A battle over government, religion, and Star Wars is brewing in Australia. We will hold our national census on August 9 and a group of people are begging fellow citizens to not put "Jedi" down as their religion.
Here's the problem: On the 2011 census (it takes places every five years) 64,390 Australians put "Jedi" down as their religion, an increase of from 58,053 on the 2006 census, according to The Brisbane Times. Numbers like that put "Jedi" right behind Sikh on the list of religions in the country. It seems unlikely that all these people truly believe themselves to be actual Jedi, and most of them make the claim as a harmless way to declare their Star Wars fandom and give the government the middle finger at the same time.
However, a group called the Atheist Foundation of Australia is leading a campaign to get people to stop making this joke. Their reasoning is, that when officially counted, Jedi gets classified as a "Not Defined" religion instead of "No Religion." When that happens, they believe "it makes Australia seem more religious than it really is." Which, again, doesn't sound like a problem, but "sata on religious affiliation is used for public policy, city planning, community support facilities and more," according to this cute infographic.
After misguidedly listing Jedi as my religion for most of my adult life... pic.twitter.com/awq4wvwUR2
— Adam Valentine (@Adam86Valentine) July 27, 2016
The AFA is concerned that if the government tabulates more people as religious, they will aim policy and tax dollars that way, instead of accurately serving the atheist percentage of the population.
It seems like a pretty big leap for Australian officials to gear policy and planning toward religion because a small percentage of people play a joke. But it's not unfathomable, and that's why this argument is so interesting.