Yesterday I laid out the initial 2011 British Census religion numbers, which showed a big jump in Pagan numbers from 2001, which of course means that the British press wants to talk about the Jedi. “The new figures reveal that the lightsabre-wielding disciples are only behind Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism in the popularity stakes, excluding non-religious people and people who did not answer. Following a nationwide campaign, Jedi made it onto the 2001 census, with 390,127 people identifying themselves a decade ago as followers of the fictional Star Wars creed. Although the number of Jedis has dropped by more than 50 per cent over the past 10 years, they are still the most selected “alternative” faith on the Census, and constitute 0.31% of all people’s stated religious affiliation in England and Wales.” The Huffington Post’s UK branch also couldn’t resist leading with the Jedi. “The Sith Lord has been hard at work in England and Wales since the rise of the Jedis in 2001, with the Jedi population declining by more than half in the last decade.” Also a popular topic of conversation: Metal Hammer’s campaign to get people to list “Heavy Metal” as their religion, which over 6000 people did.
I have updates on several previously reported stories for you today. No One Likes a Jedi at Census Time: Last week I reported on the “PaganDash” campaign, which is looking to encourage Pagans in the UK to stand up and be counted in the census, and use a uniform write-in for the census form. However, Pagans aren’t the only group looking to improve their numbers in the 2011 British census. British humanists and atheists have launched a campaign to increase the number of respondents that check “no religion”, taking aim at the Jedi census phenomenon from 2001’s census. “If your religion is of low enough importance to you to that you are willing to put in a religion from 3 good sci-fi films from years ago, and 3 more recent rubbish ones,please consider ticking “No Religion” instead.
Top Story: Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University has recognized its first Pagan chaplain, Mary Hudson, co-founder of the Syracuse/SUNY college Pagan group SPIRAL, and co-owner of The Fey Dragon metaphysical shop. Hudson was sponsored in her chaplaincy by the Church of the Green Wood, affiliated with the Church of Ancient Ways. Jessica Mays, the current president of SPIRAL, sees her appointment as an important positive step in raising awareness of modern Paganism on campus. “I would like to see us get more of the student body not necessarily involved but to know we’re there and to know that we’re normal people … Being in an interfaith school where most of the religions are a branch off of Christianity, you have to be able to say what you need to say and say it well as to not offend everybody, but also know what it is that you believe in and stand by what you believe in.”
Back in 2001 the British census was rocked by a massive Internet campaign/practical joke, where, for a variety of reasons, 400,000 people listed “Jedi” as their religious affiliation. The Pagan community, though ranking as the seventh-largest faith in Britain with a combined number of nearly 40,000, paled in comparison (Pagan groups, who feel they could actually number in the hundreds of thousands, are organizing to ensure a more accurate count in 2011). While I don’t doubt that there are sincere adherents to some sort of constructed Jedi-faith, it seems more likely that it became a haven for people who don’t like the idea of telling the government their religious affiliation, or even having to decide on a religious affiliation. I bring all this up because the Washington Post is doing a spotlight on faith within the popular social networking site Facebook, and it looks like the return of the Jedi. “Since then, Facebook’s beliefs box has generated a staggering number of entries.