“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together,” said Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Now the Force is back in its full glory, and for both zealous and casual fans, the next installment of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, can’t come soon enough. About a thousand people have already seen the film, which premiered yesterday in Hollywood, California.
Indeed, the Force has awakened, and it is stronger than ever, and not only because the initial reviews for the film have been resoundingly positive. The Church of Jediism, a religion that grew out of Star Wars’ fictional warriors who fight against the Dark Side, are reportedly signing up more than 1,000 new adherents a day, as the excitement over the launch of the new Star Wars movie heightens. The belief started out as a joke in 2001, when 390,000 individuals declared allegiance to Jediism, but the science fiction powered religion’s population fell by more than half to 177,000 in 2011.
Jediism is no longer a joke. Now described as “a set of philosophies based on focusing, learning and becoming one with the Force,” it has more than 255,000 Jedi followers, all bound by the “energy field” that drives the Star Wars’ protagonists that have inspired the fantasy and imagination of moviegoers around the world.
Patrick Day-Childs of the church’s U.K. ruling council confirmed that the numbers have increased as the hype of the movie intensifies. He is aware, however, that this number might fluctuate according to the excitement generated by the film: “The real test will be in a couple of weeks when the film hype had died off.”
Jediism Founder Daniel Jones, who is also called by his Jedi name “Morda Hehol,” confirms that the resurgence of the film franchise on the top of fans’ minds has been beneficial to the group. “We’ve been rushed off our feet,” he enthused. “People want to know more about it.”
Jediism is a movement based on the portrayal of Jedi in Star Wars. Its adherents follow 16 teachings, based on the presentation of the fictional Jedi, and 21 maxims. Day-Childs expressed that the religion they espouse is very accepting and that people “shy away from traditional religion because it doesn’t reflect their views.” Some of the tenets they believe in are “There is no emotion; there is peace,” and “There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.”
In 2010, a self-described “Star Wars follower” and “Jedi Knight” was expelled out of a Jobcentre in Southend, Essex for refusing to remove his hood. He later received an apology. In April 2015, students of Dokuz Eylül University in Izmir, Turkey began a petition on activist site Change.org to demand the construction of a Jedi temple on campus. The petition was in response to a previous petition created by Istanbul Technical University, which demanded the building of a mosque on campus.