In the 2006 Australian Census, 58,053 people put “Jedi” down as their religion. In 2011, this number had jumped to 64,390. With Star Wars now more popular than ever thanks to the new movies, it is expected that the number of “practicing Jedis” will explode in this year’s Census. It’s a testament to Australia’s larrikin sense of humour (not to mention our slavish devotion to US pop culture) — but not everybody is amused. This infographic explains why you might want to reconsider the joke.
As with previous censuses, the 2016 Census contains an option to list your religion. You can choose from a list of common religions, select ‘No religion’ or nominate your own. The tradition of listing “Jedi” under religion is considered a fun, cheeky way to declare your Star Wars fandom. (Either that, or a disturbing number of Australians genuinely believe they are futuristic warrior monks with mystical powers.)
The Atheist Foundation of Australia is leading a campaign to get people to stop making this joke. The issue is that Jedi gets lumped in with all the other “Not Defined” religions in the Census, which means it officially counts towards the total. This artificially inflates the number of religious Australians in the Census results.
Data from this question is used to fund everything from community support facilities to public policy and city planning. In other words, in can have a real effect on how decision makers run the country and gives added clout to religious lobby groups.
The infographic below provides further information. Bear in mind that we don’t necessarily agree with the Atheist Foundation’s stance which is bordering on alarmist. But we do think it’s important for the Census to accurately reflects our country’s genuine religions.
For more important Census news, head to our guide.