You've probably seen the email by now, exhorting you to state your religion in the upcoming census as 'Jedi'. The email alleges that more than 10,000 Jedi equals a religion. News stories on this so far have centred on whether you'd be penalised for doing it, or how governments disapprove of census irreverance.

But this year's Jedi census can provide a really important piece of information: how susceptible are we to this modern condition, the Chinese email? Also, what becomes apparent from researching this story is that the government and its agencies, such as the Office of National Statistics which collates the census, are strangely tight-lipped about which religions are valid and which are not.

The ONS told PC Advisor that the list of officially valid religions which will go into the census results alongside respective memberships, is not for public consumption.

"The list is not available at the moment," said a less than happy Alison Wright of the ONS. Wright is heartily sick of getting enquiries about the Jedi Question. The reason the public cannot know whether any particular religion will be recognised or not is even odder than the fact itself.

"We don't want to be prescriptive," explained Wright. The ONS is worried that people who find out their particular religion isn't 'coded', ONS-speak for recognised in the census, will put down one that is.

But there is a glimmer of hope for would-be warriors of the Force. Even though 10,000, or even 100,000, people saying they're a Jedi doesn't mean it automatically becomes a religion, the ONS will, reluctantly, still count the submissions. And probably, if the census enumerators can bring themselves to tell us, we'll find out how many of us went as far as to actually do it.

There's one more plus side to this. A Home Office spokeswoman said the Jedi joke would probably serve the census well, as it may get younger people to fill forms they would otherwise have ignored.