The force is growing in North Wales. What started as something of an Internet joke has grown into something more significant and concrete as a group of Jedi-loving residents of Holyhead are taking their 2001 census statements seriously that their religion is Jedi. From a journalistic angle, I am not sure how I would have treated this story out of the Daily Mail. In one sense, it is an endearing story of a group of people taking their love for science fiction a little too seriously. But then again, Jedi ranked as the fourth most cited religion in the 2001 census of England and Wales and the third largest in Scotland. What these statistics tell us about the United Kingdom is a completely separate story, but it is certainly worth noting.
What this story does tell us is a bit about what the religion's followers believe and teach:
"We will have teachings based on 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.
"It's based on the films but we have brought things into it because the films are a bit more sci-fi.
"But we have developed on the film's teachings, introducing teachings we believe the Jedi Knights would seek.
"We used to watch the films over and over again and it came about from that."
There will be no chance of their empire striking back at people who mock the Jedi, as they are a peace-loving bunch, said Barney.
Of course, there is a lot more that could be said about the Jedi philosophy/theology (consider this from tmatt a whole decade ago). For more on all of that, I recommend Stan Guthrie's 2005 interview with faith and culture commentator Dick Staub (ironically just posted on the Web this morning). Staub says that the stories by filmmaker George Lucas are "more theologically attuned with Hinduism, but there are some Christian themes embedded in the stories:
George Lucas created an epic tale that taps into the universal themes of good versus evil, and did it in what was at the time a next-edge use of technology and special effects. The alienation of parents and children and allusions to the spiritual and unseen connected at a deep level with a generation seeking something more. A great story and an advancement of filmmaking combined for a memorable and enduring series.
The other thing that I cannot help but think of when I think of science fiction and religion is Scientology.
Scientology of course is the beliefs and practices started by another (less successful) American fiction author L. Ron Hubbard in 1952. This Daily Mail story does not mention this connection, but that is probably appropriate. Scientology is a highly organized and secretive organization while these Jedi followers seem to be just the opposite of organized and have little to hide.