While sleeping on the thin ice of a postmodern life, dimly aware of a mysterious unease in the air of this organized yet chaotic global village, nothing allows you to hide your head in the sand of absolute euphoria like the majestically psychedelic vocals on John Lennon’s Imagine, as they make you hallucinate a utopian state found only in religious texts. Sadly, all it was a tiny injection of Slavoj Zizek’s pessimism for me to see beyond the vibrant colors and geometric patterns, and realize that John Lennon’s lucid dream was in reality a Hobbesian nightmare.
While rationalizing and romanticizing the river of our fantasies flowing in the lyrics of this song, the two most critical questions we often prefer to overlook are; a) How did this post revolution/apocalypse utopia come into existence? b) And what power structure is sustaining this state? The former has been answered by perspectives ranging from Anarcho-communism to Fascism and would probably require more than an article to discuss, something like three to four careers. However, the latter, although heavily dependent on how the first part is answered, can be looked into to analyze how dangerous our ideals are.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
And no religion too
I must not be the only one who finds this description fit for North Korea. This criminally shallow understanding of religion’s role in a society is not the only problem addressed in the masterpiece; G.K Chesterton‘s ‘Orthodoxy’. It’s more than just an armrest for people to find comfort in; wrapped in the spirit of doubt, hate, love, and identity as Carl Schmitt (a Nazi) might explain it, Chesterton’s ideas hint that religion is an institution complex enough to be understood on an individual level and not from an oversimplified structuralist view as evident from a rather complicated piece about “Jesus the athiest”.
Even after sliding aside the complicated nature of religion, the question must be asked about the part of the whole institution of religion this utopia discards. Will it ban all the original religious doctrines and publications or all the social values and power dynamics driven by religion? If the latter, will all the values remotely associated with or generated by religion be shunned or a selected set that acts as a barrier to the proper establishment of this state? If the latter, who gets to decide precisely what that set consists of?
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Even if we assume that shunning of religions would be a gradual process where every individual gets “enlightened” over a long span and the whole society shuns religion with solidarity, the irony becomes too prominent when both, John Lennon’s dream and North Korea operate in a manner precisely identical to religion7; an absolute trust in human capability to be morally sound if not corrupted by an external force like consumerism or the devil, giving the carrot of a desirable end like this utopia or heaven, desire of a constant expansion of their ideology, and a binary distinction between the preachers who dream and the followers who join. The rhetoric under which religion operates in such a fantasy might have changed but the social implications haven’t.