The original 1966 autographed magazine echoing John Lennon's famed claim that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ is being auctioned at RRAuction.com, coinciding with the release of the remastered Beatles catalogue.

"Christianity will go," Lennon said in the September 1966 Datebook, the American magazine, which he autographed above his photo. "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 - rockandroll or Christianity."

Lennon, whose middle initial is W. for Winston, signed his magazine photo "John C. Lennon", for Datebook publisher Arthur Unger, and reportedly told the controversial publisher: "You know what the C stands for."

When Unger sent reprints of the Lennon interview to Bible belt radio stations, masses of people burned their Beatle records, reminiscent of Nazi book burnings during the Thirties.

Unger recounted in a 1998 New York Times story that Beatles Manager Brian Epstein was unconcerned, stating: "They have to buy the records before they burn them."

According to Professor Brian Ward, expert on the Beatles and American popular culture and Chair of American Studies at the University of Manchester, England, the uproar was most intense in the American South, where the Ku Klux Klan and many preachers condemned Lennon's remarks as blasphemous. Ward added that most Beatles fans were easily able "to reconcile their love of the Lord with their love of Lennon."

Ironically, the original interview with Lennon saying that the Beatles were "bigger than Jesus" was published by a British newspaper six months before the Datebook article, and there was no backlash in England. Ward said that there was far more consternation in England about the U.S. campaign against the Beatles than about Lennon's actual remarks.

"Given that the mysterious C in John's signature falls right under the C in Christianity (in the Datebook article), and knowing Lennon's mischievous sense of humor, he was probably just punning on the name of another well known 'JC'," Ward said.

The John Lennon autograph is being auctioned on RRAuction.com August 31-September 16. Located in Amherst, NH, RRAuction is globally recognized as the trusted source for authentic autographed memorabilia and rare signed documents. Since its inception in 1976, the firm has published close to 350 consecutive monthly autograph catalogs, which are distributed internationally. The firm recently auctioned the autographed photo of Albert Einstein with his tongue wagging for a record $74,340 and the check astronaut Neil Armstrong signed the day he left for the moon for $27,350.

For information, visit the RR Auction web site at http://www.rrauction.com/John_Lennon.cfm or contact Bobby Livingston at [email protected].