And All Religion’s False

And All Religion’s False January 5, 2012

Can I just get something off my chest?

I really don’t like Lennon’s Imagine. I know that everybody is reacting to the way that Ce Lo Green changed one of the lyrics from “And no religion too” to “And all religion’s true.” Stephen Prothero tells us that “Atheists are outraged that Green is messing with what they see as an anthem for their cause …”

Well, some of us, maybe. Honestly, I’d be more upset if Green altered one of Lennon’s good songs. Albert Goldman, one of Lennon’s biographers, commented: “Imagine suffers from a piano accompaniment as monotonous as a student in a practice room and a vocal delivery with a hook – shoulder turn as feeble as a hymn sung in a Quaker Parlor.” Not much to add.

Hemant quips that Green is, ” … the same guy who sang “Imagine no possessions” while wearing a fur coat and sporting gaudy gold jewelry…”

According to legend, Yoko had a separate room to house all her mink coats, so Green isn’t straying too far from his source material there.

And I can’t get too upset about the phrase “and all religion’s true.” I know that Green was just trying to dodge a bullet there – and he ended up dodging into a different bullet – but it suits a kind of attitude that is common in America. There is the idea that all religions have at their core the same essential truth.

Actually, this is an old, old idea. In the west it dates back at least as far as 3rd century Rome and the philosopher Plotinus. It shows up in India as well, but I’m not sure of the dating. The idea was that all of the incredibly varied Gods and rituals of India and the Mediterranean would – when properly understood – lead one to experience the one godhead. I guess that one natural response to extreme religious diversity is to assume that most of the varied religion are really just different trappings for the same thing.

Of course, this doesn’t sit well with the people who think those trappings are important. The early Christians did not much care for Plotinus, and modern conservative Christians don’t like hearing that “all religion’s true.” If you think about it, if you say that all religion is true on some basic level, then you’re also saying that all religion is false on every other level. And that’s a message I can get behind.

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