Modern times comes with modern beliefs, and what’s more modern and trendy than the legendary Jedi from Star Wars, in fact today the Jedi phenomenon has stepped into a whole new era called Jediism. It’s a nontheistic new religious movement based on the philosophical and spiritual ideas of the Jedi as depicted in Star Wars media. This phenomenon is a grassroots movement that was initiated in 2001 for residents of a number of English-speaking countries, urging them to record their religion as "Jedi" or "Jedi Knight" (after the quasi-religious order of Jedi Knights in the fictional Star Wars universe) on the national census.
It is believed the majority of self-reported Jedi claimed the religion for their own amusement, to poke fun at the government, or as a protest against the inclusion of the religion question on the census form.
Although followers of Jediism acknowledge the influence of Star Wars on their religion, by following the moral and spiritual codes demonstrated by the fictional Jedi, they also insist their path is different from that of the fictional characters and that Jediism does not focus on the myth and fiction found in Star Wars. The Jedi follow the "16 teachings", which are based on the presentation of the fictional Jedi, as well as "21 maxims".
History Although inspired by elements of Star Wars, Jediism has no founder or central structure.
Early websites dedicated to drawing a belief system from the Star Wars films were "The Jedi Religion" and "Jediism". These websites cited the Jedi code, constituting of 21 maxims, as the starting point for a "real jedi" belief system.
Temple of the Jedi Order in Texas registered as a non-profit organization and has promulgated a code, 'The 16 Teachings of the Jedi'.
Census phenomenon and recognition
Jediism received press coverage following a worldwide email campaign in 2001 urging people to write "Jedi" as their answer to the religion classification question in their country's census. The majority of such respondents are assumed to have claimed the faith as a joke.
In the 2001 England and Wales census, 390,127 respondents indicated Jediism as their faith. 2012 census figures had dropped to 176,632, although this was still more common than some other "alternative" faiths, and was the seventh most common response overall.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics chose not to recognise Jediism as a religion, and the decline in subsequent years was seen as an indication that it was a transitory "fad". Statistics New Zealand assigned Jedi an official religion code, but noted that the total was combined with groups such as "The Church of Elvis" and "Rugby, Racing and Beer" under "responses deemed outside the scope of recognised religions". An SNZ spokeswoman noted that there was no "magic number" of followers which would turn a census result into a religion.
The phenomenon attracted the attention of sociologist of religion Adam Possamai who analyzed Jediism in the framework of what he dubs "hyper-real religion".
During the drafting of the UK Racial and Religious Hatred Act, an amendment was proposed that excluded Jedi Knights from any protection, along with Satanists and believers in animal sacrifice. The amendment was subsequently withdrawn, the proposer explaining that it was "a bit of a joke" to illustrate a point that defining religious belief in legislation is difficult.
In 2008, 23-year-old Daniel Jones founded the "International Church of Jediism" with his brother Barney, believing that the 2001 UK census recognized Jediism as a religion, and that there were "more Jedi than Scientologists in Britain". In 2009, Jones was removed from a Tesco supermarket in Bangor, North Wales, for refusing to remove his hood on a religious basis. The owner justified Jones's ejection by saying, "He hasn't been banned. Jedis are very welcome to shop in our stores although we would ask them to remove their hoods. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker all appeared hoodless without ever going over to the Dark Side and we are only aware of the Emperor as one who never removed his hood."
In 2010, a man who described himself as a "Star Wars follower" and "Jedi Knight" was thrown out of a Jobcentre in Southend, Essex, for refusing to remove his hood, and later received an apology. The man said that "The main reason is I want to wear my hood up and I have got a religion which allows me to do that."
The Jedi Church A Jedi "church" has been born in a galaxy far far away - North Wales.
The Holyhead chapter of the self-styled Jedi Church, which claims up to 400,000 members worldwide, has sprung up thanks to brothers Barney and Daniel Jones, both Star Wars obsessives.
