Traditional Theology Meets the Jedi Religion
Star Wars is a much-beloved film series, one whose legacy has lasted for over forty years. Spanning three sets of films, the Star Wars movies have a dedicated fanbase.
However, as the Star Wars films have become pervasive, so have the films' metaphysical concepts such as "the Force," "the Light Side," and "the Dark Side." These concepts have found their place in American culture, a place in which they are almost looked at as a religion.
According to Religion News Service, "For more and more Americans whose spirituality lies outside traditional faith structures . . . the theology espoused by Star Wars, of vaguely conceived notions of Light and Dark, has become the new theological normal."
More Americans than ever now identify as being religiously unaffiliated. According to the Pew Research Center's "Religious Landscape Study," while 70.6 percent of Americans identify as Christian, over a fifth of Americans, 22.8 percent, are unaffiliated with any religion.
Furthermore, according to Religion News Service, there are now more Americans who have seen a Harry Potter movie than can name all four Gospels.
With traditional religion on the decline, echoes of the Jedi religion can be found in everyday culture. The idea of yin and yang, though an ancient concept, is ideologically similar to the duality of the Light Side and the Dark Side.
Additionally, today's culture is rife with self-help media telling us to avoid toxic people and being toxic ourselves. In other words, we are being given messages to choose the Light Side and avoid the Dark Side.
Its effects may be modern, but the roots of the Jedi religion are ancient. The Jedi religion, according to the New York Post, is a mix of "Zen Buddhism, Taoism and Samurai culture."
The Jedi religion has even influenced wide-scale cultural movements, such as when, in 2001, thousands of atheists in the United Kingdom identified themselves as Jedis on the census in a "protest against what they saw as the cultural strength of the Church of England," according to Religion News Service.
The influence of the Jedi religion on popular culture is ultimately a reflection of the ever-growing importance of media. As TV shows, movies, books, music and even podcasts become crucial parts of our lives, they influence the way we think — and the way we think about religion is no exception. Pop culture can easily transform into pragmatic religion for many.