Currently we try to shy away from things that have active followers, such as norse and greek mythologies, and the major active religions.

However, this has gotten a little messy for us, how do we handle the fact that over 100,000 people claim to follow the "jedi" religion.

In Australia more than 70,000 people (0.37%) declared themselves members of the Jedi order in the 2001 census

Are we to assume that they are joking, potentially ignoring people who have actual beliefs based on star wars? Jedi religion

As a comparison estimates claim only 2000 people currently follow the ancient Greek religions. Hellenism

By our current policy standard, found here in ASR's answer , anyone professing to follow the Jedi religion could flag starwars questions as offensive, and the mod's would be required to close them.

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    Potentially relevant, despite a new religion humorous or not coming out of it, it is very hard to argue that Star Wars was not intended as fictional and entertainment when it was released, unless Lucas gets on a podium and starts retconing his life. It is harder to define a border or end such arguments with older religions when the original believers are no longer around. – Radhil Sep 23 '16 at 13:46
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    Where does that put the works of L. Ron then? Granted, I don't know which ones are considered part of Scientology... but if a question/answer was flagged as offensive would we be required to remove it? – Skooba Sep 23 '16 at 13:50
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    @Skooba i dont know if theirs a meta post about it, but Dianetics has been discussed before, and its firmly off topic as religious text. his other works appear on site and appear ontopic. Though another thing is the lovecraft books, theirs a few cults surrounding them as well, they currently ARE on site. – Himarm Sep 23 '16 at 13:51
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    @Skooba - It's definitely a question of intent. His earlier scifi wasn't written as a religious text. His later works were... – Valorum Sep 23 '16 at 13:59
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    @Radhil I would not be surprised if he tried to retcon everything – Skooba Sep 23 '16 at 14:00
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    @Valorum Yeah I can get behind that reasoning. Most of what I know about Scientology comes from the South Park episode :P – Skooba Sep 23 '16 at 14:04
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    @Radhil how are we supposed to know if the people who wrote religious texts thousands of years ago "really believed" what they were writing? How much of he Odyssey did Homer think was real and how much did he believe to be fantasy? – KutuluMike Sep 23 '16 at 14:40
  • @KutuluMike - We can't. We won't. Which means we don't and shouldn't debate it, and thus the point of declaring it off-topic. – Radhil Sep 23 '16 at 14:42
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    When someone asks you if you're a god, you say "Yes!" – Jack B Nimble Sep 23 '16 at 14:42
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    Ohh, so there is Jedi religion, then Star Wars should be off topic here, migrate them all to sister site ;) – Victor Salazar Sep 23 '16 at 15:22
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    @AnkitSharma - My understanding is that while there's a Church of the Jedi, those very few true adherents tend to claim that their religion was inspired by the religion seen in Star Wars, not that they consider it holy writ. – Valorum Sep 23 '16 at 15:41
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    @AnkitSharma - Wikipedia cites this work repeatedly; "Although followers of Jediism acknowledge the influence of Star Wars on their religion, by following the moral and spiritual codes demonstrated by the fictional Jedi, they also insist their path is different from that of the fictional characters and that Jediism does not focus on the myth and fiction found in Star Wars" - books.google.co.uk/… – Valorum Sep 23 '16 at 15:45
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    @Valorum The incorrect use of "Jedis" as the plural for Jedi is apparently another way to distinguish adherents of Jediism from Star Wars fans. – Null Sep 23 '16 at 17:47
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    @Null - I'm reasonably sure that's the least of their problems. – Valorum Sep 23 '16 at 18:30
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    @Valorum - yes, the biggest problems for Jedaii is that the Chosen One will wipe them all out, inevitably. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 29 '16 at 17:20

For me, the difference is intent of the work, not the opinions of the self-professed believers.

Consider the difference between the Christian Bible and A New Hope. Regardless of your personal religious leanings, it's fairly uncontroversial to say that the Bible was intended to be a religious text; its primary function is to guide the doctrines and beliefs of an organized group of believers.

