John Lennon: Republican? Theist? Anti-Evolutionist?

Former theist and now self-avowed atheist Dan Barker, who is co-president of the Freedom of Religion Foundation, promoted a “Beware of Dogma” campaign using billboards that also included the line “Imagine No Religion,” borrowed from John Lennon’s atheist national anthem “Imagine.” I wonder if the FRF’s call for everyone to “beware of dogma” includes the dogma of atheism which is funded by my tax dollars in government schools.

Recently we’ve come to learn that Lennon was embarrassed by his early political and social radicalism. Fred Seaman, who worked with Lennon from 1979 to his death on December 8, 1980, claims that the music legend “was a Ronald Reagan fan who enjoyed arguing with left-wing radicals who reminded him of his former self.” Seaman continued:

“I also saw John embark in some really brutal arguments with my uncle, who’s an old-time communist… He enjoyed really provoking my uncle… Maybe he was being provocative… but it was pretty obvious to me he had moved away from his earlier radicalism.

“He was a very different person back in 1979 and 80 than he’d been when he wrote Imagine. By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy’s naivete.”

In a series of interviews published after his death, “[t]he man who famously called for imagining a world with ‘No religion’ also jettisoned his anti-theism,” Jordan Michael Smith of The American Conservative writes. “‘People got the image I was anti-Christ or antireligion,’ he said. ‘I’m not at all. I’m a most religious fellow. I’m religious in the sense of admitting there is more to it than meets the eye. I’m certainly not an atheist.’”

Not only did Lennon reject atheism, he also rejected extreme forms of evolution. He instinctively knew that there was something special about humans and different about the animal world even if he did not how the theory of evolution is argued.1:

“Nor do I think we came from monkeys, by the way,” he insisted. “That’s another piece of garbage. What the hell’s it based on? We couldn’t have come from anything — fish, maybe, but not monkeys. I don’t believe in the evolution of fish to monkeys to men. Why aren’t monkeys changing into men now? It’s absolute garbage. It’s absolutely irrational garbage, as mad as the ones who believe the world was made only four thousand years ago, the fundamentalists. That and the monkey thing are both as insane as the apes standing up suddenly.”

What happened to Lennon? Why did his views change? He grew up. He matured. He was willing to look reality in the face without blinking and say, I was wrong.” The man who imagined a world with “no religion” and “no possessions” left an estate of more than $275 million, “not bad for one who referred to himself as an ‘instinctive socialist,’ for one who believed in the abolition of ‘all money, police, and government.’”2 His early flirtation with the theory of socialism was naive.

Maybe he was persuaded by the lyrics from fellow-Beatle George Harrison’s “Taxman.” Its lyrics attack the high levels of progressive taxation taken by the British Labour government. At the income level of the Beatles, it was 95 percent. In the January 22, 1981 Playboy interview with David Sheff, Lennon admitted that he “threw in a few one-liners to help the song along.” In a later version of the song, Harrison added “If you’re overweight, I’ll tax your fat.” He knew that sending money to poor nations was counter-productive.

When it was pointed out that a Beatles reunion could possibly raise $200 million for a poverty-stricken country in South America, Lennon had no time for it. “You know, America has poured billions into places like that. It doesn’t mean a damn thing. After they’ve eaten that meal, then what? It lasts for only a day. After the $200,000,000 is gone, then what? It goes round and round in circles.” A good question. If John Lennon were alive today, he would be asking President Obama the same question

  1. Evolutionists do not claim that humans evolved from monkeys but that humans and simians evolved from a common ancestor. It’s possible that Lennon knew the difference but rhetorically used “monkey-to-man” evolution for rhetorical effect. His dig at six-day creationism shows that he was aware of the competing position. []
  2. David A. Noebel, The Legacy of John Lennon: Charming or Harming a Generation? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 11. []