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Is All Religion True? The Cee Lo Green Thing

You’ve probably already heard about the Cee Lo Green thing, where he sang the John Lennon song “Imagine” and changed the line about “And no religion, too” to “And all religion’s true.”

I was going to blog about it… but my friend Rebecca, founder of the Grief Beyond Belief support network, posted on Facebook and said pretty much exactly what I was going to say. So I’m just going to quote her and let this be a guest post. (For the record: I don’t actually care that much about the whole “changing the lyrics” thing. I couldn’t be a Weird Al Yankovic fan if I did. I don’t think song lyrics are sacrosanct: people tinker with them all the time, it’s part of how music evolves. I’m just irritated/ entertained by the particular content of this particular tinkering.)

*

I appreciate that non-believers and John Lennon fans worldwide are pissed at Cee Lo Green for changing the lyrics of Imagine, when he played it last night, to “And all religion’s true.” I am appalled.

But I am also amused by trying to literally interpret that statement.

All religion? So we’ve got Heaven and Hell and Hades and reincarnation and Valhalla and whatever weird sh*t the Mormons and Scientologists believe ALL existing. And we have everyone from Kali to Loki to Eris messing around. And Jesus is the Messiah and son of God (Christianity) and NOT-the-Messiah and NOT-son of God (Judaism), and sort of the Messiah-but-not-son-of-God (Islam).

Wow, Cee Lo, you imagined a messy world! Good thing the whole idea is ridiculous.

Comments

  1. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    I’m reminded of the scene in Terry Pratchett’s Feet of Clay where Dorfl the Golem, Discworld’s first ceramic atheist, faces the assembled priests of the Council of Churches, Temples, Sacred Groves and Big Ominous Rocks and says, “I Will Gladly Dispute With The Priest Of The Most Worthy God.” As he walks away a fight breaks out.

  2. kraut says

    Very simple, isn’t it. If all religions are true and all religions contradict each other in either all or some of their premises, no religion is true.
    He actually made an atheist statement without realizing it, the dumbfuck.

  3. John the Drunkard says

    On one hand, Julian Baggini’s survey finds that the religious reeally DO believe the silly bits. On the other we have this sponge-brained ecumenicalism.

    How misinformed does one have to be to believe that even one of the Abrahamic religions could be true, let along all of them? The Tanakh is riddled with contradictions; It is impossible to construct a single narrative of Jesus’ trial and crucifiction which does not clash with at least one gospel version; and Mohammed’s revelations are as blatantly self serving as Joseph Smith’s or L. Ron Hubbard’s.

    So they really do believe, just don’t dare ask them what.

  4. Søren says

    “Tis himself” is not the only one thinking about Pratchett. Theres a wonderfull scene in Pyramids where all the gods of a parody of ancient Egypt comes to life. There is quite a bit of a fight between several sun gods over who gets to ferry the sun across the heavens.

  5. stonyground says

    Imagine there’s no Heaven, and that all those religions that say that there is a heaven are true. Is there a Heaven? well Christians, read your Bible, the New Testament assures you that there is a Heaven and that the world is going to end any minute now. Ecclesiastes Ch. 9 Vs. 4-10 assures you that there is no Heaven and urges you to live life to the full because this one, short, precious life is all that you get.

    The Bible, just as self contradictory as Cee Lo Green

  6. killertapir says

    If all religion is true then Harold Camping’s particular brand of end-of-the-world nuttery is true. So why is everyone talking about Cee Lo Green? THE WORLD HAS ALREADY ENDED, PEOPLE!!

    Jeezy Creezy, get your priorities in order.

  7. stevebowen says

    For the record: I don’t actually care that much about the whole “changing the lyrics” thing. I couldn’t be a Weird Al Yankovic fan if I did. I don’t think song lyrics are sacrosanct

    I think parody is one thing, whether it’s for comic effect or to make a point. But to sing a song with apparent sincerity while changing the intended sentiment is disrespectful in a perfidious way that I think is worth caring about.

  8. Azkyroth says

    (For the record: I don’t actually care that much about the whole “changing the lyrics” thing. I couldn’t be a Weird Al Yankovic fan if I did. I don’t think song lyrics are sacrosanct: people tinker with them all the time, it’s part of how music evolves. I’m just irritated/ entertained by the particular content of this particular tinkering.)

    I would say it’s wrong to change lyrics in a fashion that contradicts the spirit of the original without clearly acknowledging what you’re doing as parody, satire, or critique (even a sarcastic “updated” a la Mark Twain works, really).

  9. says

    What Weird Al – whom my musician son says is possibly the most talented musician in America – does, is satire. Very different from what Cee-Lo did.

    He should have at least worked “FTFY” into the altered lyrics.

  10. says

    Is that the only lyric he changed? Because if so, the song now makes no sense at all. “Imagine there’s no heaven/ It’s easy if you try/ No hell below us/ above us only sky”
    and so on.
    This is fubar.

