods. The only rule of being an atheist is not believing in god, so you might as wel generalize mexicans, or women.

    When John says “It’s easy if you try,” he isn’t assuming your all idiots. There are things that are easy to imagine and hard to imagine. He isn’t telling you to plug variables into a function. Design the function, try and make it work in your head.

    John Lennon was still an amazing artist, even if this isn’t his best song.

  5. This article is written in the most disgustingly one sided and short sighted attitude.

    You don’t make a single attempt to analyse the lyrics, instead making childish remarks that a high school debate team would laugh out of their sight.

    The song doesn’t depict a world where these concepts have suddenly been stricken away, it give us a goal to strive towards, A world where we have learned to live without the fear of war and senseless death, where we no longer desire the crutch of religious bigotry to guide our moral compass (something a lot of us have accomplished ourselves) A world in which Countries don’t define our boarders because all different cultures can work in harmony, most of all a world where nobody covets possession and personal wealth to affirm their status over others, a world where everyone gets what they need because nobody takes more than they need, That’s the world I imagine when I hear this beautiful song.

    P.S. Sorry my writing skills aren’t up to snuff, as you can tell I’m not a professional writer, but I still think my opinion holds validity none the less, I can’t argue away your beliefs or bias, but I hope anyone who gets a negative feeling from this song will at least do me the favor of trying it again with an open mind and an open heart.

    1. “This article is written in the most disgustingly one sided and short sighted attitude.”

      One-sided, yes. It’s my opinion. On my own blog, I get to write my own opinion. It’s what blogs are for.

      Short-sighted, how? It’s a song. It’s lyrics purport to be poetry. It came from the mind of a man. The ideas it expresses are neither unique nor new. I do not need sanction from the Culture Police to throw Bronx cheers at it (yet).

      “You don’t make a single attempt to analyse the lyrics, instead making childish remarks that a high school debate team would laugh out of their sight.”

      This is an entirely trite attack. Deriding internet foes as “childish” and unworthy of a “high school debate team” runs so completely from cliche as to be perfectly capable of coming from a bot. The only surprise comes from the failure to incorporate a guess about my age and the quality of the parents’ basement wherein I write.

      You like the song. I don’t. That’s all that happened here. If you’re going to poop your pants every time someone on the internet dislikes something you do, I suggest you take up knitting instead. You can listen to all of Lennon’s middling post-Beatles output while you do it.

      “The song doesn’t depict a world where these concepts have suddenly been stricken away, it give us a goal to strive towards, A world where we have learned to live without the fear of war and senseless death, where we no longer desire the crutch of religious bigotry to guide our moral compass (something a lot of us have accomplished ourselves) A world in which Countries don’t define our boarders because all different cultures can work in harmony, most of all a world where nobody covets possession and personal wealth to affirm their status over others, a world where everyone gets what they need because nobody takes more than they need, That’s the world I imagine when I hear this beautiful song.”

      So the song doesn’t depict a world where these concepts have been stricken away, it inspires us to imagine a world where we don’t need these concepts anymore. Whereupon, we will strike them away.

      Thanks for clearing that up.

      “I can’t argue away your beliefs or bias,”

      You can’t argue away anything. You don’t know how to argue. At least, not by the lights of this comment. Emotional assertion and lame attacks are not argument. Argument is a process wherein principles and/or observations are marshalled via a linear logical process to create a conclusion.

      I took the common meaning of the lyrics and followed them to a logical conclusion. You told me I was a mean man who was just being mean.

      I’ve had better negative comments than that, in this threat alone.

      “but I hope anyone who gets a negative feeling from this song will at least do me the favor of trying it again with an open mind and an open heart.”

      Because all people with open minds and open hearts think about things exactly as you do, and they like the same things that you like.

      Imagine a world where not everyone shares in the Vision of the Anointed. Then imagine that those people are neither evil nor fools simply due to that fact.

  6. Also not entirely sure how I missed the “be” before clever in my name, oh well.

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