Have Jedis created a new ‘religion’?

Interesting read over at BBC News:

Followers of Jediism are aiming to build a belief system that goes beyond the Star Wars films. But does it amount to a new religion?

It began as a joke at the expense of statisticians. In the UK’s 2001 Census, 390,127 people – or 0.7% of the population – described themselves as Jedi. A question on religious belief had been asked for the first time in a census and Jedi – from the cloak-wearing, lightsaber swishing rebels in the Star Wars films – was a tongue-in-cheek response.

It was a post-modernist Star Wars joke by atheists. Or so many assumed. But for some the force was strong.

An ideas festival at Cambridge University this weekend will look at how new “religious movements”, such as Jediism, the Indigo Children and Wicca, have expanded online. And in the case of Jedis, how they have developed ever-more complex doctrines and scriptures.

What might have started as an intellectual exercise by fans adding to the movies and filling in the gaps, has become an attempt to build a coherent religious code.

Beth Singler, a researcher in the Divinity Faculty of Cambridge University, estimates that there are about 2,000 people in the UK who are “very genuine” about being Jedis. That’s roughly the same number as the Church of Scientology, she says. Jediism is not a joke for them but an inspiration. They don’t believe in “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”, says Singler quoting the opening text that fills the screen of Star Wars. “It’s somewhere between metaphor and literal truth.”

Read the rest over at the BBC News website.

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