"God is a concept by which we measure our pain." So begins John Lennon's remarkable song "God," which mostly consists of a litany that sounds like it came out of modern church service, except that the content is a list of things he doesn't believe in, which includes both the sacred (Jesus, the Bible, Buddha) and the profane (Hitler and Elvis.) We've all been there. The condition even has a name: the dark night of the soul, a time when the things that gave our life meaning cease to hold any significance for us. Lennon concludes by saying that he believes only in himself and his wife, and announces that the dream of Beatles is over.
The remarkable thing about this song is that Lennon doesn't sound as if he is in despair at all (although at the time of its release, the song must have unleashed uncalculable levels of angst in his fan base.)
He makes his lack of belief sound like a relief. Finally he is letting go of a lifetime of distractions that suddenly seem as if they have been keeping him from full awareness of the deepest level of reality.
"God" expresses a profound truth. Blindly believing in things, even great things like the Bible, can become a distraction from truly meeting the God of profound truth and abundant possibilities.
The official video for the song, released by his widow after his death, features images of the the glasses he was wearing at the time of his murder, still stained with blood from the fatal wound, and concludes with a spoken coda from an interview, in which he expresses that he doesn't fear death and imagines it as "getting out of one car and getting into another."
John Lennon was not a very good person most of the time, but those close to him couldn't help but admire his self-deprecating honesty in the face of his flaws. He is like one of tax collectors and sinners that Jesus spent time with, to the vocal disapproval of pious frauds. I can't say I truly admire John Lennon as a person, but his music is the soundtrack of my childhood and never fails to move me.