More than 15,000 people in the Czech Republic identified themselves as believers in the Force, joining over 70,000 Australians, 21,000 Canadians, 53,000 New Zealanders, 14,000 Scots, and an amazing 390,000 Brits! (Read all about the spread of the religion based on global census figures here.)
Both traditional religious believers and atheists have criticized the movement as a "joke" that trivializes and mocks real questions about the role of spirituality in society, but while some of the Jedi believers readily admit they are doing it for amusement or to make a political/social statement, many others express their own outrage that their belief system is being judged, ridiculed, and condemned. Some who openly follow the Jedi religion wear Jedi robes and have challenged authorities who demanded that they pull down their hoods.
It might sound laughable, but the movement is expanding. While the movies serve as a modern version of a "sacred text" with the teachings of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi as their prophets, believers have adopted a formal set of guiding principles, known as the Jedi Code:
- There is no emotion, there is peace.
- There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
- There is no passion, there is serenity.
- There is no chaos, there is harmony.
- There is no death, there is the Force.
Might believers be able to write off going to Star Wars films as part of their religious observance? Might their purchase of Star Wars memorabilia be eventually viewed as tax write-offs as part of donations for their "church"? (And some of you thought Star Trek loyalists were extreme in their fanaticism.)
The Website, The Geneology of Religion, quotes a Jedi's proclamation of faith: "In Jediism, we believe in the Force. The Force is a unifying energy which exists around us, in us, and is always present. It is the catalyst for life – it is the power that keeps the universe together. The Force is not something Jedi worship, rather it is something we concentrate on, and can relate to...Our aim is to bring all of the world’s believers in the Force together for the power of good. We will form a community that does not have bias or any type of prejudice. A community that does not reject other religions, but in fact encourages their positive teachings. It is through positivity that we shall thrive, for that is the Light side of the Force." Many have already pointed out the similarities of the Jedi religion with Taoist, Zen Buddhist, and even some Christian philosophies, going so far as to claim the Force is just another representation of God.
What might sound like sacrilege to some might not be that farfetched for others. Those who view this as a mockery of religion or, in turn, choose to mock the Jedi believers themselves, might wish to heed the words of Darth Vader when he answered Admiral Motti for belittling his "sad devotion" to the Jedi religion: "I find your lack of faith disturbing." Never underestimate the power of the Force, indeed.