119

I always wondered why Admiral Motti and Governor Tarkin in the movie "A New Hope" (IV) insinuate that the Force is an old, dead religion?

Tarkin:

The Jedi are extinct, their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that's left of their religion.

Motti:

Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerous ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebels' hidden fortress...

Tarkin, as human, must be around age 50, so, if in Episode IV Luke is about 20, when he was just born at the end of Episode III, Tarkin must have been around 30, so a perfect young man in a Galaxy that used to know Jedis, Jedi Council, Force etc..

Why, 20 years later, he just looks like someone who never saw a Jedi/Sith?
Also, besides from Force sensitives (Obi-Wan, Yoda, Vader, the Emperor), nobody else looks like they ever heard of the Force ... that's really weird, isn't it?

  • 15
    The force isn't "forgotten" in the original 3 movies. Many characters recognize when Luke is doing something force-y. For example, Jabba tells Luke that his mind tricks won't work on him. If it was old and forgotten Jabba would have said "why are you talking so weird?". Think of it more as a political council that hasn't been in any position of power for 20 years, that's something I can easily say is "all in the past". Imagine if some rep from a political party that disbanded 20 years ago resurfaced today. – Gorchestopher H Jul 13 '12 at 12:55
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    @Stefano - just to be clear, there's a distinction between a Moff saying it is and "old dead religion" in public and him not remembering it in his head :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 13 '12 at 13:18
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    This bothered me after the newer movies came out too. Specifically, if Chewbacca had fought alongside Jedi and seen first hand what they could do, why didn't he ever say anything when Han was calling the Force a bunch of crap? – Kevin Jul 13 '12 at 19:28
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    Compare with China after the cultural revolution, where a lot of appreciation and understanding of religion has been lost over a period of ~20 years. – Jonas Jul 14 '12 at 11:32
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    @corsiKa true - most people in their 20s or 30s nowadays would see AOL & dial-up modems as the remnant of some ancient civilization. Jeez, that makes me feel old. – Omegacron Jun 30 '15 at 20:36

13 Answers 13

123

Jedi were declared traitors to the Republic. It was politically expedient for both the state AND individuals (especially government people) to relegate them to as far back in the mind as possible.

It's like someone discussing monarchy in Soviet Russia in 1938. Yeah, it was merely 20 years since the Revolution. But...

  • 51
    This is a rationalizing answer. The real answer any time you see something that doesn't make sense in Star Wars is that it wasn't thought through, and the production team cared infinitely more about making money than making a plot without holes. George Lucas is on the record saying that the movies are meant for children and that people shouldn't take the plots so seriously. – Darth Egregious Jul 13 '12 at 14:27
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    @user973810 - while "Plot Hole" is an acceptable answer in certain cases (See this Meta discussion for details), rude "movies made for children" answers are not really in the spirit of SFF. The whole fun of SFF is to dig through in-universe info - with all due respect, anyone is capable of pointig out that something not making sense is a mistake, so such condescending answers not showing specific research proving that the is no retcon don't contribute valuable input. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 13 '12 at 14:35
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    @user973810 I readily agree that Star Wars is as full of plot holes as the proverbial Swiss cheese, but this explanation is cogent – the case is exactly analogous to what’s happened in the Soviet Republic (not only with regards to monarchy; religion in the Soviet bloc is a closer comparison), and in a few similar totalitarian states (North Korea …). Furthermore, even at the height of the Clone Wars the Jedis seem to have become a somewhat esoteric, exclusive and secluded sect, never mind that they had their huge temple in the middle of Coruscant. – Konrad Rudolph Jul 13 '12 at 16:59
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    Not to mention it HAS been around a long time - long enough for a massive academy for younglings being a prominent feature of Couriscant. "Ancient" may refer to its age, rather than it being a far-gone following. – Zibbobz Mar 20 '14 at 17:39
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    To be fair, this is a plot-hole specifically introduced BY the prequels. Originally, there was every indication that Obi-Wan and Anakin were already among the last few Jedi when all the bad stuff went down. Lucas changed the lore considerably when he made the prequels. – Omegacron Dec 30 '14 at 20:48
128

It's important to remember that the Jedi have always been strange and mysterious. Even in the Old Republic, with the Jedi Council in its prime, probably 99.9999% of the population never got anywhere near a Jedi, and even fewer ever experienced a Jedi using Force powers. It's likely that the 30-year-old Tarkin would have been just as dismissive of of the Force as the 50-year-old version was. It's basic human psychology: if we do not know something, we either fear it or we ridicule it.