The primary purpose of a A New Hope, on the other hand, is to entertain; there's no intent of guiding or forming a belief system. The fact that one sprang up anyway is incidental1.

This gets slightly muddier when considering the mythology of ancient religions, but I think the general guidance applies, though we have to look at the stories and not as much as the sources; the myth of Persephone is intended as a religious parable, an origin myth, but God of War is meant as entertainment.

1 Giving the "worshippers" the benefit of the doubt; for the most part it seems to be a protest religion, in the same vein as Pastafarianism, but let's be generous and assume that there are actual, honest-to-goodness Jedi worshippers out there.

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    I agree with this answer 100% but, given that it was prompted by a debate over mythology being cited in answers, the fact that neither you nor I nor apparently anyone else has a clear answer as far as ancient "religious" texts means the problem is still lurking out there... – KutuluMike Sep 23 '16 at 14:42
  • @KutuluMike I was reflecting on that over lunch, and I'm not sure that's generally true. There are always going to be border cases, of course, but I do think there's some broadly-applicable guidelines we can apply even to ancient myths – Jason Baker Sep 23 '16 at 17:04
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    To be honest, I don't see a contradiction at all - yes, "the myth of Persephone" is a religious parable - BUT, it isn't a SFF work in the first place, so there's no need to make it into an edge case that contradicts the rule you stated. It's a myth, on-topic on Mythology.SE but not here (as opposed to specific fiction works based on that myth) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 24 '16 at 15:02
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    @DVK-in-exile That is if we don't consider mythology fiction, otherwise it may be on-topic. I'll ask with this example: is Dedalus and Icarus story not an example of fantasy/science fiction? why not? If we consider mythology fiction then it's just a genre (like anime for example) and if a story has elements of fantasy or science fiction it should be on topic. – Ram Sep 24 '16 at 19:21
  • @Ram - mostly, because there's no one defined story you can cite as source material. A specific book about Daedalus is OK. General "about Daedalus" isn't. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 24 '16 at 20:45
  • @DVK-in-exile so, do you think it would be ok to use Robert Graves or Snorri Sturluson stories as examples? – Ram Sep 24 '16 at 23:48
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    @Ram - based on cursory Wiki check, Snorri Sturluson seems to be OK. He seems to explicitly be landing, by design on "this is fiction" side of intent. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 25 '16 at 13:55

Let's get the elephant in the room statement out of the way.

It is possible for people to draw enough faith from believing in a fictional story to form a religion out of it.

That clear enough? Our banner is stories of the fantastic. People can believe in stories. This creates the overlap that creates this debatable area at all.

This does not give us carte blanche to treat all religions as stories.

If it is broadly reasonable to understand a story as SFF fiction - as is the case in Star Wars, it was released as a summer blockbuster and clearly falls under entertainment, as would most stories published in the last century under a "fiction" label - then we should do so. If it is not broadly reasonable, as is the case with most religions older than we are since we cannot source the founders in any way other than through the context of their religion, it is going to create an argument, and we need to err on the side of not creating drama that doesn't help the site at all.

(this is basically @Jason Baker's answer too, which I agree with, just my understanding of it)


It's difficult to identify the original purpose and it actually changes

I'll try to make the argument for the frail limits between mythology, fiction and religion, and the need to use common sense in judging cases and why most mythology should land on the fiction side. Jason Baker and Radhil both argue that the intended purpose of the original author is what sets them apart. I think many stories lack an original author and are retold and rewritten over time with different purposes.

Let's take the example of Norse mythology. Most things we know about comes from the Eddas, two books compiled in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson (among other anonymous and proposed authors). At least the Prose Edda came to be several hundred years after Scandinavia had been Christianized and Snorri wasn't a believer. Maybe his purpose was that of a scholar, maybe he just wanted to entertain, but he certainly wasn't writing a religious text. We can have similar doubts about Virgil's intention when writing the Aeneid. He's considered one of the fathers of Western literature.

