On March 4, 1966, in an interview printed in the London Evening Standard, John Lennon made the following statement:
"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with 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."
The statement, being part of a two page interview, went unnoticed in Britain at the time.
John had said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus meaning that Christianity (and religion in general) were getting so weak and unpopular that a rock 'n' roll group (the Beatles) were more popular than it at the time. He just said it as an example to make his point, that Christianity was not popular among young people, and he certainly didn't want to compare the Beatles with Jesus or to show off himself as being better or greater than Jesus. But when the above statement was printed out of context in Anerican teen Magazine "Datebook" a few months later, great uproar broke out.
American radio stations banned Beatles records. Some even went so far as to organize burning of Beatles records and photographs, and there were scenes of boys and girls jumping on Beatles records, holding burning Beatles photographs and grinning and holding banners that said "Jesus died for you John Lennon" and "John Lennon is Satan"!!!(We hear to this day that the Beatles were "antichrists", but it seems like God was more like on the Beatles side, because one of the radio stations that organized the record burnings was hit by lightning the very next morning, which caused great damage to the stations equipment and reportedly knocked their news director unconscious!) A member of the Ku Klux Klan said that the Beatles had probably "been brainwashed by communists". With the Beatles American Tour only days away, Beatles manager Brian Epstein told the American Press that John's statement had been completely misinterpreted. But the people who were burning the records did not, or would not, listen and understand.
As soon as they arrived in America, the Beatles had a press conference. For once there were no daft questions about their haircuts or when they were going to get married. John and the other Beatles sat down and answered questions on John's "Jesus" statement, trying to explain the whole thing to the American reporters. The outraged public still failed to understand(as is proven by religious people's still holding this against John Lennon and considering his statement "blasphemous"), but as the newspapers generally printed that John Lennon had apologised(which he had, in a way), the people calmed down a bit. Still the uproar gave the coup de grace to the Beatles rapidly declining interest in touring.