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In the new canon novel Bloodline, the words "the Force" sometimes replace the word "God" in casual speech.

For example, someone says "Thank the Force the damage isn't worse"; later, another character says "the Force alone knows..." Neither of these lines are spoken by Jedi, and the intent was clearly to echo the phrases "Thank God" and "God only knows".

Is this a new phenomenon in Star Wars history, or has it happened before, in idiomatic usage aside from "May the Force be with you"?

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    Are you looking for these specific phrases? Because arguably other phrases like "May [the Force]/[God] be with you" similarly use "the Force" as a stand-in.
    – Null
    Jul 15, 2016 at 4:46
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    @Null - Embarrassed to admit that I have never noticed that. Let's say any idiomatic usage beyond MTFBWY.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jul 15, 2016 at 4:52
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    Rust and Ruin! That writing sounds storming horrific...
    – Gusdor
    Jul 15, 2016 at 10:18
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    @Gusdor A long time ago in a Cosmere far far away? Jul 15, 2016 at 14:00
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    I never got the impression that "the Force" = "God" in the Star Wars Universe. Nobody worships or prays to the Force after all. Until we learned about the midichlorians in The Phantom Menace, the Force was a mystical, mysterious energy field, sort of a magical aether.
    – RobertF
    Jul 15, 2016 at 16:39

4 Answers 4

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There are a few cases in which the Force is personified in such a way that one could substitute "God".

The earliest example is probably Obi-Wan from Episode IV:

You must learn the ways of the Force if you're to come with me to Alderaan.

One could say that "you must learn the ways of God" in place of "the Force".

Another example from Obi-Wan in Episode IV:

The Force will be with you...always!

One could easily say that "God will be with you". (This is not quite the same as the more common "May the Force be with you" that is mentioned in the question.)

From Vader in Episode IV:

The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

A religious person might very well use this exact quote with "God" in place of "the Force".

Also, in Episode V Yoda says:

Only a fully trained Jedi Knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor.

One can easily say in a similar fashion that "God is his ally".

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    To further add to this, in one of the very first scenes of ANH Vader's belief in the Force is referenced as a "sad devotion to that ancient religion" by admiral Motti.
    – Kevin
    Jul 15, 2016 at 11:42
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    "May the force be with you" is a direct port of the line "may the lord be with you", which is often spoken in catholic mass.
    – Dedwards
    Jul 15, 2016 at 14:45
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    I'd say with these you could substitute in "God" and see them as anthropomorphic, but they are also similar to phrases about non-sentient abstract concepts, for example people sometimes say "peace be with you" or "luck is on my side".
    – Hypnosifl
    Jul 15, 2016 at 16:00
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    I don’t think there’s a single mention of the Force in the Star Wars universe where you could not reasonably substitute God and have it make sense from a religious person’s point of view. “Well, [God] is what gives a Jedi his power. [He]'s an energy field created by all living things. [He] surrounds us and penetrates us; [He] binds the galaxy together”, for instance. That still seems a bit different from the examples in the question here. Similarly, I don’t recall anyone in SW saying, “The Force, I’m sick of [whatever]!” Jul 15, 2016 at 21:57
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    @JanusBahsJacquet Given the diversity of thought on the nature of God (one God, multiple gods, God as an essence, etc.), it is fairly easy to substitute "God" for "the Force" in a way that makes sense. There are a few cases where it probably wouldn't, though. E.g. "Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force" would imply that God is evil, which very few religious people would think is true of God. Also, such a substitution in a phrase like "use the Force, Luke" would suggest that people can "use" God, which doesn't make much sense.
    – Null
    Jul 15, 2016 at 22:13
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I don't know if this is the earliest example considering the EU, but this line from Qui-Gon in The Phantom Menace might be the first to establish this kind of anthropomorphic way of talking about the Force in top-level canon:

YODA : Trained as a Jedi, you request for him?

QUI-GON : Finding him was the will of the Force...I have no doubt of that.

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The concepts aren't really as far apart as you intimate. For instance, look at the Siouxan concept of "Wakonda" (not the Marvel fictional country). Its best English translation is "Great Mystery", but you quite commonly see it translated as "Great Spirit" or "Great Maker", and put in all kinds of popular culture references as if it were only their version of the Judeo-Christan God.

However, Wakonda (prior to Christian contact anyway) was not really personified, and was much more similar to Lucas' Force. It was considered the omnipresent essence of everything, living or not. Still these days nearly everyone talks as if "Great Spirit" is just Indian for "God".

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Point being that God and a non-personified spiritual "Force" can be very similar things, used for similar purposes, without being the same thing. If your personal frame of reference for spirituality is built around the Judeo-Christian concept of God, you'll be seeing that where it may not have really been intended.

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A lot of people have noted that there's a dissimilarity between the Judeo-Christian God, and the concept of the Force, which is not really God, nor does it make one "a god". In other words, The Force is not a person or even a "personal Force" in the same way the Judeo-Christian God is. Christians would say "Thank God" as a way to actually, you know, thank God for his favor. Over time it's morphed into a more colloquial phrase.

I agree with many that "thank God" is used ubiquitously, regardless of faith, religion, or spirituality.

I mean, consider Obi Wan's description of The Force (emphasis mine)

Well, 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.

That's not very personal. If anything, it's just a power to tap into and use. Hence why you have both Light and Dark (and sometimes a not very clear delineation between them). The Force doesn't seem to have a will (at least not canon). Its will seems to be the same as that of its users. It does seem to have some sway over those users, but only to the extent that it can show users things it wants to see (i.e. Luke seeing Han tortured in Bespin, The Emperor seeing Luke surrendering to Vader).

TLDR; The problem with "Thank the Force" is that

  1. There's nothing (in universe) to thank. Gratitude implies that there was some decision The Force made to benefit someone or something. There's no reason to think that such a phrase would have been ever used by a Jedi, or those familiar with Jedi. The examples given in other answers simply acknowledge The Force as a force and don't imply a will (except Hypnosifi's answer, but I believe Qui Gon was trying to strengthen his argument about Anakin)
  2. It's a clunky way to use a familiar, ubiquitous phrase the main demographic of the book (i.e. the reader) would use, but it conspicuously replaces "God" (a word that has little meaning in the Star Wars universe) with "The Force", without regard to the differences. I believe prior writers avoided it because it was clunky at best.

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