There’s a new religion arising in Western nations – Jediism – based on the “Star Wars” movies.
Its existence was noted in 2001 when, in a British census, thousands of citizens wrote it in as their belief system.
By 2010 there were 400,000 “Jedis” in the United Kingdom, putting it in the top five of all religions there.
Now there are 53,000 in New Zealand, 70,000 in Australia and 55,000 in Canada. In 2015, the Temple of the Jedi Order in Texas was registered and granted tax-exempt status by the U.S. government.
Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf believes Jediism has the attributes of established religions.
“There is a phenomenon of books and films that have totally captured the public’s attention: Tolkien, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Narnia,” Apisdorf said in an interview with Breaking Israel News. “These are all about the eternal struggle between good versus evil, dark versus light.”
Apisdorf was interviewed by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, a writer for BIN who has studied Jewish law and received rabbinical ordination in Israel.
His report comes as the newest installment of the movie series that dates back to the 1970s, “The Last Jedi,” is in movie theaters. In its first couple of weeks, the movie has taken in an estimated $900 million, including $465 million in North America. It likely will end as 2017’s biggest release, above “Beauty and the Beast,” which had $504 million for its opening.
Berkowitz said that while millions are packing theaters to see the entertainment, Jediism “is slowly gaining adherents around the world.”
“There is no official founder or central structure, but Jediism does have actual temples and an ordained clergy loosely connected by websites. Their belief system is based on the observance of the Force, a ubiquitous and metaphysical power believed to be the underlying, fundamental nature of the universe,” he explained.
He said Apisdorf, a teacher of Jewish spirituality and award-winning author, “believes that the motives that drive people to this movement are similar to the motives that drive people to conventional religions.”
“This movie was the first time the word religion was used to describe Jedi as a religion,” Apisdorf told BIN. “We see that the dark side is involved with conquering death, which is what seduced Annakin.”
Berkowitz said Apisdorf emphasized that while Jewish eschatology also includes resurrection of the dead, it is quite different than the Jedi version.
“The dark side in Judaism is when you go for the right goal but using the wrong method or at the wrong time,” the rabbi told Berkowitz. “Conquering death without connecting to God will only bring darkness. Moshiach (Messiah) conquers death but it includes God, so it is the ultimate good.”
He also explained he sees some eastern religion influences in Jediism, including Taoism, Shintoism and Buddhism.
Jewish tradition holds those religions come from Ketura, Abraham’s second wife, Apisdorf said.
“The sages teach that the gifts (from Abraham to his children with Ketura) were actually from the power of the dark side but were not intended to cause them harm,” he said. “Everything is manifest from God: good and evil.”
Jediism’s tenets are focus, knowledge and wisdom.