Are fandoms the new form of Religion?
In recent years, the number of atheists in the world has risen drastically. That is an undeniable fact. Another undeniable fact is that geek culture has also risen massively.
In the past, superheroes were aimed at children and the only adults who liked Star Wars were thirty year old virgins who lived in their mother's basement. I think it's fair to say that that's not the case anymore.
But is there a link?
Is geek culture on the rise due to the decline of religion? Or are the two completely unrelated?
In this article, I will be exploring what the purpose of religion is in order to best answer the question 'Are "Fandoms" the new form of Religion?'
Surely, one of the main purposes of religion is to provide a sense of community and belonging.
Traditionally, on a Sunday morning, you would've gone to church. At church, you would have sat through the service but also used it as an opportunity to socialise with people from your local community. The great thing about this was that people of all different walks of life (be that political views, social backgrounds, or ethnicity) would unite over one thing. Faith.
Of course, many people still go to church. But a lot less. Particularly young people.
However something that has seen an increase is the attendance of comic-cons. The graph on the left shows how the attendance rate at 'San Diego Comic Con' has grown rapidly in recent years. As well as San Diego, there has also been a lot more smaller comic-cons that have proven to be very popular.
As well as comic-cons, geek based websites and blogs (such as ones found on Tumblr) have increased in popularity. If you just type something like 'Doctor Who' or 'Star Wars' into Tumblr, you can pretty much guarantee there will be several million results… from the last week.
People at church are united over their faith. People in fandoms are united over their interest.
Do human beings naturally seek morality?
Providing Moral Guidance
The second (and one of the more controversial) purposes of religion is to provide moral guidance. Whether you're religious or not, you can't deny that different religions provide different rules on how and why you should lead an ethical life.
Anyone who's spent more than 5 minutes on Tumblr can see that many fans like to take moral guidance from their thing.
If you talk to a 'Whovian' they might talk about how The Doctor is a pacifist who values the life of everyone and will avoid killing at any cost.
An 'X-Men' fan may tell you about how the X-Men always fight for peace, even in a world that hates them!
I could go on like this for a while, but I think you get the point!
Some people, such as philosophy professor 'Mark D.White' (I promise he didn't pay me to write that), have written (or edited) philosophical books about comicbooks and other geeky things. These books analyse the ethics found within comicbooks etc, from the perspective of people who are experts in philosophy.
Whether or not it was the original intention of the writers, people in fandoms like to seek moral guidance from their thing. Perhaps it could be argued that as human beings, we are naturally programmed to seek morality. But let's not discuss that now; this is a comicbook blog, not a philosophy class!
Give meaning to life.
Another thing religion does is provide meaning to people's lives.
Although there are some people who eat, breathe, and sleep their religion, most religious people are just regular people who happen to follow it. Sound familiar?
The same can be said about people in fandoms. I'll illustrate using Star Wars…
The casual fans may enjoy the films and may even read the comics but the mega-fans will camp outside a cinema overnight to be the first to see the new film. Of course the mega-fans will say that Star Wars gives their life meaning but the moderate fans may very well say the same thing, only perhaps less intensely.
Just like how moderate Christians are able to follow their religion whilst still having a regular life.
I hope that makes sense. It's starting to confuse me!
Things that Fandoms can't do...
I am now going to demolish what I've written so far in this article….
Surely the primary function of religion is to answer life's biggest questions. Why are we here? What happens when we die? Is there a God?
No fandoms, no matter how any fanboy or philosopher might analyse it, can ever provide an answer to any of the deepest questions that life has to offer.
Whilst Trekkies could talk all day about the morality, community, and purpose they find in Star Treck, they couldn't use it to tell you why we're here, or what happens to us when we're not anymore.
So whilst fandoms are doing a lot of things that religions do, they are not replacing them!
When religion and Fandoms collide...
To conclude, religions are not being "replaced" by fandoms, but they are quickly on the decline. I personally think that humans are biologically wired to want certain things that religion provides.. community, moral guidance, purpose, etc. And I say that as an Atheist!
As the church gets less and less influence over society, something needs to fulfil our desire for the things I mentioned. And fandoms are currently what seems to be the more popular choice.