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    This is by far the best answer. See here for more information about perception of the Force even before the Jedi fell. (And especially DVK's comment on that answer) – Izkata Jul 13 '12 at 18:08
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    Although, if we include Clone Wars as canon (which I believe it is actually regarded as "canon"). Tarkin was involved in the Clone wars and had dealings with many Jedi. So to state he always was dismissive of something he has witnessed personally would be contradicting canon. – Jared Jul 16 '12 at 2:24
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    This, combined with the likely political suppression and historical revisionism intended to wipe the Jedi out of the public consciousness (to prevent new Jedi sects from forming underground or individuals seeking out knowledge of the force on their own), is the most plausible answer. DVK basically describes the social consequences of this type of social and political environment. Also, Jedi were taught never to abuse their powers. So even those who were around Jedis would almost never see overt displays of force powers. When Jedis have to use their powers in public, it's usually very covert. – Lèse majesté Jun 11 '13 at 2:04
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    The only people who would see overt displays of force abilities would be those who've faced Jedis in combat, which means they either already know how to use the force themselves or they'd likely end up dead shortly after witnessing a Jedi's true powers. So the 1% of the population that encountered Jedis would only see them as lightsaber-wielding knights/secret service agents, with only whispered stories hinting at what they can do with the force. – Lèse majesté Jun 11 '13 at 2:08
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    @BCdotWEB - He asks if Qui-Gon thinks he's "some kind of Jedi". There's no indication that he thinks that the Jedi are real, nor that he's actively attempting to resist mind-control. He just thinks that Qui-Gon is a really poor negotiator :-) – Valorum Apr 15 '16 at 21:06
28

Your average person would not have dealt with the Jedi regularly. They weren't rock stars that paraded around constantly in the public eye. Even Nute Gunray asks Hask, "Have you ever encountered a Jedi before?" to which the Vice-Roy of the Trade Federation replies "No". Even in the days of the Old Republic, high dignitaries had often only heard of the Jedi at best, and certainly had never even seen one.

We see a lot of the Jedi, and they seem to be everywhere in the Star Wars universe, because those are movies/books about them. If a movie were made about moisture farmers on Tatooine, chances are there would be no mention of the Jedi whatsoever.

Finally, I think people tend to underestimate 20 years. Do you clearly remember things that happened even 5 years ago that you didn't directly deal with? Now make that 20 years, and pretend all records of those events were destroyed, people have been brainwashed, a new, radically different order has been established, History has been rewritten, etc. Not to mention, a single publicly-visible person (the Emperor didn't seem very visible) is the only remaining evidence that such people ever lived. It's not so hard to believe that nobody believes the Jedi are anything more than a legend.

  • Watto in Ep I not only recognizes it when Qui-Gon does the "you will..." Jedi mind trick, but also resists it. If encountering a Jedi was super-rare, how come he (not exactly some major player) could not only recognize one of their abilities, but also resist it? – BCdotWEB Nov 22 '15 at 9:54
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    It explains why Watto is able to resist Jedi mind tricks in the extended universe, or legends I guess. Watto's race is resistant to jedi mind tricks in general, same with the huts. – TaylorAllred Nov 30 '15 at 20:27
  • I would guess that the other races (e.g. Hutts, whatever Watto is) have no problem "believing" in the Force and are more aware of Jedi and their powers. Most people can lie to themselves very convincingly, so I wouldn't be surprised that many people disbelieve. It would seem strange, though, that if the Jedi were a peace keeping arm of the Republic that they wouldn't publicize/brag about the Jedi. – Wayne Werner Dec 21 '15 at 21:13
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    "Brainwashing" is a great concept here. The Empire would essentially want to wipe out any previous ideas/ understanding of the Old Republic. – SaltySub2 Apr 27 '18 at 14:40
15

