Musicians are still poor theologians

Singer Ce-Lo Green held a performance for New Year’s Eve giving his rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine.  Only it wasn’t Lennon’s version.  Green, when he was supposed to say,

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people living life in peace

He changed it to “And all religion is true”.  Now, I get it, he is trying to sing an otherwise popular song which seems to send the message of peace and love.  Well, it promotes atheism and socialism more than anything, Green must not have thought too deeply about the lyrics.  This is nothing new, many people really enjoy Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA on the Fourth of July even though it is an anti-war, anti-government song, but all they seem to hear is “born in the USA”

Well, unfortunately not all religion can be true.  They make different truth claims about foundational beliefs which cannot be harmonized.  Certain claims religions make cannot both be true and false.  Christianity claims Jesus was God.  Either He was God and Christians are right and the Jews and Muslims are wrong.  Or He was not God, and the Jews and Muslims are right, and the Christians are wrong.  But they cannot both be right.

One way to tell if someone has given any thought or study to religion is whether or not they make statements like Green.  Pluralism is the most prevalent belief about religion — in my experience — found in people who think the central goal of the world’s religions is love and peace.  Sincere adherents to the major religions know this isn’t true.  For Christianity/Judaism it is redemption; Islam-submission; Buddhism-to achieve Nirvana and stop the cycle of rebirth; Hinduism-the unity of everything.  Love and peace might play some role, but it isn’t central.

Green isn’t pretending to be a theologian, but it doesn’t relieve him of his intellectual duty to think carefully about things before he speaks them.  Beliefs about God and religion are far too important to speak (or sing) frivolously about it.  Of course people can believe what they want, but that carries the presupposition that God and religion are not true, not in the sense of what it means for something to be true.  After all, if you can simply believe anything you want about the particular subject, and whatever it is you believe is supposedly true, how true could it really be?  It’s just sloppy thinking intended to avoid confrontation and offense.  When the goal is to not offend, rarely is what is said true.


Related commentary: GaGa For God


  1. Terrance H. says:

    Ridiculous thing to say. I can’t stand it when actors and singers turn into pseudo-philosophes, yammering off the “cool” things to say. Ugh

  2. President of the American Humanist Association agrees that all religions can’t be true.

  3. One of the worst logical fallacies ever!

  4. “Religious Pluralism” has many meanings, not just the one you discuss. I explored a few more of them. To not clutter you comment thread, I posted a pertinent response here.

    • Sabio

      your post doesn’t really discuss different kinds of pluralism. Pluralism, most widely understood, makes the claim that all religions are more or less true. That an eternal reward can be found by sincerely holding to any of them.

  5. Many religious pluralists who believe that whatever state occurs after death, everyone’s religion can be used to improve that state. Not necessarily because that religion is true, but because even mythical concepts can be used to help a person (in this life, or if there is a next one, in that too.)

    I actually think most pluralists believe this version of pluralism and not yours which is a bit of a strawman, I think. Some may hold the version you put forward, but I’ve not met any. So I think it would be best for you to attack to stronger version, which of course you also disagree with.

    • Sabio

      Like I said on your post, I think we agree on this more than it appears. However,

      Not necessarily because that religion is true

      This to me doesn’t make sense. If what the believer (of whatever religion) believes about their particular doctrine of the afterlife, and that beliefs ends up being true, then that religion is true. The pluralist would hold that whomever’s belief will benefit them somehow in the afterlife by virtue of holding the belief, then it follows that the pluralist thinks the religion is true.

      I think we are getting hung up on the semantics of what it means for someone to think something is true.

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