I'm not sure John Lennon meant "no religion" to mean everyone should be an atheist. He was a lot smarter than that. Just looking at the most horrible acts of the twentieth century make the fact clear that atheism in its various guises (social Darwinism, communism, eugenics) caused more human suffering than anything else besides Smallpox. What I think he meant was that shouldn't have the fierce sectarian divisions that often come with religion. We have such gems of quotes from Lennon on religion as:
“People got the image I was anti-Christ or antireligion,” he said. “I’m not at all. I’m a most religious fellow. I’m religious in the sense of admitting there is more to it than meets the eye. I’m certainly not an atheist.”
He also didn't believe in Darwinism:
“Nor do I think we came from monkeys, by the way,” he insisted. “That’s another piece of garbage. What the hell’s it based on? We couldn’t’ve come from anything—fish, maybe, but not monkeys. I don’t believe in the evolution of fish to monkeys to men. Why aren’t monkeys changing into men now? It’s absolute garbage.”
Unfortunately people do misappropriate Lennon's music and his image. There are those who claim that religion is the root of all evil while ignoring all the good it does (what Ken Wilber calls the conveyor belt; I've also argued a lot about Christianity's integral role in ending slavery). Well, getting on topic, finally, here is the ultimate outcome of a society that has ditched religion, leveled off on flatland narcissism, and believes in nothing: the UK riots.
A country with cradle to craftmatic adjustable bed handouts, where no one has to work because they get government stipends, where everyone gets free (albeit very shitty) health care, could not help but explode when those handouts are taken away. The UK is broke so they decided to cut back on a pittance of the handouts so know-it-all teenagers dediced to smash stuff for no evident reason. Lots of buildings were destroyed and people killed (there may be racist elements involved). Of course you could say if people were allowed to own guns they could defend themselves, their families, and even total strangers, but the UK is ruled by a king (a queen actually; there won't be a king for a while), and kings love to have a control on the possession of weapons. Absent the ability to own guns, sales of baseball bats rose three hundred percent (my estimate) because everyone over 20 was afraid for their lives as know-it-all teenagers with immortality complexes destroyed everything insane.
The author, A. N. Wilson, has some brilliant points to make:
A Christian woman working for British Airways who wears a cross round her neck is asked to remove it for fear of offending other people. A nurse who prays with a patient in hospital is committing an almost criminal act. Catholic adoption agencies which disapprove of gay adoptive parents on religious grounds have their licences taken away.
And all the while, our governing classes and academics and teachers chip away at the fundamental truths of the great religions — truths that have stood the test of time for thousands of years — in their arrogant certainty that there are no moral absolutes and that the human race can make up the rules as it goes along.
At the nuttier fringes of the chattering classes there are those, like the geneticist Richard Dawkins and the journalist Christopher Hitchens, who actually believe that religion is a mental poison responsible for all the evils in the world.
The misguided and vacuous thinking of these so-called intellectuals is compounded by a sordid celebrity-culture which holds up role models who should be despised rather than admired.
Amy Winehouse, a pathetic drug-infused alcoholic girl of very modest talent, is held up as great diva; and when she died, her house was surrounded by fans, laying empty vodka bottles as a ‘tribute’.
What happens when you imagine a world with no religion? I don't have to imagine, I can just look across the pond to see how a society lacking morality and values is faling apart. How long before the madness comes to America? I don't know, but here's something I wrote a few months ago that may help:
In 2008 I said Obama would be like four more terms of Bush.
In 2009 I said I never imagined things could ever get this bad.
In 2010 I wished I was back in 2009.
In 2011 I said the world had gone mad.
Now I'm saying the world will not last till the end of 2012.
If we ever needed to heed Lennon's advice to "give peace a chance" now is that time.