PRESS CONFERENCE, 1966
JOHN: Look, I wasn't saying the Beatles are better than God or Jesus, I said "Beatles" because it's easy for me to talk about Beatles. I could have said TV or cinema, motor cars or anything popular and I would've gotten away with it. My views on Christianity are directly influenced by The Passover Plot by Hugh J. Schonfield. The premise is that Jesus' message had been garbled by his disciples and twisted for a variety of self-serving reasons by those who followed, to the point where it has lost validity for many in the modern age. The passage which caused all the trouble was part of a long profile Maureen Cleave was doing for the London Evening Standard. Then, the mere fact that it was in Datebook changed its meaning that much more.
QUESTION: What was your formal religious backround?
JOHN: Normal Church of England, Sunday School, and church. But there was actually nothing going on in the church I went to. Nothing really touched us.
QUESTION: How about when you got older?
JOHN: By the time I was nineteen, I was cynical about religion and never even considered the goings-on in Christianity. It's only the last two years that I, all the Beatles, have started looking for something else. We live in a moving hothouse. We've been mushroom-grown, forced to grow up a bit quick, like having thirty- to forty-year-old heads in twenty-year-old bodies. We had to develop more sides, more attitudes. If you're a bus man, you usually have a bus man's attitude. But we had to be more than four mopheads up there on stage. We had to grow up or we'd be swamped.
QUESTION: Just what were you trying to get across with your comments then, sir?
JOHN: I'm not anti-God, anti-Christ, or antireligion. I was not saying we are greater or better.
QUESTION: Mr. Lennon, do you believe in God?
JOHN: I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, and all the rest said was right. It's just the translations have gone wrong.
QUESTION: Are you sorry about your statement concerning Christ?
JOHN: I wasn't saying whatever they're saying I was saying. I'm sorry I said it, really. I never meant it to be a lousy antireligious thing. From what I've read, or observed, Christianity just seems to me to be shrinking, to be losing contact.
QUESTION: Why did you subject yourself to a public apology in front of television cameras?
JOHN: If I were at the stage I was five years ago, I would have shouted we'd never tour again, packed myself off, and that would be the end of it. Lord knows, I don't need the money. But the record burning, that was a real shock, the physical burning. I couldn't go away knowing that I'd created another little pocket of hate in the world. Especially with something as uncomplicated as people listening to records, dancing, and enjoying what the Beatles are. Not when I could do something about it. If I said tomorrow I'm not going to play again, I still couldn't live with somebody hating me for something so irrational.
QUESTION: Why don't you tell your fans all this?
JOHN: But that's the trouble with being truthful. You try to apply truth talk, although you have to be false sometimes because this whole thing is false in a way, like a game. But you hope sometimes that if you're truthful with somebody, they'll stop all the plastic reaction and be truthful back and it'll be worth it. But everybody is playing the game and sometimes I'm left naked and truthful with everybody biting me. It's disappointing.
QUESTION: We've been hearing a great deal reguarding your comments on God verses Jesus. Would you tell us what you really meant by that staement?
JOHN: I'll try and tell you. I was just talking to a reporter, who also happens to be a friend of mine and all of us at home. It was a sort of indepth series she was doing and so I wasn't really thinking in terms of PR or translating what I was saying. It was going on for a couple of hours and I said it just to cover the subject. I didn't mean it the way they said it. It's just so complicated, it's gone way out of hand, you know. I wasn't saying that the Beatles were any better than Jesus, God, or Christianity. I never thought of any repercussions. I knew she was interviewing me, but I wasn't thinking it meant anything.
QUESTION: What's your reaction to the repercussions?
JOHN: Well, when I first heard it I thought it can't be true. It's just one of those things like bad eggs in Adelaide. But when I realized it was serious I was worried stiff because I knew how it would go on. All the nasty things that would get said about it and all those miserable-looking pictures of me looking like a cynic. And they'd go on and on and on. until it would get out of hand and i couldn't control it. I really can't answer for it when it gets this big, it's nothing to do with me now.
QUESTION: A disc jockey in Birmingham, Alabama, who actually started most of the repercussions has demanded an apology from you.
JOHN: He can have it; I apologize to him. If he's upset and he rally means it, you know, then I'm sorry. I'm sorry I said it for the mess it's made, but I never meant it as an antireligion thing, or anything. You know, I can't say any more than that. There's nothing else to say really, no more words. I apologize to him.
QUESTION: Do you really think Christianity is shrinking?
JOHN: It just seems to me to be shrinking. I'm not knocking it or saying it's bad. I'm just saying it seems to be shrinking and losing contact.
PAUL: And we deplore the fact that it is, you know, that's the point about it all.
JOHN: Nothing better seems to be replacing it, so we're not saying anything about that.
PAUL: If it is on the decline in any way and you say it is, then it must be helpful.
JOHN: It's silly going on saying, "Yes, it's all fine and we're all Christians. Yeah, yeah. We're all Christians and we're all doing this," and we're not.
PAUL: We're all gonna get blamed for the rise all fall of Christianity now.
QUESTION: Mr. Lennon, are you a Christian?
JOHN: Well, we're all brought up to be. I don't profess to be a practicing Christian. And Christ was what he was and anything anybody says great about him I believe. I'm not a practicing Christian, but I don't have a un-Christian thoughts.
QUESTION: Was there as much a reaction to your statements throughout Europe and other countries around the world as there was here in America?
JOHN: I don't think Europe heard about it, but they will now! It was just England and I sort of got away with it there. In as much as nobody took offense and saw through me. Over here it's just as I said, it went this way.
QUESTION: Some of the wires this morning said that Pam American Airlines had provided each of you with free Bibles.
JOHN: We never saw that.
QUESTION: If Jesus were alive today in a physical form, not a metaphysical one, he would find "Eleanor Rigby" a very religious song, a song of concern with human experience and need. I'm curious about your expression of that.
JOHN: Well, I don't like supposing that if Jesus were alive now, knowing what he'd like to say or do. But if he was the real Jesus, the Jesus as he was before, well, "Eleanor Rigby" wouldn't mean much to him, but if it did come across his mind, he'd think that probably.
QUESTION: There had been Beatle boycotts nationwide, record burnings, even threats against your life. Does this bother you?
PAUL: Well, it's bound to bother us, isn't it?
QUESTION: Mr. Lennon, do you feel you are being crucified?
JOHN: No, I wouldn't say that at all.
"I can't express myself very well, that's my whole trouble. I was just commenting, in my illiterate way of speaking. It was about how Christ's message had been garbled by disciples and twisted for various selfish reasons by those who followed, to the point where it has lost validity for many today. Actually, if I am going to blame anyone, it's myself for not thinking what people a million miles away were going to say about it. I've just had a reshuffling of all the things pushed into my head. I'm more of a Christian than I ever was. I don't go along with organized religion and the way it has come about.
Jesus says one thing and then all the clubs formed telling their versions and the whole thing gets twisted. It's like a game of having six people in a line and I whisper something to the guy next to me, maybe "love thy neighbor" or "everything ought to be equal." By the time it gets to the end of the line it's altogether something else."