May The Force be with you

26 Mar

Have you filled out your census form yet?

Ten years ago, a viral movement resulted in a dramatic and delightfully funny change in the UK census. In 2001, a campaign for a “write in” vote for Jedi in the religion designation of that year’s census prompted 390,000 clever Brits to do just that. The sheer number of the response evidently required the 2010 census to list Jedi as an option for check off.

As a devotee of data, you might think I’d be irritated at national information being “polluted” by this prank, but I think it is pretty darn funny.

I’m not a Star Wars fan, I don’t think I have seen any of the movies all the way through. But I have a general working knowledge of the plots of the first three movies and understand that The Force is a sort of zen concept with the Jedi Masters being elevated practioners of moving meditation and oneness with nature, The Universe and all that connects us. What’s not to like?

What this tells me about the UK, beyond the fact that they have a wicked sense of humor, is that people do not feel connected to religion. At least these 390,000 do not. Not enough to self-identify on a national form. Heck, even I still think of myself as Catholic.

That is data, my friends. Not traditional data, but it tells us something about the UK, especially Hove and Brighton, where Jedis particularly flourish.

Which now makes me wonder if someone is going to use this data to start lobbying for faith-based funding for Jedi social service agencies…

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