A group who only follow practises and beliefs of the Jedi from Star Wars films has failed in its efforts to become a registered religion. The Charity Commission turned it down saying that Jediism “lacks the necessary spiritual or non-secular element” it was looking for in a religion. The Guardian newspaper goes on to report:
In the UK, Jedi has been the most popular alternative religion in two consecutive editions of the census, after a national campaign saw more than 390,000 people (0.7% of the population) describe themselves as Jedi Knights on the 2001 census. Numbers fell sharply a decade later, but there were still 176,632 people who told the government they were Jedi Knights.
Reported in The Day (a website our school has a subscription for) the links to faith of the Star Wars series is explained:
What does Star Wars teach us about religion?
‘I fear nothing. All is as the Force wills it,’ says Chirrut Imwe in Rogue One. The film explores the history and traditions of the Force, a mystical power which ‘binds the galaxy together’. From the very first Star Wars instalment, which was released in 1977, the Force was referred to as a religion — albeit a ‘hokey’ one — by Han Solo. ‘There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny!’ he insisted.
He was wrong. Siths and Jedis who follow the Force use it to float objects, choke their enemies, and shoot tiny targets from impossible distances. Time and again, their faith helps them to conquer their enemies; the true struggle is between those who use it for good, and those who use it for evil. In the real world, the fictional religion has gained a force all of its own: in 2001 in England and Wales, 390,127 people listed ‘Jedi’ as their religion, outstripping Jews, Buddhists and Sikhs. TheTemple of the Jedi Order is an official church in the USA, and for $10 you can be ordained as a Jedi minister.
Traditional religions also see themselves in the galaxy far, far away. The magazine Tablet compares Star Wars to ‘classic Jewish history’ as ‘a lone figure or small band overthrows a larger oppressive force’. The Muslim writer Irfan Rydhan has pointed out that in Star Wars, as in Islam, the chosen ones emerge from a ‘remote desert’ to bring ‘a hope of peace and justice to their society’. Christian theologians note the story’s Biblical images of light and darkness.
Star Wars creator George Lucas has admitted that this was partly his intention. His work takes ‘all the issues’ of religion and distils them into a ‘more modern and easily accessible’ form, he said in 1999. He is not the first to use religious allegories in a fantasy story. But Star Wars seems to resonate far more than any previous attempts. Why, in the age of reason and science, do many people still yearn for religion — even a fictional one?
May the force be with you (and also with you)
We are all searching for moral clarity, say some. Science can teach us about how the world works, but it does not tell us how to respond to that world. That is why religion still matters. For those who do not believe in God, Star Wars can fill this gap. It tells us that light overcomes darkness. It is a message we can all find comfort in.
It is more than that, say others. Following religion is about being part of a history and community. The ancient rituals make us feel connected to those who came before us. After 40 years on screen, Star Wars has a similar power: several generations can now sit down together and remember a ‘religion’ from their childhood.