Monday, September 21, 2009

The International Church of Jediism

Greetings.

Jewish date:  3 Tishri 5770.

Today’s holidays:  The Fast of Gedhalyah (Judaism), Feast Day of Virgilius and Fall Equinox (Ritual of the Elements) (Thelema).

Worthy cause of the day:  My brother Barry has asked me to post this:
I am asking everyone to participate in ARC of Indian River County's 6th Annual Divine Dining Drawing.  In these tough times, state funding to help people with developmental disabilities has been cut, and donations are more important than ever.  Your donation will help support ARC's group homes, work supports, and behavioral services for people with developmental disabilities.  For every $2.00 ticket you buy, you will get a chance of winning many fabulous prizes including dining at a number of wonderful restaurants, gift cards for Publix, and a pie a month from Bob Evans for a year.  The drawing will be held on November 20th, so time is running out.  You can get tickets from me personally, or you can call (772) 562-6854 x217 or write to sandyg@arcir.org.  You can learn more about this fundraiser athttp://www.arcir.org/sales.html or about ARC in general at http://www.arcir.org.  Thank you for attention and hopefully your support.
Also:  “Payment Cuts for Medicare Physicians are Bad News for Older Americans”, “Stand with Dawn”, and “September is Hunger Action Month -- Fight to End Hunger!

Today’s topic is “Supermarket bans Jedi Knight”.  Apparently a store in Wales has banned someone for wearing a “hoodie”, even though that person is Daniel Jones, the founder of the International Church of Jediism, and the hood is part of his religion.  I am going to put aside completely the question of whether the store is right in banning Mr. Jones.  Rather, I would like discuss the theory behind Jediism in all forms.  Religions are traditionally based on one or more divine revelations or the authority of someone otherwise purported to be able to know something beyond our natural world.  The most obvious problem for Jediism is that Jedi originate in the fictional Star Wars franchise.  It would therefore seem that any source of authority for a real-life Jedi religion is lacking, as George Lucas makes no claims of prophecy or that anything in the franchise is an accurate representation of events that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

There are at least two ways around this dilemma.  The first is that the founders of real-life Jediism could have had a revelation from a deity commanding that they found a new religion based on the fictional Jedi.  The major problem with this is that real-life Jedis are purportedly non-theistic.  Even without making claim to having been commanded by a deity, they could still claim to have special access to hidden information which shows that somehow that the Jedi lifestyle is the right way of life.  But none of the Jedi sites linked to from the Wikipedia article (The Jediism WayThe Jedi Resource Center/Gatherings GroupUnited JediThe Jedi SanctuaryTemple of the Jedi ForceJedi Church), at least on their front pages, seem to be leaning in this direction.

The other way around the dilemma, which seems to be the one used, is an outright abandonment of empiricism.  Rather than having an actual reason for becoming a Jedi, one feels it is the right thing to do. The Temple of the Jedi Force makes this most clear:
All religions no matter what they are have a Story to tell. These stories impart wisdom to the follower and show a path to the soul. That's what their there for. The story or "Myth" is what defines a religion. Now when I say myth it's not to say a religious story is true or false, to me that does not matter. What really matters is it true or false to YOU. These stories must be believed by the person who follows them. To believe the myth of your faith is to take it into your soul and make it part of your story, your myth if you will. You see it's that belief, that faith, that gives it the power to change us. without it how would it touch our souls? This does not mean to follow blindly, but to put your trust in the wisdom of the storyteller.
To the writer of these words, subjectivity is more important that objectivity, the story over whether there is any reason to believe the story—or even the context of the story.  The problem with this notion is that it does not reflect religion as it is traditionally or normally believed and practiced.  Do note that a lot of conflicts on this planet of ours are centered around religion.  If religion is nothing more than stories which appeal to whoever “believes” in them, then such conflicts reduce to obvious idiocy; there is no reason the same stories have to appeal to everyone and that different people cannot like different stories.  Furthermore, people ought to be able to rewrite the stories at will to suit their own tastes, whims, and convenience, while in reality people often stick to the same old narratives even if they cause hardship.  The truth—the objective truth, the truth that is true to everyone and not merely “true to you”—is that religion is more than “myth”.  What makes the stories something other than fiction is that people believe them to be objective truth.  Instead of fighting for fantasy, people actually fight over the objective truth.  Instead of changing their narratives willy-nilly, people cling to the old narratives because they believe them to be the objective truth.  Because once you throw out the notion of objective truth, religion is reduced to a fandom, a fantasy world which one can enter and leave at will without any obligations—and this is not the sort of religion worth believing in.

Aaron