First published on 3 May 2013. Updated on 17 May 2013.
Every census more and more wags whack down “Jedi” as their religion – and maybe they have a point. In terms of forming a basis for a religion, Star Wars has as much legitimacy as other recent-history faiths like Mormonism or Scientology, and it’s already got most of the key elements for a successful religion locked in place. For example…
1. Angry rejection of scientific explanation for mystical energy
When science is applied to The Force, as happened in The Phantom Menace, people get absolutely furious about it. It’s the same with religious experiences here on Earth. To the best of my knowledge, no religious person has happily accepted that their feeling of communion with the ineffable is actually down to reduced activity in the parietal lobe of the brain (the bit responsible for giving you your sense of where you end and the rest of the world begins, whose activity is also inhibited by meditation – or by taking MDMA, for that matter), in much the same way that no SW fan has ever had the existence of Force-producing midochlorians in living cells as being even remotely satisfactory. In our world or a galaxy far, far away, no-one wants their ecstatic experience cheapened by your fancy book learnin’, even if – hell, especially if – it’s correct.
2. Virgin birth of the Chosen One
Shmi Skywalker insists that “there was no father” of Anakin and that she bore him without ever getting any sweet, sweet loving beforehand – and Palatine all but declares that he used his Sith powers to have the boy created by the midochlorians themselves. Similarly, the biggest argument Christians put forward in favour of Jesus’ divinity was that God knocked up Mary without sexy involvement from dudes. And, with both Jesus and Anakin, everyone appears to have gotten over this astonishing defiance of the laws of nature inexplicably quickly: Shmi’s value as a slave who could miraculously bud children off didn’t apparently do her any favours on Tatooine, and despite drawing international kings to celebrate his birth in a Bethlehem stable, Jesus seems to have subsequently had a pretty nondescript life until his thirties. I have friends who still get teased about being in commercials when they were 14; I’m pretty sure if any of them had been miraculously created by supernatural forces people would be giving them shit about it for the rest of their life.
3. An oppressed class of religious scholars who could totally kick your arse
The Jedi notion of warrior monks is a familiar one to Buddhism and Hinduism, although it has somewhat less comfortable parallels with Christianity (few would argue that the Crusades were all about preserving peace, knowledge and justice) and downright unpleasant ones with the Islamic notion of jihad – especially when you get into the undeniable fact that the entire original trilogy is about a militant guerilla group attempting to depose a government through acts of, well, terrorism. It all depends, as Obi-Wan so memorably insisted while skirting around the fact that he’d outright lied to Luke, on a certain point of view.
4. Calls for an end to secular rule
The Republic is depicted as bloated, corrupt and ineffectual until the secular democracy is swept from power by Sith Lord Darth Sideous, aka Emperor Palpatine: a religious zealot declaring an iron rule. It’s the dream of every fundamentalist religious leader, to be able to impose their own doctrine without compromise, and back it up with violent might if necessary. We there assure that Fred Nile saw Revenge of the Sith as being the film with the most upbeat ending.
5. Issues with a largely absent and notoriously violent father
Jesus’ relationship with his pop was a bit fraught, as evidenced by that whole crucifixion thing, although there was a lot of foreshadowing with all the destruction of cities and plagues and the whole global flood thing God had going on earlier on. Similarly, Vader had no problem lopping off hands and engaging in deadly one-on-one battle with his only son, as befits a mass murderer who’s cool with slaughtering kids and blowing up entire planets, and in both cases the fact they turned around at the last minute to do something nice for their offspring before apparently vanishing forever seemed a bit… well, nice and all, but maybe didn't entirely balance the ledger.
6. Also, capes and robes
Why not a nice, smart jacket? Those flowing garments are just going to get caught in things, you know. It’s an OH&S nightmare waiting to happen.