  11. says

    This reminds me of the ‘I believe in belief’ sentiment I’ve seen pop up lately. What does that even mean? There is no logic in that statement. In an attempt to achieve tolerance, people equivocate every belief or the very act of believing. But this is nonsense, and we should be able to cooperate without falling prey to the everyone-is-right mentality. There’s also a difference in saying that every belief is equal and saying that the truth lies in some middle position.

  12. says

    I agree with those who pointed out that what Cee Lo Green did is categorically different from what satirists and parodists do. I also agree with Rebecca’s criticism – it’s impossible for all religions to be true, as most (if not all) of them contradict each other badly. Hell, some of them even contradict themselves.

  13. Lukas says

    Hmmm… what if “all religion’s true” meant “the only religions that still exist are those that describe the world accurately”? IE, none of the ones that exist now. That would actually be pretty cool.

  14. says

    Well some people believe that whatever you believe will turn out to be true when you die–Christian’s go to heaven, pagan warriors who die in battle go to Valhalla, etc. But I think what Cee Lo meant is “Imagine if all religions agreed with my (true) religion.” He did tweet that he was trying to say you can believe whatever you want to believe, but that doesn’t really fit what he said.

    He deleted all the tweets anyhow.

  15. jacobfromlost says

    It’s all metaphorically true. Or it’s all literally metaphors. Or it’s true that they are all myths. Or something like that.

    Can’t we all just get along by pretending a wide range of unsupported and contradictory beliefs are all true somehow? Isn’t that a better message than imagining a world with no religion and no conflict, where we all work together in harmony and peace in reality?

    No?

    Well, I guess that’s what happens when you botch a rewrite of some of the best lyrics in music. (Did he change any of the other lyrics, because changing that one line makes absolutely no sense within the context of all the other lines.)

  16. Ariel says

    I appreciate that non-believers and John Lennon fans worldwide are pissed at Cee Lo Green for changing the lyrics of Imagine, when he played it last night, to “And all religion’s true.”

    I appreciate it too. I almost converted when I saw the effects. Thanks to this guy the non-believers and fans went ballistic, doing all they could to rationalize the commandment “Thou shalt not change the lyric!” Praise Cee Lo Green, he was able to make this dreary vale of tears a funnier place! (The only drawback is that he probably didn’t do it on purpose. I guess he wanted to be ecumenical and nice, for God’s sake. Bah! You can’t expect perfection anywhere!)

    This link is for the Beatles and the Red Devils fans. Not for the faint hearted though, who think that the lyric is sacrosanct! Enjoy.

  17. Azkyroth says

    Imagine what a world it could be if people like Ariel put half the energy into improving it that they put into willfully misunderstanding the objections of those who are actually trying to.

    Or, well, don’t. It’s kind of depressing.

  18. Ariel says

    Azkyroth, I admit that sometimes, when I’m in a proper mood, an idea of pissing off stern and severe revolutionaries (like you) looks appealing to me. That must be my genetic blemish. Oh well, there is a quote (I don’t remember the source) which goes more or less like this: “children and revolutionaries hate irony”. You know, from my experience I find a lot of truth in it. How can the revolutionaries like irony? They are actually trying to improve the world, after all; what choice do they have apart from being stern and severe! Please, don’t be depressed. The world is so beautiful today. Heed my advice: pour yourself a pint of a good, English beer, listen to the Wayne Rooney song (the link I provided), relax and:

    SMILE! YOU ARE IN A CANDID CAMERA!

    (Oh shit, Greta is going to kick me out for this. Bad commenter, bad‼!)

  19. says

    If ALL religion is true, then that includes terrorist martyr beliefs, which exactly contradicts the beginning of the line: “nothing to kill or die for”.
    To add insult to irony, he sang that in NYC!

  20. steerpike says

    I took CLG’s sentiment as more along the lines of letting everyone alone to believe and worship (or not) as they choose. “All religion’s true” for those who believe it, and it has nothing to do with anyone else”; i.e. “It’s not worth fighting about”. You may disagree, but I don’t see this as that much of a terrible bowdlerization. If you want to hiss about a truly bastardized version of the song, click away:

  21. says

    Regarding “lyrics as sacred”, this is what I had to say about it at my obligatory Cee Lo post:

    I have no problem with singers changing around the song they are covering. Hell, I do it in my band. I don’t even necessarily have a problem with changing it around in a way that changes the meaning (my band used to do a version of Why Don’t You Do Right that completely changed up the perspective).

    But what I do have a problem is subtly changing the meaning and trying to pass it off as if it’s still the same as the original. I think it’s clear that Cee Lo felt those words still conveyed the message of the song. But they don’t.

    Changing that one phrase in that particular way, while keeping lines like “Imagine there’s no countries” (why does Cee Lo hate America???!?) was just yucky. If Cee Lo wanted to change the words to Imagine so that they weren’t offensive and only pitched softballs, then he should have changed all the words:

    Imagine dogs go to heaven
    And kitties too, why not?
    Hell is only for Hitler
    Any maybe for Pol Pot

    Imagine all the people not thinking much today

    Imagine we helped some countries
    Marginally improve
    Nothing too hard or controversial
    (Don’t knock their religion, dude!)

