SYDNEY (Christian Examiner) – These aren't the statistics we're looking for, atheists down under are saying in an effort to curtail the number of Australians who might list "Jedi " as their religion in the nation's upcoming census.
In the last census in 2011, more than 64,000 Australians listed the "hokey" religion, as the smuggler Han Solo called it in Star Wars, as their official religion. That was 6,000 more than listed their allegiance to the Force in the previous census.
But now, atheists in Australia don't find the listing of one's religion as "Jedi" to be a comical way of expressing no religion at all. That is why the Atheist Foundation of Australia is encouraging people to simply report "no religion" on the upcoming census.
In other words, atheists want the government of Australia to be aware of just how many of them there are in the country.
"Accurate census data helps policy makers & political leaders make all sorts of planning and funding decisions. So if you're not religious anymore, mark the 'No religion' box on the 2016 Census," an information piece provided by the atheist group says.
Those who chose a term like Jedi – or the equally obscure Pastafarian (a religion devoted to the so-called Flying Spaghetti Monster) – are officially counted in the "not defined" category instead of the "No religion" category.
"This reduces the 'No religion' numbers and therefore advantages the religion count. While it may be funny, it is serious mistake to answer in this way," the guide claims.
Some have suggested, however, that there might be a kernel of truth in people marking themselves down as the disciples of Master Yoda and Ben Kenobi.
Dirk Libbey writes at Cinema Blend:
"While certainly many in the nation are just making a joke at the census' expenses, maybe a few of them really do try to follow in the ways of the Jedi. It wouldn't be the worst religion to follow. It's about trying to connect with other living things, holding on to peace and letting go of anger and hatred (assuming you're a practicing light side Jedi of course). Maybe even those who started to list themselves as Jedi for the joke value have gone on to embrace the idea."
The Aussie Jedi are not the first officially to list themselves as Jedi. The running gag started in the United Kingdom in 2001 when nearly 400,000 listed themselves as knights of the Star Wars realm.
By 2011, the number had fallen to only 176,000.