All posts by Ella

‘The Last Jedi’? In Real Life, Jedi Can Be a Religion

While searching the New York Times for a religious based article in the news, I wanted to pick a topic a little more lighthearted than what has been going on in lieu of the election. Apparently, Temple of the Jedi Order is a real-life religion, though not granted religious status in England and Wales, approximately 2,000 people in England have been taking this religion seriously since its explosion into mainstream media in 2001. A quote I found interesting from Andy Young, a practicing Jedi in England wrote “[w]e are absolutely looking to achieve the outcomes of any other religion, a better life, and a better death.” The author of this article, Christopher D. Shea, takes us though some FAQ’s of the religion. To start, Shea teaches us how to join the temple, explaining the process which starts off by creating an online account, once this happens, the Jedi in training takes courses in value of myth and world religions, once the program is completed, the user starts to work one-on-one with a mentor. When Mr. Young was asked by Shea about the correlation between the Star Wars franchise and the religion, Mr. Young put it as “the diving board to a diver”, he further explained that the movies created a gateway for people who have otherwise shied away from religion and are now coming together for something that truthfully calls to them. While reading this article, I questioned whether or not this might have simply been a phase for many aspiring Jedi who were Star Wars aficionados and shortly after Mr. Young answered my question, ““We do have a lot of people coming in who want to learn how to move objects psychologically or whatever, they tend to not really hang around too long.”

The Paranormal and Occult

Within chapter four of Religion the Social Context, McGuire talked a little of paranormal occurrences throughout the American population. McGuire reported several differing yet popular incidences with these supernatural events throughout the American people, “[a] 1994 Newsweek poll reported 13 percent of Americans have sensed the presence of an angel (Kantrowitz, 1994). Various U.S national surveys have found a sizable proportion of respondents felt they had experienced being really in touch with someone who had died…” (McGuire, 120), McGuire goes on to discuss similar instances with events such as déjà vu and ESP (extrasensory perception). Whilst reading this portion of chapter 4 I had a difficult time creating a sizable connection between these paranormal occurrences and nonofficial religion. Though some of what McGuire talked about (i.e. feeling the presence of an angel) did in fact have a distinct correlation with religion, yet some other quite common incidences such as déjà vu and feeling close to someone who has passed away do not strike me as necessarily religious. I say this because I personally have felt déjà vu several times and by no means attribute it to a religious experience, I think of it as something that is occurring in the brain which is most likely linked to a sort of error within one’s memory. And though I cannot directly speak for others, I have had friends and family members experiences these manifestations and feel no direct link between them and a religious experience. Another question I asked myself throughout this portion of the reading was how many people who experience these incidences explain them through science yet still legitimize the occurrence at hand? I’ll keep on thinking about that.

What Thomas Merton and Muhammad Ali Had in Common

The article What Thomas Merton and Muhammad Ali Had in Common by Lonnie Ali was published January 17th, 2017 by the New York Times. I had never heard of Thomas Merton before I read this article so just in case others are in the same boat as me, Merton was a Catholic monk, writer, social activist, and more. Throughout this article written by Ali’s wife, Lonnie, she speaks of the similarities between Merton and her late husband, commencing with a short paragraph detailing that in 2008, the intersection between Muhammed Ali Boulevard and Fourth Street (in Louisville Kentucky) would now be home to Thomas Merton Square. Lonnie goes on to describe the like-mindedness of these two characters, writing “[b]ut by the 1960s, their voices in support of peace and justice began to merge. Both men had been shaken from their respective sanctuaries of literary and athletic attainment by the harsh realities of a nation deeply divided by war, race and social inequality.” This portion of the article did a great job in showing that people of all backgrounds and walks of life can come together with the same message of peace for our nation. Lonnie also touched on the similarities between what Ali and Morton were fighting for then and what the people in our current-day divided nation are fighting for now, “[a]s America stands divided once again in the aftermath of a polarizing election, we would do well to follow the example of Thomas Merton and Muhammad Ali in their approach to diversity, pluralism and faith. Regardless of our differences, we share a common humanity, something that will always bind us to each other.”




While reading chapter two, The Provision of Meaning and Belonging, McGuire touched on a term I have never come across, theodicies. As McGuire describes it, “[t]heodicies are religious explanations that provide meaning for meaning-threatening experiences” (McGuire 33) I was quite surprised to find that this notion actually has a name for itself. In my opinion, a large portion of religious people are drawn to faith since it helps answer and bring comfort to the hard questions life offers, such as what happens when you die and does my life have meaning. I also believe that fear plays a crucial role in people’s attitudes toward religion, many people who seek answers to these questions like to think there is more after one’s death or that god in fact does have a reason for x,y, and z to have occurred. I think religion can provide an unparalleled comfort and reassurance that one’s actions do matter and thus will yield to repercussions that would affect them later in life or the afterlife. Religion can also manifest itself more dangerously when people use it as a shield or excuse for their behavior, there have been instances of crime occurring where the guilty use religion as a means of justifying their actions. I think that at times religion can suppress the truth and taint the reality of things that many find too hard to handle. There is a large grey area that comes with the “crisis of meaning”.