Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Imagine there's no heaven

Imagine by John Lennon is a classic musical cry for peace and the rejection of the dogma that shrouds our attempts at attaining it. It is a great song, with a great message (at this point, one of my friends will no doubt point out that Lennon was a wife-beater but we can discuss that later). Lennon composed this song on an old upright piano which is now being carted around the world in the hope of promoting peace. Someone actually wrote into The Age (24/4) and declared that they were opposed to this tour because the lyrics of Imagine (imagine there's no heaven, no religion too etc. ) are representative of the secular ideology that is causing our society to devolve into an amoral, valueless quagmire of sleaze and depravity. I was so disgusted by this viewpoint that I raced down to a net cafe and instantly emailed The Age a rebuttal to the suggestion that a religious society is a moral society. Much to my delight, they printed my letter today. Here it is unedited:

Imagine launching an attack on a defenceless piano. It hardly seems like a fair or moral thing to do does it? However, Geoff Bloch (Letters and Emails, 24/4) assures us that our country should not embrace the piano on which Lennon composed ‘Imagine’ because it represents the moral decay that has been wrought by the ongoing secularisation of the world. We are told that there can be little doubt that there is a significant correlation between secularisation and the decay of society. This is a tiresome argument which has been rebutted many times already but I felt compelled to step in, if only to defend the honour of the piano. Imagine a country with an overwhelming proportion of religious believers, a land where atheists are the only minority that will not get elected to public office - The United States. According to a 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, 85% of Americans identify themselves as religious. With this kind of piety prevalent in the population, we would expect to see the most moral nation on earth. In reality we see massively high rates of violent crime, disproportionately high rates of teen-pregnancy and STD infection, CEOs that earn exponentially more than their employees and a war on terror that seems to be more influenced by archaic notions of holy war than by modern foreign policy. This is not yet another attack on America, just an illustration that maybe secularisation isn't the cause of 'moral decay'. There is no reason that a secular society can't be a moral society that values right and punishes wrong. There is no connection between religion and morality. Studies have shown that a sense of right and wrong are established in children long before they learn the Ten Commandments (And is it really that important to teach kids today that they are forbidden from making false idols?). A moral code comparable to our own has also been observed in chimpanzees. It has always troubled me that the religious seem to think that they have a monopoly on being good. After all, what is more laudable, being good because you think it is the right thing to do, or being good only because you think you are being supervised by a menacing parent-figure who will punish you for any misdemeanours? When I hear 'Imagine' on the radio I am grateful that such a simple message of rejecting faith is loved by so many people and that maybe a world free from religion isn't just a dream. Well, you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one, I hope someday that piano may join us, and the world can live as one.

Lennon's piano goes solo

1 comment:

Roger said...

Nice work getting your letter published. I wonder what Lennon would think of George Michael owning his piano?