On the other hand we have works considered fiction when published that inspire very religious feelings. The Jedi religion is one of them, that you may consider extreme, but you should know there are others like Cao Dai that considers Victor Hugo's works sacred text. We have science fiction authors, like Hubbard, whose works seemed originally pure science fiction, and the forming of a religion changed some of those works status.

What is a religious text sometimes needs to be decided in the site

It's not my intend to hurt religious feelings, I've none of my own but I practice and expect tolerance for what others believe. But that being said, I don't think that what any group claims to be a religious text is to be considered one for the sake of this site. I will quote some of the comments of the policy thread that represent how I feel:

Valorum: For the record, the Greek, Roman religions plays are fair game for being described as religious myths, largely because all of their followers died out centuries ago. The Epic of Gilgamesh, by comparison was written as a work of fiction.

Thoth19: That is false. Apparently Panagiotis Marinis still worships Zeus. The point you should be making is that these minorities are small enough that they likely won't cause a political controversy and if they do the negative utils will be small compared to the utils of the ease of utilizing SE for everyone else while offending them. Claiming that people don't exist is a poor mechanism because proving a negative is hard and there are many people.

Valorum: Also, the fact that a single individual has a non-standard religious belief doesn't give him the right to dictate SE policy on religions, any more than the occasional 7th Day Voldemortian would...

We can use consensus and common sense as guidelines

Where do we draw the line? It's really thin. Sometimes we don't know the original purpose or it changes with time. I think there is always a level of judging when deciding that an example is or isn't a religion. Sometimes it's easy (the Bible, the Quran, Pāli Tipitaka) but sometimes it isn't and then I would like the use of common sense, asking ourselves "What's the most usual modern use of this text?"

We can respect the Jedi religion but against the overwhelming use of Star Wars as fiction it makes no sense to consider it a religious source. The same happens with Greek/ Norse Mythology.

Mythology modern use is telling stories, it's been that way for a really long time (centuries if not millenniums). Not only that but mythology is the starter of most narrative devices and of the utmost relevance for all fictions works. In more than one way mythology is the mother of Western Literature. I feel that we should include something so important as valid source of our answers.

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    Given that arguement, I could make a case then that we need to use Christianity as a source, given all the resurrection parallels running around. Because the usual modern use you argue for in our context of SFF is always going to be telling stories. – Radhil Sep 23 '16 at 20:36
  • @Radhil the usual modern use of the Bible is religious that's why there are over 2 billion christians, whereas only 2k Greek gods worshipers. I ask for the usual modern use not the context because there is a context for everything. The Bible, while a source of inspiration for many stories, is not mainly used as fiction while I argue that Norse/Greek mythologies are. – Ram Sep 23 '16 at 20:52
  • Then it appears the core of your idea of 'modern usage' is a popularity contest, while a seemingly valid idea when presented with your surrounding logic. Sorry, but that is not something I will support. – Radhil Sep 23 '16 at 20:58
  • I don't want a popularity context, I want consensus and use of common sense (yes it includes considering the amount of followers) to determine a racional threshold. Because otherwise we might as well consider the Jedi religion, but you and me know that against the overwhelming use of Star Wars as fiction it makes no sense. – Ram Sep 23 '16 at 21:04
  • None of this makes sense, to be honest. It's not that hard to treat separate and treat religion like religion and fiction like fiction. But I don't have the power to view your answer that started this, and that is frustrating. – Radhil Sep 23 '16 at 21:15
  • @Radhil I was citing Jotunheimen /Utgard as an inspiration for mirror universes because of the germanic concept of utangard and because of the story "Thor’s Journey to Utgard" where he encounters a Loki giant counterpart. By the way the story was written by Snorri Sturluson, not a religious author. – Ram Sep 23 '16 at 21:20

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