Setting aside the "Because George Lucas was making it up as he went along" angle, here are a couple of thoughts:

  1. In our world, there are a number of religions still practiced today which could justly be called "ancient." "Ancient" means "going back hundreds of years," not "unheard of for hundreds of years." Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and many other religions are ancient.

  2. As for the statements of Motti and Tarkin, I think we could easily picture some of Stalin's lieutenants saying similar types of things about Christianity, even though it had only been two or three decades since the Russian Revolution. Motti and Tarkin had fully embraced the new reality, in which the Jedi belief system didn't seem to matter anymore.

12

It's not really that weird. Vader is the only known person at that time who is either Jedi or Sith. The Emperor had never, as far as I know, announced himself to the galaxy as a Sith Lord, maintaining an under-cover status. Yoda was in exile on Dagoba, and Obi Wan was in exile on Tatooine. For 20 or so years. So it's very probable that people had assumed the Jedi way extinct, and that Darth Vader was the last remaining user of The Force.

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    Ok, but Jedis left traces of their past in the history of the Galaxy... the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, training facilities. Also, what about movies, advertisings, holograms.. Jedis must have been famous in the past, at their golden age, even at the time of the return of the Siths.. It's like today we all forgot about World War II (60 years of difference, in the movie only 20) – Stefano O. Jul 13 '12 at 12:47
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    There are teenagers apparently that think that WWII never happened, that it's just something Hollywood cooked up for movies. Same with the Titanic sinking. – John O Jul 13 '12 at 13:34
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    They left traces, yes, but it was a thousand-year old 'religion' that had seemed to just completely disappear 20 years before. It hadn't been forgotten by any means, as Gorchestopher H mentioned, it's just no Jedi had been seen or heard of in 20 years. Plus as DVK points out, the Empire would have probably actively hidden or covered up as much of the Jedi ways as possible to remove the memory from people's minds, to increase the Empire's political weight - propaganda fully at work! – Nick Shaw Jul 13 '12 at 13:35
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    In the novelization of Revenge of the Sith it's very clearly stated that Anakin is known as a hero to every household in the Republic and there are videos of him all over the HoloNet using his Jedi powers. There's no way for an entire population to simply forget that even if they are censored from mentioning it at all. – Lotus Notes Jul 16 '12 at 20:42
  • I liken it to the Apollo (Moon Landing) Program. Astronauts! during the middle to late 60's, everyone wanted to be one! Nobody knew one personnally, but many people knew someone who knew someone. During the 70's and 80's, people started to wonder if the landings ever actually happened. Then the shuttles. Astronauts! Everyone wanted to be one? Not quite so much. Ride a rocket into space and do what, exactly. Now, there are a few astronauts in the station and .... no one knows an astronaut, and kids want to be one? Not so much. – CGCampbell Aug 26 '14 at 18:56
7

Tarkin underestimates the power of the force because he has not had to deal with it in 20 years. Tarkin and Motti both believe themselves to be among the most powerful beings in the galaxy and would like nothing more than to put the Emperor's Enforcer in his place -beneath them. One strategy is to belittle those things that matter to such a person.

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    This answer is along the lines of what I'd would've written. What Motti and Tarkin are saying is that they believe their battlestation is the more powerful than the Force. Ie. now that they have the Death Star, they don't need Vader, as they perceive the Death Star more powerful. – Holger Jul 16 '12 at 8:05
  • Hard to say Tarkin underestimates its power. Vader chokes an underofficer for 20 seconds and that's about all the effect it has from his point of view. Vader did more damage using his mechanical hand earlier in the show. – Oldcat Nov 21 '14 at 22:43
6

It would serve the Emperor's interests tremendously for most people to think of the Force as ancient hocus-pocus.

