The religion of Star Wars

May the Force be with you: Star Wars has made around $7.5 billion at the box office since 1977.

What can Star Wars teach us about religion? A trailer for the latest instalment has just been released. Behind the explosions and high-speed chases, there is a fascinating belief system.

  • Hang on… Star Wars isn’t a religion!

    Actually, it sort of is: 176,632 people listed “Jedi” as their religion in the 2011 census of England and Wales. In the USA, the “Temple of the Jedi Order” is a registered church whose followers believe in “the Force”.

    However, that is not what we are talking about today. We are talking about the fictional religion, and how it operates in the Star Wars movies.

  • Erm, why?

    For one thing, the final trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is out. This ninth and last Star Wars movie will be in cinemas from 20 December.

    But also because Star Wars was partly created to explore religion. In 1999, its creator George Lucas told Time magazine that he wanted to “try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people”.

  • Is God real in Star Wars?

    Not in the way that most people are used to thinking of God, as the creator of the Universe. Instead, characters in Star Wars talk about “the Force”, an energy that surrounds everyone and everything. The Force is neither good nor bad, but it does have a dark side and a light side.

    Some use the dark side of the Force, like Darth Vader. But there are others who use the light side. These people are called Jedi (like Luke Skywalker).

  • Is it a bit like Buddhism?

    There are some Buddhist elements, such as the idea that everything in the Universe is interconnected.

    There is also the fact that people who use the Force practice a kind of meditation, in which they empty their minds of emotion in order to “become one with the force”.

  • Is Jediism anything like Christianity?

    The language of light and darkness is very Christian, as are the stories of sacrifice and redemption common in the Star Wars movies.

    Then again, other religions would also identify with elements of Star Wars. For example, the name “Yoda” means “one who knows” in Hebrew. And some Muslims might compare the Force to their idea of “futuwwat,” or “the way of the mystic warrior”. In other words, the Force is a mix of many different religious ideas.

  • How do people become a Jedi?

    This is where Star Wars diverts from major religions on Earth. In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, it is explained that human cells contain tiny intelligent life forms called midi-chlorians. People who have a lot of midi-chlorians are particularly sensitive to the Force, and can learn to control it.

    If you can use the Force, it is up to you whether you choose the light side or the dark side.

  • Does everyone believe in it?

    No. In fact, those who do are often in the minority. In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Han Solo insists, “There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny!”

    This is because, as discovered in the films, the Jedi Order has been wiped out and suppressed by the evil empire. And that is another way that Jediism echoes Christianity — it is a religion that is struggling to survive in an increasingly non-religious world.

You Decide

  1. Does Star Wars show religion and belief in a positive light?

Activities

  1. Imagine that the world of Star Wars is real, and that you live in that galaxy far, far away. Write down 10 commandments that you think Jedi and believers in the Force should follow.

Word Watch

Census
An official survey of the population.
Fictional
Made up or not true — the opposite of factual.
Spirituality
Relating to things that are not physical — like the idea of the soul.
Universe
A term referring to absolutely everything that exists, from Earth to the whole of outer space.
Buddhist
A widespread Asian religion.
Redemption
The action of saving or of being saved from sin or evil.
Minority
A smaller number or amount of something.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.