By Vexen Crabtree 2015
|Links: Pages on Jedi Knights, Other Religions|
|Area of Origin||UK|
|Founder||Campaign for UK Census|
|Numbers in the UK (Census results)|
|2001||390 127||2011||176 632|
Over the last few decades around the world, some fans of the Star Wars films have started describing themselves as "Jedi Knight" when asked what religion they are. In New Zealand, around 20,000-30,000 people have done so every census since 19911. The UK Census of 2001 saw 390 127 people put down "Jedi Knight" as their religion - that's 0.7% of the population2. The UK's Office for National Statistics concluded that this was a parody (a joke) and included those who wrote Jedi Knight in the "no religion" category3. The basis of the Jedi Religion in fiction does not mean that it should be dismissed - it is quite possible that the underlying principles of an all-pervading force is true (similar teachings are found in Taoism and Pantheism, for example). Also it is apparent that given the huge number of contradictory religions, most are them are also based on fictions. The unknown factor is to what extent adherents are engaging in parody, and to what extend the Jedi Religion will become established as a serious philosophy.
Parody religions are created to intentionally poke fun at religion in order to highlight the occurance of poor arguments, bad reasoning, fantasy and wishful-thinking in religious thought4. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Pastafarianism), the Church of the Subgenius, Discordianism and the Jedi Knight religion are examples. By some definitions, parody religions count as philosophies and not religions5, but there is no strong argument why this should be the case. Parody religions make serious points and their followers have serious beliefs and are making serious arguments - indirectly.”
The Jedi Knights are an order of warrior monks whose ascetic training allows them to harness "The Light Side of the Force" and gain special powers such as mind control, telekinesis and super-fast instinctive reflexes (effective even when blinded). Their enemies are the moody Sith Lords, who use the Dark Side of the Force to attain similar powers.
A description of The Force is given by the retired Jedi Knight, Obi Wan Kenobi in Episode IV6. He says The Force is "an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together". If this is the basic belief, then, Jedi Knights and Sith Lords are both members of the same religion, with the same basic beliefs, except that the Jedis use the Light Side of the Force whereas the Sith Lords embrace the Dark Side. Therefore, Jedis and Sith Lords are both denominations of a single unnamed religion. Many have come to call the religion Jediism, rather than Star-Wars-ism.
The "Will of the Force" is an all-pervading and seemingly passive concept, and leads many to equate Star-Wars-ism with pantheism, the belief that the Universe itself is a mildly conscious being. Through peaceful meditation Jedi Knights can try to discern the will of the Force and see the possible future and presumably Sith Lords have their own (moodier) methods of attaining the same knowledge.
Balance: There must be "balance" in the Force. In the first two Star Wars film episodes, the Jedis are shown to be in a completely dominant position, overseeing (but not ruling) galactic civilisation, beset only by relatively minor conflicts. There is a prophecy, however, that someone will come and "bring balance to the Force" and the Jedis are keen to achieve this. Such a boy is discovered but he becomes Darth Vader, and ushers in a period of darkness under which the Jedis are destroyed. Yoda declares that it is possible that the Jedi have misunderstood the prophecy. Hence, after a period of Jedi dominance, the galaxy enters a period of Sith Lord dominance - the Force has rebalanced itself by swinging from one extreme to the other.
May the Fourth: The 4th of May is celebrated as Star Wars Day, based on the phonic similarity between that day and the "May the Force be with you" blessing spoken by Jedi Knights and their allies in Star Wars. The first Star Wars film was released in 1977, and only two years later the phrase was used by UK Conservatives to celebrate Margaret Thatcher's first day in office as Prime Minister - placing an advert in the London Evening News, reading "May The Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations"7.
The UK Census of 2001 saw 390 127 people put down "Jedi Knight" as their religion - that's 0.7% of the population2,8. This resulted from an internet campaign that preceded the Census9,8. An urban myth had developed that this many votes would make Jedi an "official religion", however this is not true, as the UK is a secular country and there is no such thing as a government-wide list of "official religions"10. The UK's Office for National Statistics concluded that this was a parody (a joke) and included those who wrote Jedi Knight in the "no religion" category3,11.
“Just over 390,000 of the 52,000,000 people in England and Wales wrote in 'Jedi' on their census form. The 'Jedi' response was most popular in Brighton and Hove, with 2.6 per cent of Census respondents quoting it, followed by Oxford (2.0 per cent), Wandsworth (1.9), Cambridge (1.9), Southampton (1.8) and Lambeth (1.8).
It was least popular in Easington, on the north-east coast of England between Sunderland and Hartlepool, where it was quoted by only 0.16 per cent of respondents. Sedgefield, Knowsley, Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil and Wear Valley all show less than 0.2 per cent of respondents quoting 'Jedi'.”
Office for National Statistics (2001)12
The campaign was not maintained, and in 2011, less than half of the total number put down "Jedi Knight" as their religion - 176 632 people.
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James, William. (1842-1910)
(1902) The Varieties of Religious Experience. Subtitled: "A Study in Human Nature". 5th (1971 fifth edition) edition. Originally published 1960. From the Gifford Lectures delivered at Edinburgh 1901-1902. Quotes also obtained from Amazon digital Kindle 2015 Xist Publishing edition. A paperback book. Book Review.