Though he did his best to purge the galaxy of Jedi, surely he'd know that more Force-sensitives were being born every day. The best way to manage that potential threat would be for them to grow up in an environment in which Force manipulation was viewed as a crank belief.

Though I don't believe it's canonical, I can easily see Palpatine subtly encouraging this view after the Jedi were largely gone and not worrying about the cognitive dissonance experienced by the very few people who ever witnessed him or Vader using the Force. In fact, it's so obvious, it's something I wouldn't be surprised to learn was in fact canonical or to see become canon some day.

It was effective! Luke Skywalker, at the near-height of his Force powers during the Rebellion, was probably less impressive in his manipulation of the Force than Obi-Wan was while still a Padawan (remember his deft lightsaber retrieval while battling Maul and compare to Luke's strained retrieval in the ice cave). And Leia remained quite clumsy with the Force years after Palpatine's death at the Battle of Endor.

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    Thanks, DVK! I just wanted to add, I can imagine the reason Vader didn't downplay the Force like other Imperial leaders is that we know he was deeply conflicted, and often plotted to overthrow Palpatine. Secretly hating the only person in the galaxy who conceivably could be his friend, he probably came to think of the Force as his only ally, and his sensitivity to it perhaps his only redeeming quality. – Stephen Jun 11 '13 at 0:36
5

TL;DR: Tarkin is fully aware that there were Jedi - he fought alongside them in the Clone Wars. But the Empire was desperate to erase the Jedi from the galaxy's collective memory, and invested a tremendous amount of time and energy into making this happen. It was largely effective.

Note: Italics in all quotes is from the original; bold is mine.


Problems with the question:

Tarkin never says or does anything that would suggest he doesn't believe in the Force, or doesn't know about the Jedi.

The Jedi are extinct, their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that's left of their religion.

Here, he is simply saying "Vader, the Jedi are all dead, and you're the only person who uses the Force". This is true, as far as he knows - and he knows what he knows because he helped exterminate the Jedi. And he's not far off from the truth - when he delivers this line, there are only two Jedi (Obi-Wan and Yoda) left in a galaxy inhabited by quadrillions of people - and he doesn't know that either of those Jedi are still alive, because they've both been in hiding for 20 years.

And Motti isn't quite saying "The Jedi are a myth, and the Force doesn't exist".

Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebels' hidden fortress...

He's basically saying "The Jedi don't exist any more, and the Force is stupid. The Death Star is way better than whatever you can do with the Force."


The galaxy as a whole, and the Imperial rank-and-file:

In the Disney Canon novel Star Wars: Lost Stars, two Imperial cadets, the top of their class in the most prestigious Imperial Academy in the galaxy, know little or nothing about the Jedi, despite the fact that Order 66 was only enacted about 10 years earlier:

Yet the Imperial Palace was one of the grandest and most elegant structures on the entire planet; apparently it had once been a temple of some kind.
- Star Wars: Lost Stars

The "temple of some kind" the character is describing, now the Imperial palace, is the former Jedi Temple on Coruscant. It had been a Jedi Temple for thousands of years, until only 10 years earlier.

Even earlier, just a few years after Order 66, the galaxy had already ceased to believe in the Force, and the Jedi seemed like nothing more than a myth:

So far as Ciena could tell from the few holos she’d ever been able to watch, most people in the galaxy no longer believed in the Force, the energy that allowed people to become one with the universe. Even she sometimes wondered whether there could ever have been such a thing as a Jedi Knight. The amazing tales the elders told of valiant heroes with lightsabers, who could bend minds, levitate objects— surely those were only stories.
- ibid

Later, the other student - who has since become an officer, then abandoned the Empire after witnessing the destruction of Alderaan - joins the Rebellion, but still regards Jedi and the Force as silly superstitions. This is remarkable, considering the fact that he's talking to Dak, who actually knows Luke:

It was all Thane could do not to groan. Please, not more superstitious nonsense about the “Force.” In his opinion, the rebel troops needed to be motivated by the harsh truth about the Empire, not crazy religious beliefs.
- ibid

So the Empire's attempt to conceal the fact that the Jedi had ever existed was extremely successful, and that success came very quickly.


