Seriously: Are the Beatles More Popular Than Jesus?

beatles forever.jpg
Saturday marks the 46th anniversary of one of the more surreal press conferences in the Beatles' career. One the eve of the band's '66 American tour, John, Paul, George and Ringo met with a group of reporters who only wanted to ask one question: Where the Beatles really more popular than Jesus?

It was a serious question born of strange circumstances. Five months previously, Maureen Cleave, a friend of the band, had interviewed each member individually for a series of weekly articles for the London Evening Standard titled "How Does a Beatle Live?" When she interviewed John Lennon at his home in England, he mused on a variety of topics for a British audience, including the band's hysterical treatment from fans as well as the impermanence of all things:

"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I'll be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first -- rock and roll or Christianity."

It was a deep statement buried in a detailed profile piece, just one part of a larger series of stories. In the U.K., nobody batted an eye. But when the American teenybopper rag Datebook highlighted the "more popular than Jesus" bit on its cover in August, some Southern Christians went apeshit, banning Beatles music from the radio, burning records and demonstrating at concerts. It was a terrific opportunity for pulpit moralizers and Klan kooks to denounce rock and roll as the devil's work, and they were all too willing to put on a show of their own.

That's why the Beatles had to show up at that press conference in Chicago -- so Lennon could apologize for offending Christians and quell the controversy. He wasn't exactly enthusiastic about it, either:

" I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. I apologize if that will make you happy. I still don't know quite what I've done. I've tried to tell you what I did do but if you want me to apologize, if that will make you happy, then OK, I'm sorry."

Sorry or not, Lennon didn't quite retract his statement. Why? Because he thought he was right. And at the height of Beatlemania, the four of them must have truly felt like gods. But were they more popular than Jesus? Are they more popular now? Has history proven Lennon correct?

To find out, let's examine both Jesus and the Beatles in popular media. After all, you ain't popular if nobody's talking about you. In the information age, who really reigns supreme in the hearts of the world: the Son of Man or the Eggman?

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ya its true dat jesus  is mre n certainly more popular n ya off nix i accept dat jesus got more follower dan wat Beatles have.....but its nt a dump founded  news dats v should keep a prominent figure of late 1960 so aside......beatles still survive in every young hearts of dis fergile edifice,,,,,,,v not only loves his songz but certainly de John Lenons gogs tooooooooo



When you write, "the four of them must have truly felt like gods," it demonstrates that you understand neither the Beatles, nor what John was saying.


The whole attraction of the Beatles was that they showed how powerful ordinary people could be by just being their natural selves--an oddity at a time when superficiality and obedience to society's rules was the norm. Beyond that, they demonstrated the synergy of teamwork, the magical gestalt that can happen when all members are on the same page. They may not have been the best musicians (though legions of the best bassists since have testified to Paul's musicality and musicianship), but what happened when they combined their talents could almost be called supernatural. 1 + 1 + 1 +1 can indeed equal more than 4. In this case much more.


John actually agreed with what any half-observant preacher could see, but they felt too threatened by the Beatles to hear what he was saying. His comment could have been fodder for many a sermon, and I understood it clear as a bell when I heard it back in '66. In effect, John noted that while Jesus offered eternal life, nobody was as outwardly excited about it (other than by coaxing) as they were by four people who temporarily Pretty much showed how seriously people really take the claims of and about Jesus. It wasn't difficult to infer from this that Christianity's days are ultimately numbered. It is this unabashed truth that touched the raw nerve of the preaching elite.

paul795 1 Like

I took Lennon's original comment to mean that for most young people, pop music meant more to them than religion. If it wasn't true then, it certainly is now. His comment was an expression of his views on society, young people and the place of religion in most of their lives.

He'd made the comment in a UK press interview and it didn't create any waves at the time. I think that some people in the US South deliberately misinterpreted it for their own ends.

John was honest enough to explain what he'd said, as opposed to an insincere apology. That's one of the things that made him the man he was.


couple of problems. a) the beatles have sold over 1 billion records, not 600 million. b) they had over 20 #1 singles (closer to 30). and c) someone did die for the beatles, and that was john lennon himself.


i think an interesting way of looking at it is this, yes jesus and christianity are popular but with younger generations they lose more and more of their standing as society progresses. meanwhile the beatles were still the biggest selling artist of the last decade, and their cd "1" of greatest hits was not only the fastest selling cd of all time but it also is one of the biggest selling - and that's after downloading had taken over the music industry.


Jesus may be more popular in this sense, but The Beatles are infinately more awsome. Oh yea, and people can actually prove that they were who they claimed ot be!

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