The Star Wars universe has been growing ever expansive as we approach the premiere of Rogue One in December, when viewers will be introduced to new planets and ships, including the U-Wing and Jedha — a planet with a great population that is deeply devoted to The Force as a faith or religion. This isn’t the first group to practice a religion in-canon, and like any religious group, it has its obsessive extremists growing in the darkness known as the Acolytes of the Beyond following the events above Endor; but that’s another story for another day. Exploring Jedha with our heroes can possibly continue to expand Force-based lore on the big screen in the small way Maz Kanata (a devout “believer” in the Force) did during The Force Awakens.
But here in the real world, the title of Jedi has also been adapted politically in Australia, where citizens have successfully screwed up their country’s census by registering as the ancient samurai-inspired space warriors. Well, okay: unlike the events that led up to Order 66, the Jedi’s blindness to the darkness surrounding them did not cause their own destruction. The real-life “Jedi” are just messing up the country’s tally of how religious it actually is.
Back in December of 2001 (half a year ahead of Attack of the Clones’ May 2002 premiere) over 70,000 citizens marked their religion as “Jedi”. The number has dwindled ever since, but now, the Atheist Foundation of Australia is trying to discourage people from identifying as Jedi. The problem this causes involves whether or not a percentage of Australia is actually religious: marking yourself as a Jedi — because there are still over 10,000 current Jedi registered — classifies them under the term “Not Defined” rather than “No Religion”. When census time rolls around, this understandably makes things confusing. The concern for AFA goes beyond basic head counts, as they believe the government will start making specific decisions with a higher religious population.
The last headcount revealed about 64,000 Jedi in Australia (pff - where did you even get your kyber crystals?) but since the census was held today, the actual number has yet to be determined.