Today is Star Wars Day, being May the Fourth. (Say the date slowly, several times.) Around the world, film buffs, storm troopers and Jedi are gathering to celebrate one of the greatest science fiction romps of all time. It would be easy to let the fan boys enjoy their day and be done with it. However, Jediism is a growing religion in the UK. Although the results of the 2001 census, in which 390,000 recipients stated their religion as Jedi, have been widely interpreted as a pop at the government, the UK does actually have serious Jedi.
For those of you who, like BBC producer Bill Dare, have never seen Star Wars, the Jedi are “good” characters from the films. They draw from a mystical entity binding the universe, called “the Force”. Sporting hoodies, the Jedi are generally altruistic, swift-footed and handy with a lightsaber. Their enemies, Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader and other cohorts use the dark side of the Force. By tapping into its powers, the dark side command armies of demented droids, kill Jedi and are capable of wiping out entire planets.
This week, Chi-Pa Amshe from theChurch of Jediism in Anglesey, Wales, emailed me with some responses to questions. He said Jediism was growing and that they were gaining hundreds of members each month. The church made the news three years ago, after its founder, Daniel Jones, had a widely reported run-in with Tesco.
Chi-Pa Amshe, speaking as a spokesperson for the Jedi council (Falkna Kar, Anzai Kooji Cutpa and Daqian Xiong), believes that Jediism can merge with other belief systems, rather like a bolt-on accessory.
Jedi Master Yoda in a scene from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Photograph: Ho/Reuters