The Beatles: officially bigger than Jesus, according to Google

Forty-three years after John Lennon sensationally claimed that The Beatles were 'more popular than Jesus', it finally came to pass.

For seven days in September, amid the hubbub surrounding the remastered CDs and the Rock Band game, The Beatles finally overtook Jesus as a search term, according to Google Trends.

Beatles/Jesus Google Trends results, September 2009

Lennon made his controversial claim in a March 1966 interview given to Maureen Cleave and first published in the Evening Standard newspaper. When his words were republished by Datebook magazine four months later it caused a storm of negative publicity, culminating in public bonfires of The Beatles' records and a public backlash that at times made the group fearful for their lives.

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.
John Lennon, 1966

The protests were mainly in the southern US states. Lennon eventually issued an apology, and was reportedly shaken by the backlash.

I wasn't saying whatever they're saying I was saying. I'm sorry I said it really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. I apologise 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 apologise, if that will make you happy, then OK, I'm sorry.
John Lennon, 1966

The devil may have the best tunes, but Jesus was back on top of the stats just a few days later.

Also on this day...

Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.

28 responses on “The Beatles: officially bigger than Jesus, according to Google

  1. Glenna

    In England, people were staying away from church by the droves. John was right about his observation.
    It’s always been an embarrassment to me that so-called Christians did so many ridiculous things rather than just do what Jesus would have instructed: love them.
    It says a lot that the Beatles had to discover “love” someplace else.

    1. Chuck


      The Beatles sang “All You Need Is Love” and then they broke up…

      Human emotional love don’t cut it.

      Jesus didnt speak of that kind of love, only the True, “Agape” Love that only God can make grow inside a persons heart.

      1. Joseph Brush

        What has the message contained in “All You Need Is Love” got to do with the Beatles being together or breaking up?
        The message is still valid.

        “Human emotional love don’t cut it”.
        If we are not human than what are we? Creatures from Avatar?

        If it wasn’t for human emotional love none of us would be here.

      1. Chuck

        Yes, “Ordinary”, just like you and the rest of us Joe’s.

        All those who think they are better than someone else, are no better than the worst of us.

        Jesus ran into those kind of folks all the time.

        They thought they were better than those others too.

      2. steelyglenn

        John Lennon was really kind and gracious to call Jesus Christ, The Son of GOD, “ALRIGHT”. Bit of an understatement…
        I can’t imagine the world of hurt that Mister Lennon just might be experiencing at this very moment. Lord have mercy!

  2. mike

    This has always been a stickler for me in that while my dad was a minister I agreed with Lennon. Lennon never said the Beatles were more important than Jesus or Christianity, just more popular, and popularity is an entirely different issue. All you have to do is look at things like concerts. Paul McCartney can charge $500 for a concert ticket, but even in his heyday, someone like Billy Graham could never, if he chose to, charge an equivalent figure. If I needed the key to Heaven, I would consult Graham first, but if I needed to win an popularity contest, I would call McCartney. Totally different concept.

    1. Epenguin

      The Beatles sold love and peace. Billy Graham sold the Lord like a commodity. If needed the key to heaven id much rather get it from the fabs rather then some scum who thinks that religion is his to profit from.

      1. Beatle Brad

        What? When did you ever get a Beatle album for free? I would say they definetly knew what a “commodity” was. Salvation in Jesus only requires one to open his or her heart and sincerely ask the Lord in. I like the Beatles and all but you guys make them sound like they are gods or something. They ain’t. They are humans just like you and I.

  3. Stollinger

    Reading about how in the southern US there were protests is rather sad.

    The Beatles promoted unconditional love, Jesus did that. While many many of those so-called christians that pray every day hate and despise their fellow black brothers…

    So instead of protesting those people should have thought about whose way of living would have more appaled to Jesus.

  4. Vlad

    yup, Steven is right, if you integrate the area under the Google curves, Jesus surely wins. Agree with Mike too, though. And John’s “disciples runing it” comment is right.

  5. Paul

    Just the thought of people comparing The Beatles to Jesus at this point of time
    makes me sick, how can anyone compare the creations with the creator???
    However, Jesus wouldn’t ever waste time with popularity here on earth, where
    nobody wants to hear a word he said and just wants to do whatever they please
    no matter about anything at all. Luke 11:23a
    Quoting John Lennon: “The Beatles were just a great band, that’s all…”, I
    agree with him, I grew up listening to them, I’ve musically learned and have
    been influenced a lot by them and I’m thankful for their legacy, still think
    it would be nice to shake Paul McCartney’s hand.
    “They’re still the 20th Century’s Greatest Romance”.

    1. Matt

      Well, so far nobody’s killed in the name of the Beatles (Charles Manson doesn’t count), so to me, they are bigger than Jesus. They’ve left of legacy of peace, love and happiness without causing thousands of deaths.

        1. Vonbontee

          Yeah, Manson definitely counts. As does, perversely enough, Mark David Chapman. Which isn’t to say they’re to “blame”, any more than Jesus or Mohammad or whoever. Causation is not culpability.

            1. Vonbontee

              Yes, they were. And if the Beatles had never existed, maybe Manson and his killing rampage would’ve been inspired by the Rolling Stones’ “Let It Bleed” instead of the white album; likewise, John Lennon would be just an average citizen and the deranged Chapman would’ve gone after Todd Rundgren instead. And that wouldn’t mean that the Stones or Rundgren would be anymore “to blame” for such atrocities than the Beatles – it just makes them the inadvertent inspiration. That’s all I meant.

  6. robert

    OK – so I’m doing a lot of this from memory – but I believe John’s comments were about the state of things in England – he began his quote saying something like “Christianity will fade . . .” – and for awhile his comments were accurate – Christianity in England did fade – although my understanding that it has been growing again – more through the modern churches than the Church of England.

    In terms of the rest of the world, John wasn’t commenting on the state of religion internationally, so his comments were totally misconstrued in the US.

    However, given the religious climate in the US during the 60’s it’s not surprising things got so out of hand.

    John’s comments about Jesus’ followers (thick and ordinary) were, in my opinion, the typical unfiltered comments of a 25 year old at almost any moment in time.

  7. mark

    None of this even matters. The Beatles were real. The whole story of Jesus is a fairy tale. No proof that he ever existed. Sorry to all religious types. They don’t teach you that in Sunday school!

    1. robert

      (Ok this off topic and Joe if you don’t post I understand) Mark, you are actually 100% incorrect on one point – there is solid historical (non-biblical) proof of the existence of a Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified under Pontius Pilate’s rule. All the “religious’ implications to the side, there is more reliable data on the existence of Jesus than there is for the existence of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great or Philip of Macedonia. No historian of any repute denies the historicity of the person of Jesus. Do your homework.

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