The Message Behind John Lennon's Song, God

John Lennon, one of the most legendary musicians to live and a member of the Beatles, was known to rub religious groups the wrong way on more than one occasion. From the comment he made at the height of Beatlemania where he told journalist Maureen Cleave — who he was very close to, according to Rolling Stone — that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus" to songs like "Imagine," which challenged religious ideas such as heaven and hell, Lennon didn't always have the best reputation with the Catholic Church.

Although Lennon was known to ruffle the feathers of traditional Christians and religious folk, he was simultaneously extremely popular amongst young people and the counterculture of the 1960s. But one song of Lennon's that often gets overlooked is his song "God," which contains some of the most anti-religious lyrics out of any of his works. But what is the meaning of the song, and what message was Lennon trying to send to audiences?

Meaning Behind the Lyrics

The song "God" starts off by saying that "God is a concept that measures our pain," which would already challenge beliefs strongly held by many groups, almost certainly offending loads of Christians, Catholics, and other faiths who worship a god. But John Lennon was not trying to attack anyone; as explained by him (via Rolling Stone), "You're born in pain. Pain is what we are in most of the time, and I think that the bigger the pain, the more God you look for." The "pain" that Lennon was referring to was the unsatisfactory part of life that everyone experiences on a day-to-day basis.

He continues the song by listing all the things he doesn't believe in, including religious figures like Jesus and Buddha, along with other popular figures. At the end of the song, however, he states that he doesn't believe in the Beatles and that he just believes in himself and his wife, Yoko Ono. This comment was pretty shocking at the time, as the Beatles were one of the most popular bands of the era, and he was one of the most recognized members. Lennon explains this in an interview, saying (per Rolling Stone), "I no longer believe in myth, and Beatles is another myth. I don't believe in it. The dream is over. I'm not just talking about the Beatles, I'm talking about the generation thing. It's over, and we gotta — I have to personally — get down to so-called reality."

A Message for the World

John Lennon was ultimately trying to share a powerful message to the world and a nuanced idea for its time. The musician was attempting to show people that much of what we believe in is used as a way to cope with all the suffering and baggage that life brings with it. But — at least in his opinion — it's a fantasy that doesn't allow us to see reality for what it is. He suggests that the only thing you have to rely on is yourself, and you should do the best things for just that.

Though many may have disagreements with Lennon's philosophy, taking it into consideration can be a good exercise in developing one's spiritual and religious outlook on life. After all, by taking the lyrics in the song "God," Lennon simply says, "God is what we use to measure pain," but he never renounces a belief in God in its entirety, showing that your belief in God can manifest in many different forms; either through Jesus, Buddha, politicians, magic, or simply, just being you.