Lots of Christian movie critics have been going on and on about the new Star Wars movies of late and some bring up a good point:

“Darkness” and “light” are notable themes in Gnostic and especially Manichaean thought; they also feature prominently in 1 John, for instance. (In Star Wars, the “light” side of the Force is usually called the “good side” — when it’s specified at all. “The Force,” used without clarification, often means “the good side,” giving goodness a kind of priority.)

Steven Graydanus - Is Star Wars Gnostic?

The problem I face is that the underlying philosophy is exceptionally problematic and lots of kids are buying in to it, even more than before. Kids I've taught honestly think that conscience is some sort of battle between angels and demons hanging out on your shoulder. And they see good and evil in the way Star Wars portrays it.

I'm having a bit of trouble coming up with exactly what the succinct reason light vs darkness in the context of Star Wars is more like light vs darkness in the Manichean Heresy than it is light and darkness in the Biblical sense. Furthermore, it would seem from reading a few things about The Force Awakens that I had shied away from before seeing the movie that:

the who is killed guy in the beginning of the movie might be some sort of figure in the "Church of the Force"

Previously, I didn't think there was any religiosity to the force. But now, I'm not so sure...

The questions, succinctly put is: What is the difference between the way Catholicism portrays the balance between good and evil and the way is is portrayed in Star Wars and how close does the way it is portrayed in Star Wars align with the Manichaean Heresy?

Orthodox Catholic answers preferred, you don't have to posit a quodlibet, but those are fun to read!

  • 4
    People voting to send this to Movies.SE must realize that it will never get a decent answer there. This is a comparative religion question with Catholicism on one side and the fictional "Force Church" on the other. It is a reasonable question, within scope, contemporarily relevant, interesting, and definitively answerable. There are probably no users on Movies.SE prepared to answer this with an appropriate Catholic frame. I would answer it myself now, but I haven't see the new movie yet and chose not to read the spoiler.
    – fгedsbend
    Jan 8, 2016 at 18:25
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    I have reset the close vote situation on this because at the very least its current wording is not appropriate for any of the other sites suggested. If somebody wants to ask on those sites please post there directly with a question appropriately framed for the target site. As this one is not appropriate on any other site and very much is appropriate here, the outstanding VTCs and discussion where pointless.
    – Caleb
    Jan 11, 2016 at 11:19
  • [THIS COMMENT MAY CONTAIN A SPOILER] So I've seen the movie now, and read your spoiler. I'm a little confused at who you're talking about. Is it the old man called "the vicar"?
    – fгedsbend
    Jan 18, 2016 at 21:31
  • @fredsbend apparently he is in some "before the awakening" comic book or something else, I'd been reading a lot of the scifi stackexchange trying to figure out exactly what that movie was all about (I don't recommend it!)
    – Peter Turner
    Jan 18, 2016 at 21:37
  • [MORE SPOILER WARNING] @PeterTurner I see. Well, I think that small bit of the question is not too relevant to a decent answer. The character is practically nothing in the movie. He just has a bit of information that is valuable to the Resistance (good guys). FMS made a good answer, though there's a few things I would change. Perhaps, if you find his answer lacking, you can tell me where and I might be able to fill in the holes. If you're more concerned about how the Force is portrayed in these comics, then maybe get clarification about that on SciFi.
    – fгedsbend
    Jan 18, 2016 at 21:43

1 Answer 1


What did Filmmaker George Lucas set out to do with Star Wars?

George Lucas says he wanted to retell old mythology with classical mythological motifs in a new way. - Cf. The Mythology of STAR WARS, YouTube posting by Shawn Schaitel.

What is the Force according to George Lucas?

There is a dark side and there is a light side. A selfish side and a selfless side. One has to keep them balanced. Actually the balance is NOT to go down to the dark side, whose path, which produces short-lived pleasure, is a selfish person wanting and/or accumulating stuff; afraid of losing or having the stuff acquired taken away makes one angry. That anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. The dark side never leads to satisfaction but unhappiness because the person always wants and is afraid to lose what they have already obtained. On the other hand the sefless person has the joy of giving and there is no pain. - Cf. George Lucas on the Force interview (2010), YouTube posting by John Smith.

Are there religious themes in Star Wars?

Yes and this is to be expected as old mythology with classical mythological motifs have religious themes. For example in the The Mythology of STAR WARS YouTube video linked above, common in religions he researched was that evil characters have horns.

Does the Force align with the Manichæism?

Manichæism, a religion founded by the Persian Mani in the latter half of the third century, purported to be the true synthesis of all the religious systems then known, and actually consisted of Zoroastrian Dualism, Babylonian folklore, Buddhist ethics, and some small and superficial, additions of Christian elements. Manichæism is classified as a form of religious Dualism.

From the way George Lucas describes the Force, it is the person themselves who choose to go to the dark side or the light side of the force, while my understanding of dualism is that reality is the outcome of two eternally opposed and coexisting principles, conceived as good and evil, light and darkness, or some other form of conflicting powers. Therefore George Lucas' Force does not align with Manichæism.

What is the difference between the way Catholicism portrays the balance between good and evil and the way is is portrayed in Star Wars?

To be clear, Catholicism does not teach that there is a balance between good and evil. Catholicism teaches that God is the Supreme Infinite Good and all the good that the creatures have is a participation in this goodness. Evil arises with free creatures, first the angels and then men who disobey and then go on to oppose or not fulfill God's will for them. In Catholicism, evil is no match for Good and will eventually and for ever be vanquished.

Where George Lucas' Force is similar to Catholicism's understanding of Good and evil, is that it is preferable for a person to choose the light side of the Force [choose Good over evil] because they will find happiness along this path.

Further Reference

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