The "church" is only one of a handful around the planet, said hairdresser Barney, 26, the Anglesey Order Minister, also known as Master Jonba Hehol.
The force: Barney Jones 26, aka Jonba Hehol, and his brother Daniel Jones, 21, aka Morda Hehol, have formed the first Jedi 'church' - in Holyhead informing dailymail.
The Jidiism teachings based is based on the popular Star Wars character Yoda - the 900-year-old grand master - as well as readings, essays submitted meditation and relaxation, visualisation and discuss healthy eating.
The Jedi religion is about life improvement, inner peace and changing your lifestyle so you have a more fulfilling existence said the same source.
Impact Australia: In Australia more than 70,000 people (0.37%) declared themselves members of the Jedi order in the 2001 census. The Australian Bureau of Statistics issued an official press release in response to media interest on the subject. The ABS announced that any answers that were Jedi-related in the religion question were to be classified as 'not defined' and stressed the social impact of making misleading or false statements on the census. An ABS spokesperson said that "further analysis of census responses has been undertaken since the release of census data on June 17 to separately identify the number of Jedi-related responses". It is believed that there is no numerical value that determines a religion per definition of the ABS, but there would need to be a belief system or philosophy as well as some form of institutional or organisational structure in place.
The push for Australian's to declare themselves as members of the Jedi order was one of the first examples of a concept going "viral" on the internet in Australia. The website which was set up to promote the concept was visited over 100,000 times in a five week period and was first archived by the Wayback Machine on the 21st of October, 2001
The 2006 census recorded 58,053 Jedi. In the 2011 census, the numbers listing their faith as Jedi had picked up from the 2006 census to 65,000.
The Jedi Census phenomenon attracted the attention of sociologist of religion Adam Possamai who discusses it in his book Religion and Popular Culture: A Hyper-Real Testament. Possamai’s study placed Jediism in the context of a specificmethodological classification (‘hyper-real religions’) and attempted to demonstrate that hostility existed towards new religions in Australia.
In the lead-up to the 2006 census, there were reports that writing Jedi on the 2006 census could lead to a fine for providing 'false or misleading' information. This is despite previous admissions by the ABS that they were 'fairly relaxed' about the issue in 2001 and that nobody had been prosecuted in at least 15 years.
The Census form is strictly confidential, and as the first page containing the details of the citizen is removed from their given answers it is impossible for the Australian government to prosecute for false or misleading answers to the census questions, as they would have to break the privacy act in doing so.
Canada: In the 2001 census, 21,000 Canadians put down their religion as Jedi Knight. This fact has been referenced by the prime minister's office as a rationale for making the 40-page long census form voluntary. In the 2011 National Household Survey the number has fallen to 9000. The phenomenon is rumoured to have started in Vancouver, BC. Two radio DJ's formerly of Jack FM discovered the rule and announced it on air. They further stated that if one puts Jedi down on the census it then makes one a Jedi Knight.
Croatia: In the 2012 census 303 Croats put Jedi as their religion.
Czech Republic: The 2011 census preliminarily recorded 15,070 people answering the voluntary question on religion as belonging to the Jedi religion, described by the Czech Statistics Office as "the moral values of the Jedi knights". The office noted that this is an international phenomenon. As the 2011 census form did not list religions, these having to be filled out, the total number of Jedi is not artificially boosted by those who were not aware of the phenomenon prior to filling out the census form. On the other hand many people encouraged others in discussions and then media to fill the Jedi religion prior 2011 census (as a form of protest against range, overall cost and obligatory filling of the census), which is probably the cause. The highest number of Jedis were recorded to live in Prague.
Ireland: In a May 2012 review of the 2011 census, the Dáil Public Accounts Committee asked the Central Statistics Office about the reliability of self-reported answers, instancing people listing Jedi as their religion. The response was "We could probably tell you the number of people who have declared themselves as such, but we don't publish it".
Montenegro: In the 2011 census in Montenegro, a group of young men declared themselves as "Jedi" on the ethnicity question, as they believe that ethnicity should not be an issue today.