Grand Moff Tarkin:

As for Tarkin himself, we can turn to the Disney Canon novel Star Wars: Tarkin. Tarkin fought under and alongside Jedi - including Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi - during the Clone Wars. He knows their history. He suspects that Vader and Palpatine are Sith. And he even knows - or is nearly certain - that Anakin became Vader.

Tarkin realized that the Emperor’s current residence had once been the headquarters for the Jedi — though practically all that remained of the Order’s elegant Temple complex was its copse of five skyscraping spires, now the pinnacle of a sprawling amalgam of blockish edifaces with sloping façades.
- Star Wars: Tarkin

Not only does Tarkin know that the Jedi existed - he also suspects that Vader and the Emperor are Sith, and wonders if Palpatine lied about the circumstances under which his face was deformed and Mace Windu (and three other Jedi Masters) died:

There were many stories about what had occurred that day in the chancellor’s office. The official explanation was that members of the Jedi Order had turned up to arrest Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, and a ferocious duel had ensued. The matter of precisely how the Jedi had been killed or the Emperor’s face deformed had never been settled to everyone’s satisfaction, and so Tarkin had his private thoughts about the Emperor, as well. That he and Vader were kindred spirits suggested that both of them might be Sith. Tarkin often wondered if that wasn’t the actual reason Palpatine had been targeted for arrest or assassination by the Jedi.
- ibid

Even to Tarkin - who knew many Jedi - the Jedi seem to be a myth, only 5 years after Order 66; he also begins to work out who Vader really is:

That look again, Tarkin thought — or at least that suggestion of a look that always made him feel as if Vader knew him from some previous life.

“We no longer speak of the Jedi,” Mas Amedda had said when they had watched Vader issue his warnings to members of Coruscant’s underworld. It struck Tarkin now that the Chagrian’s attitude wasn’t one that was confined to the Emperor’s court. In the five short years since the Order had been eradicated— Jedi Masters, Jedi Knights, and Jedi Padawans wiped out by the very clone troopers they had commanded and fought beside— the Jedi already seemed a distant memory.
- ibid

The depth of his knowledge of the Jedi is also revealed:

Tarkin had respected the Jedi as peacekeepers, but as generals they had proven failures. The Jedi Master with whom he had served most closely during the Clone Wars was Even Piell, to whom Tarkin’s cruiser had been assigned. Brusque and bellicose, the Lannik excelled in lightsaber combat, seeming to have integrated every possible fighting style, but he, too, had his flaws as a strategist. If Piell had deferred to Tarkin during their mission to investigate a hyperlane shortcut into Separatist-held space, they might have avoided capture and imprisonment, and perhaps the Lannik would have survived at least until the end of the war.

The Force had endowed the Jedi with wondrous powers, but their biggest failing was in not having used the Force in all ways possible to bring the war to a quick end. By remaining faithful to their ethical code, they had allowed the war to drag on and spiral downward into a meaningless bloodbath. The conflict’s sudden conclusion and the Order’s decision to depose Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. had taken nearly everyone by surprise. But Tarkin suspected that even if the Jedi had restrained themselves from rising against Palpatine in his moment of glory, the esoteric Order had doomed itself to extinction. Where their flame had burned bright for a thousand generations, technological might was the new standard.
- ibid

Tarkin was already well aware of Vader's affinity for Force-choking people, more than a decade before the incident aboard the Death Star:

Tarkin knew merely by the gasping sounds that began to erupt from the Sugi that Vader was performing that thumb-and-forefinger dark magic of his to crush the crime lord’s windpipe.
- ibid

And ultimately, he figured out - though he wasn't quite sure - who Vader really was:

