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Where Have All the Jedi gone?

An early 'viral' phenomenon, the Jedi faith is fading fast

In 2001, Jediism was the fourth biggest religion in England and Wales. That same year, fully 1.5% of New Zealanders came out as adherents of the Force, the highest percentage anywhere in the world. Had the new religion's meteoric rise persisted, it would surely have been one of the world's biggest by now. But the wave crested. Where have all the Jedi gone?

Jediism is not a 'real' religion. It is based on the spirituality of the Jedi Knights in the fictional Star Wars universe. But how exactly is the Jedi faith any less real than other religions? Aren't they all, in essence, equally fictional? That of course was the point being made by all those people filling in 'Jedi' on their census forms. Spreading like wildfire from 2001 onwards, the Jedi census drive was one of the first 'viral' online phenomena to go truly global.

In 2001, the Australian census noted more than 70,000 individuals as Jedi, or 0.37% of the population. The Canadian census that same year recorded 21,000 Jedi Knights. No less than 53,000 New Zealanders listed themselves as Jedi, leading to the aforementioned record 1.5%. With those numbers, Jediism was New Zealand's second-largest religion, ahead of Buddhism and Hinduism (both 1.2%).

In 2001 in England and Wales, 390,127 people (almost 0.8%) identified as Jedi – more than Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism. In absolute numbers, it was the biggest Jedi population in any country. Jedi was Britain's fourth religion, after Christianity (70%), Islam (3.1%) and Hinduism (2.1%). The Jedi Jerusalem was Brighton, where a whopping 2.6% of those surveyed adhered to the Jedi faith.

This map is a snapshot of Jediism's high water mark in Britain. The Force was particularly strong in southern counties, and noticeably absent in the north. The most Jediist counties were Dorset, Hampshire, East Sussex, Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Greater London. Another hotbed straddling the Severn is comprised of one Welsh county, South Glamorgan, and an English one, Avon. In all these counties, Jedi religionists made up between 0.93 and 1.40% of the total.

Although there's a noticeable northward salient through central England, with Jedi centres in Nottinghamshire and to a lesser extent in South and West Yorkshire, the north is weak in the Force. That pattern is repeated north of the border: only 0.28% of Scots declared themselves to be Jedi in the 2001 census.

But Jediism proved a fickle religion. In subsequent censuses in most countries, it shrank fast. The 2006 census in New Zealand returned only 20,000 kiwi Jedi. By 2011, the number of Canadian Jedi had dropped to 9,000. In Australia, the Jedi numbered just over 58,000 in 2006 – although their ranks increased again to 65,000 by 2011. In the 2011 census of England and Wales, the number of Jedi had more than halved, to 176,632 faithful, putting the creed in 7th place.

The Jedi census movement may be a fading fad, but the Star Wars religion still has some real-life rallying power. In 2015, Turkish students protested the building of mosques on their campus by demanding the construction of Jedi and Buddhist temples as well.

Map found here on Wikipedia.

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