New Zealand: Over 53,000 people listed themselves as Jedi in New Zealand's 2001 census. New Zealand had the highest per capita population of reported Jedi in the world that year, with 1.5% marking "Jedi" as their religion. The city of Dunedin had the highest population of reported Jedi per capita. Statistics New Zealand treated Jedi responses as "Answer understood, but will not be counted". If Jedi were counted it would have been the second largest religion in New Zealand. The percentages of religious affiliations were:
There was a fall in the number of New Zealand Jedi five years later, with some 20,000 people giving this as their religion in the 2006 census. It is unknown whether the numbers have continued to fall as the 2011 census was not completed due to an earthquake in Christchurch.
Serbia: 640 Serbians identified as Jedi.
England and Wales: In England and Wales 390,127 people (almost 0.8%) stated their religion as Jedi on their 2001 Census forms, surpassing Sikhism, Judaism, and Buddhism, and making it the fourth largest reported religion in the country. In the 2001 Census, 2.6% of the population of Brighton claimed to be Jedi.
It was confirmed prior to the census that citizens were not liable for a fine in relation to question 10 (on religion). This was based on section 1(2) of the Census (Amendment) Act 2000, which amended section 8 of the Census Act 2000 to state that "no person shall be liable to a penalty under subsection (1) for refusing or neglecting to state any particulars in respect of religion". The change in the law was implemented by The Census (Amendment) Order 2000 and The Census (Amendment) Regulations 2000.
Jedi was assigned its own code in the United Kingdom for census processing, the number 896. Officials from the Office for National Statistics pointed out that this merely means that it has been registered as a common answer to the "religion" question and that this does not confer on it the status of official recognition. John Pullinger, Director of Reporting and Analysis for the Census, noted that many people who would otherwise not have completed a Census form did so solely to record themselves as Jedi, so this joke helped to improve the quality of the Census. The Office for National Statistics revealed the total figure in a press release entitled "390,000 Jedis there are".
In June 2005, Jamie Reed, newly elected Labour Member of Parliament for Copeland in Cumbria, declared himself to be the first Jedi Member of Parliament during his maiden speech. The statement, made in the context of an ongoing debate regarding the Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill, was confirmed by Reed's office to be a joke instead of a serious statement of faith. During a subsequent committee debate on the bill, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Beaconsfield, Dominic Grieve, proposed as "a bit of a joke" to exclude Jedi Knights from the protection of the proposed act, along with Satanists and proponents of animal sacrifice, illustrating the difficulty of defining religious belief in legislation. Similarly, in April 2006,Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, asked whether he would be allowed to set up a Jedi knights faith school during a Committee debate on the Education and Inspections Bill.
On 16 November 2006, two Jedi delivered a protest letter to UN officials in recognition of the International Day for Tolerance. They requested that it be renamed the "UN Interstellar Day of Tolerance" and cited the 2001 Census showing 390,000 Jedi in England and Wales.
According to 2011 census figures, the number of Jedi had fallen to 176,632, placing it in seventh place, having been overtaken by Judaism and Buddhism, but still comfortably outnumbering any other alternative or mock religions. The magazineMetal Hammer also encouraged readers to mark "Heavy Metal" as their religion, leading to over 6,000 responses.
Scotland: In Scotland, 14,052 people stated that Jedi was their current religion (14,014 "Jedi", 24 "Jedi Order" and 14 "Sith") and 2,733 stated that it was their religion of upbringing (2,682 "Jedi", 36 "Jedi Order" and 15 "The Dark Side") in the 2001 census. The proportion of people stating their religion as Jedi in Scotland was lower than that in England and Wales, at 0.277%.
In April 2009, it became known that eight police officers serving with Scotland's largest police force, Strathclyde, listed their official religion as Jedi in voluntary diversity forms. The details were obtained in a Freedom of Information request by Jane's Police Review.
Criticism Some atheist groups object to non-religious individuals answering with any joke answer, because this would lead to a census undercount of non-religious people, and lessen their political influence.