It would be easy to laugh off the 390,000 Britons who list their religion as Jedi Knight. (I was always a bigger fan of Star Trek than Star Wars, after all.) But that would be to miss the point.
Jedi Knights are the fourth largest religious group in Britain as listed in the 2001 census. No kidding. There are tens of thousands of Jedis in other countries as well. The Jedis are petitioning the UN to recognize them in honor of the International Day of Tolerance which is November 16.
Chalk one up to the power of myth. Star Wars creator George Lucas tapped into a vein of real human need, creating a story just complex enough to captivate. But still simple enough to have clear heroes and villains, and a mostly cartoonish sense of good and evil. Only in his last installment Episode III did we begin to see more shades of gray.
But it doesn’t matter. The Star Wars universe is at least as compelling as the myths in other major religions. Which–depending on how you look at it–could reflect well on the Jedis, or badly on the other religions. Especially since I suspect most of the Jedis have their tongues somewhat firmly planted in their cheeks, while many of the other religions are of the killing and dying variety.
It’s not a trivial distinction. One could potentially see a time hundreds of years in the future when people might be willing to kill each other over whether or not the 3rd version of the directors’ cut was the true gospel. Or whether the CGI shots in the re-release of THX-1138 were heresy. But seriously! When you look at the kind of stuff the Sunnis and the Shia are killing each other for, (Shi’a regard Imam Ali as the first Imam and generally reject the first three caliphs, Sunnis accept all four) it makes you wonder.
People who chortle at notions of a religion involving light sabers, starships, robots, and miniature and oversized furry creatures, should look in the freaking mirror:
- Mormons believe the tribes of Israel are literally being re-united in America, even though genetic evidence has shown this belief to be patently false. They also believe that human families will be re-united in heaven….(horrors)….FOREVER!! Which means that if you had a molesting father or uncle–you are truly fucked! They also somehow believe that their painstaking genealogical work has something to do with the process. (Like God wouldn’t know who your ancestors were.)
- Followers of the Church Universal and Triumphant listened with rapt attention as Elizabeth Clare Prophet described an intergalactic war involving attacks by 144,000 alien ships, EACH with 144,000 aliens, (that’s 20,736,000,000 aliens!) on her Royal Teton Ranch in 1989-1990. The aliens and all of their ships were dispatched in a matter of weeks by a few thousand people at the Ranch and around the world swinging stainless-steel swords in the air. (I don’t have to source this claim, I was there.)
- Christians believe cars will crash, and planes will fly pilot-less when Christ returns for the ‘Rapture’ and the chosen will be physically taken to heaven. They also somehow believe their communion wine is the blood of Christ. To me, it always tasted like, well, wine. Or more correctly–in the case of the puritanical and teetotaling CUT–grape juice.
- Patricia Cota-Robles claimed on October 17, 2006 that an “Ultraviolet pulse-beam” intersected the earth that would amplify believers’ positive energy “one-million fold.” Her message was furiously forwarded around the internet. I received several copies from well-meaning friends. Cota-Robles seems to be mining a similar vein of new-age belief as my parents, the Shearers, David Lewis, et al.
- Muslims believe literally that on their day of judgment: “At the sound of the trumpet, all men and women will fall unconscious. Muhammad will be the first to awake. After the dead have been resurrected, all will gather on the plains of Arafat and be judged by Allah. Those who truly believe in Allah, and are pious, the Al-Ghurr-ul-Muhajjalun, due to the trace of ritual ablution performed during their lives, will repent their sin and go to jannah (the “Garden of Eden”). Those who have incurred Allah’s wrath will be sent to hellfire, although some hadith say that Allah will send an angel to rescue those who have one drop of goodness in their hearts. When judgment has been passed, the world will be destroyed.
If I had to choose between this horse-pucky and being a Jedi?…
Obi-Wan, my MASTER!