Director Neil Jordan Said George Harrison Wanted Him to Make a Film That Would ‘Tear the Catholic Church to Strips’

Director Neil Jordan said George Harrison wanted to make a film that would “tear the Catholic church to strips.” George’s mother, Louise, was Catholic. She brought him to church sometimes as a child. However, George recognized something was wrong with the church early on. Later on, he found spirituality someplace else and didn’t look back.

George Harrison at LAX Airport in 1988.
George Harrison | Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

George Harrison was raised Catholic as a child but outgrew it

As a child, George occasionally went to church with his mother and siblings. However, George didn’t understand why the church asked for money.

He took First Confession and Communion, but he pushed his Confirmation off. “‘I’m not going to bother with that, I’ll just confirm it myself later on,'” George recalled in The Beatles: Anthology. ” From then on, I avoided church.”

“He was suspicious of the culture of priests making the rounds of Liverpool’s working-class neighborhoods to collect half-crowns in their ‘sweaty little hands,’ although friends often thought him a soft touch when it later came to doling out funds to his own spiritual causes,” Graeme Thomson wrote in George Harrison: Behind the Locked Door.

When George joined The Beatles, he put his religion even more on the back burner. At least until George took LSD. He said taking the hallucinogen opened the door to “God-consciousness,” but he didn’t know what to do next. Around that time, George was bored with fame, and no one impressed him. Thankfully, he met legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar, who taught him that “God is sound.”

George dove head first into his spiritual journey and could’ve left everything behind to learn more. He wrote to his mother about his journey, including The Beatles’ experience with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. However, George claimed that his journey only strengthened his religiousness.

In Martin Scorsese’s documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, one letter read: “Dear Mum, Thanks for your letter last week and if it’s any comfort to you, don’t worry about me, or don’t think anything negative about Maharishi.

“Because he’s not phony, it’s only the bulls*** that’s written about him that’s phony. He’s not taking any of our money, all he’s doing is teaching us how to contact God and as God isn’t divided into different sex as the religious leaders here make out by their prejudices.

“And it doesn’t affect my dedication to Sacred Heart in any way. It only strengthens it. But we will help to spread this teaching so that everybody can attain this and new generations will grow up and have this right from the start instead of going through the ignorance that seems to dominate everything and everyone at the moment causing them to feel that it’s mysticism or something strange or black magic.

“Don’t think that I’ve gone off my rocker because I haven’t. But I now love you and everybody else much more than ever.”

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George wanted to make a film that would ‘tear the Catholic church to strips’

Throughout the years, George’s spirituality only strengthened. He permanently swapped Christ for Krishna.

“We’ve all got the same goal whether we realize it or not,” George told Alan Walsh at Melody Maker in 1967. “We’re all striving for something which is called God. For a reunion, complete. Everybody has realized at sometime or other that no matter how happy they are, there’s still always the unhappiness that comes with it.”

During an appearance on The Frost Programme, George said, “Christianity, how I was taught it, they told to believe in Jesus and God and all that; they didn’t actually show me any way of experiencing God or Jesus. So, the whole point of to believe in something, without actually seeing it, well, it’s … it’s no good. You’ve got to actually experience the thing, you know, if there’s a God, you must see Him. And that’s the point, you know, the whole thing, it’s no good to believe in something, you know, just …”

He added to Melody Maker, “When you’re young you get taken to church by your parents and you get pushed into religion in school. They’re trying to put something into your mind. But it’s wrong you know. Obviously, because nobody goes to church and nobody believes in God. Why? Because religious teachers don’t know what they’re teaching. They haven’t interpreted the Bible as it was intended.”

George respected Christ, but he never went back to being a Catholic.

According to writer and director Neil Jordan, who worked with George on his 1986 HandMade film Mona Lisa, George’s sentiments on the denomination worsened. Jordan claimed that George eventually became anti-Catholic.

“He hated the Pope, and he said he would pay me any amount of money if I would make a movie that would tear the Catholic church to strips,” Jordan said in George Harrison: Behind the Locked Door. “Quite recently I made [TV series] The Borgias, and he would have paid for that, I’m sure. He would have loved it, actually.”

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The closest the former Beatle came was ‘Life of Brian’

Jordan thought George hated the Pope, but he was just critical of the religious figure.

During a 1987 interview, George told Anthony DeCurtis (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters), “I was born, my mother was a Catholic, my father wasn’t. I was sort of brought up for about 10 years as a Catholic. I look at that stuff now and I think, ‘What is going on?’…

“But I’d like to ask the Pope, ‘What do you think Christ meant when he said, ‘Let thine eye be single’ and ‘thy body full of light.” What the hell does he think that means? You know, it just annoys me. The only God we need is within ourselves. It’s handy if we can crawl through the grains of sand—or the … mountains of garbage—and find some little bit of truth or a guide, somebody who can help us to reach within ourselves and find what is within ourselves.”

Still, if George did want to tear the Catholic church to shreds, he came close while producing Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Although, George claimed the comedy wasn’t sacrilegious.

During a 1987 interview, Musician Magazine’s Timothy White pointed out that many people questioned why the man who sang “My Sweet Lord” would produce a “supposedly sacrilegious biblical farce.”

George replied, “Ah-hah! Actually all it made fun of was the people’s stupidity in the story. Christ came out of it looking good! Myself and all of Monty Python have great respect for Christ. It’s only the ignorant people–who didn’t care to check it out–who thought that it was knocking Christ.

“Actually it was upholding Him and knocking all the idiotic stuff that goes on around religion, like the fact that many folks often misread things and will follow anybody. Brian’s saying, ‘Don’t follow me. You’re all individuals.’

“It’s like Christ said, ‘You’ll all do greater work than I will.’ He wasn’t trying to say, ‘I’m the groove, man, and you should follow me.’ He was out there trying to, as Lord Buckley would have said, ‘Knock the crows off the squares,’ trying to hip everybody to the fact that they have the Christ within.”

Toward the end of his life, George wanted to leave the material world for the spiritual realm more and more. When it came time for that to finally happen, George didn’t depend on what he’d learned in the Catholic church. He’d found his own answers and had his own spiritual experiences that proved the next world was better.

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