Jim Monsonis Society and Religion
19 November 1996
So far this semester, we have studied several different sociological theories of religion. These theories are built on both the known history of religions in the world and the cultures in which they originated, as well as, appropriately enough, theoretical suggestions of how those religions, and indeed any religion at all, will survive in the future. The theory I find the most true is Stark and Bainbridge's in The Future of Religion, although I like some elements from others, like Berger's concepts of reification and secularization.
George Lucas's Star Wars trilogy, apart from being incredibly entertaining and extremely well-made, gives us a complete portrait of a society (The Empire) and a religion (Jediism, for lack of a better term). Although the movies are mostly devoted to the growth of the characters, throughout the trilogy we see the society change in a drastic manner. This paper will examine the history of Jediism, the current (as of the end of the last movie) status of the religion, and offer some suggestions as to what we can expect from Jediism in the future.
I. The Religion
To examine the future of religion as it relates to society, one must first have an idea of the tenets and beliefs on which the religion is based. Jediism is based solely on belief in the "force", a "Universal energy field that surrounds us and permeates us". (O. Kenobi, SW) Stark and Bainbridge make the point that any religion based on magic or magic-like rituals is fated to die out unless the magic can work constantly and consistently. This, they argue, is why many religions change from promising magic, which is quite verifiable (Did he, in fact, levitate?) to promising compensators, a sort of unverifiable magic. A good example of this is the Christian Heaven. Stark and Bainbridge take it as a given, however, that magic, or abilities that parallel magic, do not, in fact, exist. This makes an attempt to theorize about the future of Jediism more difficult, since the religion is based, in part, on the belief that oneness with the "force" has the ability to confer extraordinary powers to individuals-- a belief than is vindicated numerous times throughout the series.
The internal organization of the religion is, apparently, entirely nonexistent
. There is no leader, nor is there any defined structure. Much like classical Taoism, various masters exist, and students and supplicants must seek out a master on their own in order to learn. There is no hierarchy to advance in, other than the ability to eventually hone one's faith to a degree that one can take on one's own students. The test of this is whether the student becomes attached to the "dark side" of the "force", as did Obi-Wan Kenobi's first pupil, Anakin Skywalker, later known as Darth Vader.
The beliefs of Jediism, again, can be compared to classical Taoism. The "true" Jedi believes in calm, and strives to maintain calm at all times. He can experience emotions, but he does not let his emotions control him. He is at one with his environment at all times. He is fully aware of the existence of all
those around him, and holds free will as one of his highest ideals. He is not violent, but, if necessary, can fight extremely well and end conflicts rather quickly. His ultimate goal is universal peace. Jediism is unique, however, in that along with it developed a mirror religion, one that I will call, for lack of a better term, Dark Jediism. The tenets of Dark Jediism are all based on personal desires. To the Dark Jedi, other people are nothing but pawns with which to attain more personal power or resources. Peace is the defense of weaklings who don't know how to fulfill their desires. The ultimate goal of the Dark Jedi is to have complete and total control over the universe. This state, with the two sides of the "force" existent
and constantly at war, might be
compared to a...