In 1971 former Beatles singer/songwriter John Lennon released the song “Imagine” on an album of the same title. The song became a hit when it was released and then again when it was re-released in 1981 after Lennon’s death. The song challenges the listener to “Imagine there’s no heaven” and “no hell” and “no religion too.” Just imagine the consequences of Lennon’s Imagination.
Rolling Stone magazine called the album and song Lennon’s “greatest musical gift to the world.” Lennon told Rolling Stone that the song was “anti-religious,” but he admitted that it had “sugar on it” to make it more acceptable. He didn’t directly say, “Imagine there’s no God,” but that’s the real message of the song. The song is saying that without belief in God there will be peace and harmony in the world because “the world will be as one.”
So let’s imagine there is no heaven, no hell, and no God. That would mean that there is no reward for doing good. Then why devote your life to helping others? Why do anything good for anyone unless it directly benefits you in some way? If there is no hell, then why restrain yourself from doing what benefits you in this life, even if it hurts or kills others. No crime against humanity will ultimately be punished. Terrorists who kill innocent people are the ultimate winners. Those who sacrifice their lives to save others are the losers. Furthermore, if your life is not going well in this imaginary world, you might as well end it.
If you watch program #7 in our video series, you will see a number of quotes by well-known atheists indicating why they reject the existence of God. One of the recurring statements is the claim that religion and religious warfare threaten to destroy all of humanity. They claim that religion is evil. They even equate Christianity and violence. The late Christopher Hitchens wrote a book with the subtitle How Religion Poisons Everything in which he blamed religions for violence and warfare, and he made no distinction for Christianity.
There is no question that war and violence have plagued the human race since the time of Adam, and many times religion has been at least a catalyst to the violence if not the cause of it. Unfortunately, there is much in the history of religion to connect it with violence. Atheists claim that a million people were murdered by the Catholic Church in the Crusades and the Inquisition.
The New Testament makes it clear that the followers of Jesus should be peacemakers. Matthew 5:25-48 and Romans 12:9-21 show that Jesus opposed war and violence. Passages like Ephesians 3:10-12 and 6:12 tell us that our real battle is spiritual warfare.
Would getting rid of religion eliminate violence? If somehow we could eliminate every religion, would we see peace and love and goodwill everywhere? John Lennon’s famous song Imagine had the line: “Imagine there’s no heaven, no hell below us… nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.” The song suggested that getting rid of religion would bring peace and harmony on Earth.
The truth is that the most violent and war-like leaders in history had no religious beliefs at all. Hitler murdered 190 million people. Stalin and Mao killed even more. Unbelief seems to be more dangerous than even the most violent of organized religions.