Tarkin didn’t always agree with Vader’s methods for dealing with those who opposed the Empire, but he held the Dark Lord in high esteem, and he hoped Vader felt the same toward him. Very early on in their partnership — soon after both had been introduced to the secret mobile battle station — Tarkin grew convinced that Vader knew him much better than he let on, and that behind the bulging lenses of his face mask, whatever remained of Vader’s human eyes regarded him with clear recognition. More than anything else it was those initial feelings that had provided Tarkin with his first suspicion as to Vader’s identity. Later, observing the rapport the Dark Lord shared with the stormtroopers who supported him, and the technique he displayed in wielding his crimson lightsaber, Tarkin grew more and more convinced that his suspicions were right.

Vader might very well be Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, whom Tarkin had fought beside during the Clone Wars, and for whom he had developed a grudging appreciation.
- ibid

The Emperor was aware of Tarkin's suspicions, but didn't see them as a problem, because Tarkin clearly didn't mind being led by two Sith:

Sidious assumed that Tarkin had puzzled out that Vader had once been Anakin Skywalker, under whom Tarkin had served during the war. Tarkin may also have determined that Vader was a Sith. If so, it followed that he accepted that Sidious was Vader’s dark side Master. But Tarkin’s intuitions were important only in the sense that he never revealed them and never allowed them to interfere with his own ambitions.
- ibid

The Emperor had long sought to foster a friendship between Anakin and Tarkin, but it didn't work until after Anakin became Vader:

During the Clone Wars, Sidious had made every attempt to promote a rapport between Skywalker and Tarkin, but the relationship had never prospered to his satisfaction. Then came that business with Skywalker’s Togruta apprentice, Ahsoka Tano, which, while it had provoked further disaffection in Skywalker, had also created a rift between him and Tarkin that perhaps had yet to mend. Yes, they had partnered since the end of the war, but— to Sidious’s own annoyance— absent a true appreciation for each other’s talents.
- ibid


Why Palpatine tried to cover up the existence of the Jedi:

Because as long as people believed in the Force, and knew the true value of the Jedi, the Force might exert itself and restore balance - by destroying Palpatine, the Empire, and the Sith:

Darth Plagueis had once remarked that “the Force can strike back.” The death of a star didn’t necessarily curtail its light, and indeed Sidious could see evidence of that sometimes even in Vader — the barest flicker of persistent light. Attacks like the one directed against Tarkin’s moon base [where the Death Star was under construction] and discoveries like the one on Murkhana were distractions to his ultimate goal of making certain that the Force could not strike back, and that whatever faint light of hope remained could be snuffed out for good.
- ibid

4

The impression I received of Jedi, even in the second trilogy (phantom menace) is that the Jedi's hayday is long gone. They aren't seen as a strong political party. Yes they are trusted by a political party, or a few royal dignities, but their function is as advisors and body guards, not special force wizards using their powers all the time.

The audience is well aware of the council, and the younglings and padawan who are slain, and the massive blow to the Jedi order. Compare that to the impression most high nobles had of the order: a council and some knights, maybe one or two trainees, hardly a thriving group, and even so one that rarely exercised their powers.

I would compare it to Buddhist monks; as far as I'm aware there are maybe one or two monasteries in the far east that still practice this religion, when in truth I imagine thee are hundreds I've never seen or heard of.

My point being, Motti and Tarkin may well have considered the Jedi and sith orders to be ancient, dead religions even twenty years ago.

2

I don't see what the contradiction is. You are inferring the wrong thing from the fact that Motti calls it "ancient" and that Tarkin says Vader "is all that's left". These two things are independent. "Ancient" and "dead" doesn't mean long dead.

"Ancient" refers to the origin of the religion, just like Judaism and Hinduism are "ancient". You could have hundreds or thousands of Jedi for thousands of years, and that makes the religion "ancient". You can then wipe out all the Jedi, and as of the next day, it is an ancient dead religion.

