So Many Australians List ‘Jedi’ As Their Religion on the Census, and Atheists Aren’t Happy
There’s been an awakening in Australia.
Over the past several years, more and more Australians have listed “Jedi”, the fictional Star Wars followers of The Force, as their religion on the national census. And I’m not just talking a couple hundred pranksters. In 2011, the country’s last census, which happens every five years, 64,390 people claimed “Jedi” as their religion, an increase from the 58,053 on the 2006 census, according to the Brisbane Times (h/t Mashable). That’s more than people claiming to be Seventh Day Adventists or in the Sihk community. But Atheists aren’t happy about the recent surge in followers of The Force and have launched a campaign against it for the next census on August 9.
The issue is, when people check the “Other” box on the census’ religion question and fill in “Jedi,” the answer is officially counted as “Not defined” rather than “No religion.” For the Atheist Foundation of Australia that’s a problem, since it makes the country appear more religious than it is. Kylie Sturgess, president of the Foundation, advocates that people who really have no religion shouldn’t waste an answer on a joke, since the government could be using inaccurate data for public policy making and city planning. “Answering the religion question thoughtfully and honestly matters because it benefits all Australians when decisions on how to spend taxpayer dollars are made on sound data that accurately reflects modern-day Australia,” Sturgess told the Brisbane Times. There’s also an infographic going around for the campaign:
But wait, why have so many people claimed to believe they’re Jedis in the first place? The census answer began as a joke for some, a rebuke to the government for others, and a chance for others to proclaim Star Wars fandom – Sturgess and her husband even put it down once as a prank. The Jedi census phenomenon (it even has a Wikipedia page) began in 2001 when 390,127 people across the U.K. and 64,390 Australians claimed to be followers of The Force. But there are also real people who honestly believe in Jediisim. The Temple of the Jedi Order, a recognized International Ministry and Public Charity, believe in things like government founded on reason and compassion, non-discrimination, and the “inherent worth of all life.” Doesn’t sound too bad! My question is, shouldn’t those real Jedi followers be the ones pissed off at the pranksters using their beliefs as a joke?
You’d think after The Force Awakens opening and more Star Wars movies on the way, Jediism would be gaining more followers than ever. With Rogue One opening this year, Australia’s 2016 census might have some pretty high Jedi numbers. The world is pretty dreadful lately anyway, so maybe we should all just follow the Jedi Order and call it a day. Whatever box you check on the census, may The Force be with you.