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For some reason, the ways of the Force are nearly universally considered a religion in the Galaxy Far Far Away during year 0 BBY by "laymen" (e.g. non-Jedi-nor-Sith):

Han Solo: Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.


Motti: 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 fort- [grasps his throat as if he is being choked]


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

Why exactly was it considered "religion"? (by people who were not Jedi or Sith who had no idea about the spiritual components of it).

There was no deity nor worship which usually define religion. As a matter of fact, aside from the Jedi and the Sith internal beliefs themselves, there was no spiritual angle at all (this is an important point. Yoda may have known about spirituality and life after death thing. But Han Solo couldn't have known, neither did Motti).

The way I see it, to the rest of the galaxy, the ways of the Force were more akin to magic as practiced by Uri Geller or Houdini - a somewhat supernatural-seeming set of tricks with no spiritual component. Nobody ever referred to such people/movements as "religions" in real life.

  • Possible duplicate: scifi.stackexchange.com/q/20467/4495 – Mr Lister Aug 31 '12 at 17:59
  • @MrLister - Not really, sorry. This question is about why it was considered a religion, NOT why it changed from being "real" to "religion" in the intervening period. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Aug 31 '12 at 18:29
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    It wasn't a religion, it was science! It's got Midichlorian counters and everything! – Reinstate Monica Aug 31 '12 at 19:37
  • @Wikis - Jeff Atwood must have loved the Jedi then :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Aug 31 '12 at 19:51
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The entire galaxy seems to have suffered an immense bout of amnesia about the Jedi - people who could have and should have known Jedi act as if they have no knowledge of them at all.

All that most people know of them, especially people who never saw or interacted of them before the Empire rose, is what they've heard.

The Jedi were an exclusive order, known for being wise. They could preform miracles, and professed a faith and belief in something that the average person could not see or feel.

They promised a form of everlasting life after death (becoming 'one with the Force'), lived in a massive Temple, and the meaning and reasons for much that they did was non-obvious to most people.

In short, the Jedi were all followers of the same religion. The Sith were followers of a different version of this religion. The only difference between their religion and the religions we have today are that the Jedi and Sith can use their belief to preform repeatable, measurable actions.

Give it a generation for the rest of what they said and did to fade into the mists of time (you can bet the Emperor didn't let much in the way of official records remain) and 'religion' becomes a very apt description of them.

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    +1 Good points. I would note: There were not infinite numbers of Jedi. Most people of the galaxy probably lived their entire lives never meeting, let alone even seeing a Jedi or Sith, even before the purge. And for these beings and their supposed "powers" and belief in something no one else felt or knew, it would easily be viewed as a religion. As for repeatable actions, there are many of faiths in the world today, who would say that they can create these repeatable, measurable actions as part of their faith. It's part of their religion and faith. The Jedi/Sith are no different. – BBlake Aug 31 '12 at 18:09
  • "They promised a form of everlasting life after death (becoming 'one with the Force')" - did they promise that to non-Jedi? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Aug 31 '12 at 18:13
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    @SSumner - sorry, to be clearer - they never TOLD the non-Jedi about Force Ghosts and Force-become-one. My point is not whether Jedi could have been considered a religion from THEIR point of view, but from the point of view of NON-Jedi. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Aug 31 '12 at 18:40
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    @DVK, but the point is you have rumors of Jedi powers and such, and you have an entire galaxy where the vast majority of the population has never met them or interacted with them. Once they all get wiped out, it seems less laser-guided amnesia and just cynicism and a general lack of information. – ardent Aug 31 '12 at 19:26
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    @DVK - I see where you're coming from, but from the general comments made by Jedi on missions about the Force, and the prevalent greeting of "May the Force be with you" does indicate a somewhat reclusive religion with the knights as "missionaries" that don't spread their "gospel" by word, but by action - not unlike some monastic orders – The Fallen Aug 31 '12 at 20:33
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Because they were a religion

To begin with, the Jedi and the Sith believe in a supernatural force that underlies everything. What’s more, the Jedi, at least, believe that the Force has a will (and they’re almost certainly right), meaning that they see it as conscious in some broad sense. An omnipresent consciousness that, at least broadly, directs everything, and to which its followers devote their lives? That certainly sounds like a religion to me.

Listen to how Obi-Wan talks about it:

The Force works in mysterious ways, but it leads us to where we need to be in order to achieve balance. Many Sith believe that the dark side holds more power, but that is simply not true.”

Han strained his ears to catch what the old man said next.

It was the Force that brought me into your life, and it is the Force that will guide you to your destiny.”