    Imagine all the people with UN troops keeping the peace

    You, you may say I’m a coward
    But I’m just an average joe
    I hope some day you’ll just give up
    And we’ll preserve the status quo

    Imagine more possessions
    For those of us who lack
    We’ll keep the greed, just not the hunger
    And a progressive income tax

    Imagine all the people with slightly less income inequality

    You, you may say I’m a coward
    But I’m just like Cee Lo
    I hope some day you’ll just give up
    And we’ll preserve the status quo

  22. Kagehi says

    So we’ve got Heaven and Hell and Hades and reincarnation and Valhalla and whatever weird sh*t the Mormons and Scientologists believe ALL existing.

    Well, it works if you assume one of the following things, and the addendum:

    1. They are all space aliens, and most of the heaven/hell bits are BS, like in Stargate.
    2. They are are far more limited than their individual religions claim they are, so its only the morons dumb enough to believe in them that get rewarded/punished, unless you don’t believe any, in which case, if they notice, one of them gets pissed over that.

    Addendum: In either case, the application of these rules apply to a story, movie, or roleplaying universe.

    Otherwise, yeah.. not so much.

  23. rikitiki says

    So, Greta, you might enjoy my own re-lyricing here –

    (sung to the tune of: “God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen”)

    I’m sorry merry gentlemen, your faith has been mislaid
    It isn’t true that Jesus Christ was born on Christmas day
    The church co-opted solstice to prevent the pagan sway
    CHORUS:
    It’s a crock and it makes me so annoyed
    Really annoyed
    It’s crock and I really get annoyed

    And those four gospel ‘authors’ that you really love to quote
    Historians have figured out they’re not the ones who wrote
    Those contradictory fables based on mirrors and on smoke
    CHORUS

    And Mary had to be virgin ‘cause sex just wouldn’t do
    You still blame Eve for Adam’s fall, your women just get screwed
    They say Jesus loved prostitutes, I wonder what he’d do?
    CHORUS

    Tammuz, Osiris, Mithra, and that’s just to name a few,
    Each died and then they rose again, had virgin mothers too
    Your cobbled-up mythology is really nothing new
    CHORUS

    Believing that your group is saved, means other folks are not
    They’re treated all as second-class, no matter what you’re taught
    You pity them because you think they’re going somewhere hot
    CHORUS

    I’ve heard your preachers spewing out such bigotry and hate
    It seems they only care about a full collection plate
    I hope the sheep all wizen up before it’s much too late
    CHORUS

  24. RobRose says

    Even the most obvious contradiction is ignored when the statement of “All Religions, True.” is made. Most of them declare the rest to be false.

  25. Sastra says

    I’ve sometimes seen the spiritually speculative speculate that every believer ends up getting whatever they expect when they die. The Christians see Jesus, the Muslim see Mohammed, the Mormons get their own planets, and the New Agers wind up joining the energy field of consciousness that binds the universe together. This wishful thinking seems to be based on both the idea that wishes make things true — and that religious belief is not just personal, but involves an actual personal reality.

    It’s the bland ecumenism of the therapeutic religious smorgasbord: it all comes down to taking whatever tastes good to you. It won’t go deeper than your stomach.

    Cee Lo’s hopeful wish for “all religions true” follows faith down into choice, and choice down into preference. All religions are true in the sense that all tastes are okay. If you like country music, or classical music, or rap or rock or rhythm and blues, it’s cool. You like what you like, and other people like what they like. Can’t we all be brothers?

    From the little I know of John Lennon’s views on religion, he probably would not have minded this sentiment (or even the re-write) as much as we think he should:

    “If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion—not without religion, but without this ‘my God is bigger than your God’ thing—then it can be true.” — John Lennon

    Sort of ‘I-don’t-like-religion-because-then-God-is-too-small.’ By religion Lennon (and Cee Lo) probably mean organized or dogmatic religion, as opposed to the “many valid paths to Truth” version which runs roughshod over the details and nods happily at faith in whatever form it comes in.

    Imo, Lennon probably would have approved of the rewrite’s sentiment, if not the aesthetics.

  26. rikitiki says

    re: abeille –

    Yeah, I’ve a few others I’ve re-lyriced. Mostly done when ‘the song from hell’ gets stuck in my mind; by re-doing the lyrics, I can
    live with it instead of having it torture me. ;-)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] So everyone’s probably heard about the recent Cee-Lo debacle in which, while singing John Lennon’s secular anthem Imagine, the hapless boob decided that Lennon needed a quick re-write. Instead of “…and no religion too”, as is befitting the rest of the verse, Cee-Lo decided to swap in “…and all religion’s true”, which is a profound statement that he has absolutely no idea why that’s logically impossible. [...]

  2. […] So everyone’s probably heard about the recent Cee-Lo debacle in which, while singing John Lennon’s secular anthem Imagine, the hapless boob decided that Lennon needed a quick re-write. Instead of “…and no religion too”, as is befitting the rest of the verse, Cee-Lo decided to swap in “…and all religion’s true”, which is a profound statement that he has absolutely no idea why that’s logically impossible. […]

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