No Faith in This Force

Memo to would-be Jedis: in the new movie, the knights are elitist, dictatorial, and unconvinced that good is an absolute.

Star Wars fans are legendary for their loyalty. I saw plenty of that in the 9:45 p.m. showing of Revenge of the Sith on its opening day. They had waited in line to get tickets to the very first showing at midnight the night before, and then saw it twice more before the opening day was over.

Many had obviously memorized all the howlingly bad lines. They began laughing out loud just before the line was said, and applauded at the wretched "emotional" moments in the movie.

But then, walking out of the theater, they fiercely defended the movie against anyone who dared to speak against it. It might be badly written, but it's their badly written movie.

Some fans are so loyal they have even adopted "Jedi" as their official religion on census reports and The Force as their equivalent of a "personal savior."

In a way, this is kind of bittersweet. It shows that the universal hunger for meaning is still prevalent, even in our agnostic era, which is encouraging; but these true believers will eventually realize that the philosophy behind Star Wars is every bit as sophisticated as the science - in other words, mostly wrong and always silly.

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It's one thing to put your faith in a religion founded by a real person who claimed divine revelation, but it's something else entirely to have, as the scripture of your religion, a storyline that you know was made up by a very nonprophetic human being.

How Does the Force Stack Up As a Religion?

As a religion, the Force is just the sort of thing you'd expect a liberal-minded teenage kid to invent. There's no God and there are no rules other than a vague insistence on unselfishness and oath-keeping. Power comes from the sum of all life in the universe, and it is manichaean, not Christian - evil is simply another way of using the Force. Only not as nice.

Good and evil are in a constant and nearly equipoised tug-of-war in the Star Wars series. But in the more recent movies, it seems that the goal of good people is not to wipe out evil, but rather for there to be a balance between the Light and Dark sides of the Force.

The new movie itself asserts a kind of equivalence. When the evil Palpatine says, "Good is a point of view--the Sith and the Jedi are almost the same," we can dismiss this moral relativism as part of the deception of the dark side.

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