The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy

The Sith may see the Force very differently, but they too believe that it has a sort of consciousness, that it guides their lives. Vader does:

It was his duty to rule them all. He saw that now. It was the manifest will of the Force. Existence without proper rule was chaos, disorder, suboptimal. The Force—invisible but ubiquitous—bent toward order and was the tool through which order could and must be imposed, but not through harmony, not through peaceful coexistence. That had been the approach of the Jedi, a foolish, failed approach that only fomented more disorder. Vader and his Master imposed order the only way it could be imposed, the way the Force required that it be imposed, through conquest, by forcing the disorder to submit to the order, by bending the weak to the will of the strong.

Lords of the Sith

Even Sidious does:

Vader knew the reply. “There are no coincidences, Master.”

“And that, my apprentice, is why Murkhana matters to us. Because the dark side of the Force has for whatever reason brought that world to our attention once more—as you should well understand.”

Tarkin

There’s another crucial point, though. The Jedi and the Sith followed the ways of the Force, but they were not the only ones. Many, many other sentient beings followed the ways of the Force purely as a religion, without ever using—or, indeed, being capable of using—the Force in an active sense.

For example, the Church of the Force was an organization of laypeople who follow the ways of the Force. Some among the Lasat believed in the Force, which they called the Ashla. The most detailed description comes from the novelization of Rogue One, which shows that many different faiths are based around the Force, and see it in many different ways:

What is the Force of Others? To ask this, you must ask one question and a thousand.

To a cultist of the Huiyui-Tni, you must ask, “What is the exhalation of the true, amphibious god?” To a Jedi, you must ask, “What is it that binds and defines all life?” To a child of the Esoteric Pulsar, you must ask, “Show me the secret pages of the Book of Stars.” To a faithless man, you must ask, “What power enables prophecy and sorcery in a world controlled by logic and law?”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Indeed, it seems likely that the Force is better-known in many places as a religion: as something that, say, the Church of the Force believes in, than as “that thing that the Jedi use to do crazy things.” There are only 10,000 Jedi, after all, and who knows how many billions or trillions of adherents of the Church of the Force, the Huiyui-Tni, the Lasat Ashla, and so forth.

With all this context in mind, then, it would be accurate, natural, and indeed automatic to refer to the ways of the Force as a religion, and to conceive of the Jedi as religious.

2

The in-universe answer is that this "amnesia" effect was intentional - it's partly caused by the Dark Side clouding the galaxy, but also by twenty years of propaganda by the Galactic Empire. Attitudes can change a lot in twenty years, especially when someone is practically brain-washing the public. It's somewhat alluded to in a few sources, but I don't have any specifics at the moment.

The actual answer, from a production standpoint, is that originally (before the prequels), George Lucas had intended much more time to have passed between the fall of the Jedi and the original movie. The dialogue was written such that it had been almost 30-40 years, with younger people like Han Solo never having known anything other than the Empire. In that version, it was understood that Vader's turn to the Dark Side was much more gradual, and that Obi-Wan had taken it upon himself to train an adult Anakin almost his own age. It was also implied that Luke & Leia's mom had stuck with Vader several years into the Empire stage of things, than later fled to Alderaan once she learned she was pregnant, dying a few years later.

Obviously, the prequels changed a LOT of the backstory understood or assumed at the time. A lot of fans under 30 don't really understand that, since the entire continuity was basically retconned in 1999.

A more recent "post-Prequels" answer would be that the Jedi are a religion in that they have a set of rules to live by, a central figure to "worship" (The Force), and a certain exclusivity that spans race or creed.

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That's because it IS a religion, as even some martial arts like gung-fu were once considered a religion, because a religion is all about self improvement on all levels which is what real gung-fu is also all about.

Jedi is really a parralel to Christianity, since the Jedi were essentially Christians and God's prophets, but who were also martial arts masters, which is why the elements taken from the Shaolin monks and Samurai or also in there as well.

Jedi are monk warriors which is exactly what Shaolin monks were called and known as. Numerous elements from Star Wars were taken from the bible, including the name Jedi itself which comes from the name Jedidiah, which is the name the GOD gave to Solomon. So the word Jedi IS actually from God Himself.

The Shaolin monks practiced Buddhism and some of the very philosophies of the Jedi are taken from the Shaolin and Buddhist teachings, mostly some of the general meditative techniques along with some philosophy.

So hopefully you can see that from these parralels, that the Jedi is very much a real religion that had nearly gone extinct since you could only be a Jedi by having said abilities and training. There was tens of thousands of Jedi throughout the galaxy at one point, but in something the size of a galaxy, that's not many at all.

