Friday, 13 May 2011

148: J is for Justification

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The A-to-Z of the GFFA.

Back in 2001, the UK Census was issued.
A predominantly online-based campaign did the rounds via e-mail and messageboards. The idea was this: One of the questions in the census asks you what your religion is. This is a voluntary question. If you have no strong religious feelings that you wish to share and would otherwise leave it blank, why not put Jedi in the box? It'll mess with the governments figures and if there are enough responses, get it officially recognised as a religion in the UK.

It's just a question. No pressure.

Before the results were submitted and collated, a government statement was issued, something along the lines of "Look, put what you want. It's a non-mandatory question, and nothing will be made official from it". Still, the campaign continued, and the census forms were returned.

Out of just under 60 million registered participants in England and Wales, 259,928 people recorded their religion as Jewish.
390,127 people recorded their religion as Jedi.

I don't think you'll fall off your chair in surprise when I tell you that I was one of the Jedi.

Obviously, a large percentage of those were "joke answers". People looking to be subversive on a government questionnaire, by answering nonsense to a question which wasn't essential to be filled in anyway. It is, of course, debatable how many of the people who answered Christian actually live their lives by Christian values, let alone how many actually go to church on a regular basis. Now I'm fully aware that you don't need to go to church to be a Christian, but I'm also fully aware that a lot of people who were raised in that religion would enter that as their answer in the census, more as a default reaction than a considered answer.

I put Jedi, largely because I love Star Wars, but also because of that monastic order's aim for tranquility and respect. What comes across in the films has been debated (and claimed by many religions as a tribute to themselves) often, but basically falls towards Buddhism. Now Buddhism's not strictly speaking a religion in itself, more a set of guidelines for being a good person (as any religion should be). The Jedi in the movies don't actually worship a deity, they just believe in doing what's right (all queries regarding the shortsightedness of the Jedi as being instrumental to the fall of the Republic should be directed to another blog entry, thank you). The bottom line is, although I was raised in a Christian household, I don't consider myself 'Christian' as such. It's not that I've rejected it or its principles, I just don't fit in that box. Buddhism seems like a more logical path to me, with the basic commandment of "don't be bastards to each other, eh?" above anything else.
It's what the Jedi believe, also. So when I entered Jedi into that box, it wasn't a joke. It's what represents how I look at the world, and surely that's what that question was for?

Back in 2001, I genuinely had a (short) conversation on the subject, when someone asked me with a sneer: "Oh, so if you put Jedi down, does that mean you can lift things up with your mind, then?". My answer was "well, in the same way that everyone who answers Christian can heal lepers and walk on water, yes".

Anyhow, fast-forward to 2011, and we had the UK Census issued again. Question 20 was the 'religion' box. Again, non-mandatory. There was a rumbling about people putting Jedi into the box, but for the most part, people weren't bothered. That was done 10 years ago, so what's the point? Which is a fair assessment, even by my standards. I didn't expect the Jedi-movement of 2001 to change anything, and indeed it didn't (those attention seekers at the "Jedi Chuch" don't count). So where's the harm?

Thanks to a recent resurgence in skepticism and atheism (which, for the record, I'm behind in principle), there was a call this time round for non-believers to state as much on the form. To quote "By ticking ‘No Religion’, you will ensure that the Government receives an unambiguous message about the number of non-religious people in the UK. Any other response may be manipulated into a response in favour of religion and publically funded religious organisations."

Now, to make this clear, I approve wholeheartedly of the idea behind this. In the age we live in, people shouldn't be guilted into writing a religion they haven't practiced since they were a child, and they certainly shouldn't be guilted into denying they're unsure (or even atheist) about the whole thing. In all honesty, though, I don't recall when a Jedi praxeum was last opened in my area, or the last outcry of concerned parents over their children being taught the theories of The Living Force vs The Unifying Force in religious studies. What I gather from it, is that the religion itself is irrelevant, and that the government is using ballpark figures of religion vs no religion in making its decisions.

Anyway, the link for the above site was passed my way with perhaps a slight inference that I was going to put Jedi as a feeble way to annoy the person with the task of collating the data from question 20. Now in all fairness, I didn't respond with this blog post to the people who forwarded me the link. As I said, I actually approve of the sentiment. But make no mistake: When I put Jedi as an answer to question 20, I know exactly what I'm doing.

With the amount of time and money I've spent collecting and obsessing about SW over the years, I'm almost more qualified than most of the other people who'll put Jedi. I've got two SW tattoos for crying out loud, how much commitment do I have to show?

I, Jedi.

In terms of the values I hold, and how I live my life: I am a Jedi. Deal with it.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

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• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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