Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Not so Long Ago in Our Own Galaxy...

Glen Watson, the Director for the 2011 Census in England and Wales, just said that it was "not acceptable" to give joke answers on the census but that people who want to declare themselves Jedis are free to do so. See here.

In fact, it was the British census ten years ago that led to the formation of the Church of Jediism. From the Church of Jediism's website:
An email petition was sent round in 2001 asking people to put 'Jedi' as their religion on the census. This petition saw some 390,000 people in Britain do just that. Yes, some may have done this as a joke, however the main outcome was it brought people together.
There are now eight chapters of the Church. The only U.S. chapter is in Florida, though the first marriage performed by an ordained Jedi minister took place in Utah in 2008.

The wikipedia entry lists a four examples of how Jedis have faced challenges in finding acceptance as a religious group.
  • In the drafting of the UK Racial and Religious Hatred Act, an amendment was proposed which specifically excluded Jedi Knights from any protection.
  • In September 17, 2009, Church of Jediism founder, Daniel Jones, was banned from a Tesco Supermarket in Bangor, North Wales for refusing to remove his hood on a religious basis.
  • On March 7, 2010, Jediism was excluded in a U.K. act protecting organizations such as the Church of Scientology from discrimination. A Times report referring to the decision said "beliefs had to be heartfelt."
  • On March 17, 2010, Chris Jarvis, a member of the Church of Jediism was thrown out of a Jobcentre in Southend, Essex, for refusing to remove his hood. He later received a formal apology from the Jobcentre. Story here.
UPDATE: Lest there be any confusion, there are different strands of Jediism. The Church of Jediism is just one of many. See the Jediism wikipedia entry for others.


  1. Jiyoung Baek 51465092

    Having watched Star Wars a few times and understanding the huge fandom over the movies, I can see how a religion can be formulated on the priniciples of Jediism. While although the concept may be hilarious and idiotic to many, I do find that people like those described in the passage do take their religious beliefs seriously and have taken much time and devotion to regard and uphold it. Many of the great religions today started out being questioned and attacked until believers and supporters made their faith widespread and accepted. With religious freedom becoming the ideal stance globally, Jediism and its followers should be given some respect in their sincerity.

  2. Joshua Tang 79925220March 10, 2011 at 7:52 PM

    Utilizing some concepts that we have learned from lecture, Jediism does show a lot of signs of being a sect. According to the Wikipedia post, Jediism is considered to be a syncretism which “exhibits blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system.” The religion does not exactly come from one particular church and break off from it, but it does take beliefs from Churches and created something “similar”. Since Jediism is producing so much media attention, it is also creating tension, just like many other religions. Jediism has a lot of characteristics of a sect, but another problem arises.
    To what degree can a country consider a religion to be a religion? Any person can come off the street and create a idea that is based off of another church. That person could have been intoxicated and religious, thus hallucinating and create a belief. If that person is able to obtain enough members to cause a stir in their community, does that consider to be a sect, and does that qualify it enough to become a distinguished religion by the state?
    This arises a lot of problems to what exactly is religion, and what qualifies it to be a religion that can be considered to be “serious.” This brings us all back to the first day of class, what is religion? How can we define what religion is? There are many churches out there in the world that satisfies a persons strictness , and there are many different roles that a religion part takes. What is religion?

  3. Joshua, I think it better to say that Jediism is a NRM rather than a sect because it is not a break-off from a particular church. I also think that Jediism has low strictness but it does have a bit of tension, as suggested by the complaints of minor forms of persecution.

  4. William Kwak (52215193) Jackson, KMarch 11, 2011 at 11:43 PM

    It is very interesting to see that a religion has been created from ideas and beliefs based on a popular movie. I find this interesting because I have never heard of any other new religious movement or religion in fact that has been created from ideas in a movie. It may be tough for this NRM to become accepted as with any other NRM, but I believe that this new movement will be easier to accept than other NRMs. People from all over the world know about Jedis so they already have a very basic idea of what these people might believe in. Since Jedis have been in popular culture for decades, it might be easier for people to accept even if they do not believe in this NRM. Also, hardcore Star Wars fans might be even more prone to accepting this NRM or possibly even join based on how much social capital they have tied Star Wars.

  5. I found this information to be very interesting. I was not aware that such a religion existed and it appalls me how the Star Wars craze was so intense that it engendered a religious movement! The fact that a religion based off of a movie, such as Jediism, could arise gives me a new perspective on religion itself. Its not necessarily about some supernatural force that controls our lives but rather about people with a common belief coming together, allowing them to build social capital. This, to me, is essentially what makes up a religion and the success of Jediism seems to be evidence that supports such a notion.

  6. To be completely honest, I couldn't help but laugh when I first read this blog post because the origin of this religious group is from one of the greatest science fiction sagas, emphasis on fiction. But as I continued to dwell on this idea, it was at that moment that I realized that even though this stemmed from something that seems unlikely to most people, if someone believes it to be true, how can you judge that? This is the essence of religion, something that can't necessarily be proven, but comes with a whole set of beliefs and guidelines on how to conduct your life. Even with the major religions today, how can someone prove what they say is better or more real than the other. This goes along with religious tolerance and of course is still an issue in many different parts of the world.
    In relation to the article about discrimination, I do believe that in order for a religion to be legitimate, its members must be heartfelt in their beliefs. But then, this raises the question of how to determine it as such. With Jediism as a NRM, its possible the the future holds more growth and development for this group and we just have to wait and see what kind of work it does not only for its members but for each of their communities as well.

    Rochelle Ballecer


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