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    Do you have some support of direct inspiration / intentional parallels from George Lucas himself, or only your own speculations? This being SE and not a forum, the former is encouraged and the latter is discouraged. I will also point out that the Jedi are nowhere shown to be leaders of the general population as the Biblical Judges were, for example. So I question your parallel. The mere existence of vague similarities based on your own speculation doesn't establish that the Jedi are "essentially Christians," whether in-universe or out-of-universe. – Wolfie Inu Oct 22 '15 at 6:51
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    I agree with some of your similarities (though not all of them), but you're failing to establish how this makes the Jedi "essentially Christians and God's prophets." We know that GL likes to include what he calls "mythological motifs" and elements of various religions, but has he anywhere stated that the Jedi were "essentially Christians and God's prophets" (or something of the kind)? Vague similarities do not establish your point. Otherwise, edit your answer to say that "some similarities exist to Christian monastic / Crusading orders," or something like that. – Wolfie Inu Oct 30 '15 at 7:06
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    Of course he got a lot of it from the Bible or Christian history, obviously. Of course there are parallels. The quasi-virgin birth, the monastic order sworn to poverty (also parallels with Eastern orders), the name Anakin = Anakim (which is the plural form, by the way, not "Anakims"), etc. However, the existence of parallels does not establish your fanfic as canon. BTW, the name Jedi is not "from God," it's probably from Japanese ( scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/105652/… ). – Wolfie Inu Oct 30 '15 at 7:15
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    Some of your parallels are compelling, others are nonsense, but none of it establishes a canonical link between the Jedi and real-world religious orders. You can speculate on your own time, but you are not answering the question. – Wolfie Inu Oct 30 '15 at 7:21
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    Your speculations still aren't canon and aren't reasonably supported by any evidence. Maybe it makes sense to you, but it's still essentially fanfiction. Unless you can link a parallel directly to something that GL has said or to some other source of canonical evidence, your parallels are essentially meaningless for the purposes of the question that you're purporting to answer. Even in that case, the applicability of your answer is questionable since OP is clearly asking for a preferably in-universe explanation. – Wolfie Inu Oct 30 '15 at 7:30
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The Force is a real thing in the series, yes, but its existence brings about many questions. Why can some people use it, others only feel it, and others seemingly not interact with it at all? what are the implications of the existence of such a thing? What should a person be cautious about with respect to it, and what should they embrace? What are the best ways to use it?

In the Expanded Universe, the very first Force-users didn't even refer to the Light Side and the Dark Side as such: those names came later, as part of their attempts to answer these questions. These attempts moved the Force-using orders out of science and into philosophy, but they didn't stop there. They developed their own traditions and rituals, taking on the trappings of religion as they developed these ways to transmit the knowledge and disciplines they had developed. Eventually they became indistinguishable from religions, and so the people began to think of them as such.

  • As I've mentioned a few times on this site and in many comments above, the answers to many of these questions are found in the bible as there are many direct and other strong parallels between the two, though some refuse to see it. Just as God (the power, force, light side) chooses people that have the necessary character and potential to complete the training and be used for His will, the force does the same thing. The "living force" is the "living waters" of God's Holy Spirit that guides a willing person aka Jedi to obeying the will of the force. Just as God does with true Christians – JediWitness Oct 30 '15 at 8:21
  • However, if you are looking a Star Wars only answer to this question, then I have never come across one in the over 100 books, source books, role playing material, forums, etc. But the bible and other secular knowledge does answer these questions, but some people hate to bring any worldly religion into this discussion, to each his own. – JediWitness Oct 30 '15 at 8:23
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This practice of the monastic Jedi is often referred to as a religion by the uninitiated. I can think of another practice often referred to a religion with no beliefs about the spirit, not yearning to be with any god; Zen Buddhism.

The Zen masters were said to have near magic-like powers, like the ability to predict when they would pass on. (See The Koan "Last Poem of Hoshin") Some Zen masters were said to be unbeatably strong simply be realizing the truth of Zen. See The Koan "Great Waves".)

The practitioners do not believe in any god, even Buddha, the source of much of their teachings is seen as a hindrance to enlightenment. “If you meet the Buddha, kill him.”– Linji

So too are the ways of the Jedi. To the uninitiated, both appear as magic as in Arthur C Clarke's 3rd Law "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

So both appear to be religions. Neither are. But if you are some moisture farmer on the far end of the galaxy, how would you ever know?

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    Hey man, this is a great first post! It might be helpful if you could provide some links to what you are quoting, like the Last Poem of Hoshin for instance. I am also not exactly sure that Clarke's 3rd law applies here, as Zen masters aren't really known by their usage of advanced technology – Daishozen Mar 2 '18 at 0:01
  • You are right on here. Completely valid. – mice Mar 5 '18 at 6:42

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