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Churchof Jediism signing up thousands ahead of new Star Wars film

As the premiere of the new movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens was preparing for release on December14, 2015, a thousand or more fans a day were signing up to join the Church of Jediism. Patrick Day-Childs,a member of the group’s five-strong council, told the Daily Telegraph that the group had more than 250,000 members. TheJedi religion began in 2001 when Commonwealth countries were asked during acensus to tell details of their religious beliefs. The New Zealand-based Jedi Church and the international Temple of the Jedi Order are amongother claimants having “authority over the mystical energy field imagined byGeorge Lucas in 1977’s Star Wars and its many sequels.” (The Guardian, 12/14/15) [IT 7.2 2016]

Have Jedis Created a New Religion? 

An ideas festival at Cambridge University recently looked at new religious movements such as Jediism, which has evolved over the past decade or so, and how adherents of Jediism have developed increasingly complex doctrines and scriptures in an attempt to build a coherent religious code. Beth Singler, a researcher in Cambridge’s Divinity Faculty, estimates that about 2,000 people in the United Kingdom are “very genuine” about being Jedis. That’s roughly the same number as UK adherents to the Church of Scientology. And 2011 census data suggests many thousands more Jedi followers both in the United Kingdom and in other parts of the world including Australia, Canada, the United States, and the Czech Republic.

Described by Singler as a patchwork quilt of Taoism, Buddhism, Catholicism, and Samurai, Jedi ideas offer a simple dualism of good and evil, light and dark. The Temple of the Jedi Order in the United States has three tenets: focus, knowledge and wisdom.

Patrick Day-Childs, a 21-year-old video-games journalist in Southampton and a council member of the UK’s Church of Jediism says the church has 200,000 people around the world who are active online, although not all are necessarily believers. Day-Childs describes Jediism as “an actual religion” which “at its absolute core …[is] about helping people.”

Jediism has no divine being, and its members are permitted to have more than one religion. There are no physical Jedi temples, with the large online forum constituting much of the sense of community among members. The church’s founder, Daniel Jones, has written scriptures that deal with how a Jedi should live, including an initial requirement that members wear the Jedi hood in public places. But that doctrine has occasionally proved controversial and has since been modified. People who join must learn key tenets of the faith. The church has a code made up of five statements, including one that reads, “There is no Passion there is Serenity—We can like things but we must not become materialistic and obsessed by them.”

A central question of Jediism for those in the traditional religious community is at what point does a belief system of philosophy become a religion? The Anglican Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend David Walker, describes this as a “very difficult question … We’d want to look at the Jedi for quite some decades before accepting them, [as a religion].”

Naysayers should perhaps pause for thought: “If you strike me down,” Obi Kenobi tells Darth Vader, “I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.” (BBC News Magazine, 10/24/14) [IT 6.1 2015]

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