It is well known that a different theme effects the census every 5
years. In 2001 it was the emergence of Jedi as a religion. In 2006,
"New Zealander" was the ethnicity in vogue. Now in 2011 there is
concern about an emerging fervor for a new religion, namely
"Facebook". Facebook was not even part of the common lexicon 5 years
ago, but with the next census only a month away, concern is growing
that Facebook may dominate Jedi and Rugby as the new religion with
most popular appeal in New Zealand.
Back in 2001 when the Jedi census phenomenon originated, the
Statistics department quickly dismissed it as a one time issue. In
2001 estimates of around 53000 people answered their religion as Jedi,
and in 2006 over 20000 continued to answer the same way. Although it
is a fair reduction in followers, the number of Jedi in New Zealand in
2006 is equivalent to Islam, and exceeds Jewish, Assembly of God,
Church of Scientology, and probably Destiny Church. The 2011 census
will be a true test of the staying power of the Jedi faith.
The Jedi Church is concerned regarding the possibility of Facebook
becoming the new popular religion of NZ. The church has concern both
for its own future, and also for the quality of data that is provided
by Statistics NZ. This would probably be the one point where
Statistics NZ and the Jedi church agree, that the religion question
should only be answered with a real religion, one that involves some
sort of scripture, faith structure, ritual, or deity. It is noted that
no religion includes all those elements, but a religion should have
one of those elements. Although many people have a daily ritual of
scanning or updating their status on Facebook, this is probably not
the sort of religious ritual we have in mind.
Where the Jedi Church and Statistics NZ differ in opinion is regarding
the status of the Jedi faith as a religion. Jedi believe strongly in
their religion, many have rituals and teachings, and although there is
no deity, many Jedi believe strongly in the afterlife. Unfortunately
Statistics NZ do not share this view, and dump the Jedi faith into an
"answer understood but not counted" category, which is not very
helpful. We do note that they quite happily accept Satanism, Wican and
Church of Scientology as valid religions, even though we all know the
fictional origins of the latter. The Jedi Church believe it is time for
the official religions list to be updated.
It is noted that the Jedi Census phenomenon started in New Zealand.
And quickly spread to Sydney next, and the UK followed. The number of
churches and religious groups incorporating Jedi faith principles has
expanded with great pace since 2001. Data obtained from Statistics NZ
indicate that the force is strongest in the Nelson region, followed by
the areas surrounding it. It is still unknown who specifically started
the idea, but likely it began in the Nelson region.
The Jedi Church was started after the 2001 census to address a need
for creating a home for the Jedi religion. The www.jedichurch.org
provides a public discussion forum and allows people all over the
world to share their faith. The Jedi Church will be requesting a quote
from Statistics NZ to provided detailed data addressing trends since
2001 for Jedi, Facebook and also Destiny Church. It is noted that
Destiny Church only started shortly before the 2001 census.