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The Freedom of Belief

September 24th, 2009 No comments

An interesting story appeared on the Guardian website recently [link] which raised a number of interesting questions for me.

First a little background. The article in question was about a man named Daniel Jones who founded the International Church of Jediism, a religion inspired by the Star Wars films which has 500,000 followers worldwide. While shopping at a local branch of Tesco he was asked to remove the hood he was wearing by security. Daniel refused, claiming that his religion dictated that he should wear the hood in public places.

Now, here is the interesting thing. Although I have no religious beliefs personally, I appreciate that many billions of others do and I respect their opinion whatever if it (so long as they do not try and force it upon me!). I would even defend their freedom of belief if I felt it was justified. And this is the point. Tesco appear to be judging which ‘religion’ is valid and which is not. Granted the source of the Jedi religion is of unconventional origin (the typewriter of George Lucas), but as far as I am concerned it holds just as much weight as any of the other older religions. So, who decides the validity of a particular religion?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines religion as:

religion – noun

1 the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

2 a particular system of faith and worship.

3 a pursuit or interest followed with devotion.

If we apply logic and reason to the task of validating a religion then there won’t be many that survive. It can’t be down to its age, some ‘accepted’ religions are quite young relatively speaking (Christianity was young once). Neither can it be the number of followers, granted the big three have huge followings, but the smaller factions are still valid are they not, besides it only requires one believer to make it a religion.

It is a belief, that’s the point, it requires no proof, no evidence, just an unquestioning obedience. As far as I am concerned Jediism is as valid a religion as any other. I can hear the screaming battle cry now, “but Jediism isn’t a real religion!”. My only response would be “prove it”.

If we are to go down the path of grading the various forms of religion then I can honestly say hand on heart “good luck”. All religious faiths require an element of mysticism and require the believers to take many things on face value. The moment you start to question the doctrine too hard you will find holes. This is the problem, it is also where the hard line atheists (of which I am not) are failing, all a religion requires is that you believe in it. Bertrand Russell used as an example a teapot floating in space, you can’t see it, the chances of ever finding it are impossible to calculate, but it is also impossible to disprove, it only requires faith that it is up there.

Back to my original point. I honestly believe that Tesco have discriminated him based on his religious beliefs. By forcing him to remove his hood they are making a judgement on which religious attire is allowed and which is not. Can you imagine the outcry (and bad press) if they had asked a Muslim lady to remove her Hijab or Burka, or a Christian nun was asked to remove her Wimple, or a Sikh his turban, we could go on…

Don’t get me wrong, I can see Tesco’s point of view. They asked the fan of a classic sci-fi film to remove his costume. Where’s the problem in that I hear you ask? What if they had asked the fan of a classic work of fiction to remove his costume? “I’m sorry your eminence, but you can’t wear that Mitre in the store!”. If you except one religion and the fashion associated with it, then you must except them all, no exceptions…

Here endeth the lesson for today…

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Categories: Musings, Philosophy, Rants & Raves, Theology Tags: