The Return of the Jedi

Cale Scheinbaum
Jim Monsonis Society and Religion
19 November 1996

So far this semester, we have studied several different sociological
theories of religion. These theories are built on both the known history of
religions in the world and the cultures in which they originated, as well as,
appropriately enough, theoretical suggestions of how those religions, and indeed
any religion at all, will survive in the future. The theory I find the most true
is Stark and Bainbridge\'s in The Future of Religion, although I like some
elements from others, like Berger\'s concepts of reification and secularization.
George Lucas\'s Star Wars trilogy, apart from being incredibly
entertaining and extremely well-made, gives us a complete portrait of a society
(The Empire) and a religion (Jediism, for lack of a better term). Although the
movies are mostly devoted to the growth of the characters, throughout the
trilogy we see the society change in a drastic manner. This paper will examine
the history of Jediism, the current (as of the end of the last movie) status of
the religion, and offer some suggestions as to what we can expect from Jediism
in the future.

I. The Religion
To examine the future of religion as it relates to society, one must
first have an idea of the tenets and beliefs on which the religion is based.
Jediism is based solely on belief in the "force", a "Universal energy field that
surrounds us and permeates us". (O. Kenobi, SW) Stark and Bainbridge make the
point that any religion based on magic or magic-like rituals is fated to die out
unless the magic can work constantly and consistently. This, they argue, is why
many religions change from promising magic, which is quite verifiable (Did he,
in fact, levitate?) to promising compensators, a sort of unverifiable magic. A
good example of this is the Christian Heaven. Stark and Bainbridge take it as a
given, however, that magic, or abilities that parallel magic, do not, in fact,
exist. This makes an attempt to theorize about the future of Jediism more
difficult, since the religion is based, in part, on the belief that oneness with
the "force" has the ability to confer extraordinary powers to individuals-- a
belief than is vindicated numerous times throughout the series.
The internal organization of the religion is, apparently, entirely
nonexistant. There is no leader, nor is there any defined structure. Much like
classical Taoism, various masters exist, and students and supplicants must seek
out a master on their own in order to learn. There is no hierarchy to advance in,
other than the ability to eventually hone one\'s faith to a degree that one can
take on one\'s own students. The test of this is whether the student becomes
attached to the "dark side" of the "force", as did Obi-Wan Kenobi\'s first pupil,
Anakin Skywalker, later known as Darth Vader.
The beliefs of Jediism, again, can be compared to classical Taoism. The
"true" Jedi believes in calm, and strives to maintain calm at all times. He can
experience emotions, but he does not let his emotions control him. He is at one
with his environment at all times. He is fully aware of the existance of all
those around him, and holds free will as one of his highest ideals. He is not
violent, but, if necessary, can fight extremely well and end conflicts rather
quickly. His ultimate goal is universal peace. Jediism is unique, however, in
that along with it developed a mirror religion, one that I will call, for lack
of a better term, Dark Jediism. The tenets of Dark Jediism are all based on
personal desires. To the Dark Jedi, other people are nothing but pawns with
which to attain more personal power or resources. Peace is the defense of
weaklings who don\'t know how to fulfill their desires. The ultimate goal of the
Dark Jedi is to have complete and total control over the universe. This state,
with the two sides of the "force" existant and constantly at war, might be
compared to a somewhat reified form of Zoroastrianism, in which the two
universal natures (Good and Evil) not only existed, but were constantly being
supported and battled over by their adherents.

II. The Society
According to the many of the theories which we have read this semester,
a religion\'s success is directly related to whether or not it is at odds with
the society in which it exists. If this is the case, Jediism is heading toward a
major revival. In order to fully comprehend the future of Jediism, we must look
at the society in which it exists-- the Galactic