  • 2
    I know the difference between "ancient" and "dead" but in this situation is clear that Tarkin is 'ridiculing' Vader's Force powers as something old and weird, something too strange to exist. And that's the weird part of all the discussion, because, for the reasons written in the OP, he can't ignore the existance of the Force – Stefano O. Jul 13 '12 at 15:56
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    Yes, of course he is. to Tarkin, Vader is ALL THAT IS LEFT of that Ancient Dead religion. Vader should grow up and become a Moff and wield REAL power. gah! gurgle! ehhhhhhh. – CGCampbell Aug 26 '14 at 19:00
2

Basically because while the Jedi order was well known and famous, most people never met a Jedi or saw them ever do anything with the force. It's akin to the bible and the old testament where, since no one has ever seen God do any of the old testament type mircales, most people have relegated it all to nothing but myth, stories or compelte fabrications. So it's the same with the Jedi, the Jedi order and the force.

Same is also true for the Shaolin, chi and chi-gung, because today there are so few practitioners that can really use their chi, have the kinds of skills, power and abilities that you would see in old school kung-fu movies, and those that can do such things do not advertise or show off... most think that they never existed and that they were mere exaggerations or stories, myths,..not real.

Much of what goes on in the Star Wars universe is taken from both the history of the Shaolin monks and the biblical prophets, so that is why I use those parralells.

The Jedi were also considered to be traitors to the republic and the Palpatine and Vader stopped at nothing to wipe out as many records of their existence as possible. Also, Palpatine was waging a massive propaganda campaign against the Jedi during the Clone Wars. After order 66, anyone even remotely having anything to do with the Jedi were labeled as traitors and jailed or killed, so this scared people into simply forgetting anything they kenw about the Jedi, do not discuss them, read about them, etc. Those that were older and possibly had seen or met a Jedi would know better, but the vast majority would be taught via propaganda, state controlled media, edited text books and the like, to beleive that they were nothing more than a myth and legend.

Even on Obra-Skai, which was the largest repository of knowledge in the galaxy, most of the records of the Jedi, along with their knowledge, training techniques and more were wiped out. Luke was essentially a walking library of knowledge of the Jedi techniques, the only one known to exist at the time.

Later on, Luke eventually found the Chunthor', which was a mobile Jedi training ship that he found crashed on Dathomir. He was eventually able to recover training disks that the witches of Dathomir had kept since Yoda went there over 300 years prior. These are things that Luke would have learned from Yoda had he not disobeyed Yoda and Obi-wan and left for Bespin in an attempt to save Han and Leia.

So there was definitely a massive concerted effort to destroy all memory of the Jedi from the entire galaxy, no doubt greatly contributing to most people beliving that they never really existed.

1

It's also worth noting that there's a disinformation campaign going on. Vader is not in fact a Jedi at this point in the series: he renounced them to become a Sith Lord. Yet even extremely high-ranking officials in the Empire act as though he is, going so far as to call him such, and he does not correct them. Odds are, these officials honestly believe that he is still a Jedi: Vader and the Emperor are just about the only people left who could tell them otherwise, and the rest are so deep in hiding that even if they know enough to call Vader a Sith, they don't dare.

This could serve two purposes. Vader may well be the most feared individual in the Empire, and continuing to associate him with the Jedi helps establish that the Jedi, and any who would attempt to learn about them, should be feared and distrusted. It also helps to hide the existence of the Sith: they have not always been a secretive order, but at the time of the movies they certainly are. Yet Vader's powers still need to be explained to the people somehow, and his old religion, now a convenient scapegoat, makes for good camouflage.

0

Without saying "Bad writing", my initial response would be to say that the Emperor and Vader have only grown more powerful as time has gone by, whilst the other remaining Jedi, Kenobi and Yoda, have grown weaker. It was Vader and the Emperor's goal to eradicate all traces of the Jedi, both as a people and a memory. Perhaps they were able to exude their own powers over the force to actually change the way all intelligent creatures remember certain events.

Heck, but if that were true, they could have just made everyone agree that the Empire was super great and there was no need for a rebellion.

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