Lennon wrote this about the worship of false idols. He felt organized religion did more harm than good. In "Imagine," he sang about a better world where there was "no religion."
Lennon was not an atheist, but believed that god was something different to everyone. He also believed that people focus too much on the teacher (God) rather than what is supposed to be taught. In songs like this and "Imagine," Lennon's was trying to send the message that we should not let religion and other things get in the way of how we think life should be lived. In "Imagine," "Living for today" means to live as if there is no afterlife or god and to do the best you can. In this song, "I just believe in me" states his belief in his life regardless of anything else.
Before recording this album, John and Yoko began "Primal Scream therapy," which was a very emotional time for them. Lennon was dealing with the breakup of The Beatles and the death of his mother.
At the time, Lennon had some hard feelings toward The Beatles, especially Paul McCartney. He made a statement that he was moving on with the line, "I don't believe in Beatles."
Billy Preston played piano. He played on some of The Beatles songs, including "Get Back."
Ringo Starr played drums. He and Lennon had a good relationship even after The Beatles broke up.
This contains the classic line, "The Dream Is Over." This summed up the feelings of many who felt their idealistic goals of the '60s were not going to come true.
In the January 1971 edition of Rolling Stone, Lennon said that this, "was put together from three songs almost." He went on to the explain that the words for this "just came out of me mouth." The former Beatle continued: "I had the idea that 'God is the concept by which we measure pain,' so that when you have a word like that, you just sit down and sing the first tune that comes into your head and the tune is simple, because I like that kind of music and then I just rolled into it. It was just going on in my head and I got by the first three or four, the rest just came out. Whatever came out."
Among the list of idols in this song, which Lennon said he didn't believe in was The Beatles. Lennon explained why to Rolling Stone: "I was going to leave a gap, and just fill in your own words: whoever you don't believe in. It had just got out of hand, and Beatles was the final thing because I no longer believe in myth, and Beatles is another myth. I don't believe in it. The dream is over. I'm not just talking about the Beatles, I'm talking about the generation thing. It's over, and we gotta - I have to personally - get down to so-called reality."
Lennon starts this song with the line, "God is a concept by which we measure our pain." He explained to Rolling Stone that, "pain is the pain we go through all the time," Then added: "You're born in pain. Pain is what we are in most of the time, and I think that the bigger the pain, the more God you look for."
When Lennon was recording this stark denunciation of Christianity at Abbey Road studios, George Harrison was next door completing work on All Things Must Pass
. "I was in one room singing 'My Sweet Lord
'," said Harrison, "and John was in another room singing 'I don't believe in Jesus, I don't believe in nothing'."