Spirituality usually assumes a religious identity. You are Christian or Buddhist, Lutheran or Catholic, Israeli or Muslim. Your faith is defined by a spiritual community into which you were born and raised. Yet, your faith is independent of the religion. There are many levels of spirituality, and to find the truth, one must look at the crossroads of faith, religion, community, and education.
What you believe is up to you and you alone. It is not a matter of what you are taught or how you are raised. Those do influence your moral and ethical choices, but in the end, the difference between right and wrong comes down to your interpretation of all you have encountered in your life. If your religion teaches a particular stance on a topic, but your interpretation of life and people tells you differently, is that religion truly your faith?
To me, organized religion has become a farce. It is a show (the priest at a mass). A scripted rendition of a make-believe story. Perhaps as I have read and learned and explored the world, I discovered that multiple religions claim authority on a selected set of beliefs. I saw how religion was regional: communities of common people telling stories with common backgrounds. Asian religions differ from middle eastern religions. Nordic mythology differs from the Roman Catholic doctrine. Introduce a melting pot called America, and it becomes a clusterfuck.
Now, as I indicated before, religion has become a show; a production of sorts. I use this reference because of my background in theatre. In fact, it was probably theatre that killed my belief in religion. As a Catholic school boy, I was an altar boy. I participated in the show. I rang the bell during the preparation of the Eucharist, and I carried the candle to create the sacred space. It was not, by far, a spiritual experience for me. It was a job.
These old world religions (Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism) are based on ancient texted. Yet, there are more ancient texts available: Roman, Greek, and Egyptian stories. Where are those religions? I do not know. What I do know is that in 1954, L. Ron Hubbard opened the first Church of Scientology in Los Angeles. A man wrote a novel, and a religion was born. Is that such a far-fetched idea? The Bible was written (By whom? Many people?) and multiple religions use its text. Laozi wrote the Tao Te Ching six centuries before the reported life of Jesus Christ.
Well, in 1977, a man named George Lucas released a film called Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope). It introduced a concept called The Force that has become known as the foundation of the Jedi Order. In later films (the prequel sequels (Episodes I-III), background into the Jedi Order included details about midichlorians, microscopic beings that are found within all living beings. This contradicts The Force as it is described in Episode IV: The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together. This discord, in film production terms, is called a continuity error.
Why does this matter? Well, L. Ron Hubbard wrote a novel which led to Scientology as an established religion. Is it so difficult, then, to accept the Jedi Order as a religion after years of movies and novels and video games and cartoons about the Star Wars universe? This revolution of faith has already begun. Meet The Temple of the Jedi Order, a 501c3 nonprofit organization in Texas that introduces themselves as such on their Website:
We are a Jedi church and international ministry of the religion Jediism and the Jedi way of life. Jedi at this site are not the same as those portrayed within the Star Wars franchise. Star Wars Jedi are fictional characters that exist within a literary and cinematic universe. We are a recognized International Ministry and Public Charity; a tax exempt (donations are US income tax deductable) 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Now, there could be a claim that the Temple of the Jedi Order infringed on the intellectual property of the Star Wars franchise by using the term “Jedi.” That is an entirely different matter. The fact remains, however, that The Force, the Jedi Order, the Dark Side, and all that the Star Wars franchise has put together has taught a generation and a half about a new way to think and interpret the world. There is no proof that ancient relics and religious texts are true stories, so again I ask, can a fictional story have such an impact insomuch as to spawn a common belief system?
Theatre and film use pathos, ethos, and logos to touch emotional points within the audience, inspire ethical conversations, and persuade a particular viewpoint. If you attend a play or film and leave without a changed perception of life, you failed as an audience member. I often find myself guilty of this, however; having a background in production (Catholic mass, stage tech, audio/video/film production), I see through the story and evaluate the production value of the story presentation. Having worked as a stage manager, I have also been around actors as they move from themselves, into character space, and back again. Heck—I have even read Stanislavski as an assignment for my cello professor. Stanislavski’s “system” was developed by Lee Strasberg into a technique known as “Method acting” used by the likes of Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, and Robin Williams. In the Method, an actor utilizes their own life experiences and emotions to bring a character to life.
Religion teaches life lessons, morals, and ethics from one generation to the text. Stories are told, and traditions are kept. Film and theatre can do the same, through literature and artistic expression, to touch the hearts, minds, and souls of the audience. To be fair and legitimate, a person with closely-held religious beliefs that wants to be respected and allowed to practice their faith must, in turn, allow every individual they encounter to explore and discover their own spiritual path. I went through this struggle when my parents realized I no longer followed the Catholic way. When I ordered a sausage pizza one Friday during Lent, my father called me a heathen.
heathen. n. One who holds a religious belief which is neither Christian, Jewish, nor Muslim; a pagan. ("heathen, adj. and n.1." OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2016. Web. 13 February 2017.)
Damn right. I am a Pagan. Not Wiccan, per se. Wicca is a subset of Paganism, just as Catholicism is a subset of Christianity. I believe the earth, its people and all living things, are interconnected with an energy we are not capable of truly understanding. I connect most with ancient Egyptian philosophies. I have gone so far as to tattoo the Eye of Horus on my arm with an ankh in the center of the eye. In much the same way, the Jedi Order believes there is a powerful Force that flows through us all. This is such a powerful correlation that I have chosen to list my religion on my Facebook profile as “Jedi”. Because I can. Because I believe.