The Implications of a Jedi Religion

What began in 2001 as a protest in England against questions about census-takers' religious affiliations has grown into a worldwide phenomenon as people are starting to wonder if the Star Wars inspired religion is actually becoming a legitimate organized faith system.  Dubbed the Church of Jedi, or Jediism, or Knights of the Jedi, the grassroots movement is gaining momentum and is being added to more census questionnaires in countries around the globe.  Many of those who identify themselves as part of the Star Wars religion are merely fans of the popular science fiction and fantasy franchise, and others are using it as a means to express their frustration with other organized religions.  Some, however, are taking it far more seriously. 

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.
George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars saga, readily admits borrowing ideas from various religious and mythological sources, hoping that his story would resonate with viewers, especially young ones, as he says, filling an alleged spiritual void in modern culture.  While his intentions of starting a religion may not have been as well defined as L. Ron Hubbard's for example, the result may speak for itself and might take on a life of its own.  Might Lucas, a master marketer, eventually embrace the movement if it continues to gain traction?  Imagine his billion dollar empire transformed into a tax-exempt recognized religion. Stranger things have happened.

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.

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