George Lucas and J. J. Abrams Can’t Agree If ‘Star Wars’ Is a Religion

Several different directors have helmed Star Wars films — and they don’t always look at the franchise in the same way. For example, one Star Wars director sees the franchise as a form of religion. Another Star Wars director dislikes the idea of the franchise being viewed as a religion — even though he worked religious elements into the saga. 

George Lucas and J. J. Abrams in front of a black background
George Lucas and J. J. Abrams | Barry King/WireImage

What Daisy Ridley revealed about J. J. Abrams’ attitude toward ‘Star Wars’

In a 2019 interview with The Guardian, Daisy Ridley discussed getting the role of Rey in the sequel trilogy. She mentioned what J. J. Abrams told her when she won the role. “This is not a role in a movie. This is a religion for people. It changes things on a level that is inconceivable.”

What George Lucas said about the franchise and religion

Abrams’ words make sense given how Star Wars means so much to so many. However, Lucas probably said he doesn’t like the idea of entertainment taking religion’s place. In a 1999 interview with Time, Bill Moyers told Lucas some young people look to films for guidance instead of the Bible. Lucas wasn’t pleased.

A trailer for A New Hope

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“Well, I hope that doesn’t end up being the course this whole thing takes, because I think there’s definitely a place for organized religion,” Lucas said. “I would hate to find ourselves in a completely secular world where entertainment was passing for some kind of religious experience.”  In addition, Lucas said he didn’t view the saga as “profoundly religious.” Although Lucas didn’t want movies to take the place of religion, he hoped Star Wars would inspire people to be spiritual.

Lucas said he “put the Force into the movie in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people–more a belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system,” Lucas revealed. “I wanted to make it so that young people would begin to ask questions about the mystery. Not having enough interest in the mysteries of life to ask the question, ‘Is there a God or is there not a God?’–that is for me the worst thing that can happen.” It’s not clear if the saga inspires people to seek God.

A trailer for The Empire Strikes Back

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How religion inspired a galaxy far, far away

In addition, Lucas revealed he took some inspiration from religious narratives while writing Star Wars. For example, he said stories about Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha facing temptation influenced the scenes in Star Wars where Darth Vader tempts Luke Skywalker. It’s easy to see Christian references elsewhere in the saga. For example, Anakin Skywalker is conceived supernaturally a la the virgin birth of Jesus and Darth Maul bears more than a passing resemblance to the devil. 

Abrams has been accused of borrowing too liberally from Lucas’ Star Wars films. However, he actually has a different understanding of the franchise. Abrams and Lucas know how to entertain audiences — even if they have different attitudes about Star Wars being a religion.